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.
Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #1
Written by Shawna Benson and Julie Benson
Illustrated by Claire Roe
Reviewed by Robbie Pleasant
Legacies are an important thing in the superhero world (or they would be if the legacy characters didn’t keep getting retconned out of existence or handing the mantle back more often than not), so what happens when someone takes your name and starts using it for evil? That’s what Barabara Gordon is dealing with, now that she’s Batgirl and a new Oracle has taken to crime. So it’s up to her and Black Canary to find out who, even though their targets are almost always in the crosshairs of Huntress.
That’s Helena Bertinelli Huntress, not Helena Wayne Huntress, mind you. I’m not entirely sure how that legacy works at this point.
Regardless, the issue is mostly focused on setting up the team, as unsteady an alliance it may be. There are a few tantalizing bits and pieces about the new Oracle, and Barbara’s secret identity not being quite as secret as she’d have liked, although it’s just sprinkled between moments of Batgirl and Canary clashing with Huntress.
The fight scenes themselves are decent, although the artwork is sometimes rather blocky; at times there are nothing but sharp angles to the characters. The action captured within the combat is fine, with some nice blows exchanged, and the color work manages to keep things looking nice and more or less vibrant while still working primarily with shades of blue, purple, and black. There is one particularly noteworthy moment, where the sound effect itself is turned into several panels, showing the different characters as they react to the noise, and overall the story does move at a good pace.
Final Verdict: 6.3 – If you’re a fan of the characters, you’ll enjoy seeing them come together, and will be interested in the stakes it raises. If you’re not already a fan, this might not be the issue to draw you in.
Black Hammer #2
Written by Jeff Lemire
Illustrated by Dean Ormston
Reviewed by Brian Salvatore
There is nothing new about doing a ‘superheroes past their prime’ story – The Incredibles and “Kingdom Come” jump to mind instantly – and, at its heart, “Black Hammer” is a superheroes past their prime story. But the familiar plot actually works to the book’s advantage, as Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s book feels lived in and familiar in a way that many non-Big Two superhero books do (this is similar to what Mike said his problem is with non-Marvel/DC superhero stories). While we just met these characters last month, the storytelling is confident enough to ensure that they feel much more than just new creations.
This issue specifically focuses on Golden Gail, the Captain Marvel/Shazam analogue, and the character, who came off as obnoxious in the first issue, gets a little more sympathetic from not only her flashback sequences, but from a cruel encounter with Madame Dragonfly, the least utilized character thus far. The idea of being perpetually young is appealing in theory, but to live out your life as a nine year old is a positively terrifying proposition when actually faced with it. The cold reality of Gail’s situation is that, if she was freed from the farm, she would have the best of both worlds – she could still turn into Golden Gail and be a superpowered nine year old, or be the middle aged woman she truly is. This is a reality that she didn’t appreciate before her exile, but now would seemingly give anything to return to.
Lemire is someone who really writes regret well, and that is one of the reasons that this series has been working so well: each character is walking around with a litany of regrets and missed opportunities, and those seem to be haunting them as thoroughly as their exile is. Dean Orstram captures all of that perfectly – each character, whether robotic, or magical, or perpetually young – seems exhausted by the prospect of another day living this way. Ormstram’s work – specifically his inking – adds a layer of gravitas that never borders on overpowering or maudlin. This is a book that feels beat in the best possible way.Continued below
In a really funny way, this could have been a “Convergence” book at DC: heroes of a long forgotten world, exiled in a city they can’t escape. Whereas that book was quick to remind you of what was in the past, this book is more interested in what happens in the future for these characters. And yes, while their best days might be behind them, there’s nothing to suggest that their most interesting adventures may still lie ahead.
Final Verdict: 7.9 – A truly enjoyable trip through some less than enjoyable struggles.
“Bird Boy: The Liminal Wood”
Written and Illustrated by Anne Szabla
Reviewed by Matthew Garcia
The second installment of Anne Szabla’s fantasy adventure finds the young boy, Bali, lost out in the woods, on the run from the evil Rook Men. He eventually comes across this tracker named Sid, also dealing with the Rook Men, and who has a particular interest in the Sword of Mali Mani. Szabla doesn’t waste any time catching us up on what happened in the first volume, and that’s great because “Bird Boy: The Liminal Wood” bursts with momentum and action.
Szabla expands on her world more in this volume as well. If “Bird Boy: The Sword of Mali Mani” dealt more with getting the engine revving, this one focuses on other people and creatures having to deal with the woods. With the addition of the single character, Szabla has deepened the environment and enriched the setting. Suddenly, the whole book feels bigger and more dangerous now that we have someone else dealing with the Rook Men.
Further, Szabla’s skills at controlling action are becoming all the more stronger. Having 80-some pages to play with gives her time to build up intensity, to linger on an important note, to let us breathe a little bit before the next big set piece. Her creature designs are magnificent, filled with a real weight and presence. This is especially true of the last creatures Bali encounters. It’s a fast-paced story, but the moment you’re done with it, you want to go back and immerse yourself back in the world.
“Bird Boy: The Liminal Wood” works at expanding its world and adding new thrills to its narrative. There is, however, no real closure or resolution, but at least there’s progress. Szabla’s book is rapidly becoming one of the best all-ages reads available right now. We’re all waiting to see where it’s heading next.
Final Verdict: 8.5 – From the aesthetic to the action, “Bird Boy: The Liminal Wood” is stunning, although it’s still only a glance of the world’s bigger picture.
Written by Christopher Sebela
Illustrated by Niko Walker and Dan Brown
Reviewed by Jess Camacho
Based on an idea from “The Walking Dead” co-creator Robert Kirkman, “Demonic” follows Detective Scott Graves, a cop who just wants to live something resembling a normal life. After his daughter gets sick, he’s forced to become something else, something evil, something “demonic”. Sebela wastes no time getting right into things with quick introductions and a lot of focus on Scott and his evil new handler. The script packs in a lot and at times it can be a bit jarring but there’s a hook here that works.
Walker and Brown combine to create a beautifully moody atmosphere and it reminds me a bit, stylistically, of Garry Brown. Walker’s pencils and inks are a great mix of the real and the supernatural and everything that happens here doesn’t feel entirely random or unbelievable. There’s a presence to the evil force that Scott has to deal with and in the character’s expressions, we can fully understand the pain that Scott and his wife have been through. Brown’s colors are mostly earthy tones but there’s a darkness lingering here that doesn’t become too overwhelming.
Final Verdict: 7.5 – “Demonic” is perfect for “Spawn” fans and fans of Image’s other recent horror titles.
Written by Ken Godberson III
Illustrated by Dustin Nguyen
Review by Ken Godberson III
‘Singularities’ continues, this time focusing on TIM-21’s robot dog, Bandit. After the harrowing exploration into 22’s psyche and the world building in Telsa’s past, I have to say I found this issue to be incredibly lacking. It’s a look into how Bandit lived in those 10 years alone on the mining colony. And… it’s as incredibly uneventful as you would expect such a fate to be. It’s a very dialogue-lite scenario, the only exceptions being the scenes taking place in the present. There is an attempt to give the past scene an emotional hit, but it does fall a bit flat. If I’m being perfectly honest -and I hate to use this word- but this issue felt like filler. It felt like it needed to get from Point A to Point B to move the story a bit further and it does that okay, but it doesn’t strain itself to take advantage of being a story from a (robot) dog’s perspective.Continued below
Kind of like the story, Dustin Nguyen’s watercolors are serviceable, but very basic storytelling. There are some instances where Nguyen will use perspective to make such a small and cute robot look a bit intimidating, but kind of like how the words don’t take advantage of Bandit’s POV (or lack there of. I could’ve dug seeing events through Bandit’s “eyes”, but no, just 3rd person perspective), the artwork doesn’t either. We just follow Bandit around in a mining colony devoid of life, only exceptions being the present.
This issue could have been so much better, instead, when comparing it to the rest of the series, it’s really disappointing and does show some of the more dangerous risks when switching from long-form ensemble to single issue character stories.
Final Verdict: 5.0- Easily the weakest issue of the series.
“Civil War II: The Fallen” #1
Written by Greg Pak
Illustrated by Mark Bagley
Reviewed by James Johnston
Hey this review is going to have some strong spoilers for “Civil War II.” Like, dead character spoilers. Sure Marvel broadcast this whole thing to every news outlet they could but we at Multiversity Comics try to be a little more considerate of our readers.
So Hulk’s dead. It’s felt like a non-event of sorts just because “Civil War II” has so much more to focus on than the loss of one of Marvel’s most important characters. Besides, we all know he’s going to come back at the end of “Maximum Carnage II” or whatever. But while the main “Civil War II” series hasn’t made much of an impact out of Bruce’s death, “The Fallen”, along with last week’s “The Accused” do an excellent job of making Bruce Banner’s demise matter.
There’s not really anyone else who could write a memorial issue for Bruce Banner besides Greg Pak. He’s been the architect for Bruce Banner for the better part of a decade, second only to Peter David, since he fired the Hulk off into space for “Planet Hulk”. “The Fallen” touches on a lot of the landmarks Pak crossed on his journey with The Hulk (Skaar, Amadeus Cho, Red Hulk) as they learn about Banner’s demise.
Although I’m not usually a fan of Mark Bagley, mostly because of how strained his characters can look at times, he does a really nice job of capturing the quiet sentimentalism that lies at the heart of this comic. As peaceful as the comic feels, Bruce Banner is such a complicated character to mourn because he’s undeniably associated with the kinds of rampages that have caused billions in damage and left countless innocents dead. He also, as the Avengers point out, a hero who saved the world many times over. It kind of gets cheapened when Banner reveals that actually he set up an organization that donates hundreds of millions to cities he’s destroyed so actually it’s all fine, but I appreciate that they at least approached the complexity in Banner’s death. Even if the Avengers do look like total assholes for joking around Banner’s grave while a mob outside points out the time he ripped their children into half.
Final Verdict: 7.4 – “The Fallen” doesn’t look like the kind of book that’s going to upend any status quo (the ending even reminds you that most of this is going to get settled in “Totally Awesome Hulk”) but it’s still a suitable send off for the Green Giant.
Suicide Squad #1
Written by Rob Williams
Illustrated by Jim Lee & Jason Fabok
Reviewed by Alice W. Castle
We’ve seen, in the past, comic books that have altered the course of their stories and design aesthetics to closer fit a popular film adaptation. Most of these were at Marvel, but now we finally have that phenomenon happening at DC as “Suicide Squad” retells the same story it’s always told in order to match the tone of the film that came out this year. Perhaps it’s because Task Force X is a concept that can be summed up in one page (and was also summed up over the course of the Rebirth issue), but spending most of this issue recapping the concept again only to promise that the guy stuff is happening next issue isn’t the best foot to start on.Continued below
This issue is split into two stories, both written by Rob Williams: the first is the main story illustrated by Jim Lee and the second is the backup featuring Deadshot illustrated by Jason Fabok. When I say that all the action takes place in the backup story, I wish I was exaggerating. Jim Lee’s story is a grand total of 13 pages in which Amanda Waller repeatedly explains and re-explains what the Suicide Squad is about for more than half that before the Task Force is sent on the mission where we get to see the infiltration go awry and a cliffhanger promise us a fatality in the next issue. This is a first issue where the height of the drama is one of the members of the team drowning in his own vomit. We are shown these characters in expository captions and snippets of dialogue, never told why we should care about this team or the mission they are about to be sent on other than some narration about the nature of necessary evil.
It’s hard to even talk about the art in Jim Lee’s segment because the 13 pages means the story feels both cut short and accelerated. It feels like a box ticking exercise for Lee. Fancy, overly science fiction-y interiors that clash with the dark, political undertones of the story? Check. Linework so fine and scratchy that pretty much all detail in the characters is lost in any panel that isn’t a closeup? Check. Static storytelling that relies on reaction panels of characters in dull surprise? Check. It’s so frustrating because I know Jim Lee is capable of amazing art, but this feels like something just thrown together to cash in on the hype of the film while not only being drastically different in tone, but not actually capturing why the concept is interesting in the first place. This isn’t so much a bad first impression as what feels like an unfinished issue accidentally got printed and shipped.
Even the Deadshot backup illustrated by Jason Fabok, which is straight up just the “Deadshot has an altercation with Batman and his daughter is there” flashback from the movie, feels like it doesn’t know what’s happening. It tries to go into Floyd Lawton’s past, suggesting he became Deadshot to try and emulate Batman, but only gives a passing mention to the fact that somewhere down the road he started killing for money. It’s a backup that’s meant to give greater depth to a character shown amid the ensemble of the main story, which is more focused on action and plot than characters, except the depth is muddied and unclear and the main story has neither action nor plot.
Final Verdict: 2.4 – This is the third “Suicide Squad” series in five years and not only does it just retread old material, but it feels like half an issue with some padding tacked on the back so it makes the page count to ship.