Wrapping Wednesday: Micro Reviews for the Week of 9/9/15

By | September 14th, 2015
Posted in Reviews | 2 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.

The Bunker #14
Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov
Illustrated by Joe Infurnari
Reviewed by Michelle White

This is the end of the third volume of “The Bunker”, and if you’ve been keeping up, I imagine you’re as confused as I am. This is one complex apocalyptic tale, with future and past versions of the core group of characters becoming entangled as they determine the fate of the planet.

Joe Infurnari’s art compounds the complexity in the most delightful of ways, because it’s sketchy, dreamlike. There are silent pages that do little except move a character through a given environent and add suspense, and these are particularly elliptical, with Infurnari choosing the shadowiest of corners to show us. What keeps it all anchored is the character work – particularly the ways the future and past versions of characters are distinguished. It’s not just age that sets them apart; you really get the feeling that they are different people altogether. And since they belong to different timelines and have different experiences, I guess you could argue that they are. Meanwhile, the colour scheme – which has kept consistent since issue one – is still gorgeous, all muted pinks and rainy greys.

In terms of story, it seems the bunker – the mysterious room full of letters from the characters’ future selves, which set the action in motion in the first issue – is no longer a secret, and will become a matter of official enquiry. This is a great moment to end the volume on, since it means that a certain future version of a certain character is going to be held accountable for their actions. Well, one would hope so, but if this series has excelled at anything so far, it’s misdirection. In any case, the most interesting characters in the series, siblings Billy and Heidi, have come to the forefront as very important figures.

It’s hard to discuss this series in anything other than very general terms – the hopping around in time and the deep character development make it difficult to dissect with precision. “The Bunker” is definitely a commitment, a series you have to immerse yourself in and mull over. But man is it consistent: the atmosphere and flavour and overall sense of direness (and if you know me as a reviewer at all, you know that stuff is MY JAM) are as strong as ever. And so, if you’re willing to put the time in, “The Bunker” remains an excellent choice for those of us who like our speculative fiction shady and engrossing.

Final Verdict: 8.5 – Dive in wholeheartedly or else skip it entirely. One dark journey so far.

Darth Vader #9
Written by Kieron Gillen
Illustrated by Salvador Larroca & Edgar Delgado
Reviewed by Matthew Garcia

The prequel trilogy almost destroyed everything that was awesome about Darth Vader. I’m sure I’m not the first person to suggest this, but by trying to give him some humanization, empathy, and history, George Lucas (who’s no John Gardner) basically stripped him of his badassedness. Thankfully, with the new regime of “Star Wars” comics, there’s been this huge push to reestablish Vader as that domineering presence who terrified us the moment he interrupted Leia’s diplomatic mission to Alderaan.

Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca keep Vader as a more stoic and imposing presence throughout ‘Shadows and Secrets.’ Larroca often puts him in the frame with someone or something else, and the dude just dominates it all. Even when someone else thinks they have a modicum of control, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Vader already know how this is going to play out. We’re in the middle of an arc right now, and this issue serves mostly as a means to move us to the next segment of the plot. Gillen makes sure to remind us that Vader has to answer to some new loser and that The Twins are running loose around the Galaxy, wreaking havoc with their rudimentary lightsaber skills. There’s a big reveal at the end, but the issue mostly feels like s slight pull back in tension to prepare us for some crazy jazz before “Vader Down.”

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So while this issue isn’t as loaded with explosions or action as some of the previous installments, it’s still cool, and Gillen and Larroca make sure to establish that part of Vader’s terror is just how well he stacks the board in his favor.

Final Verdict: 7.3 – Gillen and Larroca understand that <î>Star Wars is supposed to be fun and they’re obviously having a blast making this.

Justice League United #13
Written by Jeff Parker
Illustrated by Paul Pelletier
Reviewed by Brian Salvatore

The conceit behind this iteration of “Justice League United” is that there is no limit to the team, to the scope of the stories, or to the places that writer Jeff Parker (along with whoever his artist is for that arc) can take the book. Case in point: this issue features characters from various timelines, fighting various wars, while Robotman, Vandal Savage, and Steel bicker over battle techniques. This is exactly what DC can, and should, be doing with their history – using it in new and weird ways.

This feels like a really clear example of what post-“Convergence” DC can be, and having a city that is made up of various wars being fought simultaneously, while characters and technology from all the represented times all mill around, more or less ignoring each other, is a super fun setting. Parker has constructed a team that is made up of Stargirl, Batgirl, and the three mentioned above – plus, the book gets a few visitors from the past checking in, as well.

One of the potential problems with the series as constructed is that having Adam Strange as the quasi-deity, acting as matchmaker for the team, means that there isn’t too much in terms of big picture plot, but it almost doesn’t matter – when you have incredible artists like Pelletier, mixing images from four different periods of time, and feeling just at home drawing Nazi Germany and futuristic biotech, no is complaining. By pairing Parker with such unique and talented artists, each arc feels dramatic and fun, even if the overall purpose maybe feels a little obtuse (and a little bit like Jonathan Hickman’s “Avengers” run).

Final Verdict: 8.2 – An incredibly fun journey, month in and month out.

The Legacy Of Luther Strode #3
Written by Justin Jordan & Tradd Moore
Illustrated by Tradd Moore & Stephen Green
Reviewed by Alice W. Castle

I think we’re definitely going to have to put Tradd Moore down as one of the greatest living artists now. Fair warning, this is going to be less of an objective review and more a couple of paragraphs about how this comic was so awesome it melted my eyeballs and I’m currently writing this using speech-to-text software. Much like the last two issues of the series, issue 3 of “Legacy Of Luther Strode” uses the setpiece of a fight between Luther and The Shooter as the propellant for the plot and Luther’s quest to find Cain. Also, the fight is easily the best of the series so far.

Jordan and Moore have entirely outdone themselves here by packing this issue full of the coolest moments not just in the Luther Strode Saga, but in all of comics ever. I honestly defy anyone to read this and not get hyped purely from the frenetic, fluid and incredibly detailed art from Tradd Moore. This series has shown just how much Moore has evolved since that fateful first issue of “Strange Talent Of Luther Strode” and this issue is no different as the fight between Luther and The Shooter takes them up, down and across Hong Kong skyscrapers. Hell, even in the downtime of this issue’s climax, as the plot overtakes the action, Moore doesn’t let up as he creates an engaging and emotional dialogue scene through incredible character work.

I want to hang every page of this comic in an art gallery and play the Doof Warrior guitar track from Mad Max: Fury Road on a loop until the building spontaneously explodes.

This issue isn’t just notable for the art, as amazing as it is, because the writing from Justin Jordan continues to weave in between serious, character-focused drama amid intense action and perfectly punctuated moments of humour and levity. The effect keeps the reader on their toes as Jordan balances the levity that keeps the action from getting too intense, but also allows the serious moments to play out in all their… well, seriousness. This, combined with the one-and-done nature of the issues so far with the fights being largely self-contained has kept the series linked together through Luther’s goals rather than the momentum of the plot. This allows each issue to contribute to the series as a whole while feeling distinct from the others and allows Tradd Moore’s art to feel unique from issue to issue.

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This issue is also backed up by the second part of a story written by Moore and illustrated by Stephen Green which shows the origins of The Twins from #1 of “Legacy”. Green’s art is entirely unlike Moore’s and the rustic aesthetic is a change of pace that feels strange, but welcome. The use of the nine panel grid also gives this story a much structured feels than Moore’s unconventional panel layouts in the main story, creating a really interesting contrast. This story also shows Tradd Moore as a hell of a writer as well as a visual artist and makes me even more jealous of his skill.

Final Verdict: 9.9 – Literally the only reason this issue isn’t a ten out of ten for me is that this issue was actually so awesome it killed me and I am currently ghost writing this review. As in, I am a ghost who is writing a review about this comic that killed me. It’s really that awesome.

Ninjak #7
Written by Matt Kindt
Art by Juan Jose Ryp
Review by Ken Godberson III

We are now into part 2 of “The Shadow Wars” and the concern I had is becoming a real problem.

Let’s get the positives out of the way: This issue takes a bit of a different twist from the previous issue and spends a great deal of time exploring the backstory of the member of the Shadow Seven being focused on, Sanguine. It is an incredibly horrifying tale of self-discovery, how one deals with trauma and the price one pays to improve themselves. In a way, Sanguine is a twisted version of the fight against the systems of society. Combining this with Juan Jose Ryp ultra-detailed line work creates quite the visceral character. Ryp (and book colorist Ulises Arreola) renders Sanguine’s abilities and fight with Ninjak in the most gruesome of ways to great effect.

Now comes to the parts that are turning this arc and the book into a bit of an annoyance. Okay, the Shadow Seven are supposed to be these Uber badasses, the baddest of the baddies out there, right? They’re supposed to have the same training as Ninjak. Now he has taken out three so far and two of those in as many issues. It is pushing Ninjak into the very dangerous territory of the “Boring Invincible Hero” trope. Considering what we know of the Shadow Seven and the solicits of upcoming issues, there will probably be a massive turn on Ninjak, but as of right now, it never seems like Colin King has to struggle.

Final Verdict: 6.9- Still good, but falling into some dangerous territory.

Onyx #2
Written by Chris Ryall
Illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez
Reviewed by Jess Camacho

Much was made of “Onyx” #1 and it was compared to “ROM” by almost every reviewer, including myself. “Onyx” #2 really marks a shift for the series. What was initially a space adventure has turned into a dark, science fiction, monster book that loses some of the fun the first issue had. While that shift isn’t necessarily bad for the story as a whole, it is a bit jarring when monstrous, animal/spore hybrids start to show up. Ryall’s dialogue is strong with enough differentiation between the very big cast to single them out as their own fully realized characters. However, I do wish this was a little longer than four issues because Onyx is such an enigma. Halfway through the miniseries and I feel like we don’t really know her enough and since she’s being situated as a savior, it would be helpful to not so much relate to her, but understand her better.

Gabriel Rodriguez is an artist who’s work I will buy regardless of the title. “Onyx” #2 is beautifully grotesque. The detailing on each character is fantastic with the animal hybrids having a certain level of humanity in their movement that helps force an emotional response when they are killed. The creature designs are not really scary but the are effective in creepiness, especially when they begin talking and get violent. There is a big, two page spread featuring all the characters fighting against some of the creatures and it’s crafted so nicely. Rodriguez does a lot in a finite amount of space. He creates a real sense of movement in this spread and later on with Onyx. Onyx is a physical force but never does she come off too powerful.

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Final Verdict: 6.9 – A tonal shift from the first issue but sci fi fans should still find a lot to enjoy here.

“The Wicked and the Divine” #14
Written by Kieron Gillen
Illustrated by Jamie McKelvie
Reviewed by Stephenson Ardern-Sodje

After another guest artist and the side story of the previously unseen ‘Tara’, McKelvie returns and issue 14 pulls us back towards the main mystery of the series. This issue, aptly titled ‘The Re-Re-Remix’ is a pretty chronologically confusing view of the past few issues as seen from behind Woden’s every-present mask.

The pacing of WicDiv has been getting increasingly experimental over the past few issues. Now that Laura has ascended from the position of ‘Everyman’ protagonist to member of the Pantheon, it falls to each individual member to support an issue. This makes for a more varied reading experience in terms of tone, but Gillen works hard to ensure that the variety doesn’t spread to the quality of the writing. Woden is potentially the most self-absorbed and self-conscious deity who’s thoughts we’ve yet been privy too, and the counterpoint between his internal monologue and interactions with other characters is perfectly penned to reveal the cocktail of narcissism and insecurity that Gillen’s mixed to create the most subtle sociopath in the Pantheon. He’s the perfect vessel to deliver a lot of plotted information without it feeling stale or characterless, and the strength of his slimy, conniving persona really helps the cascade of revelations in this issue feel like a new low in terms of grime and maudlin fame-loathing.

In terms of art, McKelvie is back with his usual stylistic flair in this issue. There’s a more expansive feeling to his panelling that helps build on the undercurrent of godlike power and, in keeping with the title of the issue, he manages to rework and reimagine a slew of images we’ve already seen in earlier issues in such a way that they seem fresh and new. What is most notable though, is the more subtle ways he uses the artwork to skew the issue to Woden’s twisted viewpoint. The entire issue is blanketed in a pixellated fuzz that oscillates between background buzz to obscuring entire panels at varying points in the issue. Background details are all but lost in favour of crowds of people executed as holographic shades or for mixed media inserts that further illustrate a personal point that Woden is trying to make. Visually speaking, this book is the epitome of an ‘unreliable narrator’. McKelvie uses every inch of page space to remind us that we’re following a story as reconstructed by one of the most manipulative members of the pantheon. How much you choose to trust is left entirely up to you.

There’s a distinctly more abstract, poetic style to the narrative of this issue that will remind Gillen fans of his recently revived book ‘Phonograph’, and it’s obvious that he’s exploring similar themes in both books: those of the price of fame, the danger of anonymity and an almost nihilistic disregard for self of this generation. WicDiv provides a perfect platform for this exploration and it feels as though these god’s eye view vignettes are providing more than enough visual and narrative variety to keep Gillen’s investigations interesting. Woden is a faceless representation of the kind of amoral selfishness that can come from complete anonymity. His personal brand of distancing and dehumanisation makes for potentially the darkest issue yet of a comic that has already trodden some murky waters, but with the newly found flexibility of WicDiv’s protagonist I’m confident that this is just Gillen working with yet another narrative shade, of which he has proven he has many.

As with everything McKelvie and Gillen have worked on recently, massive props must be given for Wilson’s blindly brilliant colours. I thought that Dionysis’ issue was the most hallucinogenic this comic was going to get, but issue 14 sees Wilson pushing the boat even further, with a palette that starts as disorientating and builds to an almost nausea-inducing crescendo as the issue continues.

I admit I was initially sceptical about the decision to lose an anchored, human protagonist, but the variety and vibrancy that an all god line-up has provided over this past few issues has truly converted me. Woden’s remix may be the most out-there edition to WicDiv we’ve seen so far, but I’m nothing but glad to see that, even at the peak of it’s popularity Gillen and McKelvie aren’t scared to change their baby and challenge their audience’s notions of what exactly it is that they’re getting increasingly invested in.

Final Verdict: 9.1 Dizzying and uncomfortable, even as it draws you deeper into Woden’s web, this issue is a masterclass in comic-book creation.

//TAGS | Wrapping Wednesday

Brian Salvatore

Brian Salvatore is an editor, podcaster, reviewer, writer at large, and general task master at Multiversity. When not writing, he can be found playing music, hanging out with his kids, or playing music with his kids. He also has a dog named Lola, a rowboat, and once met Jimmy Carter. Feel free to email him about good beer, the New York Mets, or the best way to make Chicken Parmagiana (add a thin slice of prosciutto under the cheese).


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