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 Scott Snyder
Illustrated by Greg Capullo
Reviewed by Keith Dooley
In the eighth part of the “Superheavy” arc, tension builds to horrific heights. “Batman” #48 begins with a conversation between Bruce Wayne and a character that appears to be his most formidable foe. Scott Snyder’s dialogue between these two is a revelation and explores these two men’s relationship to themselves and the city in simultaneously familiar yet excitingly new ways. This particular issue especially demonstrates Snyder’s expertise with both small tense moments and bombastically horrific scenes. The pacing is smooth, palpable, and the definition of the term page-turner. Jumping back and forth between Bruce’s conversation and Jim Gordon’s Batman battling Mr. Bloom and his acolytes is the epitome of suspense mixed with thought-provoking ideas.
Snyder is not the only versatile contributor to “Batman” #48. Artist Greg Capullo brings nuance and character to his scenes between Bruce and the unnamed character while he supplies the horror and dread with his terrifying encounter between Gordon and Bloom. Along with inker Danny Miki, both he and Capullo give us clear, action-packed scenes that are both dynamic and awe-inspiring. The Gordon/Bloom scenes are almost cinematic in nature with their monster movie flavor and city in distress shenanigans. Capullo and Miki are able to color their scenes with either an eerie suspense or a vibrant liveliness.
And speaking of colors. FCO Plascencia brings Capullo’s pencils to life in certain ways depending on the scenes. Like Snyder, his versatility is on full display in “Batman” #48. The conversation scene is particularly effective with the haziness of the colors and the bright lamplight over a park bench lending a feeling of otherworldliness. It makes us question if this is only a dream or if Bruce is actually conversing with his foe. We then get the electric blue and gray of Bloom in a gorgeous splash page and the battle for Gotham City’s soul.
With the final page, Snyder and Capullo are bringing us closer to the end of yet another one of their brilliant Bat-stories. “Batman” #48 explores character and brings depth to action and mystery. This team has shown they can do anything with Batman and his world while making every facet of their story intriguing and fun.
Final Verdict: 9.0
Carver: A Paris Story #2
Written and Illustrated by Chris Hunt
Reviewed by Matthew Garcia
There’s a lot of familiar elements in Chris Hunt’s “Carver: A Paris Story.” In paying tribute to the genre, Hunt has actively embraced all the conventions and beats that come along with it. He presents a lone adventurer with a secret past, returning to deal with some old business, while some mysterious masked villain continually makes attempts against his life. The book bears a romanticized ruggedness, though in the prologue it tries to defer from that mentality, and the book constantly debates whether or not this romantic notion of masculinity is something worth celebrating. Hunt’s been upfront that “Carver” owes a lot to the Corto Maltese books by Hugo Pratt and both issues in the series thus far have had a similar contemplative tone interrupted by moments of brutal violence.
This issue focuses on Carver meeting up with a woman named Catherine in a restaurant, whom he hasn’t seen in a long time. It’s here where Hunt distinguishes himself, breaking away from making Carver that stone-faced protagonist, instead presenting him sweaty and nervous and unsure of what to say next when finally seeing his old friend. There’s some nice character moments — delivered with subtle and effective expressions and blocking — between the two of them that help the story feel fresh and that separate Carver himself from some Hemingway expatriate asshole, before the bullets start flying and the elements of the genre take over.Continued below
Told with clean black-and-white linework, Hunt does well to sustain the tense tone. You’re just as invested in the conversation between Carver and Catherine as the results of a flashback sequence where Carver’s fighting a bunch of Nazis. The plot is a slow burn, but that allows Hunt more time to steep us in this world with these characters. That Hunt is able to generate tension and interest by actively playing with all these elements familiar to the genre helps show his own strengths in storytelling.
Final Verdict: 7.3 – many well done character moments help give this book a unique voice in the genre.
Ms. Marvel #3
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa & Ian Herring
Reviewed by Jess Camacho
I’ve been a bit rough on this new round of Marvel #1’s because nothing has really felt different but in the case of “Ms. Marvel”, things have felt different but the same all at once. G. Willow Wilson has taken Kamala and added some obstacles in her way that make complete sense but it’s also made the series feel like it’s beginning to mature. “Ms. Marvel” #3 is the finale to the first arc of the second volume and it’s a great ending. Kamala gets to the bottom of the new HYDRA plan is able to do what she does best, be a hero. Wilson makes her heroine take chances and sacrifice some stuff but what’s so great about this issue in particular, is Kamala’s ability to grow as a human being. It’s a special journey that we’re on with this still very young woman but it’s been one worth taking in every sense. Kamala’s lesson here is being able to appreciate the happiness of those she loves and it’s kept her relationship with Bruno from feeling too cliche.
Miyazawa’s art continues to be wonderful. Each issue he’s on ends up being incredibly special because of how talented he is. “Ms. Marvel” #3 is full of expressive and lively characters. The action is fluid and most importantly feels like genuine superhero fun. The subject matter is sometimes tough but there’s a certain level of heart that Miyazawa brings to these characters that never causes the tone to feel off. Ian Herring’s color continue to make Jersey City feel like Jersey City and the palette is always lush with no overshadowing. “Ms. Marvel” is meant to be fun.
Final Verdict: 8.3 – Another great issue for a series every comic fan should be reading.
“Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl” #6
Written by Kieron Gillen
Illustrated by Jamie McKelvie
Reviewed by Stephenson Ardern-Sodje
The final issue of ‘Phonogram’s latest arc comes roaring to a conclusion that weaves polished, polyphonic fantasy with the messy business of reality.
Gillen and McKelvie may have experienced a stratospheric swell of fame following their run on “Young Avengers” and their other Image title, “The Wicked + The Divine”, but they cut their teeth on existential ennui and disaffected deities in the pages of their previous “Phonogram” runs. There’s a distinctly autobiographical feeling to the mid-thirties uncertainty that permeated this series, oscillating from heavily affected nihilism through to painful earnestness at times. In issue six, Gillen brings this mini-series to a satisfyingly vague conclusion that manages to mix the ambiguity and understatedness of phonomancy with a real sense of grounded, tentative growth from Emily. Considering the mass appeal of Gillen’s other current books, penning something so purposefully obtuse and indie could easily have been seen as a misstep, but the pretentious sensibilities of his scripting and dizzyingly dense web of references to the best British underground bands of the noughties are key to establishing his aesthetic in a book whose characters are all about style over substance.
McKelvie has had great fun this series recreating and riffing on some of the most iconic music videos of Emily’s youth, but the opening page of this final issue – Emily dispassionately bludgeoning the poorly rendered villains of A-Ha’s classic Take On Me to death – might be one of my favourite images yet. This arc has taken place almost equally in the real world and in Emily’s ‘Immaterial’ mindscape, and this final issue is similarly split. McKelvie’s well-practiced translation of Gillen’s self-aware set-pieces means that Emily’s final showdown manages to feel both bombastic and sarcastic, with the ethereal surroundings more than balanced by the finely tuned facial expressions of characters who we’ve followed through fame, frustration, and, at last, some kind of self-awareness.Continued below
“Phonogram” is a brilliantly realised piece of work that reads like a modern period drama peopled with moping musical magicians. Riffing off and referencing popular culture in a way that feels at times fluid, and at times purposefully posed, it’s a book that wears its influences on its sleeve and feels all the more fresh for it. In issue #5 Gillen pointed out that the majority of the writing for this book was done during 2011-12, and that he ‘feels awkward about much of the material, especially the monstrous caricatures [he] painted’. People change, opinions evolve, and sometimes it becomes almost impossible to recognise the person you used to be. “Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl” is all about how that kind of incremental change can amount to something far more serious. It’s about how other people react to that kind of change, and, most importantly it’s about how you live with it.
Final Verdict: 7.8 – Strong and stylised from beginning to end, Gillen and McKelvie present bravado in the face of uncertainty in a way that feels both peculiarly British and reassuringly universal.
Pencil Head #1
Written and illustrated by Ted McKeever
Reviewed by Michelle White
Ted McKeever has got some odd sensibilities for sure, but they come across surprisingly well in this satirical work. First in a five-part series, this is a grimy, cynical look at the frustrations of being a freelance comic creator.
That there are frustrations to be had won’t be a surprise to anyone who’s checked out the comics world on Twitter, let alone created something themselves. From pushy publishers to sketchy colleagues, protagonist Poodwaddle seems to be encountering a bit of everything. The sudden death of a stripper in a sketchy joint he’s visiting does seem to be one plot point too many (and who really needs plot in a story like this?), but it does add a little forward momentum to the issue.
The New York Poodwaddle negotiates is the city as its least photogenic, all garbage, graffiti, and swathes of dirt. But the minor figures at the edge of frame make for the best visual surprises; how can people blame him for drawing ugly characters, Poodwaddle muses, when there’s inspiration in every subway car? Most intriguing of all is the monster that stalks our hero from page to page. All teeth and shadow, he’s seems to represent some kind of lurking threat – but what?
Despite its bitter tone – if the prevailing mood at the strip joint doesn’t get you down, I don’t know what will – the pacing of this issue makes it run by surprisingly smoothly. A touch of readerly curiosity, sympathy, and maybe even schadenfreude don’t hurt either. After all, every kind of work has its frustrations, and an inside look at this particularly isolating job is a selling point in itself.
While McKeever’s grotesque and frittery visual style isn’t for everyone, for those who can dig it, “Pencil Head” is a bitter but enjoyable work that promises to be an enlightening series.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – A quick, acerbic read with heaps of visual flair.