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Wrapping Wednesday: Micro Reviews for the Week of 10/17/18

By | October 22nd, 2018
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.

Animosity: Evolution #8
Written by Marguerite Bennett
Illustrated by Eric Gapstur
Colored by Rob Schwager
Lettered by Marshall Dillon
Reviewed by Elias Rosner

Trade negotiations, resource management, and the good ‘ol black market, what more could you ask for from your post-collapse of life-as-we-know-it tale about talking animals? Well, how about a conspiracy to destroy all technology, including the stuff that’s attached to some of those talking animals. “Animosity: Evolution” really is an interesting beast of comic. It’s heavily mired in the politics and ramifications of what The Wake would mean for a urban population trying to rebuild but still has time to engage in a lot those espionage thriller tropes. It is also a tragedy, slowly unfolding as the months rolls by.

It makes for an enjoyable read, as the two elements balance each other out. Unfortunately, Bennett’s script is dense, filling pages with way too much dialogue and way too many dialogue balloons. The paneling often feels crowded and congested, fitting for a city but not for a manageable read. This harms the artwork but as many of the animals aren’t given expressive features, which would break the immersion, it also feels necessary. The scripting really brings these characters to life, each with a unique voice, meaning the density of the dialogue is at once integral to the comic and a hindrance to its potential.

The artwork isn’t given enough room to breathe and thus is constrained to be just decent for most of the issue. His people are often too simplistic but his animals are much more detailed, accurately representing the size differences and never slipping in their portrayal. However, it is on each of the two-page spreads where it shines as Gapstur can really show off the size and scale of the world and that’s also where the comic slows down the most, so we can appreciate the moments. It’s funny that for a story about talking animals, it’s when everyone is silent that they have the biggest impact.

Final Verdict: 6.5 – Too much dialogue crowds the panels and harms the comic, despite it being necessary to characterize the animals.

Aphrodite V #4
Written by Bryan Hill
Illustrated by Jeff Spokes
Colored by Jeff Spokes
Lettered by Troy Peteri
Reviewed by Gustavo S. Lodi

It is surprising and refreshing how accessible “Aphrodite V” is on this final entry of its 4-issue limited series. Special congratulations should go to the team of Hill and Spokes on being able to pull this off without the reliance of narration, reminders, or editorial notes. Although readers of the whole series will enjoy it more, this is a story that can be understood on its own.

First of all, Spokes’s art – who also provides all coloring – is the definition of cinematic and large-scope. Actions sequences are framed perfectly; not only during the combat itself, but also on its setup. As heroes and villains position themselves in frame, the build-up of tension being visually powerful is something that not that many artists can truly deliver.

Spokes also succeeds on blending the organic with the mechanical in new and – often – disturbing ways. For a series like “Aphrodite V,” when near-godly machine creatures use Los Angeles as their battleground, that visual mash-up certainly plays to the favour of the story. Special note towards the end of the issue, where the layers surrounding Aphrodite V’s body peel away due to heavy damage: beautiful and haunting to look at.

Hill has been on a roll recently, with his contributions to “Detective Comics,” “Spider-Man,” among others, receiving dully deserved critical acclaim. Once again, the writer provides his concise yet powerful storytelling style. No dialogue seems excessive, no page seems like filler. These characters are clearly on a mission where too much baggage or reasoning needs to be placed firmly at the door. It works extremely well and contributes to that sense on accessibility referred to earlier.

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As it concludes, “Aphrodite V” provides enough closure for its audience but even more importantly, leaves enough door opens for a – – hopefully – – inevitable sequence. The concepts and consequences explored on this limited series have been compelling and this final issue does not overstay its welcome.

Final Verdict: 8.0 – With an art style that borders on cinematic animation, structured around a concise and visceral script, “Aphrodite V” #4 picks reader’s curiosity and delivers a satisfying ending.

Archie 1941 #2
Written by Brian Augustyn & Mark Waid
Illustrated by Peter Krause
Colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick
Lettered by Jack Morelli
Reviewed by Ken Godberson III

I suppose we should start this review off in a good way: the artwork in “Archie 1941″ #2 is real good. Peter Krause and Kelly Fitzpatrick’s work does a real good job in setting up the intended atmosphere: somberness. While the colors do depict variety in its palate, from yellow signs brightening streets to soft reds and pinks for when Archie and Betty reunite, there is a mutedness to it all that hangs over the book without ever feeling drab or out of place. Likewise, Peter Krause’s linework does a great job of setting up this period but having little of the brightness and “wholesomeness” that the past can be depicted with. All in all, the art team’s work does a phenomenal job of providing a backdrop.

It’s just a shame the writing is rubbish.

The biggest problem with Augustyn and Waid’s writing is that it lacks any form of commitment. Taking place in the December after Pearl Harbor, the opening pages are a movie reel of President Roosevelt’s “A Day That Will Live in Infamy” speech and from there we are provided reactions from an assortment of the Riverdale’s denizens. I can at least appreciate the team not trying to doll it up in fake patriotism, but as we go from place to place, with Archie’s inconclusiveness to his dad’s anger and pushing his own inability to take part in WWI on his son and how messed up that is and so on and so on, it feels like a Power Point presentation of the variety of responses. It feels shallow at best, with no time taken to truly explore anything before we’re whisked away again, the characters just becoming ciphers. A lot of talking without ever feeling like something is being said and the writing team really taking no stance on a topic that is a lot more nuanced than what is being presented.

Final Verdict: 5.0- Good artwork does not make up for shallow storytelling and characterization.

Astonishing X-Men #16
Written by Matthew Rosenberg
Penciled by Greg Land
Inked by Jay Leisten
Colored by Frank D’armata
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
Reviewed by Dexter Buschetelli

Matthew Rosenberg’s run on “Astonishing X-Men” has, thus far, been anything but “Astonishing”. Disconnected from the phenomenal previous run penned by Charles Soule seemingly by either personal choice or a weird editorial mandate, the lack of cohesion in a run of a book only sixteen issues in is jarring, to say the least.

While the leftover threads of the “man called X” story have apparently been left to drift in a narrative limbo Ashcan has leaned into his own story involving Alex Summers and the Reavers, which holds a connection to “The Hunt for Wolverine.”  Again, this is likely an editorial mandate.

Rosenberg is one of the star up-and-comers in Marvel’s stable currently, alongside talents like Kelly Thompson and Al Ewing, and he has a good pedigree of work so far; it is disappointing to see the direction this series has taken so far. That said, this issue does pick up the lackluster pace of the previous three installments.

Things are beginning to flow a bit better but there are still issues with characterization and dialogue. Moments like Beast using the word “friggin'” go against the archetypes of these players to a degree that doesn’t evolve them, but rather breaks the reader’s headcanon of their personalities. The central character, Havok, is a prime example of this.

Then there’s Greg Land. A divisive creator among fans, Land is a workhorse and has a very polished style, leaving no question as to why Marvel provides him with the amount of paid work they do. His over-reliance on photo-reference, however, leaves many representations of facial expressions and postures feeling somehow off. This is a common criticism of Land’s work and creates a disruption of suspension of disbelief in the medium, and this issue is no exception to that trope.

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The worst part of this run isn’t that it is terrible, as objectively it isn’t. It just feels very mediocre and a waste of the talents involved in its production.

Final Verdict: 6.6 – The better Summers brother deserves better, and so do the readers

Batman #57
Written by Tom King
Illustrated by Tony S. Daniel, Mark Buckingham and Andrew Pepoy
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
Colored by Tomeu Morey
Reviewed by Michael Govan

KGBeast shouldn’t have made it personal. Last issue, the Dark Knight was determined to avenge his fallen comrade, Nightwing. He braved the harsh elements, battled ninjas and even faced a god to seize the villain. After such an epic pursuit, is the face-off between the two enemies equally as epic? Not really.

While a blizzard rages around them, KGBeast and Batman savagely brawl in the snow. There are no words spoken between the two. What words need be said? This choice definitely fits both of their characterizations. The brooding hero and the assassin are not the chatty types like Spider-Man or the Flash. However, Tom King adds constant sound effects throughout the fight that hinder instead of help. The grunt and growl word bubbles are distracting and undercut the seriousness of the moment. At a certain point, it almost becomes comical.

Since the violent face-off between the foes is largely silent, it falls on the artist to make the action pop. Tony S. Daniel is up to the task, making the bloody battle engaging page after page. The full page shot of Batman standing ready as KGBeast lunges through a broken window is a particular stand-out as well as the brutal final blow.

Batman’s decision to fire his grapple gun at point-blank range is particularly jarring. Batman’s ‘no killing’ rule has gotten pretty vague in the past. He never outright murders anyone but in other media, he has sometimes left people to their deaths. For example, in Batman Begins, he refuses to save Ra’s Al Ghul from an impending train crash. In “Batman” #57, he leaves KGBeast to freeze in the snow with a broken neck. This seems overly cruel as well as out of character for the Dark Knight and may leave readers puzzled.

The Russian bedtime story told throughout the issue is puzzling as well. It is drawn well in an appropriate ‘fairy tale’ style. The tale is brutal and savage, matching the comic’s tone but it is a bit unclear how it reflects or connects to the overall story. Perhaps following issues will answer some of the questions raised in this one.

Final Verdict: 6.0 – Batman’s rumble in Russia is entertaining but not quite as epic as the build-up.

Bedtime Games #4
Written by Nick Keller
Illustrated by Conor Nolan
Colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick
Lettered by John J. Hill
Reviewed by Christa Harader

Let me start by saying I really, really wanted to like “Bedtime Games”. When the first issue came out I was primed and ready, if a bit cautious. Anything that’s billed as in the EC tradition certainly has my attention.

Keller’s concept is great: a creature conjured by curious teens that seeks out their deepest, darkest nightmares for power? Um, yes please! In practice, however, there are huge gaps in between plot points and the series suffers from trying to fit in too much. Dialogue is brittle and humor is forced. I enjoy the kids’ fears and dreams the most, and aside from seeing them on that endlessly repetitive book page, there’s not enough of it to sustain me.

Nolan’s art is good, in that the creature designs are cool and the kids’ faces are evocative. Otherwise, there’s not much here that’s unique or that elevates the horror comic tradition, and when I have to struggle through the rocky plot, I want the art to do more than get me through. Similarly, Fitzpatrick’s color work is good, but it’s too pleasant. It’s not bright enough to be ghoulish, and is frustratingly even throughout day and night scenes. There’s not a lot of anything sinister after the first issue, and that’s a real shame.

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My biggest problem? Mr. Bedtime just isn’t scary. In fact, he’s a bit long-winded, and when I don’t really know (or care) how the book even came to be by the time the fourth issue wraps up, I’m just not with the script anymore. All of the nightmares are laughable, and with all the time Keller spends trying to build them into the world’s worst thing that could possibly happen to these kids, I expected more.

Issue 4 should be the crescendo, and instead, I’m rolling my eyes as Mr. Bedtime calls his reluctant sidekick “fatboy” again, and when Avery, arguably the most compelling character, abruptly develops Matrix-esque gun accuracy in about three or four panels’ worth of action. Too little, too late.

Also, what kind of nightmare dies from a bullet wound? C’mon, now.

Final Verdict: 4.0 – “Bedtime Games” tries for depth but ends up with bland breadth, and by the time we hit the last issue, we’re left with very little to wrap up a disappointing miniseries.

Written by Joe Casey
Illustrated by Ian Macewan
Colored by Brad simpson
Lettered by Rus Wooton
Reviewed by Tom Shapira

I always run hot and cold on the works of Joe Casey. It’s hard to deny his stylistic panache and his commitment for giving everything 100% – – the man always talks as if whatever project he’s working on is the greatest thing since Watchmen was serialized and he’s very good at making you buy it. On the other hand there’s some smirking self-awareness to his genre throwbacks, such as the 1970’s Blaxploitation meets kung Fu wizardry of MCMLXXV. They are artificial constructions and they you, the reader, to know it- and as a result I often can’t really get into them, emotionally.

The second issue of MCMLXXV definitely has some of these problems, the gang members seem to have stepped out of The Warriors and talk like it, but it seems to be more honest with its characters – playing its plot and characters straight even if it is an obvious remix. Also, this series has Ian Macewan and Brad Simpson pulling all stops in making fun and brutal action scenes; large chunks of the issue are dedicated to them just throwing down on the page and the result is a dazzling array of monster-slaying-iron-wielding-action. So many serialized action comics these days not only has a generic look but also offers all the excitement of watching paint dry – the creators here think the action through, and it shows.

Letterer Rus Wooton has worked with Casey several times in the past and two are obviously in sync regarding what they want the comics to feel like – – even the letters here have slickness to them. it’s just a cool looking comics, on all fronts (and fonts).

Final verdict : 8.0 – a demolition derby of a comic, and proud of it!

Shuri #1
Written by Nnedi Okorafor
Illustrated by Leonardo Romero
Colored by Jordie Bellaire
Lettered by Joe Sabino
Reviewed by Michael Mazzacane

“Shuri” #1 reads like a book being pulled in multiple directions at once. Which is a fitting feeling to evoke for book set in Wakanda and lead by Shuri.

A couple of years ago, “Shuri” would likely have been launched and just stood on it’s own. The story would simply begin and that’d be a fine way of doing things. This time, however, it is deeply tied into the current “Black Panther” book which is something that could’ve been a hindrance. Books being weighed down by other books does not make for a good experience. Okorafor leans into that sense of weight, bluntly dealing with it via Shuri’s internal monologue in exposition dumps. Until she doesn’t want to anymore, and that weight becomes a statement on how Shuri feels maybe not underappreciated but valued by Wakanda society at large for all the stuff she does. Okorafor twists this continuity to reveal what “Shuri” will be at large: Shuri wishing to assert herself as an individual, not in the shadow of the throne. Okorafor’s tools aren’t anything new, but how she and the art team use them is fine comics craft.

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The art by Leonardo Romero and Jordie Bellaire appears split between artistic eras and styles. Leonardo Romero’s line art evokes the Rich Buckler, Gil Kane, “Panther’s Rage” style with strong simple line work, faces give clear expressions and there isn’t much appearance of motion within panels. In contrast Jordie Bellaire color palette, which evokes the traditional palette of that era, is thoroughly contemporary in application and blends. Like the ship that carried T’Challa away, Bellaire’s palette gives “Shuri” a modern skin for old school look.

There is a static quality to Romero’s figure work. The sense of momentum is created instead through paneling. The page where Shuri dives out the window on her new wings is a thrilling page to read because of how the paneling contorts and follows the arc of her glide, creating a reading spiral. Sabino’s lettering makes for a literal reading line that nicely accompanies the emotional journey Shuri is experiencing.

The push and pull tension within this issue is to it’s benefit. The lead character and her world are always in that tension and it is beautifully realized here.

Final Verdict: 8.0 – “Shuri” gets off to a strong start placing itself within the context of the larger Marvel U and the more personal, setting up a strong character story to follow.

Venom Annual #1
Written by Donny Cates, Jeff Loveness, James Stokoe and David Michelinie
Illustrated by Kev Walker and Tigh Walker
Written and Illustrated by James Stokoe
Penciled by Ron Lim
Inked by Scott Hanna
Colored by Chris Sotomayor and Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham
Reviewed by Alexander Jones

It is hard to believe that even a villain can have a legacy. In comic books, heroes are celebrated on a monthly basis with quieter issues showcasing how they try to achieve good. The same can’t be said for a villain like Venom, but the new “Venom Annual” is looking to change that. In the Bar With No Name, various supervillains get together to recount their experiences with the popular Spider-Man villain. While some stories are genuinely intriguing, others spin their wheels and forget to make a compelling point about the character. Nonetheless, seeing Venom explored in this context is still interesting even if the execution on some stories leaves something to be desired.

The ‘Tall Tales’ story is a framing device for the issue which is charming and definitely has a sharp sense of humor. The major problem with the device is as soon as readers become familiar with the framing device and story, there are no major left turns or surprising developments. Writer Donny Cates has charming dialogue and an energetic script, but the final moments of the story are disappointingly simple. The Black Cat focused tale ‘Round Two’ does an excellent job channeling classic Spider-Man nostalgia and ends before the story gets tiring. ‘Nobody Does it Better’ features excellent artwork but a story with Wolverine’s relationship to Venom that fails to make a compelling argument to be anything beyond a typical superhero brawl. ‘Unstoppable’ is another showcase for the artwork of the annual as opposed to the story.

“Venom Annual” #1 has a great set of artistic talent. Creator Kev Walker’s pencils are always filled with a wonderful sense of energy. However, the washed out colors from Chris Sotomayor are not suited to the pencils and detract from the energy of the story. Ron Lim’s classic approach to the interiors suits the annual extremely well. Tigh Walker’s high octane Wolverine slugfest is a glorious sight to behold. James Stokoe’s contributions to the comic also need to be seen to be believed. This issue has a vast array of impressively detailed artwork that is suited to Venom really well.

Despite excellent artwork almost all around “Venom Annual” #1 does not have enough ideas to justify the run time of the issue. The idea of reflecting on the legacy of a classic Spider-Man villain is a novel one, but a revelation about the past or new insight on the hero could have made the issue truly great.

Final Verdict: 5.0 – “Venom Annual” #1 carries a good idea and strong artwork with subpar execution.

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Weapon H #9
Written by Greg Pak
Illustrated by Guiu Vilanova
Colored by Morry Hollowell
Lettered by Joe Caramagna
Reviewed by Gregory Ellner

On “Weapon H” #9, Greg Pak’s storytelling is unfortunately rather formulaic, a standard “military maverick wants to help people, but his higher-ups might not like it” storyline. However, Pak’s use of Clayton’s intelligence to discern motives from Dario Agger shows that not all is cut and dry, and the morally gray nature of the conflict of “Weapon H” helps to lessen the stereotypical pieces of the puzzle. Who is right, and who is wrong? What difference does it make? How can a truly intelligent “Hulkverine” with an ability to fully control his transformations do to help in a rescue mission that may not be exactly what it seems? All of these are asked, but not all of them are really answered yet.

One odd piece of the story is how Clayton seems to randomly shift from his human to his Hulk form and back again, even when doing so has no in-story reasoning whatsoever. Considering he keeps his intelligence in his Hulk form, what point does it serve for Pak to have him keep switching back and forth? If anything, it just comes across as showing off the fact that he can do so at all, and is never brought up.

Guru Vilanova’s artwork is very heavy on action, ranging from close-up perspectives on people’s faces or posture to a repeated cut of overlapping images of differing transparency to show Clayton’s transformations to and from his Hulk form. Furthermore, Vilanova focuses in on very deep shadows, especially as said shadows play across people’s faces. This focus is particularly notable when things like Man-Thing’s vines or the tall grasses of Weirdworld cast a sharp shadow over only small parts of individual’s faces, adding depth to the scenes.

Despite being rather colorful on Weirdworld, Morry Hollowell uses relatively dark tones nonetheless, fitting with the moral grays of the story and the overall shady behaviors of Sonia and others. Interestingly, there are brighter colors in Dario Agger’s office, despite him being the most overtly villainous of all of the characters in the issue’s plot.

Final Verdict: 6.5- Despite some interesting colors, pretty good artwork, and theoretically thought-provoking moral grays, “Weapon H” suffers from somewhat formulaic storytelling and some bizarre choices in the use of the powers given to the eponymous character.

X-Men Black: Mystique #1
Written by Seanan McGuire
Illustrated by Marco Failla
Colored by Jesus Aburtov
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Reviewed by Chris Egan

“X-Men Black: Mystique” #1 is the third one-shot in this mini-series showcasing various mutant villains. It takes readers back to her most basic characteristics, dropping any sense of heroics that have been frustratingly over-developed in the recent string of prequel films. Focusing on her chaotic-evil tendencies, McGuire writes a classic Mystique/Raven Darkholme story that interweaves her penchant for disruption, anarchy and espionage into the quick and pleasing tale. The work he puts into having her change her appearance frequently to accomplish any task is really great and reminds us of her dark and twisted view of the world. He does give her a minor anti-hero subplot in which she rescues a mutant teen girl who has been captured by Trask Industries, while she makes it quite clear that it is nothing more than a ‘two birds/one stone’ scenario, I do not think it’s a stretch to say that her need for rescuing helpless mutants comes into play – – even if using their damaged psyche for her own gain later is a major factor.

Failla’s work is nicely done. His characters and settings fill up the page to make for a fully realized world. His way of keeping Mystique completely surrounded by people for the bulk of the issue perfectly brings McGuire’s script and intentions to life. Aburtov’s colors are truly gorgeous. They fit in nicely with the majority of other modern comics, but capture a similar tone to 90s-early 00’s X-Men books. Whether intentional or not, it works great here. While telling a new story, it has a slight reboot vibe, so his palette is definitely a welcome addition. The way she hides in plain sight as others, even taking the visage of celebrities to actually throw all attention at her is exactly the kind of hubris that makes the character who she is and has kept her popular with X-Fans for decades. She is a villain who takes risks because she knows she will be successful no matter what gets in her way. Even as a reader, the amount of times she shape-shifts was disorienting a time or two, making for a couple double takes or panel re-treads. In short, perfectly executed.

“X-Men Black: Mystique” #1 is a great re-introduction of the character for newcomers and long-time readers alike. Also included is the third chapter of “X-Men Black: Apocalypse.” This miniseries features a new Apocalypse story culminating in the reveal of his newest host. So if that interests you as well, it is a nice extra feature, but you will need to pick up all the other X-Men Black one-shots.

Final Verdict: 7.0, A solid Mystique story with all the violence and shape-shifting fans of the character could hope for. An intriguing addition to this min-series that makes the finale that much more enticing.

//TAGS | Wrapping Wednesday

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