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.
Brides of Helheim #2
Written by Cullen Bunn
Illustrated by Joëlle Jones
Review by Vince Ostrowski
The first miniseries in Cullen Bunn & Joelle Jones’ “Helheim” property was a rich norse tale that had just soft enough of a center to it. While much of the story was wonderfully gruesome and heavy – there was a real sweetness to the relationships built within it. I once said that “Helheim” is the most heartwarming story that involves someone sewing someone else’s body back together that I’ve ever read. “Brides of Helheim” is a little different. It has considerably less warmth to it to this point, but it’s no less potent of a story, nor does that mean that it’s without the capacity for a heart. It’s just that two issues into the story, “Brides of Helheim” is a much more intense, heavy metal entry than the original was. Cullen Bunn pushes the envelope of the world established in the original mini and trades warmth for bone-crunching action sequences and debauchery. Rikard’s life as an undead draugr has cast him as a latent warrior, unable to find peace. Bunn, who’s particularly good at writing anti-heroes and villains, casts Rikard as a gruff and distant agent – he’s harded since we’ve seen him last, which is an interesting turn for the character. It’s little advancements and changes like this that keep “Brides of Helheim” feelings fresh and engaging, and gives the reader the feeling like there are more surprises down the road. Joelle Jones pushes herself to, proving that she can do anything she wants to when it comes to comic art. “Helheim” was such an unexpected place to find her last time around, and she ended up producing some of her most rich and gorgeous design work in a career full of it. Jones dials up even more brutality in “Brides”, actually improving on the already strong work we saw in the action scenes of the original. Issue #2’s sprawling action set piece is so well-crafted and fluid that it inspired multiple, admiration-filled re-readings. For anyone looking for a brawler that doesn’t pull any punches, “Brides of Helheim” is not to be missed.
Final Verdict: 8.8 – “Brides of Helheim” challenges itself to go further than its predecessor and looks good doing it.
The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood #2
Written by Christina Blanch and Chris Carr
Illustrated by Chee
Reviewed by Drew Bradley
After a very strong debut last month, “The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood” #2 maintains a strong character focus. We get a better glimpse into Charlie’s life as it’s crumbling, which makes his inevitable decision sympathetic – forces beyond his control have put him in a tough situation and instead of being supportive, his wife’s attitude is putting him on tilt. Meanwhile, Charlie continues his job teaching college courses to convicts, and it’s clear he’s not learning as much from them as they are from him. Their reports comparing their lives to books like “Don Quixote” are clear foreshadowing, but Charlie’s blind to it. Unfortunately, this issue doesn’t do much to move the plot along. Most of this issue is Charlie agonizing over whether or not to accept a Faustian offer, but there’s only so much tension there since the title kind of gives it away.
Chee continues to put out some of the most expressive black and white art in recent memory. Don’t be fooled by the B&W tag, though – there are few (if any) actual whites or blacks in this issue. Everything is on a gray scale, reminding us the world Charlie lives in isn’t simple. The shading and textures are rich and wonderful, making otherwise boring scenes like a classroom lecture feel alive. This book is a treat to read, but each page is also worth examining on its own.Continued below
Final Verdict: 8.5 – If you skipped this last month, you won’t miss anything if you start here.
Written by Quentin Tarrantino and Matt Wagner
Illustrated by Esteve Polls
Reviewed by Brian Salvatore
Crossovers like this are a real crap shoot – sure, the combination of these two outlaws has fun written all over it, but it could also be a horrific mess, as evidenced by any number of cross-platform team ups in the past. Throw in the fact that Quentin Tarrantino loves, unironically, a lot of bad stuff, and might have tried to steer this into a more ridiculous place than a Django/Zorro team up already resides.
But those fears were unfounded – Wagner and Tarrantino craft a story that is right on point, and takes both characters into places that feel both natural and fresh to their respective characters. Django gets to play muscle, where Zorro is hiding in plain sight, now an old man. Polls does some fine work here, giving the book a look that is anchored in classic Western comics, and doesn’t feel too much like Zorro walking into Django’s world, or vice versa. The tone set is one that both characters feel comfortable in, and that helps a lot towards the book being accessible and fun. Of course, as with anything he writes, I really wish Wagner was handling the art duties here, but saying that is a bit unfair to Polls, who really does manage to do some great work here (especially during the run-in with the Barrington Brothers Gang), and who is more than capable of delivering a fine story.
Dynamite and Vertigo have an inspired pairing here, and I wonder if we’ll see Django cross over with other fictional heroes in the future. I’d love a Djano/Jonah Hex book, for instance, and DC wouldn’t even have to go out of house for that. Ultimately, this is a very fun, very well made book that rewards the reader with a truly well-crafted tale.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – A fun detour for both of these characters
Written by Ann Nocenti
Illustrated by Trevor McCarthy
Reviewed by Brian Salvatore
DC’s magical books have really suffered since launching, and whereas the first issue offered some hope, “Klarion” #2 puts it squarely in that same troubled category. This issue, the second in what is supposedly an ongoing, is so inscrutable that I had to dig out the first issue again just to refresh my memory as to what exactly was going on. This is bad business for DC, who needs a new series to be approachable to folks, even if they missed the first issue.
In addition, much like the “Trinity of Sin” books, it seems like the “rules” of the world are very much made up as they go along, with no real plan or guidebook present. I know that is sort of all comics, all the time, but it feels particularly egregious here, with no real plot to speak of – the book drops you into a world that isn’t particularly interesting or unique – it is just confusing. This issue has both technobabble and magicbabble bursting at the seams, and it makes the reading experience, at best, slow and plodding. This is a book that desperately needs some sort of catch-up device, whether the first page, “Journey into Mystery” style, recaps the action, or a more clever way to fill in the reader. Ann Noncenti, formerly one of the most capable writers in all of comics, continues to pepper her scripts with abject weirdness, dull characters, and jumps of logic that not even the most skilled writer could figure out.
All of this is especially shameful because Trevor McCarthy is one of the best in the business, and his work here is absolutely stunning, enhanced considerably by Guy Major’s vibrant coloring. Sadly, few of the pages aren’t cluttered to the hilt with expositional word bubbles that reveal just how deprived of originality the script is. In some ways, McCarthy’s work is reminiscent of Yanick Paquette’s on “Swamp Thing,” where he would draw these exceptional layouts, only to have them covered by a novella’s worth of words. As fine as the book looks visually, it still holds little intrinsic value because the story is so dull and pointless that it makes reading said words seem like a chore.Continued below
Final Verdict: 5.0 – The art is stellar, the words not so much.
The Life After #5
Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov
Illustrated by Gabo
Reviewed by Jess Camacho
“The Life After” #5 is probably the most emotional issue of the series so far. There’s a lot of pain happening here, but it’s beautiful because of it. Nettie’s story is really the focus of most of the issue, and it is not a happy one. Jude did serious damage to her “life” in the afterlife and now has to fix it. This is a nice detour that still ties into the bigger plot of the series and creates more of a personal problem for the characters. It’s not so much about what’s best for everyone now. Jude just wants to fix what he did to Nettie. Gabo continues to blow me away on art. There’s this awesome cartoon like quality to the series that sets the perfect tone. Even in a limit comic page he can create this vastness to the pit Jude and Ernest are stuck in. It’s just not what you normally see and that’s part of why I’ll keep coming back to this excellent new series.
Final Verdict 8.3 – This is a series still under the radar but always worth picking up.
The October Faction #2
Written by Steve Niles
Illustrated by Damien Worm
Reviewed by Jess Camacho
I loved “The October Faction” #1; it was easily one of my favorite debuts of the year. “The October Faction” #2 completely matches the quality of the first issue and then some. Steve Niles and Damien Worm open this world up a little bit more but by focusing on the family dynamics. There’s a very big twist thrown in here that changes a lot of what this story is but in a very good way. I like to think of this as a modern Addams Family but in just two issues has gone way above that. It’s horror with deep humanity. Damien Worm in the last year has become one of my favorite comic artists in the industry. He was born to do horror comics. Horror is coming back in a big way in comics but this series is above the pack.
Final Verdict 8.9 – Niles is on fire and Worm is doing some of the best horror art all year.
Red Sonja #13
Written by Gail Simone
Illustrated by Walter Geovani
Reviewed by Jess Camacho
The entire time I’ve read comics, I always avoided Red Sonja. Why? Because it always just seemed like the sexy, lady version of Conan. I jumped on to this series when one of my favorite writers, Gail Simone, took over and I haven’t looked back since. The first arc had a more serious tone, the second arc was much more comedic and now this, the third arc of her run, begins on a much more dramatic tone. Like the first arc, this is going to focus much on Sonja has a human being and may end up shaping her future in a big way. Simone’s knack for getting in her character’s heads is on full display in this issue, which is always a treat. “Red Sonja” #13 is a very solid start to what could be the best arc yet for Simone. Walter Geovani again does a really great job on the art. He doesn’t pose Sonja in overly sexy ways and does a nice job with her facial expressions. He’s never done a bad issue. This is also a great place to jump into the series so if you’re looking for something heavy on the swords and sorcery then look no further than “Red Sonja”.
Final Verdict 8.0 – Simone and Geovani continue their winning streak with “Red Sonja” #13
Written by Dan Slott, Skottie Young, Robbie Thompson, & Katie Cook
Illustrated by Humberto Ramos, Jake Parker, Dennis Medri, & Katie Cook
Reviewed by James Johnston
It’s no secret around the Multiversity Offices (which consist of a “I Heart Green Arrow” t-shirt littered on the streets of the Bronx) that we’re digging the ‘Spider-Verse’ crossover and, with this anthology title, we’re getting even more spider-stories in an already flooded crossover. Despite this comic sharing a title with the event it’s a part of, it’s not really a part of the central storyline. Instead, we get some context regarding the Inheritors and Master Weaver in addition to follow-ups of much loved alternate Spider stories. The ‘Spider-Manga’ story from Skottie Young and Jake Parker is a particularly and intense explanation for how this Peter Parker joins the brawl in the main story. Meanwhile, new characters like May Reilly and Penelope Parker prove just how varied the worlds of the Spiders can be. Seriously, May Reilly is a steampunk Spider-Woman and it’s exactly as great as you’d think it’d be while Peneople’s is the all-ages Spider-Girl we’ve always deserved.Continued below
If there’s a highlight to be found in this issue, it’s Dan Slott teaming with Ty Templeton, Tom Grummett, and Tom Palmer to explain away the absence of several noted Spiders. I don’t want to get into the hyperbolic, but the story revolving the newspaper strip Spider-Man is probably the best thing Slott will ever write.
Final Verdict: 7.2 – Overall, “Spider-Verse” #1 is a fun addition to a crossover that’s already off to a great start. If you like the ‘Spider-Verse’ story so far then dig in. If not, I don’t know how the words “Steampunk Lady Spider-Woman” could have failed you. If anything, it’s you who have failed us.