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.
Adventure Time: 2016 Spooktacular
Written by T. Zysk, Travis Betz, Christine Larsen, Nicole Mannino, Meg Gandy, Justin Hook
Illustrated by T. Zysk, Ruth Turner, Christine Larsen, Nicole Mannino, Meg Gandy, & Justin Hook and Laura Langston & Matt Smigiel
Reviewed by Matthew Garcia
At this point, even the “Adventure Time” comic specials are coming out with more consistency and regularity than the TV show. Take the “2016 Spooktacular”, for instance, the latest in kaboom!’s annual anthology series. Last year, we got a great Marceline story from Hanna K. This time around, it’s a collection of shorts centered around Gunter, probably the most evil creature in all of the galaxy.
Simply by the nature of the anthology format, not everything’s going to be great. The one story with the hat did nothing for me. Ice King going to the fairy kingdom was weird. (I realize “weird” isn’t a great way to describe anything related to Adventure Time, since the show contentedly exists on its own wavelength, but that story was grasping chaotically.) But those are overruled by the stories that are fun. They’re charming, cute, and frequently funny. I was especially fun of the body horror of Meg Gandy’s story.
I’ve always appreciated how kaboom! and Cartoon Network have let cartoonists, artists, and other creators run wild in Ooo with these shorts, and even the ones that didn’t necessarily connect with me still bare their creators’ personalities and sensibilities. Some of the artists stick to the models while others pursue their own style. Ooo is huge, expansive, and there’s a lot of different ways to look at it. Plus, it’s fun to compare how Justin Hook draws Finn with T. Zysk. And “Adventure Time” is open enough that you can get all these interpretations while it continues to make sense for the world.
I don’t think the “2016 Spooktacular” is as memorable or great as past entries, but it does its job. The various artstyles are fun and keep your attention, while it seems like the creators involved have all latched on to different parts of the show and made it their own.
Final Verdict: 7.0 – Boom! raised the price on this however to $7.99, which is a bit egregious. These comics are for kids, and I think it’s important to remember that.
Guardians of the Galaxy #12
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Illustrated by Valerio Schiti
Reviewed by Robbie Pleasant
Brian Michael Bendis has written some great works for Marvel, and helped revitalize many series. “Guardians of the Galaxy” is not one of those. The issue begins with a long rant from Rocket Raccoon, of all people, complaining about how we’re destroying our environment, about our politics, and racism. That’s not to say he’s wrong – but just because I agree with the message doesn’t mean I agree with the way it’s delivered. This goes on for four pages before anything actually starts happening, littered with the patented Bendis-style dialogue – with lots of repetition, and constantly interrupted with interjections and exclamations.
Following that are more debates about each side of the Civil War, as every tie-in must do. This, too, is filled with dialogue that just doesn’t flow well in comic form; it may be how people often converse in real life, but that doesn’t make it fun to read. Dialogue issues aside, it does have some well-written moments. Using the “X minutes later” jump between parts of the battle is pretty entertaining, and avoids repeating the same fights we saw in “Civil War II” from a slightly different angle. There’s some rather nice timing for the comic relief moments as well, blending the sorrow of the Guardians losing their ship with the comedy that a well-timed explosion can bring.Continued below
Additionally, Valerio Schiti does a great job with the art, whether it’s characters standing around talking or jumping into action. The expression he gives Rocket Raccoon as the Guardians’ ship explodes is fantastic. In fact, it’s his style that really brings the emotion to the issue, nicely illustrating Rocket’s sorrow and anger, as well as the loss he feels. Rocket’s rant about Earth politics at the start may have felt jarring and ham-fisted, but he still brings the heart to the rest of the issue.
For one more point in the comic’s favor, it’s making good use of the fact that Thanos is currently imprisoned on Earth, given that at least two of the Guardians are sworn to kill him. “Civil War II” really used his appearance as just a tool to kill off some characters and kick off the Tony vs Carol conflict; it didn’t feel befitting of a character of his status and power. Maybe he’ll get the weight he deserves when Gamora goes on the warpath.
Final Verdict: 4.3 – The artwork gives it a lot of heart, and it has some shining moments, but the dialogue makes it so clunky that it drags down the rest.
Written and illustrated by Francis Manapul
Reviewed by Brian Salvatore
“Trinity” is a 20 page thesis as to why the New 52 was an emotional failure for DC Comics. Of course, it isn’t said outright, but that is the biggest takeaway from reading the comic – this is all about heart and friendship and love and respect, and the New 52 was all about high collars and people hating each other. But Manapul takes great steps here to establish the idea that the best thing for everyone – everyone – is a Trinity that gets along.
But even more than a script that seems perfectly aimed at folks like me, the most stunning thing about this issue is the artwork. Manapul’s talents are on full display here, working not only with his vibrant watercolors, but also using layouts in the type of ways he was early on in his run on the New 52’s “The Flash.” We already know that Clay Mann is illustrating issues 3 and 4 (at least), so don’t expect the quality of artwork to keep up, but this issue features, perhaps, Manapul’s finest work, and that is saying something.
What the book does so well is not only float the idea that the gang needs to be comfortable together, but it shows us why that is the case. Bruce is still sort of a dick, and Diana still feels stiff and foreign. But Clark, our Clark from before “Flashpoint,” he’s all hugs and hope. They need him, even more than they need their Clark. And he needs them. And we need them all.
There are lots of great winks and nods to the past, both overt and a little more under the radar, but the thing that shines through, stronger than anything else, is that this book is designed to not just be a showcase for Manapul’s work, but also a mission statement for ‘Rebirth.’ This is the purest manifestation of what Geoff Johns said in that first video that got us all hyped.
Now just don’t fuck it up, DC.
Final Verdict: 8.8 – A stunning debut.
The Vision #11
Written by Tom King
Illustrated by Gabriel Walta
Review by Ken Godberson III
Warning: Gonna be talking some spoilers in this one.
You know, I had to do a catch up on this series and had to read issues #10 and #11 together. Reading them together and thinking on the series as a whole, it made me come to a realization. Yes, this is an incredibly well-crafted series that makes points about identity, humanity and what is “normal”… but it also requires one to assume that the Avengers are complete and utter idiots. Like, during this whole time Agatha Harkness talking all this doom-n-gloom involving Vision, did not one of them consider actually bringing Vision into the loop about this? And do not try and pull “suspension of disbelief”. That just means I can accept “this dude can move fast” or “this lady can move things with her mind”. It doesn’t require me to believe/accept that these people are so untrusting of someone that has been their friend and colleague for decades (out of universe, but prob over a decade in-universe) to this degree with disastrous results. Admittedly, I’m bringing this up because it’s interesting that this book runs concurrently with “Civil War II”, another book where the supposed heroes make stupid decisions and don’t learn from the past to disastrous results, but we as a fandom are willing to accept one over the other because everything else is so good.Continued below
Speaking of, let’s talk about what really matters about this book: Vision and his family. The last ten issues have been the breakdown of Viz’s little experiment to create a family, which has now resulted in Vision wanting to kill his “brother” -Victor Mancha- for the accidental death of Vin, Vision’s son. All the while, King threads in a lot of Vision’s past through both dialogue and background setting (this latter part being a particularly subtle nod to the humanity still in Vision and his own origins). Simultaneously, at the Vision household, his wife Virginia is also going through her own shattering. If issues up until now have been about the build, then this is the climax. All the dominos falling down and it shows the raw, visceral emotions that these characters have been feeling. Perhaps the best aspect of it all is King’s ability to pace in his script. It’s the slow dread, even in perhaps the most action-filled issue, that really does sell the heartbreaking emotions going on.
A great deal of contribution to that pacing is Walta and Jordie Bellaire’s artwork. I shudder to think what this book would look like with a more conventional superhero artist. There’s this sense of grounded longing in each of the Vision family’s faces before the emotions get really heated up. Speaking of heated, this issue more than others has more “wide-screen” style of paneling than the ten before it and makes the action feel more hurtful. Every bit of rubble and especially every punch is heartbreaking due to this much more low-key style of drawing.
Finally, let’s talk about the thing that happens: the death of Victor Mancha. Won’t spoil how it happens, but it does happen. Now, I’ve gained a rep that I don’t like death in superhero comics… and I kind of really don’t, especially when it’s teenagers because they don’t tend to get brought back and their fans get screwed over in favor of the classic (and usually white dude) character. That being said, in the realm of pointless deaths, this is one of the more well-done ones, because, unlike others, Victor’s story and character (even if the PTSD/drug anology retcon King introduced feels damaging) is an intrinsic part of the death. That one of issue of this series that focused on Victor’s mental state really helped sell this in the long run. Now, do I like that he’s dead? Oh Hell no! And while I’m iffy on the stuff King added to the character, it did open up spots for potential stories. That said, I still acknowledge that it was really well done and put in a lot of thought and effort.
This series is going to be magnificent when read as one whole thing. This is the sad and very human beginning of the end and I can safely that, even knowing Viv will be in the new “Champions”, I have no idea where this is going!
Final Verdict: 8.3- The climax of the series proves to be as tragic as the rest of it.