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Wrapping Wednesday: Micro Reviews for the Week of 7/6/16

By | July 11th, 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.

Batman #2
Written by Tom King
Illustrated by David Finch
Reviewed by Keith Dooley

“Batman” #2 might have the best page of the week, if not the month. Bruce Wayne is in mid-dance with a woman when he glances out the window and beholds the Bat-Signal. Writer Tom King and artist David Finch are two for two now with this newest issue. They are masters when it comes to portraying a driven crime fighter who can only think of taking care of his city and loved ones. The new superhero duo of Gotham and Gotham Girl are introduced to Commissioner Gordon in a humorous scene that gives a nod to a certain writer’s work on the Dark Knight Detective. What King does so well is hearken back to past runs on the character while transforming the book into something that feels fresh and new.

King’s partner in crime is someone who is doing his best work with these first two issues of “Batman”. In a recent interview, David Finch talks about “Batman” #2 and explains how he has pushed himself creatively to places he has never gone before. You can definitely see the results with this issue. The opening scene with Grundy is impressive, with Batman making a badass “Batman” entrance and our hero looking more intimidating than the two flying people above Gotham. Finch’s scenes involving people outside of their costumes have usually never impressed me, but that dance scene demonstrates his acute ability to express body language and facial expressions in satisfying ways. Finch has a great writer in King who he can work with and it shows in their collaboration that both men are committing a labor of love.

Finch’s collaborators on art transform the pencils into something magnificent. The inking by Matt Banning and Danny Miki is stark and crisp, showing us a world that is both vibrant and clear. There is never a rushed or blurry scene or panel and instead we get pages where every shadow and movement lends depth to the story and the setting. Colorist extraordinaire Jordie Bellaire’s luscious colors evoke many different emotions. The burnt orange and red of Gordon’s office tease the scene’s horrifying conclusion while the final pages have a gray, cold feeling that colors the harshness of three classic characters.

King and Finch, judging by this issue and the previous one, are determined to maintain the quality that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo brought to every issue of their run on the book. That same freshness, passion, and intricate storytelling is certainly on display.

Final Verdict: 9.0 – Tom King and David Finch are worthy successors to the Snyder/Capullo team.

Giant Days #16
Written by John Allison
Illustrated by Max Sarin
Reviewed by Liam Budd

Let me start off by saying I really, really love “Giant Days”, a wonderful series that embraces the everyday, while subverting it it slightly, by injecting it with humour and very English sense of eccentricity. It is a soothing oasis from the kind of challenging, macho comics the shelves seem saturated with right now, so I think it is really encouraging to see a book like this up for Best Continuing Series at the Eisner Awards.

This issue continues with the slice of life antics of Esther, Daisy and Susan, but this time writer John Allison decides to split the threesome up and focus on each one throughout a single day. He balances three distinct stories extremely well, each has its own fully rounded plot with a reason and idea behind it. Daisy’s story is pretty bonkers as she is assigned to showing a group of pretty strange prospective students around the University, but it’s Esther and Susan’s stories that are the most relatable. Self-styled ‘Goth Lollita’ Esther is going through money problems, she must choose between between selling her clothes on eBay or find a boring job, artist Max Sarin is obviously having fun here, creating as many outlandish and dramatic looks as he can. Sarin never fails to tell a joke, mostly through exaggeration, it is what makes the book so damn charming. Meanwhile, Susan is spending the day going from Tinder date to Tinder date, each as crushingly disappointing as the last. You would think that this is a lot to fit into one comic book, yet no story feels pushed out or passed over. I’m happy in the way Allison builds on each girl’s day that leads to a satisfying ending, for Esther at least, while bringing the three back together.

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These stories may seem quite familiar, especially for any twentysomething who happens to own a smartphone or once watched an episode of “Girls”, but Allison and Sarin’s approach feels refreshing, these are not characters living at the centre of the universe, but merely trying to exist in it. The characters and their problems are so ordinary and relatable that you don’t feel alienated by them but more like you could be one of them. It is an admirable feat when you can take the ordinary and mundane and make something fantastic out of it and “Giant Days” definitely succeeds.

Final Verdict: 8.9 – Just a wonderful slice of life, even when our girls are on a downer they do not fail to raise a smile.

Girl Over Paris #1
Written by Gwenda Bond (story) & Kate Leth (script)
Illustrated by Ming Doyle and Andrew Dalhouse
Reviewed by Matthew Garcia

Reading “Girl Over Paris” #1 is sort of like starting a TV show in its second season, right after a commercial break. It takes place in this “Cirque America” universe from Gwenda Bond and, although it’s billed as a “stand alone story”, it felt like there was a lot of context I was constantly missing. Kate Leth, writing from the script from a Bond story, and Ming Doyle do their best to welcome new readers into this universe. The book is fine and handled efficiently: there’s interesting characters, some well established, albeit overly dramatic stakes, and plenty of mystery.

Nothing that happens is ever unexpected. The book works on a sort of YA fantasy logic (which I mean, that is the source material after all). Everyone’s always telling Jules, a tightrope dancer, that she just needs to overcome her own insecurities in order to succeed especially after a fall some time previously — oh and probably that spirit dude. There’s a lot of talking through relationships and problems — because every person needs to know how they’re feeling and where they’re coming from at all times (not just so we, as readers, know what’s going on, but also so every single character knows where every single other character stands). There’s a lot of cute boys and a lot of parties. But again, it’s part of the genre.

Doyle designs some fun sets and throws herself into the Parisian architecture. She blends the spooky aesthetic with the romantic fantasy of Paris and I think that makes the book feel more compelling for it. The only scene that didn’t work for me was Jules’s triumphant moment. After all this build-up, not to mention everything that followed, the scene itself goes by in a flicker. Leth and Doyle have so much more they need to get to that that moment only happens in two pages. (Though they spend twice that in the club.)

Despite the book claiming to stand alone, characters constantly drop references and allusions to other stories. I wasn’t lost to what these characters were doing at any time, but it felt like I was missing something. Still, Doyle and Leth provide enough to make it interesting and I’m sure some “Cirque America” fan somewhere is giddy to see this exist.

Final Verdict: 7.0 – Leth and Doyle do well at building this creepy and romantic Paris.

Green Arrow #2
Written by Benjamin Percy
Illustrated by Otto Schmidt
Reviewed by Jess Camacho

Oliver Queen is dead! Well, not really. Previews be damned, Oliver Queen is alive but not so well. Percy has decided to strip down Oliver Queen to his bare bones. He’s got no power, no money, no home and everyone thinks he’s dead. The problem with “Green Arrow” #2 is that it still doesn’t move things along all that much. The “Rebirth” issue was a one shot and the first issue did a great job at establishing Oliver Queen’s life but this issue feels like a long montage. There’s still so much to explore and we’re barely seeing any of it and because of this, a character like Emiko is being fairly ignored. The inclusion of Black Canary continues to be much appreciated and the deconstruction of Oliver is pulled off pretty. However, I hope that “Green Arrow” doesn’t become too much of a juggling act cause there’s a lot of potential here.

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Otto Schmidt’s art makes me swoon. It’s just so beautiful. His work is so much more stylized than what we normally see in mainstream superhero comic books and DC should be grateful to have him. The characters are designed in a way that honors the past but still feels current. At certain points, Schmidt’s action scenes capture a certain frantic energy that really works. However his best work is in the section where Oliver is deciding whether to hold on or not and there’s a sensuality between him and his memories of Black Canary that I haven’t seen in a DC comic maybe ever. It’s not gross but instead feels genuinely romantic and I just want more of that.

Final Verdict: 7.0 – Schmidt’s art continues to make me swoon and the story still has a ton of potential.

Han Solo #2
Written by Marjorie Liu
Illustrated by Mark Brooks
Reviewed by Brian Salvatore

While I’m wishing that the popular period for Star Wars comics wasn’t between Episodes IV and V, this setting really is working for “Han Solo” thus far. The book, which puts Han and Chewie in a covert mission inside of a giant space race, is just the right mix of reverence for the original source material and willingness to go bonkers. Even if this doesn’t give the diehards a glimpse into Han’s lost years, it does give readers a thrill.

I think one of the pitfalls of licensed comics such as this is that the creators are unwilling to put the characters in situations that the reader won’t necessarily recognize. That’s folly, though, because we are reading these comics for new stories, and putting Han and Chewie in a Yogi’s Space Race is a really enjoyable way to spend 20 pages. Liu has done a nice job capturing Solo’s voice, but is also willing to let him fall slightly outside of the standard characterization, as we’ve never seen Han in this position before.

Brooks has the hardest job of the series, however, by needing to create a world that feels foreign, but still part of Star Wars. This issue he really succeeds, specifically with the way he handles the architecture and world building of the first planet pit stop. It feels lived in and contemporaneous to the original trilogy, but isn’t just aping someplace we’ve seen before. It also doesn’t have the false beauty of the CGI landscapes of the preqeuels, thank goodness.

This issue also takes the least interesting aspect of the series thus far – the machinations of the race itself – and manages to make me care about future legs. The fact that the race can’t be won conventionally is a fun twist, and Liu doesn’t beat you over the head with Han and Chewie talking through it methodically. They’re smugglers; they’re used to making decisions on the fly and not worrying too much about how they got there. That impulsiveness is a good look for the issue, and it has me legitimately excited for the next installment.

Final Verdict: 7.7 – A fun, if slight, Solo detour.

Kim & Kim #1
Written by Mags Visaggio
Illustrated by Eva Cabrera
Review by Ken Godberson III

Kim Q. and Kim D. are two intergalactic bounty hunters who are trying to make it out on their own and they have not a clue about what they are doing. And I mean that all in a good way. For all the space faring, aliens, bounty hunting, humor and punk-aesthetic, “Kim & Kim” is about two twenty-somethings trying to find their footing in a crazy world. It has been a while since I’ve seen two characters compliment each other so well. Kim Q. is the much more wild of the two, following her heart and wanting to have a load of fun, whereas Kim D. is (trying to be) more responsible and pragmatic, trying to turn their fledgling bounty hunting business into something more. What could have been an irritating case of opposites is handled with a deft hand by Visaggio. This comes out the most not in any of the action scenes, but from the most quiet scene of the two hanging out on top of their van/spaceship and just talking. This scene also reveals that Kim Q. is a transwoman and it could have been handled in a way that was either an information dum or a, God help us, condescendingly soapbox, but it is some of the most natural flow of dialogue while being able to convey information.

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Eva Cabrera and colorist Claudia Aguirre’s artwork is kept expressive and vibrant. They utilize simple, but effective, paneling to keep a fluidity to the characters and the world around them. There’s also the opportunity for visual shout-outs that I like, such as one to The Seventh Seal, and provide a multitude of sci-fi flavors in environments from mega-metropolises to space westerns. I will say that the flow of the fight towards the end of the issue made me tilt my head and have to re-read it, but that’s something that can be ironed out as the creative team gets more issues under their belt. One last thing: For a book that does have bright color scheme, one that exuberates, for some reason the eye coloring in some cases felt a bit dull at times for me. I know that seems like a weird thing to hone in on, but when the pencil work does make character facial expression such a priority, it felt weird to me seeing that.

Finally: Humor. Now, like fear, it’s a subjective thing and this book, for the most part, did get me to laugh. Like I’ve said, the dialogue helps sell the relationships between the protagonists and sell the humor. That said, there were a couple of jokes that just kind of made me shrug. That’s a case-by-case observation, of course and I will say that I am grateful that the characters weren’t 100% snark machines like so much Whedonesque piss that he tries to disguise as dialogue. The key that is kept here is the balance, the humor is used to help inform the very real, relatable and more serious undertone in this book.

Final Verdict: 7.8- A real good start to what hopes to be a real good book.

Poe Dameron #4
Written by Charles Soule
Illustrated by Phil Noto
Reviewed by Robbie Pleasant

Poe’s continuing adventures to be a dashing pilot and move the story ahead to the part where “The Force Awakens” actually begins moves on from giant eggs containing space gods to a trip to a prison planet. And just writing that sentence reminds me of how much I love comics and “Star Wars.”

There are two things worth noting in this issue, first and foremost being character development (one of my favorite things to see in a comic, and sadly quite rare in many of them). Poe’s team is more than just “those pilots that fly around with him and occasionally shoot down TIE fighters,” each one has a story and a personality that gets a little more fleshed out this issue. L’ulo, who flew alongside Poe’s mother back in “Shattered Empire,” gets a particularly interesting moment, with just a tad bit of insubordination, while the friendships (and possible romances) between the rest of the crew can blossom and be explored.

The second thing of note is the return of Grakkus the Hutt, who readers might recall from the “Star Wars” comics. Making him a part of Poe’s search is a nice link between the two comics, and since the “Poe Dameron” comics are supposed to lead up to the events in “The Force Awakens,” it makes the “Star Wars” comics feel more connected to the movies, even in a small way.

Phil Noto’s artwork does a find job capturing the scene of the prison planet, Megalox Beta, with a nice variety of aliens and architecture that looks properly scraped together, as per the “used future” look that Star Wars is known for. The artwork does suffer a little when it comes to the characters, at least those with real-life counterparts, as there’s a difficult balance to be struck between capturing the image of the actors and making them blend in with the comic designs (and let’s face it, Oscar Isaac has a sort of rugged handsomeness that paper cannot fully capture). However, the more inhuman and grotesque aliens, such as several of the prisoners or the Hutts, do look more impressive. Credit must also be given to some nice POV shots at the start, where the image of Grakkus flips upside-down to match Poe’s perspective as he’s hoisted up by the legs.

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Inevitably, though, it’s just another breadcrumb in a trail that will inevitably lead to Lot San Tekka. It’s hard to feel like there’s much at stake when we know exactly how the story will end, but it can still be an enjoyable ride at times.

Final Verdict 7.3 – A decent beginning for the next little story arc, with some good character moments and connections to other “Star Wars” comics.

The Punisher #3
Written by Becky Cloonan
Illustrated by Steve Dillon
Reviewed by Alice W. Castle

As a fan of the Punisher as a character, there always seem to come a point where I wonder where on Earth they can take the character next. Outside of his origin story and the tragedy that made Frank Castle take on the mantle of the Punisher, he’s never really had much of an arc. He’s become a story avatar, wandering into the stories and lives of other characters and, mostly, killing a lot of people on the way. I don’t think it would be unfair to call him the Mad Max of the Marvel Universe at this point.

That being said, the mark of a good Punisher story, then, is the quality of the story surrounding Frank. This third issue written by Becky Cloonan, illustrated by Steve Dillon and coloured by Frank Martin shows that you need more than just some good violence to achieve that. It’s the third issue of the new series and Frank is hot on the trail of a new drug lord and, I have to say, I’ve found it hard to parse the hook for this story. Is it just to see Frank kill some really awful people?

I mean, don’t get me wrong, that’s a solid reason to read a Punisher comic, but here there’s very little in the way of… soul. There’s heart, sure, and a fantastic moment that really brings out the paternal side of Frank, but it’s an issue that’s mostly one big action scene and after the first two issues leading into this, I just don’t feel like I care.

Cloonan, Dillon and Martin are a great creative team on paper and the issue they’ve turned out here is just as technically proficient as the last two, but it feels almost like a Punisher-By-Numbers comic. I sincerely hope this series can turn it around and really being to dig into the characters and build a comic worth caring about because otherwise it’s a serious waste of great talent.

Final Verdict: 6.5 – It’s a decent enough Punisher comic, but this team is capable of so much more.

“Superman” #2
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Illustrated by Patrick Gleason
Reviewed by Stephenson Ardern-Sodje

The new Superfam are still getting to grips with their powers and their place in the world. With young Jon reeking from the very real consequences of his optic blast last issue Clarke takes him out on a routine rescue mission to remind him that the things that set them apart are as much a gift as a curse. Tomasi’s lightness of touch with this script really helps keep the wholesome element of this issue from getting too saccharine, and it’s great to see Clarke in a fatherly role. Tomasi’s version of the character feels like a blend of Bruce Wayne and Goku in terms of parenting styles. Firm, but fair, and a huge fan of ‘learning by doing’. This issue doesn’t really resolve the last page reveal of some founding Justice Leaguers turning up on the Kent family lawn, which feels a little like false jeopardy, but it does raise a different, and more insidious potential villain who has mysterious links to both Kryptonians in general, and the House of El in particular.

Whether it’s in a Kansas wheat field or out on an Arctic sub, Gleason manages to channel a really strong vibe of the clean-lined, square-jawed supes that I really love. His art in this issue reminds me a little of the stellar work that Stuart Immonen did on the “Superman: Secret Identity” run, simultaneously current and classic. This issue is a pretty dynamic one, and Gleason really pushes for strong, visually arresting poses from both Clarke and Jon at every turn. He contrasts this meticulous work in the foreground with a slew of simple but stylised backgrounds that help our two Kryptonians really stand out. Both the rolling wheatfields of Kansas and the dizzyingly dappled night sky over the Arctic feel like endless vistas that are just waiting for a red swoosh to tear across them.

Final Verdict: 6.6 – by keeping this book warm and family focussed, Tomasi and Gleason are reinvigorating Superman with the kind of homespun charm that grounds his alien side and makes for a much more empathetic story.

//TAGS | Wrapping Wednesday

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