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.
Civil War II: Ulysses
Written by Al Ewing
Illustrated by Jefte Palo
Reviewed by Liam Budd
Since its introduction during the “Avengers Vs X-Men” event, Infinity Comics have been used by Marvel to tell smaller stories during their big events. Normally they tend to focus on a single character, revealing their backstory and/or motivations. If you’ve never come by them before, they’re basically a form of Digital Comics laid out in such a way that they almost play out like short, animated movies. I know they sound gimmicky, but to tell you the truth, they’re pretty awesome and I would recommend you check them out. Howevever, they’re not always a success when they move to print. Fortunately “Civil War II: Ulysses” doesn’t get too lost in translation, but neither does it excel.
This is probably down to the guiding hand of Karl Kesel who has created a simple and effective set of layouts. It is down to artist Jefte Palo to make them sing, and while I don’t think he does an amazing job, his character designs are full of detail while his clear line work keeps the issue from becoming too flimsy. I can see there is a competent storyteller in Palo, especially in the way he shifts focus onto different characters and their facial expressions, it’s just hard to reconcile this with an issue that takes place almost entirely in a desolate wasteland.
I feel as if the art could have been much better if writer Al Ewing had provided more storyline. Ulysses, precognitive Inhuman and Civil War lynchpin, must be presented to Karnak for some sort of initiation/test, though Ewing doesn’t elaborate on that here. Instead, Ewing is far more interested in Karnak, giving him the most dialogue and action, but who can blame him, I’d much rather see an Infinity Comic about Karnak than the walking MacGuffin Ulysses. Especially a Karnak who is written so snarky as he is here. Ewing really shines when it comes to dialogue, though his plotting could definitely stand more attention from him. Unless you are reading “Civil War” this will make no sense or nor feel important enough.
Final Verdict: 5.5 – If you really want more of Ulysses, then by all means.
Kingsway West #1
Written by Greg Pak
Illustrated by Mirko Colak
Review by Ken Godberson III
“Kingsway West #1” is more about the potential for a series. Taking place in an alternative and fantasy wild west setting, we follow Kingsway Law, a former soldier trying to get away from his past and have a nice quiet life, but the past just won’t leave him be. All the while we learn about the basics of this world. It’s America, but not the United States. The discovery of this very mystical substance called “Red Gold” has led to squabbles and conflicts, in particular a thirteen year war between the Chinese Queen of Golden City (of which Kingsway was a soldier) and the Mexican República de Los Californios. It’s very reminiscent of other alternative universe westerns of late and fans of such books as “East of West”, “The Sixth Gun” and even “Monstress” are going to find some interesting tidbits here.
Colak and colorist Wil Quintana bring a very grounded look to the setting, even with some of the more fantastical creatures. It’s an art style that works wonderfully for the sweeping landscapes of the West. Whether it’s a quiet winter night or the horrifying scenes of a battle, the art pulls no punches. I also have to give a nod to the costuming. There are several factions in this book and they all have their own flavor of dress, but none of them are so overdone to make it seem like they’re all from far away lands.Continued below
If there is one big hurdle this book needs to get over, then it’s… well… Kingsway himself. As of now, he comes off as a bit archetypical. He’s the lone gunslinger with a dark past and now he’s trying to find a lost loved one. Speaking of, this book does the same thing the 4001 A.D. arc of “Rai” did: it decided that developing a relationship wasn’t that important so we see Kingsway meet his wife Sonia and then an immediate five-year time skip and, oh yeah, they’re married now, despite the reader knowing either of them. Still, for the world building Pak and Colak had to set up, I can forgive that for now and I am interested enough to see where it goes.
Final Verdict: 7.0- There is potential in the making with this new fantasy wild west story.
Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Annual #1
Written by Kyle Higgins, Ross Thibodeaux, Marguerite Bennett, Trey Moore, James Kochalka, Jorge Corona
Illustrated by Rod Reis, Rob Guillory, Huang Danlan, Terry Moore, James Kochalka, Jorge Corona
Reviewed by Alice W. Castle
What, I think, has made BOOM! Studios’ Power Rangers comics a hit so far is that the creators have leaned into what makes the franchise such a long lasting hit: it’s combination of tropes from serialised adventures, superheroes, and the moralising of Saturday morning cartoons of the ’80s and ’90s. Not to mention the use of Super Sentai footage blending that with an influence of mecha and kaiju stories and Power Rangers is a unique beast of many aspects.
This annual, featuring six different stories for different creative teams, leans into that wholeheartedly, with each story capturing a different aspect of what makes the show great. The only downside to this is that the stories vary wildly in tone and intended audience. I think you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who will enjoy all of these stories equally, but I also think it’ll be hard to find a Power Rangers fan who won’t find something worthwhile in here.
For my money, the first story by Kyle Higgins and Rod Reis, as well as the stories by Marguerite Bennett and Huang Danlan, Trey Moore and Terry Moore, and the closer by Jorge Corona were the ones that spoke to me most. The first story is a very typical montage story showing the crazy life these teenagers live through the eyes of Jason, the Red Ranger, and shows Rod Reis’s art off in an amazing way.
Then, the hyper-moralising story by Bennett and Danlan was simply a beautiful, feminine interlude that showcased the utter variety that this annual produced. The Game Of Thrones-style fantasy politicking of Goldar’s origin by Terry and Trey Moore was a fascinating look at an underrated. Finally, the look at the true heroism of the Rangers, past the Zords and morphing, by Jorge Corona was a perfect closer in terms of uplifting tone.
That’s a solid four out of six that I thoroughly enjoyed with the other two only dropping lower on the list because of the broader focus on comedy over superheroics. The first, a story of Bulk and Skull becoming Power Rangers by Ross Thibodeaux and Rob Guillory, just didn’t land with me even though I appreciated the way it was constructed like it’s own episode. James Kochalka’s story of a Putty with feelings would have been heartwarming, but Kochalka’s style was not something I enjoyed. The aesthetic was as if the story was being told by a kid and there was just a disconnect there between the story and myself.
All in all, though, this annual was more enjoyable for me than not. Anthology issues like this are kind of a crapshoot as to what you’ll get out of them, but I feel like this annual covers enough bases in terms of the style and tone of each story that, surely, there’s something here for every kind of Power Rangers fan.
Final Verdict: 7.2 – For Power Rangers fan, this is probably worth picking up, but there’s always going to be a risk with dropping $8 on a book with no guarantee you’ll even like the stories within.Continued below
Mr Crypt #1
Written by Troy Vevasis
Illustrated by Aleksandar Jovic
Reviewed by Matthew Garcia
“Mr. Crypt” #1 cannot decide whether it wants to be a comic strip or a comic book. While there’s something like an overarching narrative involving this skeleton trying to make a life for himself on the outskirts of a small village, the book is comprised mostly of three-or-four page gags. They’re interrelated but I’m not sure if I would go as far as to call them connected. They often culminate in him running from a mob.
Some of the jokes are solid. Jovic relies on a lot of sight and running gags, including my favorite: the obviously fake mustache and outdated top hat. (Something about the obvious falseness of it just keeps making me giggle.) He delivers some nice staging and expressions from Mr. Crypt, and the skeletal design leaves him a lot of room to manipulate the character. Vevasis sets up some situations easy for a joke and they’re all charming enough.
But something about this book doesn’t feel complete to me. It’s like Vevasis and Jovic had a lot of great ideas and sketches about what they wanted this to be, but the world and the characters aren’t yet heavy enough to do anything with. There’s some interrelated gags but nothing heftier than that. Even with some progress from Mr. Crypt by the end of the issue, the book doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere.
Final Verdict: 6.5. Some good jokes and charming cartooning work, but it feels like “Mr. Crypt” #1 is in the wrong format or missing its approach.
Written by David Walker
Illustrated by Ramon Villalobos and Tamra Bonvillain
Reviewed by Jess Camacho
By now, the cancellation of “Nighthawk” has been made official by the creative team on Twitter and I am really upset about this. “Nighthawk” in it’s very short life span, tackled the Black Live Matter movement, police brutality and systemic racism in America’s biggest cities in a way that no mainstream comic book has even tried. It was a story that tacked the issues everyone claims they want to see tackled but the book couldn’t find it’s feet in sales, which is awful. In “Nighthawk” #4, Chicago has erupted into race fueled chaos. The white supremacist group True Patriots has taken to the streets to kill an person of color they come across. It’s up to Nighthawk to stop what’s happening and save as many people he can. What works so well about “Nighthawk” #4 is something Walker has done the entire series. Nothing is thinly veiled. You know exactly what social issues are being tackled but unlike something like South Park, it’s not preachy and it’s not exaggerated. Walker has taken the superhero genre and put it firmly in a real world setting and it works in the most tragic ways.
Ramon Villalobos’ art is on another level here and he does just as much as Walker (if not more) to illustrate how rough things are in the United States right now. Nighthawk is a superhero and he moves like one but Villalobos also illustrates some poignant moments with the people who live in Chicago. There’s a beautiful 16 panel page that shows off what he can do as far as conveying action. There’s a brutality in Nighthawk that doesn’t exist in a lot of street level heroes and typically that wouldn’t work (in regards to keeping him a hero) but it does here. Nighthawk’s movements have a purpose at all times and no time is wasted on big shots of him looking heroic. Bonvillain’s colors are gorgeous and I especially like what she does with Nighthawk’s uniform. It’s all black but she doesn’t get stuck in using extremely dark shadowing. Instead there’s a lot of illumination brought on by street lights, police spotlights and flashlights. It feels like the streets and not like a dark noir.
Final Verdict: 8.5 – Even though it’s leaving us soon, I’m excited to see how this comes to an end.
Written by Dan Abnett
Illustrated by Brett Booth
Reviewed by Brian Salvatore
For a book that was sold to the audience as both a keystone to the “Watchmen”/time being messed up mystery, as well as the triumphant return of a beloved character, this issue of the book had a whole lot of nothing happening. Sure, there was a “fun” set piece of the Titans fighting their younger doppelgangers, but that isn’t the same as spending real time with Wally, or beginning to unlock the mysteries of time itself.
Now, I know I’m being a little unfair here; the villain here, Abra Kadabra, claims that he has something to do with Wally’s disappearance/forgotten nature. But instead of seeing how that plays out, we get the action sequence I mentioned before, which is far from original. How many times have we seen something like this before? Not only that, but we get the cornerstones of the New 52 in this ‘Rebirth’ book – 90’s style art and quips posing as wit.
Brett Booth is an artist that many people — myself included — find less than appealing on this book. His work here is what you’ve come to expect from Booth – if you didn’t love his work in the past, you’re not going to love it here. There aren’t as many egregious silly faces or weird anatomical features as much of his past work featured, but it is still is overly reliant on 90’s styling and excessive expressions.
But the real clunker here is the script; while it is clever to have Dick call himself ‘chum,’ the book has no sense of subtlety. The hinted flirtation between Roy and Donna jumps right from flirting to a declaration of love, with no nuance whatsoever. That’s the best example I can give of why this book feels like such a disappointment. People (like me) have been clamoring for these characters to have a bigger part of the DCU for years. But at this point, if they are going to be so sloppily written and overly rendered, I’m happy to just read my old comics instead.
Final Verdict: 4.2 – A real let down.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #001011
Written by Ryan North
Illustrated by Jacob Chabot
Reviewed by Robbie Pleasant
That issue number isn’t a typo, it’s binary, just one of the programming languages Squirrel Girl gives us a lesson in this issue. When you’re up against the lord of bad dreams, Nightmare, how do you fight him from within a dream, where his power is nearly unlimited? Apparently with computer smarts, and proper application of squirrels, in a way that’s quite clever and funny (as we’ve come to expect from this comic by now).
While the comic doesn’t exactly impact the overall Squirrel Girl story in any way, it’s still an entertaining one to read. It has fun with a few of the typical nightmare tropes and cliches, and since it is just a dream, the variety of villains and challenges that can be thrown at her are limited only by the imagination. (Quite literally, as there’s an amusing moment where a dream enemy she faces is severely underpowered due to her own lack of knowledge about what he can do.)
Jacob Chabot takes over as a guest artist for this issue, and does a fine job with everything. The designs are clean, and a little cartoonish, which is perfect for the tone of the issue. There are some panels that are very well composed, such as the descent of Nightmare, where the world takes a dark, blue and purple hue as Squirrel Girl realizes she’s inside a dream. As the dream’s locations and intensity change, so does the color scheme, ending in an intense climactic scene in a semi-post-apocalyptic wasteland storm.
But most importantly, it’s fun. The comic may not add much to the story or characters (aside from showing how Doreen’s classes have been paying off), but it’s enjoyable and entertaining the whole way through. The characters, story, and artwork are strong, and the issue can be enjoyed by itself without needing to understand the entire Squirrel Girl mythos. It can work as an introduction to new readers, a one-shot for the casual fan, or another of Squirrel Girl’s many victories for the longtime reader.
Final Verdict: 7.8 – Endearing, entertaining, and has solid writing backed up by equally solid art. Another win in the continuing story of Squirrel Girl, with a little lesson in programming to back it up.