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Wrapping Wednesday: Micro Reviews for the Week of 8/10/16

By | August 15th, 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.

Action Comics #961
Written by Dan Jurgens
Illustrated by Stephen Segovia
Reviewed by Brian Salvatore

In many ways, “Action Comics” and “Detective Comics” are very similar books; while the main characters have titular books that go deep into their personal psyches, “Action” and “Detective” act as the books that drive the entire family of books along. While “Detective” started out as a bit of a slog, it has developed into a something that feels special and important. “Action,” on the other hand started off with the book throwing a hundred ideas against the wall, but as the first arc has progressed, most of those ideas have been eschewed in favor of yet another Superman/Doomsday fight.

That’s not to say that this issue doesn’t have some nice moments; anytime Clark interacts with Lois and Jon, the issue gets interesting. Clark, trying to protect Jon, is a side of the character we’ve never really explored in depth before. This isn’t him moving Lois away from a battle; this is him trying to show Jon that he is every bit the Superman of legend – the unstoppable, unbeatable hero. There’s obviously a fatherly protection kicking in, but there’s also, perhaps a hint of pride in there, too. At least, I hope that’s what Jurgens is going for, as it adds a little flavor to the issue which, at times, felt perfunctory.

Stephen Segovia does a perfectly cromulent job with the art, as his style works well with what Jurgens is scripting. Segovia’s faces might get a little weird in places (Clark’s pain face early in the book resembles a Three Stooges expression), but overall, he carries along the action well. It is in the scenes without action (pardon the pun) that he struggles a bit with nuance. Some of the emotional beats feel a bit forced; every emotion or expression seems either blank or totally over the top.

Luckily for Segovia, the issue is more mindless action than anything else, and that’s part of the problem with it. There is good stuff here, ripe for mining. Instead, we get yet another Superman punching Doomsday scene, with little to no payoff just yet. Especially with “Superwoman” pulling together much of the supporting cast, this issue felt a little lacking. Hopefully, once Doomsday is gone in the next arc, the book can begin to match the rest of the Super-line in quality.

Final Verdict: 6.0 – There’s nothing really wrong with this issue, but not enough happens to satisfy.

Adventure Time #55
Written by Christopher Hastings
Illustrated by Ian McGinty and Maarta Laiho
Reviewed by Matthew Garcia

Come on, grab your friends, because it’s time to check in on what’s happening this month in the land of Ooo. BMO has created BMOWORLD, these elaborate fantasy sets for her friends. Only, these worlds aren’t that great and no one’s exactly having much fun. For instance, Lemongrab finds himself in the middle of a stressful hospital situation, while Marceline gets teleported into Dracula’s castle. This leads to one of my favorite lines in the book: “WHY WOULD I BE FRIENDS WITH A FRANKENSTEIN!? GET OUT OF HERE!” On top of that, BMO seems to be experiencing these glitches that send him all demonic.

I legitimately laughed aloud at this book more than any other book I had this week, maybe more than any other “Adventure Time” title since #35. Hastings has an especially firm grasp on the Lemongrabs’ voices and it’s easy to hear Justin Rolland’s shrill performance coming out of him. “YOU HAVE BAD LEMONS INSIDE YOUR SKIN AND I MUST SPILL THEM,” Lemongrab yells at one point. Ian McGinty keeps the material fairly on-model, but his gags and visual jokes are confident and sure. He also finds some great postures and gestures for these characters.

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“Adventure Time” remains one of the better licensed comics, even after 55 issues. The material still doesn’t feel as adventurous or outrageous as when it began, but it’s still charming and pleasant to see month after month.

Final Verdict: 7.5 – The fun never ends.

Darth Vader #24
Written by Kieron Gillen
Illustrated by Salvador Larroca
Reviewed by Alice W. Castle

In their penultimate issue of the series, Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca finally delve into the internal conflict of Darth Vader. The mental conflict between Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker has plagued Star Wars ever since we learned that they were one and the same, but I don’t think it’s ever been portrayed like this before. Oh, by the way, I’m probably going to spoil the hell out of this issue here.

Trapping Vader inside his own mind allows for a fantastic breather issue before the grand finale of this series and allows Gillen and Larroca to explore a facet of Vader they’ve only touched on in the past. Over the course of the series, Gillen and Larroca have shown that they can nail the doggedly determined and ice cold Vader, but here we see the conflict boiling inside.

Anakin Skywalker was a good man, he was an honourable Jedi, and we finally get to see what the inside of his head looks like now that he has to live as Darth Vader. A perpetual replay of Anakin’s demise on Mustafar allows Larroca to juxtapose the cold, gunmetal grey and blue interiors of the Super Star Destroyer with the volcanic landscape within Vader’s mind.

This issue is really a showcase of Larroca’s work and a scene that visualises the conflict between Vader and Anakin in a lightsaber duel is one that I wish could have had a whole issue dedicated to it, but is smartly encapsulated across a single page with a striking design. Also on showcase is Larroca’s use of facial references in his artwork. This issue brings back characters like Anakin and Padme and a lot of the weight of these returns is in how Larroca uses facial references of Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman to make them immediately recognisable.

While the grand finale of “Darth Vader” is likely going to return to the bombast and spectacle we’ve come to know from this series, this penultimate issue was a more introspective chapter. It’s a transition from Anakin to Vader we’ve seen in various ways across the years, but none quite like this and it’s fitting bridge to the end of this series.

Final Verdict: 8.6 – This issue is further proof that this series is a gold standard Star Wars comic.

Deathstroke: Rebirth #1
Written by Christopher Priest
Illustrated by Carlo Pagulayan
Reviewed by Liam Budd

This week saw Deathstroke make his entrance into DC’s ‘Rebirth’ universe. The deadly assassin had a fairly shaky time during the New 52, but it seems like somebody has had a renewal of faith in him as the book has now been handed over to the extremely capable Christopher Priest. Priest has plenty of experience behind him and is probably best known for his excellent run on Black Panther a couple of years ago. I’ve never been a huge fan of Deathstroke, but with Priest’s creative mind behind him, I was interested in picking this issue up. So where is Priest taking Deathstroke with this new book? Well it looks like classic mercenary work is going to be the main flavour, however Priest is going in depth with his characterisation of Slade. We’re given a good deal of backstory as the book goes back and forth through time, we see Deathstroke the hired gun and Slade the father. Priest has done a good job in building motivation at such an early stage while at the same time trying to introduce Deathstroke to new readers.

Unfortunately, Priest has neglected his plot, those same new readers are bound to find themselves confused as allies and enemies have no introduction whatsoever. In fact, long time readers will also be left scratching their heads, the story goes off in so many directions that it feels completely broken. One scene, which reveals why Deathstroke has embarked on this mission, pops up quite inexplicably, the whole section halts any potential momentum from building. It is a shame because the characters and dialogue is managed so exceptionally.

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Carlo Pagulyan’s art suits “Deathstroke”, it is simple, straightforward art done well. He doesn’t deliver us anything particularly imaginative or groundbreaking, but neither does Priest’s story. What we do get is well rendered action scenes that hold focus. His line work is tight and his character designs have the right amount of edge to make the interesting yet never over complicated. Pagulyan is a good storyteller, he has an eye for what makes a panel work, it will be interesting to see how he challenges himself over the course of these next issues.

Final Verdict: 7.0 – Good characterisation and accomplished art. The story on the other hand leaves a lot to be desired.

Detective Comics #938
Written by James Tynion IV
Illustrated by Alvaro Martinez
Review by Ken Godberson III

“Detective Comics” continues with its main strength, character moments, at its forefront. This issue allows us into the mind of the leader of the Colony, Colonel Jacob Kane. There has been some mixed opinions on making Jacob the antagonist of this arc and dropping this bomb on Kate, Bruce, et al. I won’t lie, I have some pretty big reservations on it as well, but that being said, Tynion does a pretty good job utilizing flashbacks to around the time Jacob’s wife and other daughter, Beth, died. It really does sell why he would be leading an organization like the Colony while remaining true to the character.

Speaking of character moments, everyone else gets their own little moment. From Clayface’s revelry in fighting to Steph’s confidence and daring even if she might screw up to Cassandra being adorable but knowing she could whip your ass in a heartbeat. The biggest moments outside of Jacob and Kate is Tim meeting Ulysses Armstrong, the General. And I got to say: I really like how Tynion has updated Armstrong. This feels like an Archenemy for Tim. It’s just the subtle similarities, both being incredibly nerdy fanboys, a bit overconfident and the thought of, if Armstrong wasn’t such a murderous shithead, they’d probably be good friends. It’s a relationship that is ripe with potential in the future.

Alvaro Martinez, inker Raul Fernandez and colorist Brad Anderson are real good on this book. Like, I enjoy their art more than the original team of Barrows, Ferreira and Lucas. It is part of that -gag- “House Style”, but it does it incredibly. It’s detailed without being overdetailed (if that makes sense) and action scenes are kept simple, but fluid with easy-to-follow choreography. Also, it’s a team of majority teenage characters that aren’t sexualized and are drawn as (very physically fit) teenagers. I know I shouldn’t have to mention that, but this is where we are with this industry. Al Barrionuevo and Adriano Lucas handle the art for the flashback in the beginning and bring a kind of light nostalgia of times past with the softness of the visuals.

Listen, “Detective Comics” is not a groundbreaking book. It’s not pushing the medium or having some deep, thought-provoking message to its readers. But it has become my favorite book in the DC Rebirth and do you know why? Because it’s fun. It is fun to watch this cathartic action. It is fun to have these little character moments. It is fun to have the Bat Family act like… you know… the Bat Family. Even with books like “Batman Eternal” and “Batman & Robin Eternal”, the characters still felt very disconnected. I personally thought that had to do with too many cooks in the kitchen. “Detective” is much more slimmed down from those overbloated messes and provides us with characters we can enjoy reading about.

Final Verdict: 8.5- Does what it does really really well!

Invader ZIM #12
Written by Eric Trueheart
Illustrated by Warren Wucinich
Reviewed by Robbie Pleasant

“Invader ZIM” has poked fun at a variety of science fiction tropes throughout its time on television and in comics, but never before has it attempted time travel. That all changes this issue, where Zim travels to a post-apocalyptic future where Zim is king.

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As a fan of all things time travel-related, I always enjoy seeing how the different mechanics of time travel work, particularly when it comes to how the characters’ actions impact the timeline. In this case, Zim may simultaneously be changing both the past and future, or locking himself in an eternal loop of failure – either way it’s such a very Zim thing to do. Even the method of time travel is a nice little nod to “Star Trek” and its occasionally-used time travel techniques.

As with any comic based off a cartoon, it’s worth noting how well it compares to the source material, and the “Invader ZIM” comics have been great at matching both the tone and art of the classic cartoon. Warren Wucinich does a great job of capturing the look of the show, in character design, scenery, and every expression shown. Even the panel shapes and layouts assist with the mood and voice of the comic, and the colors by Fred C. Stresing match the cartoon’s look and design perfectly.

The dialogue by Eric Trueheart captures the voices and intonations of each character as they should sound; even the older Zim from the future maintains several of present Zim’s ticks and mannerisms, while still differing just enough to make it clear that this is an older and wiser Zim (“wiser” being a relative term with Zim, of course). In short, this would have been perfectly in-place in an episode of the cartoon, and as a comic, it works quite well.

Final Verdict: 8.1 – A lot of fun, well-written, and definitely has fun with the mechanics and paradoxes of time travel. Another entertaining addition to the “Invader ZIM” comics.

Space Battle Lunchtime #4
Written and Illustrated by Natalie Riess
Reviewed by Jess Camacho

“Space Battle Lunchtime” has easily been one of this year’s most pleasant surprises for me. It went from a series I was vaguely interested in to one that I look forward to more than most of my pull list. Combining Star Wars with cooking shows, “Space Battle Lunchtime” #4 finds Peony having to team up with Neptunia, cool, space loner type. Together they need to make a dish that will land them in the final episode but something much more sinister is going on behind the scenes. “Space Battle Lunchtime” #4, like with most books aimed at a younger audience, starts tackling somewhat darker stuff. Death and/or violence isn’t exactly new in younger reader comic books so I’m eager to see how Riess brings it all together.

The thing about Riess is that she allows her art to do all the talking. There’s so much over writing happening in comic books right now so it’s wonderful to see a cartoonist who understands that her visual elements need to and are capable of telling the story. She has a very light sense of humor to her work. It’s an animated style with lots of big expressions and a fully realized sense of setting. Riess goes pages without dialogue because she paces herself wonderfully and packs each panel with purpose. You are immediately drawn to the art and even with minimal dialogue, you completely understand the characters and their motivations. This is what comic books should strive for instead of bogging down each page with multiple captions and huge dialogue balloons.

Final Verdict: 8.0 – Riess moves her story along very nicely and lets her art do the storytelling.

The Vision #10
Written by Tom King
Illustrated by Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Reviewed by Stephenson Ardern-Sodje

I can’t get enough of King and Walta’s saga of slow-burning familial intrigue. “Vision” #10 tightens the web that this scintillating duo have crafted as the pressures of trying and failing to fit in to the human world begin to come to a head.

King is killing it right now with this title. There’s honestly no other comic book out there at the moment that I find so compelling month to month. King has co-opted a character used to being a bit player in big budget ‘blockbuster’ books and pushed him to the forefront of what could easily be a critically acclaimed indie title about the pressures of modern life. But what makes this book stand out for me is the way that it doesn’t seem ashamed of its ‘comic’ origins. Indeed, as the stakes are raised higher and higher towards the looming promise of Vision ‘breaking’, this book becomes subtly, and smoothly, more and more ‘super’, without losing any of the small-town family drama that makes the emotional beats hit so beautifully hard. “Vision” #10 teases a brawl that has been bubbling since the first few issues and it promises to send shockwaves through the wider world.

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Walta’s art has been flawlessly understated throughout this book, and decidedly un-dramatic for the most part. But this issue shows a flair of promise that there’s a real potential for dizzying superheroic antics in the final throws of this arc. Vision suits up twice in this issue, once into his civvies, and once again into his newly designed super-suit, and Walta manages to convey something completely different about the character each time; the man and the machine playing into one another to enhance both sides of his persona.

Honestly, if you feel as though I’m praising this book too highly I can only imagine it’s because you haven’t read it yet. This is cerebral superheroism played out as well as any of the classics. King and Walta have a tightly woven, laser focussed story to tell and it manages to stand out from the crowd and feel completely at home in a larger shared universe all at once.

Final Verdict: 9.7 – Vision-ary.

//TAGS | Wrapping Wednesday

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