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 Grant Morrison
Illustrated by Frazer Irving
Reviewed by Keith Dooley
For those who have followed this epic story by writer Grant Morrison and artist Frazer Irving, the sixth and final issue of “Annihilator” is a breathtaking, mind blowing, and surprisingly moving conclusion. Issues of identity, time, and the meaning of life – and our actions we take on this world and in this universe – are explored and naturally left for us to decipher and embrace in our own personal way. The journey of Ray Spass, through ideas of creation and Morrison’s treatise on the power of fiction, beg to be reread in its entirety after “Annihilator” #6 is voraciously devoured.
Morrison has written a dense, yet never confusing, tale of an anti-hero that could be any one of us. According to “Annihilator,” the possibility of drowning in a well of intense sorrow and despair is always nearby. Through the power of their minds and perseverance, Ray Spass and the other characters (both real and beyond our plane of reality) must confront various aspects of themselves and their place in the universe. Morrison’s story is broad in scope and radical in its themes and presentation. He coaxes us to ask questions and his brilliant storytelling is without pretension. Instead, he ends “Annihilator” effectively with a horrific, magical, and at times funny take on existence.
Irving brings “Annihilator” #6, and the entire series, to horrific and ethereal life. When Nomax plays the keys of an intergalactic organ, the scene evokes a loudness and a majesty that is both frightening and awe-inducing. His colors also contribute to this scene and the entirety of the issue with their haunting darkness. When there are brighter colors, like the severe purple skies of Los Angeles, they appear ominous and heavy with anxiety. Irving’s use of perspective is, at times, chaotic and always innovative. Whether Nomax “leaps into the void” or his face drastically transforms into something both revolting and humorous, Irving creates art that bears just as much repeat views as Morrison’s script.
With “Annihilator” #6, Morrison and Irving have brought this masterpiece to a perfect conclusion. The swirling mixture of science fiction, horror, Hollywood, and existentialism that is “Annihilator” is something that will and must be read for the breadth of its themes and the craft of its execution.
Final Verdict: 10.0 – The conclusion to “Annihilator,” like the miniseries’ previous issues, is an example of the power and possibility of the comic book medium. Both words and art are flawlessly entwined and is an example of two storytellers working in harmonious unison.
Written by Cameron Stewart and Brendan Fletcher
Illustrated by Babs Tarr with Joel Gomez and Serge Lapointe
Reviewed by Matthew Garcia
Although her app was a disaster, her identity was stolen, her best friend moved away, and her public perception bounced all over the Richter scale, Barbara Gordon has finally started to settle into her Burnside digs. She’s making a new community and establishing a new group of friends to help her fight for justice. And now that they’re back, Stewart, Fletcher, and Tarr take the opportunity to revisit a classic Batgirl plot.
Because remember, James Gordon is running around as a police-sanctioned Batman, and the main emotional thrust of this issue is him telling Barbara about his new job, and the objective of shutting down the Bat-family.
Stewart, Fletcher, and Tarr return from hiatus with much more confidence and assurance in the material, the character, and where they want to take the character. Tarr’s work exists somewhere between the retro look of Darwyn Cooke and the loose, vibrant style of Cartoon Network, and it’s consistently provides plenty of exciting images, expressions, and action poses. Stewart and Fletcher keep their script moving, not wanting to waste any page space. This issue is establishing a lot and so if it doesn’t move forward or feature more of the colorful background cast as previous chapters, it seems it’s so this creative team can get us prepared for the next couple setpieces. It’s nice to see this book return and it’ll be interesting to see how this team plays out the Batgirl vs Jim Gordon story.Continued below
Final Verdict: 7.8 – You can feel this team working better together and it helps make this an even stronger title.
The Fade Out #7
Written by Ed Brubaker
Illustrated by Sean Phillips
Reviewed by Matt Dodge
Considering that “The Fade Out” is set in sunny Los Angeles, it has been one dark and dreary series throughout the first six issues. The latest installment finds miserable screenwriter Charlie Parish looking extremely out of place on a beautiful beach in Malibu. He has finally gotten away from the depressing black hole of Hollywood for a weekend with a new starlet, but that’s not far enough to escape his perpetual malaise.
Ed Brubaker lures readers in by setting up what looks like a pretty sweet vacation for Charlie and Maya, but the interior monologue he pens finds Charlie trapped in his spiral of guilt and shame. This is a series that focuses more on the characters than the initial mystery, and this issue is no exception to that. Charlie and Maya do get some more information out of each other, but it’s nothing the reader doesn’t know already. The big change happens when the pair return to Hollywood, and it takes about ten minutes for the real world to literally punch Charlie in the face. While at first it seems that Brubaker is just making life really dogpile onto Charlie, he quickly introduces a new character that is linked to the death of Valerie. The reader really learns nothing that is new, but Brubaker shows masterful skill in hooking the audience.
Sean Phillips and colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser use the beach scenes to really shake up the look of the series, and cast these characters in a different light. Breitweiser’s vibrant colours contrast with the furrowed lines and worried expressions that Phillips is sure to pencil on the characters’ faces. The tone of these scenes is so different from the rest of the series that it almost feels like a dream, and the ethereal quality of the heart really reflects that. When the characters return to Los Angeles, Phillips and Breitweiser have such a firm grasp on their artistic look of the city that the transition doesn’t look jarring or out of place.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – Another intriguing issue. Brubaker is much more concerned with exploring these characters than speeding through the mystery, and the world of the series actually feels deeper and more complex for it. Phillips and Breitweiser get to expand their artistic and color palate, and grow the look of the book while maintaining a consistent tone.
“Fight Club 2” #2
Written by Chuck Palahnuik
Illustrated by Cameron Stewart
Reviewed by Stephenson Ardern-Sodje
This book is kind of a weird one for me. Two issues in, high off waves of hype and nostalgia, I’m still not really sure what I make of it.
This issue opens with a fire and ends with a fight, the two dramatic instances bookending the kind of bleary-eyed bureaucracy that Palahnuik lampoons so well in his novel. In terms of story, it’s really a case of something and nothing as far as this issue goes. I feel like this is going to be a book that reads infinitely better as a trade than it does in singles as it relies on the same sort of slow burning animosity and unrest that characterised Fight Club the movie, but require more than 20-something pages to offer up a pay off.
Palahnuik’s a prolific writer but this is the first time he’s attempted to put something out in comic-book form. He’d definitely producing something that feels like a pretty solid comic but his reservation from over-narrating, while necessary given the format, does seem to form a kind of disconnect as far as “Fight Club 2” and its predecessor are concerned. The characteristically chatty protagonist from the book and movie feels a little less of a driving force in this book, instead operating a little more obviously as Tyler’s pawn.
That being said, Palahniuk and Stewart do utilise visual time-jumps in this issue really solidly, swinging through a series of events that feel purposefully chronally dislocated. There’s a lot of visually interesting mundaneness in this issue, and Stewart utilises a lot of uniformity in his panel layout which gets a bit repetitive, but does means that anomalous instances, when they occur, pack a surprising punch. This distinctive colour palette is almost entirely neutral – lots of beige, grey, and puce – so that flashes of more vivid colours, along with stark black and whites, are also pretty arresting when you finally stumble across them.Continued below
Given the legacy Fight Club left, this book was always going to be held to a higher standard, and honestly, I think the creative team are doing a pretty solid job of putting out an interesting long-form story. It may feel a little less dynamic than your average monthly, but perhaps it’s because Palahnuik is focussed enough on the long story that he’s not looking to use cheap narrative hooks to pull the audience back in. I’m confident that, although it hasn’t had the most explosive start, this is still very much a book to watch.
Final Verdict: 6.8 – A book for hopeless Romantics and aspiring Nihilists everywhere. Maybe just not until it’s collected.
Gotham by Midnight #6
Written by Ray Fawkes
Illustrated by Juan Ferreyra
Reviewed by Brian Salvatore
This issue very much functions as a ‘time to catch up new readers’ issue, which makes sense for where in the publishing year the book falls. Because of that, there is a little too much expository dialogue, letting people know that Jim Corrigan is the Spectre, but never showing us what that really means. The creative team obviously wants to save the Spectre for big moments, which I get, but I would argue that the first issue of a new, line-wide initiative is a good place to break out the big guns.
While the Spectre is overly explained, we get very little backstory for Sister Justine, the deceased team member whose funeral starts off the issue. This is where a bit of dialogue or an editor’s note would have been quite helpful, because to a new reader, they’re just at some nun’s funeral. For someone who has been on board since the beginning of the book, it is a much, much bigger deal.
Outside of nit-picking the information dissemination, this issue is a solid introduction to what makes “Gotham by Midnight” a unique book. The mix of detective work, supernatural elements, the threat of the Spectre, and the familiar Gotham city environs and characters makes for a fine edition to the Bat-line. The book’s horror credentials are bolstered by Ferreyra’s art; best known for “Colder” from Dark Horse, Ferreyra can really induce chills with his work, especially the skeletal ghost that is haunting this issue. His work is always meticulously composed, but retains a real sense of batshit insanity. The scene of Dr. Tarr in the church is so understated and beautiful, but with a haunting lilt of sadness that drapes on top.
His Gotham is rainy and gothic, and feels like its own entity while being clearly Gotham City; the Gotham presented here, visually, is closest to that of “Gotham Academy,” but while that is more playfully spooky, this is downtrodden and haunted. Fawkes does a fine job of motivating characters large and small here, showing both Gotham’s 1% as being equally vapid to other cities – despite Bruce Wayne bucking that trend – and the cops that are fed up with the jerk around they are getting from the elite.
Final Verdict: 7.6 – A strong return to form for “Gotham by Midnight” – next issue, when all the establishing is done, I am excited to see Fawkes and Ferreyra really shine.
Justice League 3001 #1
Written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis
Illustrated by Howard Porter
Reviewed by James Johnston
This is a comic about how much Superman wants to fuck Guy Gardner. If Brian didn’t tell me this needed to be a full micro-review, I would give it a 10/10.
“Justice League 3001” #1, the follow-up to the now cancelled “Justice League 3000,” revolves around a Justice League team that exists in the future for super convoluted reasons. They’re the greatest heroes the future has, which isn’t saying much. Superman comments on how nice Guy Gardner’s ass is (Guy is now a woman) and on the same page angrily tells some super villain he is “the greatest hero who ever lived.” 11/10.
If it sounds like I’m focusing too much on Superman’s taste in booty candy, I should make it clear that so much of “Justice League 3001” focuses on its characters sex lives. When the team isn’t sitting around and waiting for the paperwork to attack Starro (this happens), they’re talking dirty. Sinestro can’t attack the team because he’s getting busy and Fire convinces Ice to leave her self-isolation by talking about how bomb Etrigan’s dick is. 100/10.Continued below
Bear with me on this, but I think this is the type of comic DC needs. Even with the less grim books like “Batgirl”, there are few titles as completely irreverent as “Justice League 3001.” Though Porter plays it straight with the art, delivering the type of visually dynamic sci-fi world that would go great with another title, “Justice League 3001” feels like more of a comedic comic than anything else. Guy (Gal?) Gardner literally sits down in the Office of Fathomless Bureaucracy to get the paperwork to kill Starro. Although the art makes it seem like “Justice League 3001” takes itself seriously, everything else about the comic does not. Especially Guy Gardner’s ass.
Final Verdict: 7.6 – For better or for worse, this is DC’s “Nextwave.” I loved it, but I’m not sure I was supposed to love it for the reasons I did.
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Illustrated by Kagan McLeod
Reviewed by Alice W. Castle
So this village is made entirely of homophobic, straight man-trolls!
Say what you want about Chip Zdarsky, the man knows his audience.
“Kaptara” is this strange blend of science fiction, fantasy and off-the-wall absurdist humour that, three issues in, feels like its beginning to run out of steam. Last issue, we saw Zdarsky and McLeod infuse Keith’s character with some humanity as he regrets his decision to stay on Kaptara, but this issue goes back to focus on how many jokes-per-page can be told this issue. The crux is that our band of noble heroes (and Keith) have been captured by very unsubtle caricatures on internet commenters and must go Do A Thing in order to progress the story. The set-up is so thinly veiled that it almost feels like it’s a part of the joke, but if you’re in on the joke then the sad thing is that there’s not much here.
Mind you, that’s not to say that the book isn’t funny. Zdarsky’s brand of humour is incredibly prevalent this issue – in that nearly every joke is as obvious as the characters holding up signs saying “Joke” on them – and produced more than a few laughs from me this issue, but the writing sacrificed a lot of the humanity from the last issue for a more comedy-focused issue and I think it suffered for it. The balance of jokes and actual story shifted so that it feels like the story only exists to provide more jokes and it loses a lot of cohesion.
Still, if there’s one thing that can’t be taken away from “Kaptara,” it’s how pretty it is. Kagan McLeod’s artwork is simply tremendous, bringing the fantasy of the world to life in the most absurd and grotesque way possible. It’s almost the funniest joke the book has to offer, seeing a world of troll-like Glomps, the swollest Gandalf cosplayer you’ve ever seen and pug-faced cat tanks illustrated by an artist with an otherwise beautiful style. Not only that, but McLeod’s style of visual humour has a subtle touch to it that feels missing from the jokes in the dialogue.
To sum up, this issue is, unsurprisingly, more of the same from “Kaptara.” If you enjoyed the humour in the first two issues, you will likely love this as it’s an extra helping of it. If you’re like me and found the moments of touching humanity in the last issue to be glimpse of a much deeper talent in Zdarsky’s writing, you’ll likely be also disappointed that that was jettisoned in favour of pushing the lovechild of Gandalf and Vince McMahon.
Final Verdict: 7.3 – A pretty funny book that, at times, feel like it’s trying harder than it needs to do make you laugh at the expense of some depth in the story.
Loki Agent of Asgard #15
Written by Al Ewing
Illustrated by Lee Garbett
Reviewed by Ken Godberson III
There is this school of thought that continuity does nothing but hinder creator’s ability to make stories. It is a belief that I severely disagree with, and it is creators like Al Ewing and Lee Garbett that continue to prove me right. The God of Lies/Evil/Stories has had a grand and accessible character arc these last few years, but this issue takes a look at his current BFF, Verity Wells.Continued below
This issue shows what a colossal nightmare of a life one would have if they were able to see through every lie and deception. Ewing also ties in old Thor continuity as well as more recent events like the Superhuman Registration Act into Verity’s story with a skilled hand. It is no coincidence that Garbett and colorist Antonio Fabela go with a first person perspective during the majority of the flashbacks. It helps immerse us into and feel sympathy for Verity up until the last page.
But, as it says on the cover, this is a Last Days tie-in. That is the B-Plot. As the Final Incursion continues on Midgard, the Gods wage war to find a place after the End. This is where the creative team goes completely insane, involving such ideas as Odin with a minigun, giant horns, Kirby Crackle and sacrifice.
Lee Garbett and Antonio Fabela continue to do great work that feels like it has been often overlooked because of other Marvel darlings. Having been a fan of Garbett since his work on “Batgirl,” it has been a treat watching his craft evolve. Biggest change from then and now has been his own inking, which I believe brings a greater energy to his work, fitting for this Valhalla-Style end of days. Fabela, whose work I was unfamiliar with until this book, makes the battle in this book sing. One particular panel that stands out deals with that aforementioned “sacrifice” where Fabela’s “lighting” of the scene is pitch perfect.
Final Verdict: 8.5- As the end comes around them all, Ewing, Garbett and Fabela bring us down to the human scale one last time to great effect.
Sons of the Devil #2
Written By Brian Buccellato
Illustrated By Toni Infante
Reviewed By Kevin M. McConnell
There is a saying, which I will paraphrase here, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” The idea of the quote is that the best con artists can con themselves as much as anyone. That is the central theme for this issue of “Sons of the Devil.” And it does pack a wallop.
In one flashback page, Brian Buccellato and Toni Infante turn the creep factor up to 11 and then decide to blow the scoreboard out completely. The panels show a Manson like figure (real name still unknown at this point), who has command of his flock – they are hanging on his every word. However, he is quick to point out, they are here of their own free will and that it is society who brainwashes us into thinking we are in control.
As the panels continue, we see the ritual that is going on. The children are the future of this group, and the parents desperately want their children to be a part of it. All but one, however. She has a terrified look on her face and we start to find out that things are not at all what they seem. To drive this point home, the final page of the flashback shows a cop who is clearly looking for the terrified woman. What an opening salvo to start this issue.
More so then the actual dialogue, it is Infante’s art driving us. His scratchy pencils lend an almost grindhouse cinema type look to the book. It captures the past in such a way that you can tell this happened in 1985 (as noted on page one) and there is a true sense of danger. The facial expressions, even from a distance, are pitch perfect. This is an element of art I truly love and when done properly, it will enhance the story even more. Hard to believe this is Infante’s first book doing interior art work. This is a star making performance, which we are all lucky to partake in.
Unfortunately, things get a little dicey from here. The timeline shifts to the present, where Travis Crowe is dealing with the fallout from issue #1. Which is fully recapped over two pages. I am not sure what Buccellato was going for here, did he think we needed that again? I lost interest in Travis’ part in the story almost immediately. It is not a good idea to have your feature character go through a truly boring summation of events.Continued below
It is sad to see Infante waste his talents on boring exchanges that barely advance the plot forward. But he does the best with what he is given. Much like the flashbacks, Infante gives each page a cinematic feel. He is assisted by colorist Mado Pena, who helps with the grindhouse feel of the book. However, the stunning art just cannot save this massive let down of an issue. I am not sure how many issues this book is planned for, but if it is going to be on the short side, this was a wasted effort by both Buccellato and Infante. The final two pages, along with the first four, were the most exciting the book could be. My hope is Buccellato learns from his mistake and focuses more on the cult and its leader.
Final Verdict: 4.0 – there is a fantastic story to be told, but it simply isn’t. Good art can only take a book so far and especially when the artist is being wasted on summaries and retreds.
Southern Cross #4
Written by Becky Cloonan
Illustrated by Andy Belanger & Lee Loughridge
Reviewed by Jess Camacho
“Southern Cross” is quickly becoming a massive mystery that has changed the series into a compelling claustrophobic thriller. Braith, while searching for her sister, has ended up right in the middle of a smuggling ring and finding that not everyone can be trusted. The ship’s gravity stabilizer is quickly deteriorating leaving everyone sick and the science fiction aspects of this series get played up more. Becky Cloonan is one of the industry’s best artists but in this series, she’s really showing off her writing skills by building up a complicated world. This ship and this story has really evolved a lot over just four issues but the core of it remains Braith’s mission to find out all she can about her sister’s death. Cloonan has been able to balance this mystery with all the other things she’s trying to do and it doesn’t ever become too much to handle from a reader’s perspective.
While Cloonan has done a great job at building this world from a narrative standpoint, Andy Belanger has created the true fear and claustrophobia with his art. It could be easy to forget that this story is taking place in a finite space but he never lets you forget this with characters always running into each other, the fear in Braith’s eyes as she tries to find somewhere to go and the eavesdropping that helps fill Braith in on more details. Everything feels so small and because of this, you’ll notice all the finer details in Belanger’s pencils. The costumes’ zippers, belts and buttons are all detailed well and the walls don’t feel like typical backdrop. The scene where Braith gets sick from the gravity changes are hypnotic, psychedelic and some of the best work Belanger has done on the series so far. Lee Loughridge uses a lot of purples and blues to set the dark tone but it never feels muddled. There’s a certain amount of light that comes through and it almost feels symbolic of Braith’s quest.
Final Verdict: 8.3 – This series took a little while to get going but there’s something really special happening here in “Southern Cross”