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.
Amazing Forest #5
Written by Erick Freitas & Ulises Farinas
Illustrated by Various
Reviewed by Michelle White
To be perfectly honest, my favourite thing about this anthology series from IDW are the punchy covers. They’re Farinas’s work, natch, but the tales inside – penned by Farinas and Freitas – offer enough variety to keep the casual reader happy.
“Villain’s Friend” tells the story of a villain who’s conquered Earth and enslaved all of its heroes. Jack Forbes’ art and colouring are glossy enough to sell the concept, but the ending nips intriguing character development in the bud and feels awfully sudden, making this one hard to enjoy.
“The Wish Goblin” is a delightfully macabre tale with heavily textured, evocative art from Teylor Smirl. It’s not as tight, plot-wise, as it could be, but the fable-like structure – and the gruesome payoff – are driven home by some beautiful character work on the goblin herself.
“Snow Jokes” is a neatly put-together story, although it’ll feel derivative to anyone who went to a Canadian movie theatre this past winter. (It’s gotta be a coincidence, though.) Anyway, there’s a dark twist to this tale, offset by Alison Wight’s broad, cartoony, brightly-coloured art, which makes it the most memorable of the bunch.
You know a story’s going to be interesting when the first line is “You took my penis!” The last story of this issue, “Robo Dream”, is a weird one, with Edwin Vazquez’s mumply-bumpy art engaging and confounding the eye simultaneously. The momentum is dragged down by too much exposition early on, so the ending doesn’t hit very hard, but the weirdness of it all does stay with you.
My impression of this series is that the art is generally better than the writing, and that holds true with this issue. Still, as a stopgap read between your long-haul comics, “Amazing Forest” isn’t half bad, and will keep your eyeballs amused.
Final Verdict: 6.5 – Trail mix with a sprinkling of M&Ms.
Dungeons & Dragons: Shadows Of The Vampire #1
Written by Jim Zub
Illustrated by Nelson Daniel
Reviewed by Alice W. Castle
The real joy of Dungeons & Dragons, indeed of any pen-and-paper role-playing game, is of co-operative storytelling. The fantastical adventure that the characters journey through is built by the players and the Dungeon Master through a mix of structured planning and off-the-cuff improvisation that feels real and natural. “Dungeons & Dragons: Shadows Of The Vampire” #1 doesn’t manage to capture any of that, sadly.
It’s an extra-sized first issue that’s a, honestly, tough to sit through. Part of that is that fact that everything the issue is building towards is given away in the title and solicit and the other part is the fact that the issue spends so much time setting up the plot that it’s hard to get a sense of who the characters really are.
They’re all broadly defined class/race archetypes with little in the way of personality outside of what fits their role in the story. Part of the joy of Dungeons & Dragons is creating unique and interesting characters with their class and race and alignment bringing new details to that. Here, I can’t remember anything about the characters in this outside of the fact that one had a hamster.
Everything here, from the writing to the art, feels so generic that I wonder if slapping the official brand of D&D on the comic didn’t kill what originality could have been pulled from it.
Final Verdict: 4.5 – You can probably guess how this is going to go, but Jim Zub already wrote one of the best D&D comics and it’s called “Skullkickers” and it’s a better use of your time.
King’s Quest #1
Written by Ben Acker and Heath Corson
Illustrated by Dan McDaid
Reviewed by Stephenson Ardern-Sodje
A cross-universal mash-up of the pulpiest order gets a second silly, but superb, outing.
Following loosely on from the events of Dynamite’s “King’s Watch” series, Mandrake the Magician, Flash Gordon, Prince Valiant, and two The Phantoms are on a quest to stop the eternal evil that is Ming The Merciless. Acker and Corson fully embrace the hugely pulpy adventure genre that spawned their disparate heroes, and the result is a labour of love that feels both reverent and, well, kind of irreverent. As our bunch of stalwart heroes crash land on a strange planet, we’re quickly given the cliffnotes of their latest adventure by hapless Phantom-in-training Jen Harris. They’re attempting to save Dale Arden, the ‘intrepid science reporter’ and friend of our heroes. This is all the info you need to embark on what is essentially a 24 page jungle action romp that sees each member of our team utilising their unique abilities against a menagerie of forested foes. Acker and Corson manage to construct an individualistic feeling to each character’s voice, fighting style, and motivation, while hammering home the heroism that ties them all together.
McDaid’s art features a lot of strong chins, muscled torsos, and stern, earnest gazes that feel right at home in this homage to the cartoon strips of old. There’s a dynamism to his figurework that suits the melodrama of the proceedings really nicely, but he keeps the action rooted and tangible so that, even as we’re watching mountainous vegetative homunculus swat Ming’s deadly spaceships from the sky there’s still a real physicality to it. No mean feat. As previously mentioned, this issue cranks the action up to 11, but McDaid keeps the pages interesting by varying the panelling quite drastically. Whether he’s speeding through a sequence with an almost montage-like series of stills, or slowing a specific piece of action through carefully laden insert panels, he feels in control of the pace of the battle at all times. As with Acker and Corson’s scripting, McDaid seems to already have a handle on exactly what makes each character’s fighting style different and interesting, and the flashes of Mandrake’s illusionary magic, Gordon’s exaggerated physicality, and The Phantom’s gung-ho trigger happiness, all mesh together to create a visually arresting tableau.
This book is a fun throwback to a time when comics were flat out action from cover to cover, and the creators have managed to bring that world back to life without it feeling old or hacky. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of these characters and their tropes should find something interesting in the pages of “King’s Quest” #1.
Final Verdict: 8.1 A soapy, pulpy, space opera that swings just the right side of ridiculous. Give it a go if only to read the phrase ‘Gordon’s Alive’ and grin to yourself.
Scooby Doo Team Up #16
Written by Sholly Fisch
Illustrated by Dario Brizuela
Reviewed by Brian Salvatore
Not enough people talk about how great Sholly Fisch is at writing comics. The guy writes a lot of kids comics, so maybe that’s why his talent gets ignored? But I challenge anyone to read “Scooby Doo Team Up” #16, and not marvel (pun intended) at how he perfectly melds two distinct franchises together, without sacrificing one or the other, and while keeping both tones in tact.
Now, granted the classic Scooby Doo and Marvel family aesthetics are not all that different, but that doesn’t make the Shaggy/Tawky Tawny interaction any less pitch perfect, or the tricks that the good guys play on the Monster Society of Evil any less clever (in that Saturday morning cartoons, not really all that clever way). This comic is pure joy from start to finish, and brought a huge smile to my face as I read it with my daughter.
On top of that, Dario Brizuela does some amazing work here, again nailing the intersection between these two groups of characters, without giving too much wiggle room in either direction. Ultimately, he’s stylizing the Marvels for the Scooby world, but he does so in a way that never feels cheap. The book pulls off the trick of both franchises being perfectly at home with each other, and inviting to the reader.Continued below
The Marvel Family can be convoluted if handled improperly, but Fisch gets across all that you need to know with the minimum amount of expository bullshit. More comic creators should study what Fisch does, and learn just how economical a comic can be, while still exciting and gratifying.
Final Verdict: 8.5 – A fun read that marks the third great Captain Marvel book from DC in the last few years – where’s our ongoing?
Space Battle Lunchtime #1
Written and Illustrated by Natalie Riess
Reviewed by Matthew Garcia
Natalie Riess’s “Space Battle Lunchtime” is a charming and colorful new comic from Oni Press. It has this Douglas Adams spirit and happy attitude that reminds you space still has the capacity to be fun. The story’s centered around Peony, a girl working at a cupcake shop, who just so happens not to lose her cool when this space frog TV producer walks in. Before she knows it, she’s whisked away to be on this interstellar cooking competition show.
Reiss keeps the book zippy and chipper. She uses this berry-hue color palette that’s as sugary and sparkly as her cakes. Her cartooning is animated and her alien designs cute in a Monsters Inc. sort of way. The overall attitude is bubbly and, well, at least “Space Battle Lunchtime” #1 has that going for it. Reiss doesn’t spend much time developing the book beyond its basic premise. We’re treated to a lot of conventional showbiz backstage shenanigans — except now they’re space showbiz backstage shenanigans — but nothing really meaty in the story. Peony doesn’t come off strong enough to carry this book beyond its one-note premise: she spends a lot of her page-time being pulled around by one figure or another. I’m not sure if Reiss is setting out to satirize media conglomerations or turn in something about believing in your dreams despite insurmountable odds. Honestly, I’m not sure “Space Battle Lunchtime” knows what it’s going to be yet and I think that shows in this final product.
It is an entertaining book and will probably work better when it’s all said and done, and it’s certainly nice to look at, but for now, it doesn’t come off as more than a throwaway little lark.
Final Verdict: 6.0 – Filled with cool, dynamic art, but not enough story to fill more than a sampler.
The Wicked + The Divine #19
Written by Kieron Gillen
Illustrated by Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson
Reviewed by Jess Camacho
It’s very tough for me to talk about “The Wicked + The Divine” without sounding objective. I adore this series and I think it’s one of the very best ongoing series behind maybe only “Saga”. This third arc has stepped up the game in terms of action and revelations and “The Wicked + The Divine” #19 feels like war. Gillen, McKelvie and Wilson put the spotlight on Dionysus this issue while revealing a little more about Anake’s plan and Minerva’s role in all of it. We’re seeing the Gods pick sides and battle each other but Gillen plays with us as readers a bit (this series is full of this) as he starts to make us think that the return of Laura may not be something to be happy about. The best part of this issue is the Dionysus stuff because we get to see him out of his element and it forces Gillen to define his voice more.
McKelvie and Wilson continue to work in perfect tandem. They are both expert storytellers who’s strengths bounce off each other. McKelvie’s costume design is top notch and those designs become tangible through Wilson’s colors. This arc, specifically this issue has a lot of action. McKelvie’s work is dynamic and unlike what’s he done for Marvel. He’s able to go bigger and grander due to the Godliness of this cast. Wilson gets to play with the visual backgrounds by using colors instead of stationary settings and this effect of this works to build an otherworldliness within the modern world the series takes place in.
Final Verdict: 8.3 – Another strong issue for one of my personal favorites.