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Amazing Forest #3
Written by Erick Freitas & Ulises Farinas
Illustrated by Various
Reviewed by Michelle White
With short stories spanning genres and art styles, this anthology series from IDW offers tantalizing variety.
The first story, “Ben Franklin, Dragon Hunter”, slaps you upside the head with a smattering of literary and historical allusions, and is over before any of the story can hit home. It’s a shame, because Job Yamen’s art is gorgeous, all flame-coloured watercolour on delicate lines.
The second, “Giant Laser Rifle” is the most cohesive of the bunch, with Skuds McKinley’s loosey-goosey lowbrow art style elevating a Boy Who Cried Wolf fable.
“Fishbone” – a folkloric story drawn by Austin Breed – would be the standout if it weren’t for the cloudiness of the conclusion, which could use an extra panel or two. It’s Breed’s knack for depicting the everyday with woodcut flatness that makes the story so fun to read.
Rounding out the bunch, “1935” has a conventional bait-and-switch storyline. The art, courtesy of Zoe Crockett, irreverently evokes the era (and has sufficiently twirly mustaches).
Short stories in comics are notoriously difficult to do well, and it’s not a huge surprise, given their limited page count, that these ones come across stilted. But visual flair they’ve got, and there’s plenty to enjoy here if you have a taste for the short stuff.
Final Verdict: 6.0 – Hard to sink your teeth into, but lovely to look at.
Black Canary #9
Written by Matthew Rosenberg
Illustrated by Moritat and Lee Loughridge
Reviewed by Jess Camacho
“Black Canary” started off as a road trip for the Black Canary band but quickly turned into an adventure featuring music monsters, secret pasts and bandmate drama. This evolution is what has helped make “Black Canary” one of DC’s best and despite the gorgeous art of Annie Wu, recent issues have lost their more rock and roll edge but this isn’t a knock against the series. I say this because “Black Canary” #9, a standalone issue, really gets back into that rock and roll set of mind and focuses on a gig that Black Canary takes full of gangsters. Rosenberg combines both the devil may care reputation the band has built up with the sense of justice Dinah has as a superhero. “Black Canary” #9 is a break from the main action but it’s definitely not light on actual action. The band has to this crazy situation and Rosenberg does a great job at making it funny while still keeping the attitude the series is known for. This is what made him such a great fit for this issue.
Moritat, like Rosenberg, does something that’s really his own but still evokes the spirit the series is known for. Moritat’s character designs are different enough that they feel new and that’s what makes them fun. Dinah has big rock star hair, she’s got her signature fishnets and Moritat has some fun with her graphic tee. There’s a ton of beauty in these pages in a very European sense but there’s a nice meeting point between that and a more American grungy vibe. The panel layouts are amazing and layered, which sets a quick pace at just the right points in the story. Loughridge’s colors are just as neon infused as usual in this series and he settles into Moritat’s style perfectly.
Final Verdict: 7.9 – It may not be a part of the “main” story but it’s a fun fill in that proves these things don’t have to feel like “throwaways”.
Written by Joshua Dysart
Illustrated by Khari Evans
Review by Ken Godberson III
As I’ve said before and I will say again, the biggest strength to Joshua Dysart’s work has always been his character work. That continues here with the big focus continuing to be with Harada and Livewire. There are some interesting smaller moments (like the cute one between Orchid and Darpan) but I will not lie, we are creeping the titular “stormbreak” at a bit of a slow pace. Nothing bad. It’s an intricate clock with a variety of pieces on the move. As such, sometimes you do get an issue where it’s more about those pieces moving before it all comes crashing down. But then you get characters like the H.A.R.D. Corps members where -outside of Palmer- they all feel very interchangeable (which has been a common trait of all their appearances ever since their debut in the Valiant reboot).Continued below
I will say though, a lot of things happen in this issue, between space, on the ground and so much more and Khari Evans and Ulises Arreola remain consistent throughout. They are able to convey a battle between Harada and the H.A.R.D. Corps spaceship in such a clever way, strengthened by Dysart’s script in such a grand way that shows off both Harada and Livewire’s skill that culminates in a great page as Harada falls through the atmosphere, with all his doubts and fears on full display.
Final Verdict: 7.3- Every fire needs kindling, and this issue was very well done kindling as we move to the conclusion of “Stormbreak”.
Martian Manhunter #10
Written by Rob Williams
Illustrated by Eddy Barrows
Reviewed by Brian Salvatore
It is interesting to me that, as ‘Rebirth’ nears, we are still getting new origins for some of the characters that appeared quite different in the New 52. Not that J’onn J’onzz couldn’t have used a new origin (in fact, Comics Alliance’s Chris Sims discussed that last week), but it still is a little odd. The origin is front and center of this issue, which gives a bit of a pause in the action to allow for J’onn, in the form of Mr. Biscuits and Daryl, to learn more about his past.
As the series begins to wrap up, the brilliance of the ‘splitting his personality into four people’ approach is really starting to come through. Each of the four personas is a character I’d like to spend more time with, and bringing Alicia back into the story, as well, is a nice bit of storytelling. Williams has, more or less, constructed the first true supporting cast for J’onn in decades, and, sadly, it seems like most, or all, of them won’t be coming out of the series alive.
Eddy Barrows is a name that, before this series, I never really got too excited when seeing him on the front of my comics. His work was solid, but unspectacular. That’s all changed here. His work is fluid and fascinating, allowing the shape-shifting nature of J’onn to inform his pencil work, not to mention knocking out of the park crazy ideas like ‘city-sized mech warriors’ or the stick-bug appearance of Mr. Biscuits. Everything, visually, in this book is a triumph, and Barrows deserves as much credit as Williams for putting together one of the best J’onn J’onzz stories of all time.
Final Verdict: 8.3 – A slower, but just as powerful, issue of the series.
“Power Man and Iron Fist” #2
Written by David Walker
Illustrated by Sanford Greene
Reviewed by Stephenson Ardern-Sodje
With a new teaser for Netflix’ Luke Cage just dropped, and the latest series of Daredevil currently being binged by millions across the globe, I thought I’d take a look at two of Marvel’s most enduring street level heroes in their original format, back to business (sort of) in “Power Man and Iron Fist” #2.
I’ve been really enjoying Marvel’s current run on lots of the lower level heroes in their stable since Secret Wars. While their more continuity-focussed books are scrambling to establish a new status quo in their ANAD universe, working hard to make Inhumans happen and already laying some of the groundwork for their next big, film-related crossover, it seems like character books at the fringes of the mainstream narrative have been allowed to carve out a more independent niche in the market. The international magical mystery of “Scarlet Witch”, the white picket-fenced weirdness of “Vision”, and the funky fresh stylings of Walker and Greene’s “Power Man and Iron Fist”, are all as different from one another as could be imagined, but they are all equally as engaging. “Power Man and Iron Fist” manages this through its instantly affable dialogue, with Walker clearly focussed on giving his characters a sense of realism in their speech. While the super-story across the first two issues is a relatively straightforward one (friend done wrong by our hapless heroes seeks out mystically-fuelled vengeance) its Walker’s ability to make us quickly and effectively engage with everyone in this book that makes it so absorbing. Walker’s downtown feels alive with colourful characters, from the opening montage of heroes and villains tracking Power Man and Iron Fist’s reunion across twitter, to a brilliantly believable exchange between Tombstone and two of his reluctant henchmen, Walker manages to inject personality and depth into an array of previously one-dimensional characters.Continued below
Greene’s hyper-stylised, cartoonish interpretation of the Heroes for Hire and their lively community is as distinctive as it is delightful. As with Walker’s writing, there’s a reality and pathos to Greene’s locations that constantly remind you of the humanity of the area. At times run-down and dilapidated, at times bustling and busy, his depiction of an area in the midst of poverty but with a strong community ethos helps to further reinforce the feeling of homespun heroes looking out for their friends and family. In a world where ‘street’ heroes seemed to be stereotyped as coming from hopelessly grimdark urban sprawls full of pimps and drug dealers, seeing a more well-rounded interpretation of inner city life in this book is hugely appreciated, and feels perfectly in keeping with the light, comedic scripting.
This book is, at its heart, an odd couple dramedy, and the witty back-and-forth between long-time friends Luke and Danny is peppered with discussions about the duty of a father, the bond between friends, and other relatable adult dilemmas that are, in turn both sweet and poignant. This strong foundation of fraternity, coupled with Greene’s instantly iconic character redesigns, could well help cement this incarnation of the duo as their most impressive yet.
Final Verdict: 7.9 – street brawling with hands of iron and hearts of gold.
Written by Dennis Hopeless
Illustrated by Javier Rodriguez, Alvano Lopez, and Rachelle Rosenberg
Reviewed by Matthew Garcia
Jessica Drew is essentially Tina Fey (or more appropriately, Liz Lemon) in the Marvel Universe. She’s witty, frequently in over her head, and has difficulty balancing her work life with her personal life, but is overall an amiable character you just want to hang out with. “Spider-Woman” #5 serves as a coda to the the Die Hard-in-the-maternity-ward arc that opened this latest series, with Drew now with a baby and desperately trying to figure out how she can survive as a person past this.
There’s not a lot of superhero beat-downs in this issue: it relies mostly on her character and the people around her to tell its story, and it’s all the more effective comic for it. Hopeless presents her as freaking out over every little detail. There’s an inspired scene where she listens to Carol Danvers tell a story and responds with, “All I heard was how you almost died…six times. In a week.” There’s some nice character progression and development, and that, more than any huge event, is why we coming back to serialized fiction.
Rodriguez fills the issue with frenetic energy, and the chaos that I assume comes with taking care of a newborn. He repeats images within the panels, has them connect from scene to scene, where we can watch how one little thing that goes wrong seems to make a cataclysmic event for Drew. He matches her mood and her worry, and we can empathize with her all the better.
Although not much plot happens in “Spider-Woman” #5, there’s a great deal of character work going on. Taking the time off to let us see Jessica Drew deal with being a mother helps make her a stronger, more relatable character. No doubt, Hopeless, Rodriguez, and company are gearing up for something that will put the baby in danger (though wouldn’t it be great if they didn’t?), but for now, this simple story of a new mom juggling her work and home life, is engrossing.
Final Verdict: 7.9 – Sheesh, though. Kids are demanding.