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    Wrapping Wednesday: Micro Reviews for the Week of 5/25/16

    By | May 30th, 2016
    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.

    “Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” #1
    Written by Troy Little
    Illustrated by Troy Little
    Reviewed by Stephenson Ardern-Sodje

    The classic ‘gonzo journalism’ manual gets reworked and reformatted in Little’s adaptation. But, while Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo seem to be all-but unkillable, can they survive the conversion to comic-book form intact?

    For those unfamiliar with the story of ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’, the book that forms the source material for this comic is a drug-fuelled, politically volatile roar about Journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s trip to Vegas, ostensibly to pursue a story. However the journey descends into a hallucinogenic rampage across the city in an attempt to pin down the crumbling wreckage of what Thompson perceived as ‘The American Dream’.

    Adapting such an iconic piece of literature was never going to be an easy task, and I still can’t quite decide if I think Little’s nailed it or sailed right past the point. His art-work is gloriously fluid and fresh, channelling the spirit of original artist Ralph Steadman’s unsettling illustrations, but with a far more followable cartoonish style that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality so smoothly it’s all but impossible to tell quite where one ends and the other begins. As Duke and the Doctor cruise from California to Vegas for the first stage of their journey Little’s oscillates between pretty standard cartooning to truly Dali-levels of surrealism, with even his panels and speech-bubbles melting around his characters’ confused faces.

    For me, however, the book almost suffers from the very thing that made its predecessor so successful in the first place: it’s just too wordy. Seriously, Thompson made a name for himself through the kind of insightful and delightfully deranged prose that works fantastically in a novel, but his words crowd this comic like they don’t trust the art to be able to tell the story without them. And that’s a shame, because when Little’s art is good, it’s great. The scene that rounds out this first issue (when Duke is freaking out about the multitude of reptiles that have suddenly sprung up in the hotel bar) is both mind-bending and clear as crystal, no mean feat for a visual artist to pull off.

    But Little’s insistence on using text that mirrors, echoes, and at times pretty much overshadows the art we’re seeing constantly reminds me that this story have been pulled from the pages of an entirely different format. It’s as though he doesn’t quite believe that the audience will be able to follow the story without Thompson’s iconic prose guiding them on their trip. The result is a book that feels at times less like a true comic book and more like an illustrated version of the original text. It’s a shame, because when this book sits back and lets Little’s visual talent shine through it feels much closer to the unique charm of the source material than the time you spend reading quite lengthy extracts from the actual novel.

    Final Verdict: 6.6 – Worth a read fans of the source, or if you fancy some surreal and sumptuous cartooning.

    Imperium #16
    Written by Joshua Dysart
    Illustrated by Khari Evans
    Review by Ken Godberson III

    Talking about this book is a bit difficult. It is the last issue of the series, but it doesn’t feel like an ending. Like, at all. I have no choice but to compare this to the last Dysart-penned Valiant series, “Harbinger #25”. Now, even though it used threads to transition to “Imperium”, “Harbinger #25” felt like an ending. Like, you got a complete story out of it and you could theoretically jump off then and there. Here, the arc concludes, but it is left surprisingly very open.

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    Will say, the big impact here is -like all of Dysart’s writing- the character work, in particular with Harada and Livewire. This is the final falling out between two characters that have been intertwined since the beginning of the Valiant relaunch. In spite of everything, how much they care for each other, there is no going back after today. It is also here that the hypocrisies of Toyo Harada are laid bare. It is the mark of a good villain when where his motivations are not wrong and you can agree with them on some level, but here, it is all pulled away for a moment and that creeping sense of doubt is felt by all the “monsters” under Harada’s thumb.

    But let me talk about the art, and this is where a lot of my criticism is. Khari Evans uses photo manipulation to use photos as background. In the past, it has been with a more deft touch and the pencil and color work was able to blend the two mediums together. This is the issue where that photoshopping became a downright distraction. Nearly every page has some form of it, great or small, and it isn’t as well blended with the rest of the artwork. It makes it seem like the characters are standing in front of a green screen the whole time.

    I guess it says something that, even after reading it over the last week I’m still not sure how to feel about it. On a few, few levels there’s endings, but the overall wasn’t as strong an ending as a series of this quality needed to have. Combine that with no information on where this is going to lead to in the near future, it provides to have some fascination and a lot frustration.

    Final Verdict: 6.8- While the character work is still strong, the artwork and overall “conclusion” are not as up to the standard this series had set.

    Monstress #6
    Written by Marjorie Liu
    Illustrated by Sana Takeda
    Reviewed by Matthew Garcia

    “Monstress” ends its first arc similar to how it started out: with a lot of flourish, a lot of ornamentation, and a whole lot of questions being raised. “Monstress” #6 remains just as opaque as anything we’ve seen out of this series so far, but it’s also just as intense and thrilling and fascinating. Following a betrayal at the end of the last issue, Maika Halfwolf finds herself in a comatose state by the Dusk Court, waiting for Yvette to come in and finish her off. The whole time, she’s also wrestling with the creature inside her for control of her body and mind.

    Sana Takeda provides some terrifying images. Not just when Yvette removes her mask or the bizarre showdown between her and Maika, but also when Maika’s confrontation with the demon inside her, who’s forcing her to confront parts of her past she’d rather keep buried. There’s a fluidity to the artwork, a dance-like structure Liu and Takeda have developed and you can’t help but be sucked in.

    “Monstress” #6 offers plenty of intense moments and some well executed set pieces. There’s a fight scene that at first glance looks like it would be incomprehensible, but is delivered effectively. It still feels like we’re early in the series, and all the themes and ideas Liu and Takeda are interested in are still developing. There’s no concern with answering any questions or revealing much information, but Liu’s control of the characters and Takeda’s control of the scene come together to make this a consistently engaging and enveloping feat.

    Final Verdict: 8.0 – Captivating and cryptic.

    The Omega Men #12
    Written by Tom King
    Illustrated by Barnaby Bagenda
    Reviewed by Brian Salvatore

    With this issue, one of the biggest creative risks that DC has taken recently wraps up with an issue that is just as uncompromising and nuanced as that first, fantastic, free ‘Divergence’ preview from a year ago. Tom King and Barnaby Bagenda have been telling a very specific type of story – more or less, a space adventure that is a mask for a story about the state of the Middle East, or any other resource-rich land, divided by religion. And they did it with absolute mastery.

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    This is, perhaps, the ultimate Kyle Rayner story, despite the fact that he rarely uses his power ring – in fact, until the end of the series, he never even has his ring. Not since the early Ron Marz-penned “Green Lantern” issues has Kyle been given this much character development – development that I truly hope sticks around post-‘Rebirth.’

    But let’s dig into this issue – this issue provides a conclusion, as well as an epilogue, to the series, and does so in ways that are both unsurprising and genuinely moving. We see the battle against the Citadel come to a close, with Rayner, again, trying to play peacemaker – and failing. The Omega Men complete their goal of killing the Viceroy, but it doesn’t bring them happiness, or peace, or even satisfaction.

    The most chilling and effective part of the issue is the epilogue portion, where Bagenda manages, just through still images, essentially stock photos, to capture the sadness and regret of each character as Rayner is informed of what has happened since the Viceroy’s death. Yes, King’s words are the star here, but Bagenda’s work brings a quiet reservation to the whole event that makes it almost funereal.

    The series wraps up in a place that isn’t entirely clear – we don’t know what Rayner is going to do, we don’t know how all of this will affect his status as a Lantern, we don’t even know if any of these characters – Rayner included – will be seen anytime soon. This feels like a true ending to the story, something that is exceptionally rare in comics.

    Final Verdict: 9.2 – A truly satisfying ending, without being a neat wrap up.

    Over The Garden Wall #2
    Written by Jim Campbell and Amalia Levari
    Illustrated by Jim Campbell, Danielle Burgos, and Cara McGee
    Reviewed by Liam Budd

    Like pretty much everybody else who’s ever watched “Over The Garden Wall,” I fell head-over-heels in love with Pat McHale’s precarious, gothic creation. As it stands, KaBoom! have proven themselves worthy of furthering Greg and Wirt’s journey through The Unknown. Now, as an ongoing, the comic book has been given the space to explore its own peculiarities. Following last month, we’re once again given two distinct stories, both fleshing out this strange land we’ve found ourselves in.

    ‘Dreamland Melodies’ focuses on the perpetual teapot wearing Greg, as he and his pet frog, Jason Funderburker, track down Jason’s long lost ancestor. What follows here is a joyous jaunt into the woods, where Greg discovers a habitat of eccentric, anthropomorphic animals. Always ready to reference early American animation and folk art, “Over The Garden Wall” #2 delivers some serious ‘Classic Disney’ vibes. Think Bambi running through the meadow with Thumper, broad colours are used to exaggerate the simpleness and unabashed fun of the plot. Campbell and Burgos’ art is just as playful, their drawings are justifiably rounded and smooth, there are no hard edges or corners anywhere. It creates a space we feel safe in and evokes a child like wonder, one you would most certainly associate with Greg, who is fearless in his naivety. So it is disappointing at times, when the story comes across a bit too fluffy. I would like to see more of the series’ characteristically ominous atmosphere injected somewhere in the background. Just enough to suggest something sinister is lurking out of sight. However, you don’t finish feeling too let down. How could you? A mole driving a car made entirely of acorns is as silly and wonderful as you’d imagine. There are enough fun concepts successfully executed here you can’t help but be won over.

    In the second story, ‘Homeland’, the tone shifts, as we follow one of the previously unknown denizens of The Unknown. Slightly more mature, this story deals with a young girl’s grief at the loss of her mother and the subsequent loneliness. It is told almost exclusively through her diary extracts, rather than dialogue, which suits the sketchy quality of Cara McGee’s art. Her work is much more intricate and detailed than in the first act. To me it suggests illustrations found in an Edgar Allen Poe novel, overall adding to the creepiness that I thought was missing in Campbell’s story. There is a blur effect that mimics looking through the protagonist’s telescope, which makes us feel uneasy. The whole end sequence is revealed over a splash page, thus encapsulating the young girl’s adventure as a suitable, dreamlike fantasy. I enjoyed this story much more than the first for its subtle complexities. As carefree as ‘Dreamland Melodies’ was, it was the intriguing mystery at the heart of ‘Homeland’ that had me hooked.

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    Final Verdict: 7.9 – Two stories intriguingly juxtaposed and both excellently structured. All I want now, is for the creepiness to unfold.

    Rachel Rising #42
    Written and illustrated by Terry Moore
    Reviewed by Michelle White

    One of the wonderful things about Terry Moore’s work is the sheer scale of his stories. It means you get to live alongside his comics for years – in the case of “Rachel Rising”, almost five of ’em. Of course, this makes saying goodbye all the more difficult. This has been a wonderful, terrifying journey, and this final chapter contains much of what has made the series great.

    It’s hard to get into without getting spoilery – and spoilery I don’t want to be, since I’m sure there are a lot of tradewaiters among Moore’s fans. But something I dug about the main reveal of this issue is that we weren’t expected to have put it together ourselves by now. It’s a surprise that makes sense and holds together, and puts a new spin on the series as a whole without feeling contrived. It has something of the cruel randomness of real life, while still adding something to the series thematically.

    In terms of the broader character arcs, they’ve all been paid off in a satisfying way – some of them in earlier issues. Moore’s decompressed storytelling style has allowed all the threads to be managed in their own time, which keeps this chapter from feeling crowded.

    I’ve rambled about how much I love Terry Moore’s art elsewhere – ’90s clothing choices notwithstanding – but this issue is packed with reasons to ramble more. The realistically portrayed women; the understated but atmospheric scene-setting; the gore, which makes you forget the comic is in black and white. Moore’s handle on revealing details – a subtle smile, a decaying lump of flesh – tells you exactly what you need to know, when you need to know it. And when the moment calls for it, your imagination is allowed to fill in the blanks.

    There’s a coda to this issue that sums up the funnier side of “Rachel Rising”, offsetting the darkness as it always has and imparting some of the macabre flavour that has made the series so addictive. And that’s the feeling you’re left with as it comes to an end: that you’ve encountered something deep and scary but also bubbly and energetic, and you’re all the better for it.

    Final Verdict: 9.5 – But only because I never rate things a 10 and also the ’90s clothing thing.

    Star Wars #19
    Written by Jason Aaron
    Illustrated by Leinil Yu
    Reviewed by Alice W. Castle

    In case you were unaware, let me catch you up to speed: Jason Aaron is really good at writing Star Wars comics. With ‘Rebel Jail’, the storyline of which this is the final issue, Aaron and artist Leinil Yu could have easily come up with filler arc to decompress after ‘Vader Down’ before moving onto meatier storylines. Thankfully, they didn’t, as this has become one of my favourite story arcs since the series started.

    Focusing largely on Leia Organa and her connections to Sana Starro and the recently incarcerated Dr. Aphra, ‘Rebel Jail’ comes to a head this issue by throwing Leia’s morally responsibilities as a leader in the Rebel Alliance into stark relief by confronting her with her moral opposite. The character in question definitely feels, to me, more like a Jason Aaron character than a Star Wars character in his actions throughout the arc, but this issue’s confrontation and reveal more than works to tell a fantastic Leia storyline.

    Leinil Yu is a very different artist than we’ve seen on “Star Wars” with harsher line art and sketchier interpretations of the characters, but it’s a fantastic match for this storyline that is itself much darker and grittier than we’ve seen before. The action isn’t quite at the forefront here as it has been in previous issues, but a neat gimmick with failing gravity allows Yu’s action storytelling to shine. As always, Yu is joing by Gerry Alanguilan on inks and Sunny Gho on colours and, by this point, these three are working as a well oiled machine of amazing artwork. This comic feels distinctly in their style as collaborators while matching the style of “Star Wars” as it’s been established. It’s a hard trick to balance, but it paid off as one of the more unique styles this comic has seen.

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    Final Verdict: 8.0 – A strong closer to an arc that wouldn’t allow itself to feel like filler by focusing on the moral intrigue surrounding as much-sidelined character.


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