Cosmic Scoundrels 2 Featured Reviews 

Wrapping Wednesday: Micro Reviews for the Week of 3/29/17

By | April 3rd, 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.

Cosmic Scoundrels #2
Written by Matt Chapman and Andy Suriano
Illustrated, Colored, and Lettered by Andy Suriano
Review by Matt Lune

This second issue of “Cosmic Scoundrels” finds Roshambo and Love Savage reeling from the reveal that their heisted cargo is a human baby, with all the appropriate sitcom beats struck when an odd couple is presented with an infant. The Scoundrels find themselves at odds initially, debating the best course of action, which does a neat job of telling us a lot about their characters; something lacking in issue 1, which gave us little beyond “they’re scoundrels”. What makes this book more than the sum of its parts, however, is the cheeky self-awareness that’s fitting for the co-creators behind both Homestar Runner and Samurai Jack.

The aforementioned sitcom beats aren’t just alluded to, there are a couple of pages that are rebranded as “Cosmic Scoundrels and Son”, complete with ‘sponsor’ on the top of the page. The footnotes of each page – little asides written in the voice of the omniscient narrator that betray the book’s webcomic roots – are a fun way to maintain that tongue-in-cheek distance while simultaneously enamouring you to both the characters and creators. They may never reach the level of Ryan North’s in “Unbeatable Squirrel-Girl”, which enhance that already stellar series and provide a unique narrative hook, but they’re still a fun and welcome addition.

Andy Suriano’s art is just cartoony enough to feel like a Saturday morning serial, but throws in plenty of alien gore and explosions to break free of those particular shackles. The page layouts are as manic and frantic as the subject matter, no one page like any other, perhaps a consequence of its origins. More than that, however, there are numerous concepts in this issue that are effectively and vibrantly realised. The Scoundrel’s ship, Fist Puncher, comes into its own in this issue, as does the brand new location of The Fence, the proverbial Hive of Scum and Villainy that literally skirts the borders of international space. It’s fitting that the “Cosmic Scoundrels” have their own Mos Eisley, and Suriano leans into the tropes of a sci-fi shanty-town in his design. Similarly this is a busy universe; no panel is empty, no backgrounds are boring, each crammed full of color and detail. Even if that detail is barely-sketched background characters, it all adds to the illusion of a lived-in, established galaxy.

The linework as a whole is very scratchy, in places feeling like concept art for an animated series more than a completed comic, however “Cosmic Scoundrels” utilises color and lettering to round out a fairly unique style. This style is most effectively realised when showing off Roshambo’s somewhat nebulous superpowers, his energy blasts accompanied by comedy sound effects in a neat visual gag.

There’s never any real weight behind the moral dilemma that the “Cosmic Scoundrels” face in the first half of the issue – they may be amoral but they have hearts of gold! – but the point of the issue is in the adventure. There’s a light-hearted spirit that’s instantly engaging, and while it’s not breaking any new ground, there’s a great energy that carries through and a vibrant design that pulls from all manner of science-fiction, fantasy and 80’s glam rock. “Cosmic Scoundrels” manages to go so far down the rabbit-hole of parody that it comes out the other side as a legitimate addition to the sci-fi adventure subgenre, sitting comfortably alongside books like “Space Riders” in poking just the right amount of fun while staying reverential to its roots.

Final Verdict: 7.0 – A fun and funny second issue that delves a little deeper into the scoundrels and their world.

Generation Zero #8
Written by Fred Van Lente
Illustrated by Diego Bernard with Juan Castro and Alison Rodrigues
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Colored by Andrew Dalhouse
Lettered by Dave Sharpe
Reviewed by Michael Mazzacane

Adele’s sudden appearance as the Black Sheep, invested with the markings of a late Golden early Silver Age hero/villain, is a clear statement about the function of the “superhero” in the Valiant U. Mainly that it reveals the artifice of the concept, they are all the byproduct of often inhumane experimentation by the military industrial complex (Generation Zero) or an avenue for ego driven satisfaction (Ninjak). Valliant’s “heroes” largely shirk that extratextual distinction of the superhero. They are people trying to get by in an ever-evolving weird world. Adele, other than early Faith, is the only character that comes to mind that uses a cape. She stands as an effective dark mirror to all the things Gen Zero, and Cronos in particular, hate.

While cape comics have featured the fastest people in their worlds, you don’t really see many chase sequences in these kinds of books. Someone point me towards the comic equivalent of (one of) the Ronin chase sequence. Now video being literally composed of moving images, and with the use of editing as a means to organize that movement, has made this sort of sequence – after being developed – a naturalized piece of the mediums wheelhouse. While not in the same style of Ronin’s myriad chases, the art team for ‘Have You Seen Me Part Three’ do a good job of using the base strengths of the film chase (motion and editing) and use that inform their work in “Generation Zero”. Editing is the prism through which film is constructed, the cuts define what we see and don’t see. The same holds true for paneling in comics. In order to develop that sense of fluid motion for Adele’s chase after Keisha and her father, they are depicted always in a state of motion. The police cars lights streaming through the page, leaving after images of where they were giving the readers an easy guide to make motion. All of that building, until finally, their car is undone by the smashed remains of a cow. The sight of the car as solid but motion blurring it into the middle and background of the image is an effective culmination of that build up. As a fan of the cinematic classic (and all around good chase movie) Twister, using cows is the equivalent of an easy pop. The art team dose over use of onomatopoeia on the page making it overly crowded at times, ruining the impact for moments of literal impact later on.

“Generation Zero” #8 is an effective penultimate issue. The tension is at its highest, and least resolved (Adele v Keisha, the Zygotes, Cronos finally dropping his harsh schoolmaster routine). Fred Van Lente quickly reminds readers what’s at stake in the coming final issue with the teased phrase “childhood’s end.” For all the Silicon Valley satire and techno determinism, that has made up this part of the world Gen Zero finds themselves in, what’s really at stake is the chance to break free of the arresting baggage the Zeros and Keisha find themselves under.

Final Verdict: 8.0 Effective art pieces and sound plotting set “Generation Zero” to go out on a high note, if they can survive the experience.

Grand Passion #4
Written by James Robinson
Illustrated by Tom Feister
Colored by Dave Curiel
Lettered by Simon Bowland
Reviewed by Kent Falkenberg

The glossy sheen of Tom Feister’s art within “Grand Passion” #4 wouldn’t look out of place on TV at one in the afternoon alongside a slate of similarly titled daytime soap operas. That is, of course, if you were willing to disregard some full frontal nudity and a healthy splash of the ol’ ultraviolence. James Robinson’s mashup of steamy Harlequin romance and bloody small town noir doubles-down on the exploitative thrills as the series rises to an explosive climax.

Robinson scripts this penultimate issue with a bluntness that almost comes across as wooden before veering into sly parody of its trashy, paperback antecedents. “You ever done anything like this before,” a crooked police chief is asked.

From behind a black push broom mustache, drawn thick enough it could be used to clean up the showers of broken glass that will be raining down shortly, he responds without subtlety or subtext, “Surround a sleeping cop, so we can slaughter him in his home…”

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Fiester pulls into a close-up of the chief’s face for him to finish the thought, “… Not lately.”

There’s a directness to “Grand Passion” #4 that’s refreshing, and just plain fun. I mean, the opening scene of exposition covers the stakes, the situation, and the oncoming assault they’re fully aware, all delivered in a thickly shadowed bedroom by a naked Mac and Mabel – the couple entranced by the titular passion. The sequence then closes with an explicit statement by Mabel that maybe they both should put on some clothes before locking and loading for the battle waiting outside. Seriously, who says to put on pants before jumping into a gun fight? Robinson does. And it’s great.

While Fiester’s characters and set dressing may be a bit too polished to sell the gritty, bullets-flying reality of the closing melee, he sure does draw some pretty moments. One particular panel of a cop ventilated by friendly fire is captured as a pulpy still life that’s faintly reminiscent of Francesco Francavilla. Colorist Dave Curiel even delivers the requisite orange and black tones to cap off the image.

“Grand Passion” #4 isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s got a self-assured swagger. Whether it’s Robinson’s dialog like, “You know how bad I wanna fuck you right now… ‘cept we ain’t got the time,” shown overtop this small town’s crookedest setting up a perimeter outside the house. Or. whether the dialog is dropped entirely, and we watch as an Owl takes flight from a tree branch during a momentary lull in the firestorm. Robinson and Fiester know exactly what they want this to be, and they deliver exactly that.

Final Verdict: 7.5 – Grand passions, noir-lequin romance. Gotta love it.

Green Lantern/Space Ghost Special #1
Written by James Tynion IV and Christopher Sebela
Illustrated and Colored by Ariel Olivetti
Lettered by A Larger World Studios
Reviewed by Nicholas Palmieri

DC’s recent slate of Hanna-Barbera comics have been an odd breed, in that they largely depend on how well the creators re-interpret the characters. This comic, operates mostly as a Green Lantern comic where Space Ghost guest stars, however, and there isn’t much of a new interpretation to Space Ghost.

On the whole, everything in “Green Lantern/Space Ghost” works. The story itself explores the lives of individuals in an isolationist, xenophobic culture. It’s the sort of thing that space sci-fi excels at, examining topical issues through extreme examples on fictional planets, which is fitting for both space-faring characters. Olivetti’s art also displays everything well. From the purple and blue wide open expanse of outer space to the muted greens and brownish greys on the cluttered planet, his CGI-assisted environments tell the story nicely. He also has a wonderful grasp on anatomy, which help his realistically drawn characters fit in with those computer-generated backgrounds.

What didn’t work for me as much was Space Ghost’s characterization. There really wasn’t much to pull from, given that the original is a plot-based cartoon from a time when all action leads were the same stock character, but I was hoping for something more. The only instances where he showed any sort of personality were when he was a foil for Hal, which was more a plus about how Tynion and Sebela wrote Green Lantern than about how they wrote Space Ghost. Maybe my love for the comedic Space Ghost: Coast to Coast is affecting my opinion, but that relative lack of personality felt like a missed opportunity here.

“Green Lantern/Space Ghost” was a good one-shot, containing a well constructed story and great art. The team understands how to use sci-fi to tell a story they’re interested in, and they write a great Green Lantern. I just wish their Space Ghost was more interesting.

Final Verdict: 7.0 – A great read for Green Lantern and sci-fi fans and a good read for fans of a straightforward Space Ghost, but not for anyone expecting a revolutionary interpretation of the latter.

Man-Thing #2
Written by R.L. Stein
Illustrated by German Peralta
Colored by Rachel Rosenberg
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham
Reviewed by Gregory Ellner

R.L. Stein, most famous for his Goosebumps books, utilizes his narrative skill very well in this issue, peppering the two stories in “Man-Thing” #2 with a campfire-esque telling. While his use of thought bubbles works well to provide humor and tragedy through the eponymous character, the primary draw of the issue’s writing seems to be the narrative boxes. The overall feel seems to indicate a focus more on an overarching world than just connecting to the Man-Thing himself.

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With this focus on the larger world comes an eclectic focus of threats, be they animal and human physical dangers or emotional distress caused by a connection to Ted Sallis’s past life as a human. The fast pace between set pieces works well to keep readers engaged, as well as to seem fun despite the highly emotional nature of the work.

Both German Peralta in the main story and Christopher Mitten in the backup provide excellent artwork for the stories they are telling. Peralta’s dynamic artwork, with the focus on the inhumanity of the Man-Thing’s appearance (in particular the glassy red eyes) and the swarms around that seek to cause him harm, acts as a good contrast to the more relatable look of Lily-Ann Millard, a messy-haired, lively human who had a past connection to Ted Sallis. On the other hand, Mitten’s artwork focuses in on dark, foreboding visuals and clever use of perspective to keep the audience on their toes, even with the story itself being a rather by-the-numbers ghost story in its own right.

In its entirety, the issue is entertaining, though not particularly groundbreaking. It feels like a bit of “Goosebumps,” with a comic overlay, and that’s meant in the best way possible.

Final Verdict: 7.5- An old-fashioned ghost story mixed with action and mystery, “Man-Thing” provides a lot of fun but with a fairly predictable plot structure.

Suicide Squad/Banana Splits Annual #1
Written by Tony Bedard and Mark Russell
Illustrated by Ben Caldwell and Howard Porter
Inked by Mark Morales
Colored by Jeremy Lawson and Steve Buccellato
Lettered by A Larger World’s Troy ‘N’ Dave and Dave Sharpe
Reviewed by Alexander Jones

If there’s any one property that artist Ben Caldwell was meant to draw it would have to be the Banana Splits. The artist’s insanely uplifting pencil style crosses a ludicrously wonderful psychedelic threshold when it is paired with the Suicide Squad. The issue rams down on the gas right from the first page and puts the two sets of characters in an interesting dilemma without feeling too rushed. Its gleeful take on the Banana Splits’ supporting characters is a remarkable way to leave some of the cynicism from the Suicide Squad behind as the team are the second stringers in this story.

This issue’s twisted sense of humor extends throughout the narrative as both sets of characters glide from one bizarre situation into the next. The tone is scattershot, but played with just enough tongue-in-cheek humor to stay interesting throughout. The story stitching the two groups together gets increasingly interesting as the narrative goes on, finding an innovative way to use talents from both groups of characters. Tony Bedard doesn’t waste time finding a natural way for these to characters to intersect.

As mentioned above, Caldwell is a shining star in this issue. He makes the Suicide Squad look elegant and the Banana Splits look disorderly on the same page. Caldwell has decided to enlarge the proportions of the Banana Split cast members, which allows for this issue to have lots of physical humor. There are plenty of wonderfully expressive moments for the Banana Split cast members, giving off the impression that the artist is injecting a ton of personality to this script and nailing moments that otherwise would have been to absurd. Caldwell’s work is invigorated with such an incredible energy. There’s a few panels here where he is able to show off the differences between the two pairs of characters through physicality alone.

The last eight pages allow Mark Russell to focus his satirical viewpoints into Snagglepuss. Russell channels his writing style into the character with shocking ease, delivering biting, situational humor with a dark tale of woe. Howard Porter is a great choice to draw the story, taking a more realistic angle that suits Russell’s candid look at the origins of Snagglepuss almost too well.

Finding a way to make the Suicide Squad interesting is no easy feat, but with such an intense feeling of novelty captured between two groups of characters, the “Suicide Squad/Banana Splits Annual” #1 does the impossible and captures lightning in a bottle. This issue also catches a nice Marvel influence with the huge, surreal pencils of Ben Caldwell really stretching the limits on how we’ve seen the Suicide Squad interpreted in comics over the past few years. This comic makes a great case for how the Hannah Barbera properties can intersect with the DC Universe in way where both properties are able to benefit.

Final Verdict: 8.0 – The “Suicide Squad/Banana Splits Annual” #1’s wild, irreverent tone will demand your attention thanks to the beautiful art and surreal writing.

//TAGS | Wrapping Wednesday

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