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.
Written by Jeff Lemire
Illustrated by Dustin Nguyen
Review by Ken Godberson III
“DRILLER A KILLER! A REAL KILLER!”
Those words are exclaimed by my favorite character in this book in a wonderful double-page spread from Dustin Nguyen. The depiction of motion and carnage in this robot arena battle is a sight to behold. But it’s not the only sights, as the team operates two plots at once: Tim-21 and the rest making their way to the homeworld of the Robot resistance and Andy searching for Tim. And aside from the aforementioned “Driller Being Amazing” scene, we have a really interesting scene between Tim-21 and his -for lack of better term- “brother” Tim-22. It discusses some interesting topics, like are their favorite colors really their favorite colors or just because it was something that they were programed to be and drawing a similarity to humans disregarding Robots like they do their own elderly. But that scene isn’t all doom and introspective, and it shows that even though Tim-22 is a bit more serious, he still has some childlike qualities to him.
To return back to Nguyen’s art, it really has been a dissonance with me that he’s the same artist as “Li’l Gotham”. Not in a bad way, shows a great deal of range with this being a more serious work. Having said that, the man has such a great way with faces. Even with faces like the two Tims have to be applauded because, yeah, they have the same face but it’s the subtleties in the expressions that helps define both characters.
Final Verdict: 7.7- A good issue that keeps to it’s pacing as it heads to the arc finale.
Narcopolis: Continuum #1
Written by Scott Duvall
Illustrated by Ralf Singh
Reviewed by Brian Salvatore
I am a sucker for a time travel story – always have been – and so “Narcopolis: Continuum” seemed right up my alley. I didn’t see Narcopolis, the film from which the story originates, and the comic does an admirable job to catch the reader up on the broad strokes. Unfortunately, so much time is spent on filling in backstory and expository dialogue that what is left outside of that tool feels slight. To cap that off, I’m still not totally sure how the two pieces of the story fit together.
Paradoxes, fathers and sons – all of this is boiler-plate time travel material, and Duvall does his best to give an emotional anchor to the story, in the form of the father/son bond of the Grieves family. Sadly, the flashback scene of Ben and Frank is the only scene in the issue that truly feels real; everything else feels like a rushed version of the scene the storytellers want to tell.
Part of that is the problem with first issues and tie-in series in general, but part of that must also fall to Singh’s artwork, which is inconsistent in its face work and staid in many points. Some of the more off the wall concepts (like swimming in an anti-gravity chamber) aren’t played up enough, and so everything sort of sinks into this sterile environment that doesn’t allow too much excitement. This is a time travel comic where people shoot drugs into their eyes, and yet, it was a dull read. While some of that can be chalked up to, at times, clunky exposition, the fact of the matter is that this is a visual medium, and unless a story can impress with its images, its dead in the water.
Final Verdict: 5.2 – A fun concept trapped in an unremarkable package.
Spirit Leaves #1
Written and Illustrated by Rossi Gifford
Reviewed by Matthew Garcia
With a strong aesthetic style and gorgeous presentation, Scottish artist Rossi Gifford presents “Spirit Leaves” though Chapterhouse Books. A high fantasy odyssey with anthropomorphic characters, Gifford’s story is about a young deer girl named Freya who sets out into the woods to confront a monster terrorizing her home. There she runs into a young wolf boy also on the same quest and they team up. Obviously.
The books is filled with gorgeous backgrounds and scenery. The forest itself feels like a thriving and intriguing ecosystem. Gifford’s character designs are animated and kinetic and while she never reaches like “Thunder Paw” levels of cleverness, she gets some fun gags with the costuming. Her pages are marvelously designed and have this flowing choreography. There aren’t really any panel borders to speak of, but it only helps to keep the flow and energy of the story intact. It’s a dance in comic book form.
This carries over to character movement a few times too. There’s a scene where the wolf boy goes on a tirade about how the deer girl janked up his trap to catch the beast and his gestures are fantastic.
But where the art succeeds, the actual writing is underwhelming. The story uses a lot of classic conventions, but doesn’t really do much with them? Granted, this is only the first issue and we don’t know where Gifford is planning to take it. The lettering fails to help matters either. Gifford breaks up dialogue into different speech bubbles and her choice of the splits are jarring and interruptive. There were times I had to practically write out what the characters were saying in one big paragraph before I could figure out what information Gifford was trying to convey. For the most part, it feels like she stuck balloons and dialogue where she could fit them rather than somewhere with real planning, most glaringly evident when the deer girl meets the wolf boy and the wolf boy’s rant runs in a different direction than the rest of his dialogue.
So much was put into these visuals that these trip-ups in the writing undermine a lot of the page, if not the whole book.
Final Verdict: 6.5 – You could get lost in the wonderful images Gifford delivers; but you could also get lost trying to figure out what’s going on.
Squadron Supreme #3
Written by James Robinson
Illustrated by Leonard Kirk
Reviewed by Stephenson Ardern-Sodje
We’re only three issues into “Squadron Supreme”, but already it feels as though there’s some serious catching up to be done. The self-styled saviours of this new Earth have already destroyed Atlantis and executed its king for his perceived multiversal war crimes, and their increasingly questionable mass-scale vigilantism has drawn them into a showdown with Jim Hammond (the original Human Torch, true believers!) and Old Man Cap’s Unity Squad. Issue #3 gives us yet another super-powered brawl and sends our ‘heroes’ spiralling off in yet another unexpected direction.
Robinson’s team of multiversally displaced powerhouses may not be particularly well known, but they’re each as vibrant as any major player in the Marvel universe right now. This issue sees the characters each spending time alone on this new Earth, and it’s clear that they each have their own radically different opinions on their new home and agendas moving forward. Their origins/positions in the world get hinted at in these quiet moments, but for the most part each member of the team is still largely an enigma. Some of Robinson’s dialogue in this issue comes off a little hammy, but it’s more a stylistic decision that feels like a nod to the golden and silver era characters that many of the Squadron are based on than any real criticism. My only criticism about this book is that, at the pace that Robinson is pulling us along, we’re still not getting much of a chance to delve deeper into the motivations behind his characters, fleshing them out beyond their initial incarnations.
Kirk’s art is strong, dynamic, and really gets a chance to explode in this issue, with an all-out brawl that shows a host of classic and newer heroes come to blows with a multitude of well-represented powers. One particularly entertaining visual exchange comes in the form of Quicksilver and Blur, as our two resident speedsters embark on a seconds long, round-the-world-fist-fight. Kirk manages to sprint through this sequence with a speed that all but flies off the page.There are a couple of points in this issue where Kirk’s panelling choices feel a little confusing, especially when coupled with some of the more dialogue-heavy moments of Robinson’s script, but Kirk more than redeems himself with his sumptuous splash panels, displaying so much colourful carnage that they read like the Marvel-verse’s version of renaissance art.Continued below
This book feels like it has a lot more ground to cover in comparison to the majority of Marvel’s stable. Relatively unknown characters finding a place in this new world could’ve been enough, but Robinson’s frenetic first three issues have barely given his team room to breathe, flinging them straight from one battle to the next. With Thundra’s reappearance and yet another twist thrown in for this fearsome new team, I still have no idea where this book is heading. But Robinson’s classical characterisation and Kirk’s kinetic art style are definitely two good reasons to take a punt on a book that might not have been at the top of your pull list.
Final Verdict: 6.9 – An interesting exploration into the depth and breadth of the Marvel Universe. Robinson and Kirk have covered more in three issues than a lot of creators manage in a year.
The Violent #2
Written by Ed Brisson
Illustrated by Adam Gorham
Reviewed by Michelle White
The first issue of “The Violent” impressed us with its realistic portrayal of poverty and, yes, violence in the city of Vancouver. With this second issue, those coming back for more will find it’s only getting darker.
Recently out of prison, Mason’s new, straight-and-narrow life has been vitally compromised by influences from his past. But as this story moves forward, it’s clear “The Violent” has something a lot of gritty tales these days seem to forget: momentum. Matters were already dire at the end of the first issue, but every plot point brought up in this one raises the stakes that much higher, and digs our hero that much deeper in trouble.
Of course, none of this would have any effect if we didn’t care about the guy, and the solid character work of the first issue made sure that we do. Here, that thread is spun out a little farther, with Mason’s violent/desperate side and caring/fatherly side coming across with equal intensity.
In getting these nuances across, Adam Gorham’s art is as rough and tortured as you like, all without obscuring the action. A fistfight halfway through is particularly well done, parsing out each punch. The only thing I can fault the art on is that it’s conventional, getting all the violence and energy across without ever really being aesthetically pleasing. Michael Garland’s colours sing a similar tune, never quite cohering into a scheme that’s exciting in its own right.
Finally, this Montrealer has to point out how gratifying it is to see an in-depth portrayal of a Canadian city in a comic, especially when it’s as hard-hitting as this. It’s too easy to fall into the metanarrative of Canada being a country with little poverty, and a depiction this unforgiving will definitely cure you of that thought pattern.
All told, if you were into the first issue, this one won’t disappoint. Ed Brisson and Adam Gorham are deftly spinning out tough break after tough break, and it’s hard to look away.
Final Verdict: 7.5 – Another bitter swig of Vancouver noir.