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.
Action Comics #41
Written by Greg Pak
Illustrated by Aaron Kuder
Reviewed by Brian Salvatore
Aside from the 8-page previews, this is the first look at the ‘new’ era of Superman – severely de-powered, identity exposed, this Superman, more than any other in recent memory, seems rudderless. That’s a place that can lead to some interesting stories, but I worry that moves like this remove Superman from what makes him Superman, which I don’t exactly love. The idea of Superman needing to be constantly made less super never appealed to me – the very essence of his character is that he is so powerful and so good – making him less of either limits what makes him such an interesting character.
However, Pak and Kuder do fine work here, and work within this new status quo quite well. Kuder’s work has never been more Frank Quitely-inspired, and he manages to make the new, casual-look Superman still cut an imposing figure. But he also draws a jovial Superman playing with kids, and a Clark that may be attracted to a new LL in his life – Lee Lambert. Kuder’s Superman doesn’t look out of place in any of the situations he finds himself in – whether punching a giant monster in the face or hugging his pal Jimmy. Kuder has managed to get at the essence of what Superman is all about, and then executes each move deftly.
Pak, too, hasn’t allowed this new status quo to turn his book sour. Sure, we see a Superman who has had the tar kicked out of him, but he’s still upbeat and trying to be a good person, despite the difficulties he encounters at each turn. However, Pak might go a little too far on the ‘new attitude’ front. Sure, we’ve heard Superman say “I’ve never seen garbage eat garbage before’ to a bully in Superman II, but the ‘hell yeah’ and fighting off bikers goes just a little too far in the new American Bad Ass Superman direction.
The only other issue I take with this issue is that it refers to an event in “Superman” #42 – due out in July – and seems to be picking up this ‘Truth’ story at some mid-way point. I’m not confused; I don’t mind not being spoonfed everything, but this seems like DC just timed the release of various issues poorly. If you’re trying to get this story off to a good start, why handicap it by messing with the release schedule?
Final Verdict: 7.5 – A solid start, but I hope that Clark comes back to his Smallville roots a little and drops the Metropolis potty mouth
The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw #6
Written by Kurt Busiek
Illustrated by Benjamin Dewey
Reviewed by Ken Godberson III
I often call “The Autumnlands” the book I didn’t know I wanted until I had it in my hands, then I really wanted it. This book flies so far under the radar and it doesn’t deserve to. With the conclusion to the first arc, Busiek, Dewey, Jordie Bellaire and Comicraft cement this book as something that is a must by, with plenty of story to come.
The issue centers around the battle between the survivors of the fallen sky city (along with Learoyd) and the Buffalo Tribes. As this arc had a rising up to this climax, so too does this singular issue, with the early pages serving as a prelude to the storm of battle. Busiek injects a bit more awesome world building here with Dustin making a prayer to the weather deity. This prelude also demonstrates the contrasting optimism from Dustin with the grim pragmatism of Learoyd, something that would be shown again during the battle.Continued below
For all of the grand work that Busiek has done, Dewey and Bellaire are the stars of this issue. It is a difficult task to convey clear emotion in comics and it’s probably not helped when 97% of your cast are not human, but Dewey rises to this task to show the anger the Buffalo Tribes feel, the frustrations Gharta has towards everyone and Dustin’s fear in the heat of battle. Bellaire goes with a softer palette of colors for the battle in the rain, up until the magical conclusion. What did throw me for a loop in the art was Sandhorst’s contribution to the battle, which had an odd perspective of showing the action, but a couple of rereads of the scene helped smooth that out, at least for me. Something else that I’ve noted in this issue and the series, Comicraft doesn’t outline the dialogue balloons. It is an interesting choice and it does help the dialogue sink in when it is over a backgroundless part of a page. I just say this because I’ve never seen dialogue balloons in that way before.
Final Verdict: 9.0- “The Autumnlands” is a beautiful sleeper hit that deserves more eyes on it. Buy the first trade collection when it arrives soon.
Written by Dan Jurgens
Illustrated by Corin Howell
Reviewed by James Johnston
Bat-Mite is an incredibly hard character to sell. An interdimensional imp with an undying obsession for Batman, he’s not exactly what most publishers would feature in their big reboot of the year. And yet, “Bat-Mite” #1 serves as a pretty solid companion piece to “Bizarro” #1 while suffering the same problems that comic had.
“Bat-Mite” #1 follows Bat-Mite as he leaves his own dimension to do some good in ours, specifically by stealing Batman’s ride and chasing down some crooks. The cartoonish style, reminiscent of Batman: The Animated Series definitely fits the comic’s subject, especially when he’s confronted with a brooding Batman who refuses to Yes And anything Bat-Mite’s spitballing. From a presentation standpoint, “Bat-Mite” does very well at delivering the tone of the story it wants to deliver. It’s zany and different enough from what we consider the New 52 DC to act as another herald of the change coming to the company.
And yet, thinking on the book a couple days later, I am unable to remember all that much from it. I remembered Batman showed up and that’s pretty much it. A second readthrough surprised me by revealing that freaking Hackman showed up as the final page twist. If you had told me that literally any other character showed up on the last page, I probably would have believed you. “Bat-Mite” and its PG sensibility is the type of comic DC should be looking to publish in order to pick up the younger demographics that don’t want to read about middle aged men getting their arms ripped out. Yet, That results in a relatively bland product.
Final Verdict: 5.1 – “Bat-Mite” #1 is a comic that doesn’t leave an incredibly lasting impression. While the presentation and design are impressive, the content of the comic itself does little to back it up.
Death Vigil #7
Written by Stjepan Sejic
Illustrated by Stjepan Sejic
Reviewed by Jess Camacho
After a fairly lengthy delay (because Sejic is going to draw everything in comics now) “Death Vigil” returns and hits the ground running. There’s a lot to wrap up and Sejic wastes no time. Sam’s fate is determined immediately and Clara’s powers have reached a new level of greatness. Bernie meanwhile is looking at defeat at the hands of Maria and Wulf. She’s losing power and Maria might be too far into madness to save her.
Clara, the character we were introduced to this world through, has in a short time become a huge magical force and as this issue goes on, we see Sejic position her as the savior of everyone. In just these seven issues, Sejic has built a huge world that would take other series a couple of years to get to. “Death Vigil” #7 begins the culmination of everything that’s happened so far and that’s why it works so well. It’s fast but not because there’s too little going on but because you’ll be so drawn in. You’ll flip through each page furiously to get to the next big action because as he’s already shown, he’s not afraid to take big chances. Maria, despite being the villain, becomes very sympathetic and I wouldn’t normally like this but “Death Vigil” is very much a human story so the story is really enhanced by this development.Continued below
Sejic is of course an amazing artist and the work he’s doing on “Death Vigil” is some of the best in comics today. This issue really has him doing the best magical stuff he’s done so far. Between Clara, Bernie and Maria, most of the issue features this big moments of magical flourishing. He doesn’t do the same thing for each character but it’s the coloring that really sells these moments. He channels real light and even on a page, it feels sort of real. The characters are as always full of so much expression and the panel layout is typical Sejic style, meaning he rarely does something conventional.
In order to get “Death Vigil” more sales, creator Stjepan Sejic has offered up issues #1-6 for free on his DeviantArt page and on the Top Cow site. I really can’t stress enough that if you like magic heavy stories, fantasy and RPGs then this is the comic series for you. It’s funny, beautifully drawn and features excellent character work.
Final Verdict: 8.5 – “Death Vigil” is ending very soon but you really cannot miss this. It’s the best fantasy story in comics right now.
Green Arrow #41
Written by Ben Percy
Illustrated by Patrick Zircher
Reviewed by Kevin M. McConnell
Green Arrow has taken on a bit of a renaissance as of late. The show Arrow is immensely popular and the comic book incarnation of Green Arrow has been surging. For long time readers, they are happy to see Oliver Queen have great stories after a shaky launch at the beginning on the New 52 initiative. Taking over this time is Benjamin Percy, who recently had a two issue arc on “Detective Comics.”
Percy has Oliver back in Seattle and waste no time setting up a dark world for him to inhabit. African American males are turning up dead in Seattle and no one seems to know why. Meanwhile, Oliver and his sister Emiko Queen have a brief interaction, which is shoehorned into the story. The same can be said for Oliver’s short conversation with Henry Fyff. I am not sure what purpose this serves aside from telling us these characters are in the story.
As Green Arrow starts to investigate the missing men, he encounters a woman being mugged on the streets. When he asks why there is no media attention, the woman replies “We’re invisible.” Percy is calling back to the Green Arrow of the 1970’s and given the current political climate, this is an excellent choice for Green Arrow post-“Convergence.” The air of mystery surrounding the disappearances makes for a terrifying “what is happening?” line of thinking. There is also a nice twist during a perceived throw away scene that will whet your appetite even more.
Patrick Zircher is handling the art and he does an excellent job of keeping with the dark theme. Gabe Eltaeb muted color pallet captures the moody, rainy Seattle in pitch perfect form. For longtime fans, there is good reason to be reminded of Mike Grell’s defining run on the character in the 1980’s. Aside from a few story misteps, this is what Green Arrow is all about.
Final Verdict: 6.9 – There is a great story to be told, Percy needs to focus on that aspect and less on the secondary characters. The art fits the book like a glove and really makes this a great book to look at.
Written by Jeff Loveness
Illustrated by Brian Kessinger
Reviewed by Stephenson Ardern-Sodje
Ahh Groot, everyone’s favourite plant/super being. While the cynic in me wants to berate Marvel for shamelessly cashing in on the fanaticism that a twig dancing to a Michael Jackson tune managed to drum up, the comic-book lover was actually very pleasantly surprised with this light-hearted feel-good first issue.
Kicking off right in the middle of things, Groot (along with faithful friend and translator Rocket) are stuck in space, stranded with a ship that won’t work and only one goal in mind: get to Earth. But thankfully, given the weight of “Secret Wars” and everything else happening in the Marvel Universe at the moment, their reasoning is a little more fun than fearful. Groot wants to get away for a vacation, and Rocket, best bud that he is, doesn’t have the heart to say no. Loveness’ light, comedic touch and great handle on Rocket and Groot’s playful banter means that this issue flows naturally as a successor to Skottie Young’s brilliant run on “Rocket Raccoon”. What’s more, Loveness takes advantage of Young’s wacky and weird version of space to pack his first issue full of irreverent and immensely enjoyable allusions and references. Anyone who can slip a classic Superman reference side-by-side with a nod to Tarantino without changing tone or switching gears is definitely doing something right in my books.Continued below
Kessinger has been drafted in straight from Disney’s animation studios and it shows in the best ways. He’s managed to integrate his own cartoonish style that doesn’t feel too dissimilar from Young’s but still feels fresh and new. What’s more, his execution of faces and expressions is both comical and poignant, allowing for a plethora of ‘I Am Groot’isms that feel all-but translated before Rocket interprets them for us. Kessinger gets a chance to take a pass at existing Marvel characters as well as inventing a couple of newbies along the way and, while his lightly comical style might not fit in with the mainstream Marvel universe, it’s the perfect visual accompaniment for a journey that is both wacky and emotionally compelling.
This first issue takes a while to find its feet, jumping from one fun set-piece to another for the first few pages to establish its tone, but once it gets going it gears up to be a truly worthy successor to Skottie Young’s previous “Guardians” sidebar.
Final Verdict: 8.6 – Only Ebenezer Scrooge could fail to find something to love about this zany new mini-series.
Justice League #41
Written by Geoff Johns
Illustrated by Jason Fabok
Reviewed by Keith Dooley
The solicitation for this “extra-sized” opening chapter to “Darkseid War” wasn’t boasting when it bestowed upon this issue the moniker of “DC Event”. Writer Geoff Johns and artist Jason Fabok continue their stellar collaboration with “Justice League” #41 and promise an epic story that is truly deserving of the word “epic”. Johns’ enthusiasm for the combination of the Justice League and the New Gods in one book is infectiously on display in this issue’s script. His love for these characters, both old and newly re-introduced, inspires Johns’ to write some of his best work. Chill-inducing panels cascade down the pages one after another as Johns gets inside the heads of this issue’s sizable cast of characters. He understands their motivations, has a grasp of their particular voices, and is able to juggle both the heroes’ and the villains’ journeys in a fascinating and complex manner.
Fabok’s art is gorgeously detailed in both his dynamic action scenes and in the tension-filled quieter moments. Each character is lovingly rendered and, like Johns does with his writing, Fabok is genuinely excited to bring these characters to life. His depictions of Wonder Woman and Mister Miracle are especially and appropriately breathtaking in all their godhood. Fabok’s flair for the cinematic is a perfect fit for this book. A stunning example is a splash page featuring Wonder Woman and a villainess that is effective in making the reader jump out of their seat. Brad Anderson’s colors are a perfect complement to Fabok’s art, with a muted realism that makes the sensational appear very much alive.
“Darkseid War” begins with twists and turns you won’t see coming. Every character has their moment, with Wonder Woman gaining a much deserved spotlight and Mister Miracle making a star-making performance in just this issue alone. Johns, Fabok, and Anderson promised an event with this storyline and they haven’t failed us. If every issue is like this one, then each chapter in this saga is going to feel like an event itself.
Final Verdict: 9.5- This is the best issue of Geoff Johns’ run so far. Jason Fabok’s art will have jaws dropped in awe with how consistently amazing it is on every page.
Star Wars #6
Written by Jason Aaron
Illustrated by John Cassaday
Reviewed by Matt Dodge
The first arc of Marvel’s “Star Wars” brings several plot threads to a conclusion while unexpected twists set up an equally unpredictable future. Luke faces off with Boba Fett in the home of Ben Kenobi, while Han and Leia hide from the Empire, while a new threat quickly emerges, one which creates a much more personal reason for the smuggler to be on the run.
One thing that Jason Aaron should be commended for is his total lack of regard for the previous continuity of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. He is committed to exploiting this blank slate to the fullest extent possible, and presenting a fun challenge to those who think they know the extended Star Wars story. Aaron succeeds because he has such a strong sense of these characters and their personalities, which allows him to throw them into completely new scenarios while still retaining the real spirit of the films.Continued below
Aaron has done a particularly good job with Luke’s journey from farmboy, to Rebel Alliance hero, to apprentice Jedi Knight. It’s a slow transition, marked by gradual changes instead of drastic leaps. While some might be impatient to see Luke inhabit his future role of Force-wielding Jedi Master, his trip back to Tatooine demonstrates how far his characters has already progressed. Aaron really nails the emotional growth of Luke, and the whiny farmboy has quickly grown into someone a little more hardened and determined.
This issue marks John Cassaday’s finale appearance as artist on “Star Wars” and he seems determined to leave as many memorable images as he can. Once again he nails the appearance of the characters, even Han Solo’s cocky half-grin. Luke’s fight with Boba Fett is sure to have fans salivating, and Cassaday includes plenty of exhilarating shots of the young Jedi and the bounty hunter facing off for the first time. The final three pages are almost completely silent, and feature two characters in masks and body armor, but Cassaday is still able to infuse the scene with a large amount of emotion and tension. The final shot in particular seems destined for instant-classic status, and is a great opportunity for Cassaday to leave the series on a high point.
Final Verdict: 8.5 – Aaron and Cassaday have created an issue that is guaranteed to excite, challenge and thrill Star Wars fans. You can’t ask for much more than that.
“The Wicked + The Divine” #11
Written by Kieron Gillen
Illustrated by Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson
Reviewed by Matt Garcia
The world burns at the conclusion of the first year of “The Wicked + The Divine.” While there’s a definite, emotion-destroying ending to this arc, I think it’s still obvious that Gillen and McKelvie are playing a long game over here.
This issue is packed with revelations and twists. It starts with a battle between two of the gods and ends with a neighborhood in flames, with what I think the big bad of the entire series revealed. There’s not a lot of plot added to the pile or even character development, but hey, it’s a climax and Gillen’s more about tying up loose ends and setting up for the next year of the series. McKelvie’s skills on character expression and tension are in fine form here: he doesn’t tear apart the page like in “Young Avengers,” but I think the gridded layouts help keep this series grounded and even more insane. Shoutout to Matt Wilson as well, for some absolutely killer color work in this issue.
Final Verdict: 8.9 – This creative team has been killing it on this series since it started, and Gillen and McKelvie have raised high expectations for the rest of this series.
The Woods #13
Written by James Tynion IV
Illustrated by Michael Dialynas
Reviewed by Alice W. Castle
The second year of “The Woods” opens with a bang and proves that this book continues to be the best book that no one is reading. This issue brings us a year into the future since we last saw the Bay Point kids and a lot of things have changed for them. Clearly many of them are still dealing with the ramifications of the last issue (which you don’t have to have read in order to understand this issue, but catching up with the series before diving into this issue will allow you to appreciate the character development more), but they seem to be dealing with it by turning Bay Point into a liveable encampment.
James Tynion IV continues to prove with “The Woods” that he is a master at character writing and creating an ensemble cast of teenagers and young adults that feel unique in their thoughts and emotional reactions to the world around them. This is probably the most important aspect of the story of this issue as while it certainly does set up the major arc to come, this also doubles as an epilogue to the first year of the series by showing how each of the kids are coping with their life in the woods after a year. Spoiler alert: not everyone is coping well and that gives a rich, deep emotional quality to them that Tynion excels at exploring.Continued below
Tynion’s excellent writing is backed up by the simply gorgeous art by Michael Dialynas and Josan Gonzalez. Dialynas’ linework is clear and his storytelling crisp, but there’s a rough, sketchy quality to the ink that brings a foreboding roughness to “The Woods”. It reminds you that in this place, danger lurks around ever corner and Gonzalez’ colourwork, that uses a lot of deep purples and luminescent greens, reminds you that this place is very, very alien. It’s simply a beatufiul book and one that should be on everyone’s pull list.
Final Verdict: 9.5 – A great jumping on point for new readers and a great epilogue to the first year for established fans all while setting up for more wild stories to come.