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.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #3
Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Illustrated by Robert Hack
Reviewed by Keith Dooley
You are cordially invited to Sabrina’s baptism in “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” #3. Witch baptisms are special indeed, where the dark Lord Satan himself welcomes witches fully into the fold. Aguirre-Sacasa melds horror with humor in subtle ways and shows how a young girl growing up in the 1960s faces the same teenage angst and issues that teens of our era still face today. Sabrina must choose between being mortal and growing old with a boy that maybe, just maybe, could be the one or living forever as a witch with many wonders before her to last many lifetimes. Aguirre-Sacasa has fun with depicting the struggle of the soon-to-be-sweet-sixteen Sabrina (whose birthday just happens to fall on Halloween and on a blood-moon!) and the machinations of the deliciously evil Madam Satan.
Artist Robert Hack puts the “chilling” in the book’s title and his art is what makes “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” such a horrific book. Hack not only draws realistic evil goings-on as well as school time drama, but he colors the book in a way that is unsettling. There is an aura of unease and the presence of evil that haunts and envelops every page of this issue through both Hack’s art and his color palette. The red dress of a Madam Satan in disguise as a teacher drips like blood off her frame, while the blonde hair of Sabrina’s beau elicits a feeling of nostalgia and years-gone-by.
“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” #3 is proof that Aguirre-Sacasa and Hack are putting great care and passion in the creation of this story. With horror, humor, and characters with depth and wit, this is one of the best books on the shelves. The chilling and the macabre are in these storytellers’ blood. Grab this issue and hunt for the other ones so you, too, can be baptized with Sabrina into this world of horrors.
Final Verdict: 9.2 – Don’t tempt Satan. Get this book.
Conan The Avenger #14
Written by Fred Van Lente
Illustrated by Guiu Vilanova
Reviewed by Matt Dodge
Despite the title, Conan still hasn’t teamed up with a green monster, an archer, or an alcoholic in a shiny suit. Instead, the barbarian’s latest adventure finds him struggling through the searing hot desert with a freed slave named Natala, until they wonder into the mysterious city of Xuthal. While there seems to be abundant food and water for hundreds, the city appears to have been abandoned. Looks can be deceiving, of course, and even Crom himself won’t be able to save Conan from pages and pages of exposition.
Fred Van Lente has done an admirable job over the past year adapting and creating from the wordy source material from Robert E. Howard to make a series of entertaining adventures for the muscle-bound warrior. When dealing with an imaginary world as vast as Conan’s in the Hyborian Age, every story reaches a point where they just need to do an exposition dump. Most of the issue is taken up by Conan and Natala learning about the city, where the people grew so technological advance that they grew bored and listless, and are now preyed upon by supernatural forces in the shadows. If you’re a fantasy or history nerd, like me, you’re likely to find this backstory to be pretty interesting, despite the fact that it does little for plot or character development.
Van Lente has previously done a good job mixing the dialogue between the characters with third-person narration, often from the Howard stories, and making it all work together. This issue hits a bit of a rough batch, and makes the jarring leap from entirely first-person flashbacks to third-person narration two-thirds of the way through. It’s indicative of the skewed pacing of this installment, where all the action and multiple decapitations are crammed into the final six pages.Continued below
This is only the second issue of “Conan the Avenger” for artist Guiu Vilanova, but he already feels at home in the violent and trashy world of the barbarian. All his scenes are detailed, and even as the pages of exposition reach into the double digits, at least they don’t look boring. The flashbacks shot of the city in its prime are particularly arresting and majestic. He does make a couple of questionable artistic decisions, including having every inhabitant of the city look basically identical. The frenetic pace of the action-climax gets just a little too quick at certain points and becomes hard to follow.
Final Verdict: 6.5 – A fun read if you’re a fan of Conan or sword-and-sorcery style fantasy, but unfamiliar readers would do better to wait for the trade collection.
Curb Stomp #4
Written by Ryan Ferrier
Illustrated by Devaki Neogi
Reviewed by Alice W. Castle
When I reviewed the second issue of “Curb Stomp”, things were beginning to get heated for girl gang, The Fever, as they were being forced to defend their turf from the machinations of of a rival gang leader and the mayor gunning for their territory. In the four issue, all hell has broken loose and it’s all out war for Old Beach as a riot breaks out. And, because of spoilers, that’s all I can tell you about the plot of this issue. Except this: if you didn’t pick up this series, you may have just missed out on one of the most underrated series of the year.
Ryan Ferrier, Devaki Neogi and colourist Jeremy Lawson have taken the neon-infused visual aesthetic of 80s exploitation movies and blended it with The Warriors and the comic book aesthetic of a homemade zine to make one of the most punk comics of the year. The fact that this comic didn’t come with a variant cover of studded leather is a crime as the story tells the tale of a family, not just of women in a girl gang defending their home, but of a community who have been beaten down and trodden on and who have finally had enough and have a chance to fight back. With political tensions all over the world leading to scenes of protests and riots, seeing a story frame those scenes with a story of community and family in the face of adversity is the most punk thing.
Final Verdict: 8.6 – The most punk comic you’ll read all year.
Written by Matt Kindt
Illustrated by Trevor Hairsine
Reviewed by Ken Godberson III
In “Divinity” #4, Kindt answers the question: What is the one thing someone would want after being away from home for decades? It’s such a simple answer: Family. But it is never so simple, and the years always take their toll. It is a story as much about desire as it is about loss and acceptance of that loss. The pain that Abram feels in this issue, not to forget mentioning where he is at the end of this story, really convey a man alone in the world, but do it in a way a thousand times more effective than a thousand snapped necks.
Kindt also goes the extra mile and shows that just because Unity is the world’s first super-team, doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re, in the simplest terms, good all the time. And it works’ this isn’t a world like Marvel or DC, with much firmer notions of good and evil. That isn’t also to say that the Valiant Universe doesn’t have good and evil; Faith and Archer are pure adorbs that should never be harmed and I’m pretty sure you can’t go around calling yourself “Master Darque” and think to work in an office cubicle. But this is a gray world, and it seems to be getting harder and harder to see where the line is drawn.
I will admit, when I first saw his work, I was lukewarm on Trevor Hairsine’s pencils, but its look, coupled with Ryan Winn on inks and David Baron on colors, has improved for me over time. They have been capable of showing a wide variety of emotion, from Abram’s desperation to see his family again, to the rage of his followers, to the stern pragmatism Neville Alcott shows at the end of this issue. They also show the ability to transition between specific character’s ages which I thought was very cool as well.Continued below
While this issue really isn’t really about this battle with Unity as much as it is Abram’s emotional journey, the art team does show a battle, but one that wasn’t quite expected. The team is definitely one to show emotion and they are quite capable of conveying emotion as Unity has to take down Divinity’s followers.
When I look at all of Kindt’s work at Valiant, he really likes Ninjak. And that’s good; I mean it would be very awkward if he, the writer of Ninjak’s solo series, didn’t. It just seems, when not looking at the issue in a vacuum, that it’s Ninjak that always seems to have the answer to the problems Unity finds itself in, sometimes to the detriment of other characters. Okay, especially to the Eternal Warrior. I admit, I was also kind of confused as to how Livewire was able to create projections of Abram’s family. Yeah, she’s a technopath, but I didn’t think her powers to such a degree. It is really unclear to me, almost feeling like they just needed something to distract Divinity. Also in the flaws, I find it kind of hilarious that G.A.T.E. seems to have only one solution for super-powered people that it can’t control.
Final Verdict: 8.3 Flaws aside, “Divinity” was one fascinating, weird little book that introduced an all-new character to the Valiant Universe. As the ending shows, this isn’t the end to Abram’s journey and looking forward to his next appearances.
“Sons Of The Devil” #1
Written by Brian Buccellato
Illustrated by Tony Infante
Reviewed by Stephenson Ardern-Sodje
For a creator, issue one of a comic book can often be a trickier beast to tame than any of the (hopefully) many issues that follow. But Buccellato seems to have a pretty solid handle on what he needs to do straight out of the gate, and “Sons of the Devil” definitely feels like its on the right track, even if it feels like quite a familiar train.
In terms of story, Buccellato’s concept is a pretty strong concoction, but it falls slightly short of feeling like anything too groundbreaking. His protagonist, Travis Crowe, was orphaned at birth in mysterious circumstances and has spent his life struggling to fit in and stay out of trouble. Fast forward to present day and a series of unusual events lead Travis, now a gruff loner with a slightly unhealthy distrust of authority, to a run in with the law, just as his adoptive brother, a private investigator, discovers an enigmatic clue that might just set Travis on the path to finding out who his parents were.
Buccaellato’s pacing and scripting is solid, and his characters are believable and likeable, if a little expositional at times. The plot feels a little paint-by-numbers, but Buccellato’s execution is fast-paced and interesting enough to forgive any slight cliches that spring forth on this book’s maiden voyage.
But it’s Infante’s art that gives this book a sense of character and really pulls you in. Infante’s expressive faces, overwrought with heavy dark linework that gives an almost manga-like feeling to the many conversational close-up panels throughout this issue really bring Buccalleto’s characters to life. His execution of suburban America is both believably twee and, at times, subtly dark, hinting at a far less friendly side to the small-town folk. What’s more, he has a habit of pulling in closer on the faces of his characters during confrontation, rather than using more distant panels that focus on physicality. The result is a slightly claustrophobic comic in which you see the immediate consequences of violence and anger in the expressions of the victims.
Overall, this first issue does more than enough to pique my interest and justify picking it up again next month. It’s lively and sprints along at a solid pace, setting up the foundation for a series that could still go in a lot of different directions. While it may not be reinventing the thriller genre it’s definitely a welcome addition to its ranks.
Final Verdict: 6.9 – A slightly homogeneous, but very readable, first outing for a mystery series that has set itself up with plenty of room to grow.Continued below
Written by Jim Zub
Illustrated by Steve Cummings, Tamra Bonvillain
Reviewed by Jess Camacho
At only eight issues, “Wayward” has proven itself to be one of the most unique stories in comics today. From the setting to the art, this is a fresh young adult story with a wide appeal. After two issues of being with Ayane and a new character, Emi, we’re finally caught up with Rori and Shirai. The two of them are alive (as we saw last issue) but they aren’t home quite yet. Shirai is hurt badly and the old woman’s house they end up at proves to be a place they can recover in. The old woman’s name is quite interesting and the reveals about Ayane’s powers are even more interesting, illustrating that writer Jim Zub has a lot of tricks up his sleeve when it comes to developing these characters.
I’m glad we got back to Rori’s story because as much as I like the supporting cast, she is the real draw for me. Rori has been well developed up to this point but there’s still a ways to go. She’s still very much learning about her powers and this new world she exists in, so to lose her for two issues was tough. Helping Shirai recover was a great way to show how much she’s learned in this very short. However, I do think the loss of her mother needs to be dealt with because she’s young and it should affect her deeply. She’s still in crisis mode so we don’t get a ton of that. The young adult tone of “Wayward” has been one of the best things about the series because as an adult reader, there’s quite a lot to relate to. Zub has really tapped into that through this magical tale and I’d like to see even more of that when it comes to Rori. Emi and Ayane get less panel time but what they get is very good. They’re trying to plan their next steps but also dealing with their own personal struggles in a way that perfectly reflects their age and culture.
Steve Cummings is doing a fine job on “Wayward” and I’ve enjoyed just about everything he’s done on the series so far. This issue he gets to display the kids’ powers quite a bit. He’s got very distinctive designs for each one and for Rori and Ayane, what they do comes off very spiritual. It’s because of the eyes and this only works because of Tamra Bonvillain’s excellent coloring. This is such a bright and vibrant book and when the power are used, there’s something luminous about the imagery. The highlight of this issue artistically is the big spread featuring the old woman and her story. The breakdown of the panels allows for a lot to be told in this spread and each panel is crafted excellently almost telling a mini story in each one.
Final Verdict:: 8.3 – “Wayward” #8 is a great issue that gives us even more answers and leaves you wanting the next issue immediately.