Wrapping Wednesday: Micro Reviews for the Week of 5/28/14

By | May 30th, 2014
Posted in Reviews | 2 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.

Deadly Class #5
Written by Rick Remender
Illustrated by Wes Craig
Reviewed by David Harper

This issue is complete and utter madness, in all of the best ways.

As Marcus continues down the path of one really bad trip – in two ways – Rick Remender continues to build the characters and effortlessly convey the deep paranoia and instinctual living going on in Marcus’ brain, and it leads to one hell of an exciting and action packed issue. It reminds me of the Vegas section of “Go”, where things continue to fall apart but in a strangely aspirational way, and a lot of that is because the way that Wes Craig depicts everything makes it feel like Marcus – for all of his struggles and flaws – keeps falling forward into a rough semblance of relative success (until the end).

The issue is a gorgeous blur, with Craig routinely playing with artistic conventions, deconstructing pages and manipulating panels to play into the effects of Marcus’ currently drug addled state. Colorist Lee Loughridge is absolutely on point here, making each moment resonate all the more with his bold palette and flair for accentuating Craig’s art in all the best ways. There are some of the most absolutely astounding sequentials I’ve seen in 2014 within the pages of this issue, and if Remender’s work on this issue is the steak, than Craig and Loughridge are another delicious steak right next to it with a double serving of sizzle for everyone. This is one of the best two or three looking comics on the stands right now.

Tying the whole thing together is Remender’s write-up in the letters column, sharing the story behind this issue and how that – even if you think this is a Hunter S. Thompson homage – even some of the most troubling stories you can imagine might have origins grounded a lot closer to home than you realize. “Deadly Class” continues to be the total package, and with inventive, thrilling art blended with a kinetic, mad story, issue #5 might be the best issue yet.

Final Verdict: 9.5 – this is a book that is getting better with each issue

Fantastic Four #5
Written by James Robinson
Illustrated by Leonard Kirk and more
Reviewed by Brian Salvatore

The trick that James Robinson pulls off consistently, and does so in spades on his “Fantastic Four” work, is to take an old idea and do it so masterfully, and with just a slight twist, that it all appears new. As the first page even admits, superheroes have been put on trial before, but this issue doesn’t feel quite like those past trials. From jump street, one thing is made quite clear: the Fantastic Four are going to lose this one.

As masterfully as Robinson’s script is, and as well as Leonard Kirk manages to shuck indelible expressions from people sitting in a court room, the real stars of the issue are the guest artists who provide flashbacks and diversions, who run from the great to the fucking incredible: Mike Allred, Jim Starlin, Chris Samnee, Phil Jiminez, Dean Haspiel, and more, all take their shots, and all perfectly evoke the time period that they are covering. It is hard to not simply focus on personal favorites, but Haspiel and Allred, in particular do such exceptional work that they overshadow Kirk, which is something very difficult to do, because Kirk is absolutely killing it on this book.

The issue has two really nice epilogues, one featuring Val and Doom, and the other focusing on the Future Foundation kids. Both provide something totally new for these characters, and put the reader in some real emotional peril, coming from a natural place of concern: the safety of children. As wonderful as the first 3/4 of the book was, the remaining 1/4 was so interesting that I would almost rather see the Richards/Storm clan take a backseat for a bit and follow these tendrils for a bit. I doubt that will happen, but how rare is it that a single book (albeit an oversized [and overpriced] one) has three emotionally and artistically satisfying paths to take?

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Final Verdict: 9.0 – Buy

The Flash #31
Written by Robert Venditti and Van Jensen
Illustrated by Brett Booth
Reviewed by Brian Salvatore

DC is a company a bit obsessed with time travel right now, and “The Flash” is no different. This issue takes place in two time periods – the modern day and 16 years in the future. The modern day stuff is notable for a few reasons, mainly because Barry is wearing a Blue Lanterns shirt. The future stuff, on the other hand, is really, really fun. The story line has a Flash from 20 years in the future (the identity of which I won’t spoil here, in case we’ve got a tradewaiter in our midst), who in this issue travels 4 years into the past to right a missed opportunity.

We also get a brief glimpse at Wally West, who is presented as your typical petulant teenager, and we get another look at the many loves of Barry Allen situation brewing. This is the third issue (counting the Annual) of this creative team’s run on the book, and while it isn’t instantly grabbing, there are some really interesting ideas present. Booth’s art, usually something that is undoubtedly rooted in the 90s, feels slightly more contemporary here, and complements the book’s kinetic energy decently. Personally, Booth’s style doesn’t do too much for me, but this is the best it has looked in the New 52, and hints at some potential growth in his work.

Final Verdict: 6.0 – Browse

Guardians of the Galaxy #15
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Illustrated by Nick Bradshaw and Cameron Stewart
Reviewed by Zach Wilkerson

First off, big elephant in the room, Carol Danvers doesn’t actually appear in this issue. While her last page appearance in issue #14 and featured appearance on this issue’s cover would suggest otherwise, this issue instead focuses on the respective plight of each member of the Guardians. As such, the issue feels a little formulaic, as each member is faced with a seemingly inescapable dilemma at the hands of his or her alien captors. Interestingly, the most interesting segment belongs to Venom, the newest member of the Guardians, who continues his fish-out-of-water experience on Knowhere, with somewhat humorous results. The issue is gorgeously drawn by Nick Bradshaw, who delivers a number of noteworthy pages. The Gamora and Groot segments stand out as extremely impressive visually, along with the previously mentioned Venom segment. Bradshaw’s take on the Agent Venom character feels a bit different from more recent renditions, but works extremely well. Cameron Stewart joins in for a two page assist, depicting Peter Quill’s continued struggle against his father, leaving the book on an action-packed cliffhanger. It’s not the series’ best issue, but it services the ongoing story well enough to warrant a look.

Final Verdict: 7.0 – Browse

Infinite Crisis: Fight for the Multiverse #2
Written by Dan Abnett
Illustrated by Szymon Kudranski
Review by Vince J Ostrowski

Dan Abnett takes on the DC Multiverse in the new “Infinite Crisis” digital comic, which could spawn some magnificent stories down the road, but don’t do much to excite in the opening issues. For $0.99, it’s easier to weather an extremely slow setup, but it seems unnecessary for a book that has been given a free pass to dozens of worlds. Issue #2 sees the Batman of Earth Prime traipsing around Gotham City doing his grim investigative thing, because of course the main canon Batman is going to be a major focus of another title. Just before the end of the issue, Abnett hooks the reader in with the first visit in earnest to one of the various DC Earths – a true fan-favorite, Batman-related world. Szymon Kudranski certainly knows his way around Gotham by now, and the digital comic format does his particular brand of creepy, cinematic art some favors. Unfortunately, this is a common case of “too-little, too-late” and spends too much time being a wholly conventional Batman story.

Final Verdict: 5.3 – Browse

Iron Patriot #3
Written by Ales Kot
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Illustrated by Gerry Brown
Reviewed by James Johnston

“Iron Patriot” has been a really great title so far but one that’s shrouded in its fair share of mystery. The assault on James Rhodes by an agency that may or may not be the federal government has been grueling, as brutal for readers as it’s been for the Rhodes family itself. With #3, we’re finally allowed a glimpse into the motivation behind the agency’s plans and with it, a greater sense of what Kot and Brown are attempting to do with Rhode as a character. For a long time he’s been used by others (by Tony Stark as Iron Man, the government as War Machine) and now that he’s trying to strike out on his own the world is fighting to put him back into his place. What’s interesting to note is how even though Iron Patriot is the title of the book, he and the armor spend very little screen time in this issue. Instead, much of the focus lies to James’s father and his niece, Lila, who readily takes the spotlight. As does Brown’s art which carries a strange gritty surreal quality with it ranging from the intense fights between Rhodes and his nemesis to the mournful loneliness of a girl who’s having everything taken from her. Combined with Jim Charlampidis’s colors (who helps with the book’s crazy lighting effects), “Iron Patroit” #3 continues to be one of Marvel’s distinctly visceral books and a redefining of the character of James Rhodes.

Final Verdict: 8.3 – Buy!

Red Lanterns #31
Written by Charles Soule
Illustrated by Alessandro Vitti and Jim Calafiore
Reviewed by Zach Wilkerson

In what can only be described as a miracle, Charles Soule, Alessandro Vitti and Jim Califore have managed to turn “Red Lanterns” from a one-dimensional book with little purpose, into a fun, complex read that stands tall as one of the best Lantern books on the stands. This issue marks the conclusion of “Judgement Day,” a story centered on a powerful new Red Lantern, one which Guy and Atrocitus are racing to lay claim to. This new lantern, the Judge, is both well written and wonderfully designed, a worthy addition to the book. Supergirl, another recent addition to the Red Lanterns, continues to play a larger role than the gimmicky costume change would suggest. The mentor-mentee relationship developing between her and Guy is a lot of fun, a dynamic that will make her inevitable return to normal feel like a real loss. Soule continues to develop the Red Lanterns in new and interesting ways, giving the rage-wielders a more mystical bent than their more scientific emerald kin. The distinction helps to further cement the concept as a standalone entity, one that doesn’t require the Green Lanterns as a crutch. The tag team of Vitti and Calafiore does an exceptional job on art, especially in the bombastic sequences involving Supergirl and a giant tank filled with magic space blood (yeah, you read that right). Those who had previously written of “Red Lanterns” as a grim relic of “90’s” story-telling should consider taking another look, you might be surprised what you find.

Final Verdict: 8.2 – Buy

Rover Red Charlie #6
Written by Garth Ennis
Illustrated by Michael DiPascale
Reviewed by Matthew Meylikhov

Opening up after a gap from last issue’s finale, “Rover Red Charlie” #6 is a comic teetering on the edge of madness that does not pull any punches. Nor should it; its innocent exterior only emphasizes the darkness that hides within, delivering a book that is in every literal way uncompromised. Ennis is certainly a talented and accomplished storyteller, but this is perhaps the best finale he’s had in years. Not only that, but Ennis and DiPascale have used this book and the pages within so effectively, so economically that every panel feels important; there’s no wasted space whatsoever and the end result is pretty spectacular. The book pulls on the obvious heart strings that you’d imagine would be tugged about a book starring talking animals, but it doesn’t inhibit Ennis and DiPascale from delivering an emotional finale to an incredible journey, and one that will certainly stay with you.

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“Rover Red Charlie” was a story about us as much as it was about dogs going across the country, and all the subtext comes to the forefront in a dark but riveting finale that’s quite gripping. You’d probably be surprised at how the “Homeward Bound meets Crossed” hits a startling amount of high notes. It’s undeniable that Avatar books have a certain reputation instilled upon them because of the company’s main gore-tastic output, but having said that, that a book like “Rover Red Charlie” could come from the company is nothing short of spectacular, and it will probably remain Avatar’s most critically underrated endeavor ever.

Final Verdict: 9.0 – Buy!

Secret Origins #2
Written by Ray Fawkes, Jeff Parker, and Scott Lobdell
Illustrated by Dustin Nguyen, Alvaro Martinez, and Paulo Siqueira
Review by Vince J Ostrowski

The second issue of the “Secret Origins” relaunch is even more of a head-scratcher than the first. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing in these stories that actively offends, but I’m not sure they could be more by-the-numbers if they tried. The opening story is a re-telling of the murdering of Bruce Wayne’s parents that resulted in the birth of Batman. There are two problems with the prospect of revisiting this origin as it plays out in this issue. For one, the death of Bruce’s parents has been revisited, ad nauseum, throughout the years. The New 52, through the Snyder and Tomasi titles, is no exception to this. It feels like this repackage Batman’s origin a handful of times a year. Secondly, it reveals the true purpose of this series in the first place: to fold in the elements of The New 52 that have now been deemed “essential” to the origins of the character. Key elements of Snyder’s “Batman” are dropped into the “origin”, serving as placeholders until the next writer comes on to expand or retcon elements of the story again. Because we’ve revisited the Snyder events as recently as “Batman Eternal”, the retelling of these bits seems just as redundant as the classic elements. I’ll never complain about seeing gorgeous Batman art from Dustin Nguyen any chance that I get, but the constant retelling of these origins are having a real numbing effect.

The middle Jeff Parker-penned “Aquaman” story fares the best, but manages to only eke out a bit of novel emotion from a story that’s been revisited a number of times over the course of Geoff Johns’ run with the character, whether it be in his solo title, “Brightest Day”, or “Forever Evil.” Finally, the Scott Lobdell “Starfire” story is harmless, but could again essentially be found in his “Red Hood and the Outlaws” run, with little significantly new mileage gained. If “Secret Origins” is meant to be “The New 52 for Dummies”, then fine, but it’s for a very specific type of comic book reader – one just dipping their toe in.

Final Verdict: 5.0 – Pass

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 30th Anniversary Special
Written and Illustrated by Various
Reviewed by Brian Salvatore

I’ve been a casual fan of the Turtles for almost as long as I can recall. At various points in their 30 year span, I’ve watched their cartoons and films, read their comics, and collected their toys, but I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert in any particular era of TMNT. For fans like me, this “30th Anniversary Special” is a nice primer on the various incarnations of the comics, from the original, street-level grit to the cartoon-inspired silliness to the more adventurous choices taken by the Image Comics revival, to the present day.

Each era is represented by a new story by the classic creative teams, each going back to their period of Turtle stories to give us a new one. This is a fun way to celebrate the past, as it gives fans of those particular eras a taste of the old goodness, and gives fans unaware of that particular run a chance to see if it is something they should go back and investigate. Of particular interest to me was the “Adventures” era, published by Archie, which hearkens back to the classic cartoons I grew up with. These were some of the first comics I remember collecting, and going back to those halcyon days was a ton of fun.

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But more interesting was the Image era, where major changes came ot the team – Donatello became a cyborg, Leo lost a hand, Raph became the Shredder, and Mike lost an eye. These may seem like arbitrary changes to make to the characters, but the book took place in the “Savage Dragon” universe, where time moves in real time, and a slightly more realistic version of the comic world is presented. So, it would make sense that these characters would have more real injuries and/or changes of opinion in that world.

Overall, for $7.99, you get five distinct eras represented, plus a few excellent pin-ups, and a real appreciation for just how diverse and fun a property the Turtles have been for their first 30 years. I can’t wait to see where they are 30 years from now.

Final Verdict: 9.5 – Buy!

//TAGS | Wrapping Wednesday

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