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.
Aliens: Defiance #1
Written by Brian Wood
Illustrated by Tristan Jones and Dan Jackson
Reviewed by Matthew Garcia
For all his problems, Brian Wood has generally been decent at kicking off a new series. Granted, everything might crumble under its own ambition (“The Massive”) or lose momentum (“Mara”) or become a parody of itself, a joke that goes on too long (“The Couriers”); but his opening installments have generally been attention grabbing and intriguing. “Aliens: Defiance” #1, however, left me completely indifferent. It feels like a paint-by-numbers “Aliens” story, rushed out to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the James Cameron film.
All the familiar elements are in place. The Wayland Corporation? Still just as evil as ever. The paraplegic paramilitary solider? She’s our point-of-view character! Going to investigate an abandoned and seemingly empty space ship which is, of course, crawling with xenomorphs? Is water wet? Zula Hendricks shares a lot of the same DNA as that one guy from Avatar, and she seems like she would be an interesting character, but Wood never lets her develop her own voice. She sounds like any other character in the series.
Tristan Jones’s artwork is fine, if not a bit standard. There’s this muddy quality to the page (made murkier by the desaturated color palette) that delivers the grime and grit of this universe. He has some fun blending the computer modules with Zula’s reactions toward the end. He does well with delivering a xenomorph anatomy, but their size and monstrousness never come off the page. When the alien shows up, it’s like, “Oh look, it’s here,” rather than the “Oh shit, we’re so fucked!” reaction they’re supposed to convey. Mostly the art remains practical, though never truly lively. There are moments that the action becomes incomprehensible, especially during the attack, which sort of kills any of the momentum Wood and Jones managed to build up.
The best part is the xenomorph attack near the middle of the issue, where Wood and Jones most heavily channel Cameron’s film. Zula is with the lead synthetic soldier, investigating what happened to the ship. She cuts the audio on the footage, but the sounds are still coming out, ringing down the hallways. “I never knew synthetics could scream,” she says. This sequence is only a page before all the bullets start flying, but if more of that tension and terror had been in the chapter, it would have been far more effective and interesting.
“Aliens: Defiance” #1 never really takes off, but it’s not the worse “Aliens” story out there. A lot of it is fine, and there are some moments of well-built tension. But neither Jones or Wood offer much for it to stand out.
Final Verdict: 5.5 – I didn’t like it all that much, but I didn’t hate it at all, either: in fact, I barely remember it.
Circuit Breaker #2
Written by Kevin McCarthy
Illustrated by Kyle Baker
Reviewed by Stephenson Ardern-Sodje
After feeling slightly confused and unsure about the first issue of “Circuit Breaker” I thought I’d give #2 another try to see if I’d missed something that a second round could shed some light on.
McCarthy’s scripting is as idiosyncratic in this issue as it was in the opening. He leaps from pop-culture Americanisms to broken Japanese, to bleeding edge slang like ‘L-No-L’, (an expression of… not laughing). His characterisation is so affected that it still jars me out of the narrative he’s trying to explore. We’re introduced to a group of Akira-esque bikers who talk in heavy African American Vernacular English, who’s pseudo-slang makes them almost untranslatable at times. McCarthy’s reliance on staples of Japanese media, including pointedly referring to a ‘pervert’ who hits on Michiko in her standardised schoolgirl attire, falls into empty archetypes for me. As with the previous issue, this book is tonally all over the place, attempting to balance slapstick humour and more childlike narrative stylings with odd occurrences of brutality, including a rogue children’s mascot going on a rampage and murdering children. There’s a longer narrative being plotted under the individual upsets in these issues, but I feel like its overpowered by the scatter-shot reference points and muddy attempts to create a cross-cultural experience.Continued below
Baker’s art oscillates between surprisingly specific at times, and slapdash in others. The variety of his drawings are clearly pulling on many different Manga classics, but the result for me is a little disjointed. While the Easter eggs and nods to well-known characters do offer an enjoyable visual aside, they further highlight a feeling of style-over-substance that makes this book feel like more of a web-comic with bigger aspirations than a fully realised ongoing. The more unfinished line-work and stylistic sacrifices made would be more understandable if this book wasn’t being billed as such a high concept modern classic by Image.
Final Verdict: 3.4 This oddly appropriative and tonally inconsistent book makes me only more aware of the impressive skill-set it takes to balance comedy, drama, and satire in classic manga offerings.
Written by Cullen Bunn
Illustrated by David Baldéon, Fico Ossio, Max Dunbar, and Jack Lawrence
Reviewed by Brian Salvatore
For nerds of a certain age, one of whom I consider myself, the term Micronaut is not a new phrase. I’ve been familiar with this property for nearly 30 years, yet couldn’t really give you a concise description of the fictional universe without bringing it back to the toys — the toys were special due to the interchangeable parts that many of the toys featured, so you could create your own Frankenstein’s Micronaut if you wanted. For a kid who loved tinkering with his toys, this made Micronauts a really fun toy. I was familiar with the comics, but never dug too deep, although certain aspects of the comics were familiar to me.
All of that is to say that “Micronauts” looked like a book that would be right up my alley – I had familiarity with, and nostalgia for, the property, and have really enjoyed how IDW has dealt with their licensed books thus far, especially those edited by John Barber. And, while his work outside of his creator-owned work hasn’t appealed to me much of late, Cullen Bunn seemed like an inspired choice to write the series. I was a little worried when I saw four illustrators listed on the first issue, but I was still excited to check the book out.
Sadly, my enthusiasm for the book ended there.
This is a mess of a first issue that serves neither new readers nor fans of the old property. The book, admirably, drops you right into some action, but there is so little here that could be construed as background information. We don’t know where the story takes place outside of unknown names of planets/sectors in space. The hook of the Micronauts, at least in the classic Marvel stories, was that the series took place in the ‘microverse,’ which is exactly what it sounds like. A recap page would have helped this issue so much – especially as it would’ve removed the need for expository dialogue.
But there isn’t any of that, either! We get the very beginnings of a few characters’ traits and relationships, but we have no real destination in mind yet. I honestly don’t know if I could give a satisfactory description of the book outside of “hotshot thief with a few pals gets an assignment after causing some trouble in what may or may not be his home/place of work.”
It doesn’t help matters that there are four different finishers working off of David Baldeon’s layouts, so the artwork doesn’t have too much consistency to it. Sure, the layouts being done by the same person helps, but the book has clear seams where one artist tags in. For a book that doesn’t have the strongest plot or dialogue, to also have lackluster art really makes the reading of the first issue a chore.
Final Verdict: 3.2 – A book that is playing off nostalgia and curiosity and satisfies neither.
Year Of Marvels: The Amazing #1
Written by Ryan North & Amy Chu
Illustrated by Danilo Beyruth & Ryan Browne
Review by Alice W. Castle
This is a pretty interesting idea for a series. It’s a digital-first series with each month’s issue being themed around the month of release, adding up to a year of one-shot Marvel stories. This first print issue collects the stories from February and March, with the February issue naturally being themed around Valentine’s Day. Written by Ryan North and illustrated by Danilo Beyruth, this story is a great opener because it focuses on Spider-Man and his Valentine’s gone awry thanks to the Vulture. It largely works because Ryan North perfectly gets the witty banter and playfulness that makes a Spider-Man story great while Danilo Beyruth fantastically illustrates the high-flying action between the two. There are some pages that feel hampered in print and would have likely worked better when reading the originally designed Infinite Comic, but that’s a minor quibble in a majorly loveable Spider-Man story.Continued below
The second story focuses on Ant-Man during Spring break as he’s tasked with breaking and entering into a massive party in a lavish mansion. This story is written by Amy Chu and Ryan Browne, who are both great talents, so it is a shame this story is actually much less fun than the first story. It’s still focused on humour over drama and is a simple one-shot, but I don’t know, something about it didn’t click for me like the first story. Maybe it’s because I’m not much of an Ant-Man fan, but it felt a little lackluster to me.
I don’t know if I’d recommend the print version of “Year In Marvels” over the Infinite Comic version as there’s some pages that didn’t translate to print quite as well and for $4.99 a pop, it’s going to be kind of a crapshoot on whether you’ll like one or even both of the stories every instalment. Pretty much the only reason to get this in print singles over the digital format is if you are vehemently anti-digital comics, but if that’s the case then the focus on fun storytelling here might not be your bag either.
Final Verdict: 6.5 – I had fun with this comic, with the first story more than the second, but I’m not entirely sure who this print version is for when the digital version seems far superior in my eyes. Still, Ryan North writing Spider-Man is a good time regardless.