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.
Written by Dan Abnett
Illustrated by Luke Ross
Reviewed by Stephenson Ardern-Sodje
In their new book Abnett and Ross style Hercules as ‘the world’s first superhero’, and sets out to justify his relevance in a world where modernity seems to have made demi-gods all but obsolete.
Hercules was a superhero before there were superheroes, it’s got to be admitted. But, in the many, many years since his labours, the son of Zeus has let himself slip a little, and in the Marvel universe he’s become known almost as much for his revelry as for his heroism. In “Hercules” #1 it seems like Herc has had enough, and sets out to try and become a capital H Hero once again, or at least to see if it’s ever too late for someone to remake their legacy. Herc has taken up residence on the top floor of a New York walk-up, and scattered a load of business cards throughout the city with the tag-line ‘labours undertaken’. It’s pretty low-tech, but it’s a start. Albeit a pretty slow one.
This issue sees Herc dealing with a small-scale grievance raised by a couple of local kids. It gives Abnett a chance to set out his stall, one which feels very similar to Luke Cage’s early “Heroes For Hire” schtick, but doesn’t really offer much in terms of scale for a protagonist who has gone toe to toe with the Hulk at times. In fairness, the action ramps up towards the end of the issue and Ross offers up a pretty well paced punch up, but given the street-level set up of the whole thing it never feels overly threatening.Throughout the issue I was stuck by just how much dialogue there was to read. Herc has long been portrayed as a jovial, chatty kind of demi-god and Abnett manages to capture that well in the first half, but the amount of explanation that Herc offers up early on is more than a little exposition-heavy. What’s more, there’s a lack of subtlety to his scripting in the second half, with Herc waxing lyrical (in between punches) about his need to find a true place in the modern world, that makes the brawl towards the end a lot more clunky than Ross’ art deserves.
And as for Ross’ art, it’s a strong part of what gives this book an identity early on. His smooth, uncluttered line-work is a nice reminder of the late-noughties “Incredible Hercules” run, but his subtle redesign of Herc’s costume along with some of the chunky, battle-worthy tech he has Herc wielding helps to bring him bang up to date. What’s more, there are a couple of panels that show a more serious side to his artistry, specifically when a semi-conscious Herc crosses paths with an ominous vision of Athene. This glimpse of a darker, more spectral side to Ross’ work has me interested in how he handles the visualisation of powers more distinctive than ‘punching things really really hard’.
As far as first issues go, “Hercules” #1 isn’t too bad, but it is definitely not the best thing Abnett has put out for a while.It looks as though this book is going to pursue the tried and tested formula of ‘an ancient evil stirs and only a true hero can save it’, and I’ve no doubt Abnett and Ross will handle it well, but to me, even one issue in, it doesn’t feel like there’s much room to bring anything new to the table. I think the reason it left me so cold was the awkward narrative conceit of Herc struggling to find meaning in a world that ‘may or may not need him anymore’. This is a guy who’s been a registered Avenger, and a big part of lots of the super-powered conflicts right across Marvel’s publication history. In a world where Thor never seems to have a crisis of purpose, I find it hard to understand why Hercules would consider himself outdated.Continued below
Final Verdict: 5.5 A fun enough, but frankly, forgettable first issue. Given the glut that Marvel have on offer over the coming weeks I can’t see myself getting much further than this issue.
Written by Marjorie Liu
Illustrated by Sana Takeda
Review by Ken Godberson III
I said in my review of “Uncanny Inhumans #1” that I think most first issues that charge $5 should be strung up by their necks until their feet stop twitching. “Monstress #1” is a massive exception to that because, hoo boy, you get a load of fantastic content for your money. Liu and Takeda create an amazingly weird and sadly familiar world. It reminds me a lot of “East of West” in its commitment to building it’s world, an amalgamation of magical creatures, art deco, Post-War China and Japan and fantastical technology.
And like “East of West”, it’s bleak as all hell. Taking place after the end of a war, the plot follows around the mysterious slave Maika and how she views the world, in the present as she moves herself towards her goals and in the past as a refugee. It helps us learn about our protagonist while setting up a lot of interesting threads, such as the the political situations in the city of Zamora as well as the infamous Battle of Constantine. The ideas of slavery, racism, poverty, exploitation by an unfeeling and arrogant upper class are all shown in harsh detail. At the top of it all is this… thing contained within Maika. Is it a God? A demon? Who can say at this point, but it is a fantastic hook for the end.
It feels like forever since we’ve had Sana Takeda art. The design work that Takeda puts into the people and buildings of this world is worth the price of admission. From the ornate, fantastically detailed elegant harshness of the upper-class world (this is an example of overdetailing benefitting the story whereas some artists will overdetail for its own sake) to the lush beauty of the open countryside and cloudless starry nights, Takeda was downright born to make this comic. Even in great degrees of cruelties, like dismemberment and forced nudity, Takeda takes a care to detail and the greatest of considerations of the subject matter.
Final Verdict: 8.7- This is one of the strongest openings to a comic this year. Get on board.
Pacific Rim: Tales from the Drift #1
Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov
Illustrated by Marcos Marz and Marcelo Miolo
Reviewed by Matthew Garcia
Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 film Pacific Rim was a big, loud, and altogether entertaining giant robots vs. giant monster movie. Del Toro continually hints at a sequel any chance he gets, but with the disappointing performance of Crimson Peak and the fact that Legendary can’t seem to get its shit together, the likelihood of that seems less and less everyday. Still, there are plenty of other stories to explore in this universe, and Legendary’s comic company brings out the second spinoff comic, “Pacific Rim: Tales from the Drift.” Scripted by Joshua Hale Fialkov with art by Marcos Marz, this book promises to further explore those magnificent jaeger and kaiju battles, back when humans still thought they had a fighting chance.
Fialkov jumps back and forth between two timelines centered around a jaeger co-pilot couple. The first involves what might be their last battle together, as this kaiju disseminates their jaeger in Tokyo Bay and they desperately try to figure out what to do next. He flashes back to their meet-cute — a manga-style courtship if there ever was one — and courtship.
Colorist Marcelo Miolo’s the strongest part of this book, as he channels all these reds, blues, and yellows to try to give some excitement in these battles or some empathy for these characters. Unfortunately, Fialkov and Marz don’t seem interested in keeping step. The script is wooden and hollow, too eager to jump to the next page that it never settles into a scene or situation. The characters are basic sketches and never do much save get thrown around and bark nonsense orders. Honestly, there’s little given to distinguish them from each other and I think you could switch what they’re doing around without losing a thing. Marz goes between a more cartoony aesthetic and more realistic style from panel to panel; he positions characters in bizarre ways; and though he can deliver some really cool shots of the jaegers and kaijus duking it out — and his kaiju designs are definitely a highlight — there’s no movement or flow to their battle. It’s a bunch of cool shots without any excitement.Continued below
With some of its roots in the comic and manga scene, “Pacific Rim: Tales from the Drift” should have easily lent itself to the medium. Instead, this first issue is a dull, awkwardly structured, bland, and boring outing. It reads like no one involved in its creation cared in the slightest about any of it.
Final Verdict: 3.0 – one of the weaker licensed comics efforts.
Paper Girls #2
Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Illustrated by Cliff Chiang
Reviewed by Kevin McConnell
There really is nothing better when two creative powerhouses join together for a new title. This is also welcome news when said team keeps the book priced at $2.99 packaged with content. Sprinkle in the fact that the two creators are having fun with the whole process, it makes it easy to get sucked in.
“Paper Girls” waste no time to getting to it for issue #2. The girls are still trying to understand what is happening in their little town. They begin to figure out that no adults are there to help them, forcing them to rely on each other and their wits. As things progress, the girls find they are not completely alone and the threat to their survival is fully realized.
Brian K. Vaughan has always been a strong female character builder. All of the Paper Girls have a surprising amount of depth as they navigate this situation. Vaughan gives each girl a chance to show off, even if this issue gives more to Mackenzie towards the back half. Their personalities are unique and flexible, allowing for great development in 30 pages. The elephant in the room isn’t the focus, which is a refreshing idea that works well. The point is to show how the characters are dealing with this, as opposed to throwing them into action sequences.
Another strong female character builder is Cliff Chiang, who is off his stint on “Wonder Woman.” Chiang’s approach here is different than his normal work. The girls look a little scratchy and not always perfect as perception might dictate. In fact, it humanizes each girl to make them more than just comic characters. Mackenzie has her world weary look, disconnected from the world around her, showing her leadership skills. My favorite, Erin, has wide eyes wonder being thrust into pseudo-adulthood during the course of the issue. Chiang, like Vaughan, focuses is energies on the interplay between the characters and not the aliens. While this could have easily backfired, it plays to the strengths of the story at large.
I love the idea of the “Monster Squad” style team of girls trying to save the world. It is very easy to root for these girls, who are changing before your eyes on each page. There is also a Twilight Zone vibe because the reader is still not fully aware of what is happening. I thought of my favorite episode, “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street” while I was reading along. The idea of the rapture also is in play, which could make for some interesting plot lines. Vaughan puts a lot of balls in the air, so it will be very surprising which one actually lands.
“Paper Girls” on that kind of book that is fun with nostalgia and deep with the ideas. The girls as heroes is easy to understand and puts the reader in the thick of it. As more story unfolds, I can see readers getting ready to root for their favorites going forward.
Final Verdict: 8.8 – Spread the word, “Paper Girls” is another excellent addition to the Image Comics family! Highly recommended!