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Wrapping Wednesday: Micro Reviews for the Week of 9/14/16

By | September 19th, 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.

“All-Star Batman” #2
Written by Scott Snyder
Illustrated by John Romita Jr.
Reviewed by Stephenson Ardern-Sodje

The most miscalculated cross country road trip moves from planes to trains but Snyder doesn’t take his foot off the gas.

Taking Batman out of Gotham is always a risky move. The character is defined by his surroundings, and almost all the most iconic images of the Bat involves heavy gothic architecture and lighting by moonlight. Snyder has eschewed tradition on both counts here, in favour of a more madcap, daylight romp that forces Bruce to think on his feet against a horde of his most dangerous criminals. Issue two picks up soon after the first left off, with Harvey and Bruce atop a speeding freight train, surrounded by Killer Croc, King Shark, and Amygdala. Snyder’s playful pairing up of villains makes for an interesting read, and it’s fantastic to see how inventive Bruce has to be with his accoutrements as he’s working away from home. If you’re still not sold on this book just yet, I will also point out that this issue sees Batman actually using shark repellent spray. In 2016. And it absolutely works.

Snyder’s concept is actually pretty terrifying. Bruce has every villain he’s ever faced, along with a fair few of his allies, breathing down his neck, and the relentless chronological back-and-forth of this issue means that the pressure never lets up. But Snyder manages to balance that intensity with some great moments of scripting levity so that issue 2 still feels more like a challenge than a chore for the caped crusader.

I’m a huge fan of JRJ, and I really feel like he’s breathing incredible, bombastic life into the host of colourful characters on offer in this issue. The visual storytelling style of this book is surprisingly meta, with a lot of insert panels and referential images that are designed to help keep track of the cast of characters and dizzying time-line. For me, JRJ really sticks the landing here, with a book that feels fantastically ‘comic book’ and yet has the grit and groundedness that his heavy linework always brings to a production.

There’s a patience to the pacing that toys with the reader, allowing for a lot of drawn out moments of cinematic contemplation between characters. So many of the panels in this issue feel like art in their own right, especially moments between Batman and Two-Face, which carry a real emotional weight to them in terms of the desperation of their physicality. These are honest and believable scraps between friends as much as they are choreographed battles between seasoned fighters.

Snyder has been on board with the Bat for so long he could be forgiven for running low on ideas, but ‘All-Star Batman’ #2 proves that there’s still life in the old cowl yet. And with a supporting story simultaneously filling us in on the progress (and problems) with Bruce’s latest protege this is a bumper book that should be right at the top of every bat-lovers list.

Final Verdict: – 8.1 You know what they say; you can take the Bat out of Gotham, but you can’t take Gotham out of the Bat.

Animosity #2
Written by Marguerite Bennett
Illustrated by Rafael de Latorre
Reviewed by Liam Budd

Last week I reviewed a post-apocalyptic themed book and complained that it felt like just a basic rehash of an overused genre. “Animosity” takes that same genre and flips it entirely on its head, as one character points out humanity is not suffering from any kind of extinction but has actually “billion-tuple”. The basic idea behind “Animosity” is that all animals have gained human consciousness and understanding. It is a very niche idea that Marguerite Bennett makes work. If you didn’t pick up last month’s first issue then you really did miss out and while this latest issue does up the ante and expands this new world, Bennett’s pacing seems to falters.

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It is pretty hard to keep track on where we are in the story as the whole of this issue constantly moves forwards and backwards in time. Scenes that are supposed to feel important lose any meaning as they inexplicably suddenly appear. Plus, when one character viciously attacks another the break in tension and release of anger seems totally misguided, I struggled believing the motivations of many of the characters. It helps however that Bennett is able to create characters that are likeable and rootable, and the subtle way she crafts the particular personalities and reactions for each animal.

Artist Rafael de Latorre is a skilled artist who draws very recognisable animals yet gives them enough personality and individuality that they don’t become too similar. Unfortunately, he does not know when to scale down the action. A huge explosion fills an entire two thirds of a page yet nobody in the vicinity is hurt and and one fight scene is so violent that is hard to believe that anybody would survive, even though they do. The backgrounds are also very inconsistent, New York goes from being destroyed to being intact and then back again. It is sloppy mistakes like this that stop this book from being as great as it should be.

Final Verdict: 6.8 – Still as intriguing as before unfortunately #2 is showing signs of growing pains.

Dark Souls: Legends Of The Flame #1
Written by Tom Williams, George Mann, Tauriq Moosa, & Dan Watters
Illustrated by Alan Quah & Komikaki Studio, Piotr Kowalski & Brad Simpson, Damian Worm, & Nick Percival
Reviewed by Alice W. Castle

I noted previously in my review of Titan Comics’ “Dark Souls” #1 that it was a comic trying to market itself with the ever growing popularity of Dark Souls while failing to capture the spirit of Dark Souls. I had hoped that this, the first issue in a Dark Souls anthology series would alleviate that problem by doing away with the pretence of having a long form narrative. I was, sadly, mistaken.

“Dark Souls: Legends Of The Flame” #1 is an anthology issue that seems to cherry pick a single aspect of the Dark Souls games, namely the undead curse, and weave its three stories around that. The first story, from George Mann, Piotr Kowalski and Brad Simpson, follows an undead adventurer on a quest for a cure only to be met with an unfortunate encounter. This is a fine story and showcases something of the recursive narrative and the dark humour of Dark Souls and is the better of the three stories here. Kowalski’s minimalist line style and the bright, warm colour palette, however, doesn’t quite gel with the dark fantasy aesthetic of the script.

The latter two stories fall on either end of the spectrum of not quite getting Dark Souls. The second story, by Damian Worm and Tauriq Moosa, is an abstract tale of loss, reunion and sacrifice that has pretty much nothing to do with Dark Souls and only barely fits into the concept of dealing with an undead curse. It’s the second of three stories in the first issue of an anthology and already feels like a filler story.

The final story, from Dan Watters and Nick Percival, goes the other way and has perhaps just too much exposition to feel truly like Dark Souls. The nature of storytelling in Hidetaka Miyazaki’s writing is information through discovery and inference, but this feels like a fairly bog standard fantasy short story that needs to cram a lot of information into its short page count.

It’s yet another instance where I wonder who these Dark Souls comics are for. The storytelling present in the game is incredibly difficult to translate to another medium because it utilises mechanics of storytelling only present in video games. These stories either become too abstract as to be completely disconnected or too laden with information to miss the aesthetic of the games or, perhaps worst of all, don’t even bother. It continues to baffle me that these comics have completely missed what makes Dark Souls work.

Final Verdict: 4.5 – A fine dark fantasy anthology with two enjoyable stories, but not one that captures the magic of Dark Souls.

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New Super-Man #3
Written by Gene Luen Yang
Illustrated by Viktor Bogdanovic & Richard Friend
Reviewed by Robbie Pleasant

The plot thickens! Just a mere three issues in and there’s already plenty of twists and turns that are making this stand out from any other Superman comic, from Kenan’s broadcasting of his secret identity to new hints of secrets within secrets. Even the seemingly innocuous details, like the octagon-shaped crest with the S inside it, hold a secret meaning that Gene Luen Yang ominously hints at, and we start to see that our hero may not be on exactly the right side.

At the same time, there are some really humanizing moments for all the characters. Kenan Kong continues his character arc, still a jerk with just enough goodness to him to make him an engaging character, and we get to see a little more of his companions, the Bat-Man and Wonder Woman of China. All that and there’s still time for action, and one or two more nice hints and foreshadowing to go with it.

The artwork continues to be spot on, capturing the pacing and emotion each scene requires nicely. The color work remains strong, and just the framing of the panels and angle of each shot makes the humanizing scenes all the more impactful. It almost stumbles with the action at one point, but it’s such a minor pacing step that it wouldn’t even bear noticing if the rest wasn’t so solid.

Perhaps most importantly, it begins to integrate further with the DC universe as we know it. Characters like Batman and Lex Luthor are now aware of Kenan’s existence, so we now have those future interactions to look forward to. Better still, the Great Ten (the previous Chinese superhero team, who I mentioned in my review of issue #1) are now aware and ready to get involved.

Final Verdict: 8.5 – Very solid issue, capitalizing on characters and plot development with still just enough action to keep things energized.

Sons of Anarchy: Redwood Original #2
Written by Ollie Masters
Illustrated by Luca Pizzari and Adam Metcalfe
Reviewed by Jess Camacho

The second issue of the prequel series, “Sons of Anarchy: Redwood Original” wastes no time moving things along. As Jax begins to show more of his aggressive side, Clay and Tig go on to begin figuring out how to get drugs out of their town. What stands out this issue about Masters writing is understanding of this show’s history. Jax struggling to actually commit violent acts as well as his aggression as he tries to join the club is an interesting way to look at him before he becomes the man we know later on. He’s young and there’s a very rebellious side to him that is held back because of his desire to please Clay and the memory of his father. As he works backwards, Masters still finds ways to cater to the fan coming into this who wants to see the characters they love doing the things they love and it really comes through with the characterization of Jax.

Luca Pizzari’s art is a bit more stylized this issue and I like that. There’s no rule that says licensed books have to be photo realistic and so, Pizzari is able to bring his own vision to this book while still keeping the signature visual traits of each character. His Clay is pretty perfect despite not looking like Ron Perlman. This book doesn’t have a ton of action but in these heavy dialogue moments, Pizzari still finds the right perspectives and angles to keep things feeling alive. Like Pizzari, Metcalfe does his own thing and it’s not a similar color palette to what you’d see on television. There are moments early in the issue where things are dreamlike through the use of different kinds of shadowing and the book in general carries a darker tone without veering into murky.

Final Verdict: 7.5 – This is really a story only for people who’ve seen the show but if you have, it’s a solid prequel.

Southern Cross #7
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Written by Becky Cloonan
Illustrated by Andy Belanger and Lee Loughridge
Reviewed by Matthew Garcia

In “Southern Cross” #7, the focus changes and new mysteries are stacked on top of each other. Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger shift the perspective to the Romulus Rig on Titan, the Southern Cross’s original destination, where everyone’s dealing with that ship’s disappearance. On top of that, trouble’s definitely brewing on the rig, with the workers talking of revolt and strike. When a single escape pod from the Southern Cross crash lands on Titan, the questions start popping up and other nefarious forces start to make their presence known.

Such an abrupt and sudden shift might upset other narratives, but I dig how Cloonan and Belanger deal with the fallout from the last arc. I like how they’re telling their story through a myriad of perspectives, and it makes the mystery deeper and more intense. Even though we’re planet-side with this issue, Belanger and Cloonan set the scenes in cramped rooms and narrow corridors. Even at the most open sequence in the book, Belanger stages the characters behind the intertwining pipes and rods of the rig. The backgrounds always seem to be closing in on this new batch of characters. It’s just as claustrophobic and unnerving as you remember. And though the issue isn’t as wild visually (especially when compared with “Southern Cross” #6), Belanger does some nice work with what we’re seeing. It’s quiet and intense and filled with all kinds of impending dread.

Final Verdict: 7.5 – This world continues building and layering; the perspective shift is nicely done by Cloonan and Belanger.

Warhammer 40,000 – Eisnenhorn: Xenos #0
Written by Ryan O’Sullivan
Illustrated by Anthony Spay
Reviewed by Alice W. Castle

While I wait for the world of Warhammer 40,000 to come to comics in Titan Comics’ upcoming series, I wanted to delve into this #0 of “Eisenhorn: Xenos”. This is a weird one, weirder than I’ve had to tackle before. This issue serves as a prequel to the video game adaptation of the 2001 Dan Abnett novel that explored the world of Gregor Eisenhorn, an Inquisitor of the Imperium.

This is likely not the place to delve into a history 101 of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, but suffice it to say that this issue is not exactly a best entry point. Largely due to the fact that it is a tie-in and prequel to a story that is completed in another medium, meaning it is more interested in leading up to that story that telling it’s own.

There’s fun to be had here, for sure, but that’s largely for those already versed in the Warhammer lore. Seeing Eisenhorn facing off against an Ork in hand to hand combat makes for a fun action scene no matter who you are, but the rest of the issue feels like it’s all set up for the payoff to be delivered somewhere else.

The major downside is the artwork. The linework is very simple and plain and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it just makes the book look very uninteresting. Backgrounds, especially, feel sparse to the point where most of the book takes place on a planet that looks like a California desert backlot. This is a comic, we should have higher standards than these kinds of plain deserts as the backdrop to our science fiction.

Final Verdict: 5.2 – A fine, largely inoffensive issue whose biggest detractor is the fact that it is beholden to being a prequel to a video game.

Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #11
Written by Robert Venditti
Illustrated by Robert Gill
Review by Ken Godberson III

“Wrath of the Eternal Warrior” is probably the most low flying book at Valiant, a company that’s pretty low-flying in and of itself. It’s probably the book in the line that isn’t talked about as much as it should be. “Labyrinth” brought Gilad Anni-Padda an archenemy as old as he is and now has the opportunity to reconcile with his estranged eldest child. And I have to give credit to Robert Venditti to going on a more long-form method with this book. His other Valiant book, the soon concluding “X-O Manowar”, felt much more stand-alone in their arcs. Sure you can see some threads interconnecting, but here in this book it’s much more woven together, providing a much smoother flow to the overall story. This issue is mostly setup for Gilard trying to find his son, Kalam, and what he’s going to have to do to get him back, but it deals mostly with Gilad as a person. Let’s face it: Gilad’s not that great of a dad. Great warrior, great tactician. But the constant comings and goings of him between the realm of the living and dead have taken a -rightly so- toll on his loved ones. It is an effective way of putting a hint of reality in these otherworldly situations.

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As I said in my review of “4001 A.D.: Shadowman”, but the team of Robert Gill and colorist Michael Spicer proves to be an effective one. While there isn’t as much supernatural going-ons here, they still can bring it, with the variety of demons they depict towards the end. But this being a more character-focused issue, the true greatness is in subtleties. Just very small inflections of character face, the curled lip of a sneer, the sadness in X-O Manowar’s eyes as he sends his old mentor back to the land of the dead. It’s the more deft touches that helped make this issue. I also have to give the team kudos for homaging original series Raul Allen and Patricia Martin when Gilad returns to his family. It’s a small thing, but does help keep a nice consistency.

Now, this issue does say it’s a “Jumping On Point”, I really do recommend starting from the beginning. The team does try to get new readers up to speed but you really should be reading this book from the start to get some of the more emotional context.

Final Verdict: 8.0- A more character-focused start to the next chapter in Gilad’s long life.

//TAGS | Wrapping Wednesday

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