There are a lot of great books released each week. 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.
Written by Alex Paknadel
Illustrated by Eric Scott Pfeiffer
Reviewed by Brian Salvatore
“Arcadia” starts off with a pretty standard sci-fi premise – the world is hit with a virus, and the world responds by uploading the minds of the virus into a virtual reality world, where they continue to “live.” If the book stayed in that realm, it would be an average dystopian comic – but luckily, it doesn’t stay there.
The book, without spoiling too much, takes on the concepts of bureaucracy, identity, economics, family and, not to sound too self-important, life itself. Both ‘worlds’ are illustrated wonderfully by Pfeiffer, who makes Arcadia (the VR world) look mysterious and almost sterile, where the Meat (the ‘real’ world) seems broken and gritty. The reveal at the end about two characters having an unexpected connection is made even more profound by Pfeiffer’s illustrations which, when reviewed at the end of the book, give you clues all along.
Paknadel goes out of his way to tweak certain concepts, expand some simple ideas, and allow logic to dictate others. The book has layers that don’t instantly show themselves. Instead, the book has a certain lived in feel right from the beginning, and only when digging in on a second or third reading, do you start to see the underlying foundation that allows the book to stand so tall.
What also sets this book apart is that it was made by two creators that are brand new to me and, with a few small exceptions, brand new to the industry at large. Boom! deserves a ton of credit for publishing a book by such inexperienced creators, because that is exactly what the industry needs: more new voices getting involved.
Final Verdict: 7.5 – A solid start to a series from exciting new creators.
Avengers Vs #1
Written by Joe Caramagna
Illustrated by Andrea DiVito, Wellinton Alves, Ron Lim and Dario Brizuela
Reviewed by Matt Dodge
I love seeing the Avengers team up and punch stuff. You love seeing the Avengers team up and punch stuff. Everybody loves seeing the Avengers team up and punch stuff. If you really want to see the Avengers team up and punch suff without the burdens of continuity, moral complexity and character development, “Avengers Vs” is the series for you. The digital first comic follows a changing lineup of Avengers fight a different classic villain in every installment. This issue collects the first four digital installment, and finds the whole team launching punches and one-liners at Loki, MODOK, and Red Skull with equal fury.
Joe Caramagna pencils each installment, and the shortened length of only 14 pages doesn’t give him much room to play with. Each story starts just as the big battle begins and ends the second the bad guys are defeated and the Avengers are ready to celebrate with a heartfelt high-five. The characters are portrayed in the broadest ways, with the basic tenants of their personalities on display. The dialogue actual feels like a throwback to the Stan Lee days, when every spoke in big declarative sentences and there was no use for interior narration or though bubbles. There is a heavy emphasis on humour which certainly makes for a brisk read, but there a definitely moments where the characters are a little too clever for their own good.
Each installment features a different artist, and they all do a fairly good job. Here the shortened page length is actually a benefit, as it allowed the artists more time to focus on the big fights without have to rush through the details. Each artist gets at least one moment is present a neat visual moment, such as Captain America smashing through the window at top of the Statue of Liberty or Iron Man literally expelling malware from his suit. When reading the hard copy, with all four stories back to back, the art does start to blur together, as it’s really just nothing by fight after fight after fight after fight.Continued below
Everything about this comic fine. The story is fine, the dialogue is fine, the art is fine, but nothing ends up being especially memorable or unique. The characters are all one-dimensional and the stories are fairly standard. If you want a quick throwback to the 60s era of comics, maybe you’d like this, but there’s just not enough going on to make it really worth your money.
Final Verdict: 5.0 – Average. It reads like one big montage of Avengers fight scenes that you’ve seen before.
Written by Jeff Lemire
Illustrated by Dustin Nguyen
Reviewed by Keith Dooley
Writer Jeff Lemire sure knows how to tug at our heartstrings. With the third issue of “Descender”, Lemire and artist extraordinaire Dustin Nguyen continue to perfectly meld the various ingredients that are required to create a grand, yet personal epic. After last issue’s extremely heartfelt and heartbreaking issue involving the origin of the robot TIM-21, we get to see how strong this little guy can be when staring down the tunnel of adversity. There’s an intriguing concept involving where his robot mind travels that I cannot wait to see fleshed out and explored in depth. Lemire is building a grand science fictional world that has his trademark slow build of a story (which compels us to discover and feel deeply for the characters and their world) and expert characterization residing within it.
Nguyen is one of the best artists working today and hopefully this book will make him a superstar. The watercolor artwork he so gloriously renders on the page is breathtaking. He is equally responsible as Lemire in compelling us to become deeply invested in and care for TIM-21 and his world. The choice of colors in this issue is just one way that Nguyen enhances his already very emotional artwork. The pink hue of TIM-21’s surroundings throughout most of the issue enhances the character’s journey and the decisions and revelations that are so foreign to him. Lemire and Nguyen are both distinct artists who meld their sensibilities and styles to create an issue that is close to perfection.
Final Verdict: 9.5- This is, so far, the best new series of 2015. I can’t wait to see where Lemire and Nguyen bring their characters and us as they take us on this unique and astonishing journey.
Kanan – The Last Padawan #2
Written by Greg Weisman
Illustrated by Pepe Larraz
Reviewed by Alice W. Castle
While the rest of Marvel’s Star Wars comics have entrenched themselves firmly in the world of the Original Trilogy, Greg Weisman and Pepe Larraz take us back in time to the days of the Republic with “Kanan – The Last Padawan” #2. Last issue Weisman and Larraz mixed the joyous adventuring of Rebels with the setting of The Clone Wars as were introduced to Caled Dune and his Jedi Master Depa Billaba, however they hinted at much darker days to come. Darker days that are explored in this issue, funnily enough.
It should be no surprise by now, but Marvel’s Star Wars comics go all out in ensuring that the feel of the world on the page matches the feel of the world we saw on screen and here is no exception. By giving us that attachment to Dune and Billaba last issue as well as their connection to their squad of Clone troopers, seeing them betrayed here under Order 66 is an emotional gut punch and Weisman and Larraz play it perfectly. This is a real emotional moment and shows just how devastating the event was and seeing Caleb have to fight to survive in the aftermath gives the character we see in Rebels a lot of depth.
Pepe Larraz makes a star turn here as he ably matches the darker tone of the writing this issue in his art whilst keeping the exaggerated, almost cartoon-y quality to his art style so things aren’t too bleak. It’s a nice juxtaposition and Larraz lets the darker moments of the issue play out exactly as they need to in order to bring that emotion to it. A nice touch, too, is how Larraz integrates the world of Star Wars into his art through the little details. The characters, especially the Clone Troopers, look and feel like they live in Star Wars, not just some generic sci-fi universe and that’s definitely the perfect finishing touch on Larraz’s art.Continued below
Final Verdict: 7.9 – It could have been very easy to overlook this book in favour of Marvel’s other offerings from the galaxy far, far away, but you’d be missing out on one hell of a book.
Written by Sean Simon
Illustrated by Tyler Jenkins
Reviewed by Stephenson Ardern-Sodje
I’ve been a fan of “Neverboy” since issue one, Simon’s crazy initial concept and Jenkins’ psychedelic cover reeled me into the first issue, a looping, dreamlike narrative that spans both our world and the imaginary one that sits within our combined subconscious. The first issue was great and crazy in equal measure, but the big question was, where would the story go from here?
Turns out, bigger, better, and even more bizarre. Simon blurs the boundaries between fantasy and reality even further. The twin protagonists of Neverboy and artist Julian Drag are both wrestling with their respective addictions and right now, it’s deliciously difficult to predict where their stories are going to end up. Both characters are struggling to hold onto the lives that they’ve carefully crafted for themselves, and Simon’s well-paced, story with witty dialogue pulls the audience along towards a dynamic, drug-fuelled crescendo.
And Jenkins’ trippy artwork continues to work wonders, flowing effortlessly from panel to panel, with Fitzpatrick’s fluid inking helping create the feeling that the story isn’t so much drawn as it is dreamed onto the page. While Jenkins shines on the larger, more free-range panels (his execution of Drag’s latest art-piece is print-worthy for sure) he’s sharpened up his focus on expressions, which results in a lot of poignant exchanges between the secondary characters, most notably Rachel and Ben. While Jenkins’ oneiric art might be the initial lure to this series, it’s the way he and Simon combine that makes this story something special.
Final Verdict: 7.2 – Confidently confusing. It takes some serious chops to pull off a story like this.
Rachel Rising #33
Written by Terry Moore
Illustrated by Terry Moore
Reviewed by Jess Camacho
Month in and month out “Rachel Rising” is the most criminally underrated ongoing series. Most of the first 25 or so issues focused on the battle between Rachel and Lilith but now things have slowed down. Terry Moore has spent a few months unraveling that mystery but didn’t give us anything concrete. We did learn more about Manson and got into the head of Rachel more as she struggled with her identity a little bit. This lull in the action seems to be over as a new un-dead woman makes her way into Manson. We don’t know who she is or what she wants, but Moore does a great job of easing us into what is seemingly the next phase of this series. The first few pages are totally silent and Moore masterfully breaks down her emergence from a dark lagoon of death. The movements are detailed and he again avoids a generic zombie feel.
As she makes her way through town, Moore establishes her as someone a bit different from what we’ve seen before. She doesn’t come off like the witches who went about their evil intentions almost too obviously. This woman is getting herself together and taking small steps. She’s complex and there are some slight similarities between her and Rachel right off the bat. There is an unfortunate duplicate page but the story is still in tact and that’s what matters most. Things are going to begin getting wild in “Rachel Rising” and if you’re still on the fence, and don’t want to spend a lot on the first few trades, this isn’t a terrible jumping on point.
Final Verdict:: 8.3 – A quiet but very enjoyable issue.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #5
Written by Ryan North
Illustrated by Erica Henderson
Reviewed by James Johnston
“Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” is unbelievably fun. Unbeatably fun, I would say if I was trying to blatantly get a blurb for the trade. The first four issues of the series gave the titular rodent heroine her own spotlight with a wildly convoluted fight against Galactus. And while the first story arc look to give new readers a clean break, “Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” #5 looks to establish the legend of Squirrel Girl. Sort of.Continued below
While Doreen Green’s new roommate, Nancy, is held hostage by dinosaurs on the Statue of Liberty (it’s a whole thing), the other hostages tell the mostly incorrect past tales of Squirrel Girl. While Doreen fights the pterodactyls outside, everyone else recalls how she teamed up with Captain America(?) and obtained the Venom suit during “Secret Wars”(?!) The disparate stories are great, especially with Henderson displaying her artistic versatility by tapping into the styles of “Clone Wars” and McFarlane’s Spider-Man, among others. The highlight of the issue, however, is her team-ups with Captain America where she has to save a constantly brainwashed Steve Rogers who is easily tricked into becoming a totalitarian. It’s all kinds of great.
Final Verdict: 8.2 – “Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” is quickly proving itself to be one of the most fun titles coming out from Marvel. I’ll be truly surprised if there isn’t a major fan base around this book by the end of summer.
“Wonder Woman ’77 Special” #1
Written by Marc Andreyko
Illustrated by Drew Johnson (‘Disco Inferno’) and Jason Badower (‘Who is Wonder Woman?’)
Reviewed by Matt Garcia
Following in the footsteps of the “Batman ’66” series, “Wonder Woman ’77” puts Lynda Carter back into costume with some fun throwback stories. The book is charming and enjoyable enough, featuring a Wonder Woman that’s been basically abandoned in the comics (the one who has a secret identity, who has to find some excuse to excuse herself to change into costume, who has to always keep Steve Trevor guessing), but who still, at heart, cares about justice and honor and all that. The first story is goofy and pretty much what you expect from a series like this: lots of in-jokes to the original TV show, glitter, and twirling action. The second story is a parade of old school Wonder Woman villains, like an extra-long TV special.
I would say that either of the stories are particularly memorable and Andreyko’s script puts an emphasis on Wonder Woman fighting everything, but I think there’s a clear love for the Lynda Carter character present. Johnson and Badower seem to be having a blast with the retro sets and costumes. Steve Trevor has never looked burlier. It’s fun while it lasts, but, sort of like the show, I feel like your memory of the piece will be much better than the actual thing.
Final Verdict: 6.5 – Enjoyable enough and fun, if not memorable. Still better than her current DCU incarnation from the Finches.