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.
Alien Legion #4
Written by Chuck Dixon
Illustrated by Larry Stroman
Reviewed by Drew Bradley
I wanted to like this book. I really did. But after four issues now, it’s just not clicking. This is an action book set in an outer space warzone, but the stakes feel very, very small. The characters in danger have little characterization as a group, and zero as individuals. The main characters trying to protect them don’t expect to live through the mission, so there’s no sense of urgency. They’re supposed to be an elite team, but they enter every fight with a “may as well try to take some of them with us when we die” attitude. That makes their eventual victories seem undeserved, especially with a lack of casualties on their side.
The art is also unfitting for large space battles. Stroman’s panels are always close ups, often done to such extremes that characters have to break the panel borders to fit in the scene. Even the pages with ships flying at and around each other feel claustrophobic. Claustrophobic! In outer space! He also uses lots of large, narrow panels which don’t help. Speaking of not helping, Thomas Mason’s colors are bright and exciting, but do nothing to help the reader distinguish one location from another. On one page, a downward POV showing the floor has the same color variation as a side view showing the wall. At a glance, it’s not even clear there’s been a change in angles. Picking different palette for different ships would help a lot, especially given the wide variety of species, which makes it tough to tell if you’re looking at good guys or bad guys anyway.
Final Verdict: 5.0 – I wanted to like this book. I really did.
All-New X-Men #31
Written by Brian Michaek Bendis
Illustrated by Stuart Immonen
Reviewed by Matt Dodge
With appearances from Tony Stark, SHEILD, and other neighborhood heroes, this feels less like “All New X-Men” and more like the best issue of “A+X” ever made. This is definitely a set up issue, with several plot points peppered out throughout that point towards larger goings on in the whole Marvel Universe. Brian Michael Bendis scripts everything in such a way that it comes across as intriguing instead of confusing, but only just. To be fair, this is obviously just the first instalment and isn’t supposed to offer any grand conclusions at this point. The main X-story features the team tracking down a new mutant as she accidentally unleashes her powers, and Bendis hits all the right notes for the classic themes of the characters. There’s fear, from the girl and the crowd, and alienation that are hallmarks of the X-Men. Of course, while the bulk of the story feels like a perfectly enjoyable, if fairly traditional X-story, it’s the ending featuring another Bendis-penned hero is what will get readers hooked. It’s just one panel, but the implication for the Marvel Universes are profound and sure to get the pulses of fans racing.
Stuart Immonen continues his unbroken streak of high quality art in “All New X-Men”. One of the most impressive things about Immonen is the way he expertly handles such a large cast of characters, never taking shortcuts or sacrificing the details of one character for another. This issue features Avenger cameos, a new mutant, and a huge crowd of terrified people, and they are all rendered with the same amount of detail and precision. With so many people running around it would be easy for the issue to dissolve into a blur of movement and action, but Immonen grounds the story’s emotional center with his images of the new mutant girl discovering her powers. Her terror is obvious and downright heart wrenching at moments, and it is what really ties the sometimes disparate elements of this issue together.Continued below
Final Verdict:: 7.5
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Illustrated by Leinil Francis Yu
Reviewed by James Johnston
“Heroes fighting against each other because of misunderstandings” is probably my least favorite trope. Marvel (and everyone really) does this to an obnoxious degree to the point that it almost seems like a requisite. Then why am I suddenly loving Hickman’s “Avengers” run again? After spending however many issues skipping through time, Captain America comes to the end of his journey and meets The Last Avenger, finally realizing what he has to do in the wake of “Original Sin” and “New Avengers”. Leinil Francis Yu is in top form here when illustrating the wild futures from the past few issues and his endpoint for humanity is an astonishingly pretty visual. And from the (arguably) dystopian future, we’re brought back to the present in what is one of the most hyped-up final pages of the week.
Seriously, since its inception I’ve been trying to fall in love with Hickman’s Avengers titles the same way I did his Fantastic Four ones. And it’s been a little disappointing or just straight up confusing at points but it seems to be finally coming together. Hickman is crafting a ludicrously huge storyline in his two titles and they are finally beginning to boil over. This might be an overstatement but if “Time Runs Out” really does reset the Marvel Universe, I would be totally fine with this being the story that does the deed.
Final Verdict: 8.4 – One refreshing glass of hype juice.
Black Science #8
Written by Rick Remender
Illustrated by Matthew Scalera and Dean White
Reviewed by Drew Bradley
The great thing about a premise like “Black Science” is that Remender has to spend very little time on world building. The new cultures and locales are seen for such a small time, they can be bent to be whatever serves the story best at the time. This frees the team up to focus on characters, and they do so by the bucket load. I was ready to drop this series after the first arc, but issue six was so strong I decided to stick around. Then issue seven’s build up and climax actually had my stomach in a knot. This month continues that trend with a close look at the kids in the group mixed with brewing subplots.
The lack of exposition about the worlds visited by the group allows Scalera to go crazy with his designs. It’s not clear how much of it is directed by Remender and how much is just Scalera being insane, but the mix is just right. This isn’t the Sliders multi-earths theory where the difference between two worlds is the color of the Golden Gate Bridge. In “Black Summer,” the only constant seems to be the laws of physics. Praying Mantis people? Check. Bears with frog tongues? Check. Every panel is an amazing work of art, and it’s always a little sad when the group leaves a world behind, never to be seen again.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – This book is going places, and you should be on board.
Written by Si Spencer
Illustrated by Dean Ormston, Phil Winslade, Tula Lotay, and Meghan Hetrick
Reviewed by Brian Salvatore
The first issue of the series gave Vertigo fans something to dream on. The second issue doesn’t quite crush that dream, but it does bring it back down to Earth a little bit. Because of the nature of the book – 4 simultaneous stories, each from a different time period – some are going to work better than others. Right now, the 1940 and 2014 stories are suffering, in part because Spencer has made each of them focused on religion, and it feels heavy handed and unnecessary. This isn’t an ongoing, and by introducing a character as a Jewish man trying to play himself off as a Christian, or of a Muslim woman who somewhat rebels against certain ideas Islam espouses, it takes time away from the (rather fascinating) main story, and builds these characters in ways that there won’t be time to explore.Continued below
Look, I’m not bagging character development, but when each character gets 1/4 of an issue, you need to use that time wisely, and I felt that this was Spencer trying to “say something” more than was necessary for the issue. The artists, especially Ormston, are doing incredible work here, and the story is intriguingly paced and organized. I am still not 100% convinced that this isn’t going to be an instance of a brilliant concept executed in a less than brilliant way, but I am hopeful enough to keep reading.
Final Verdict: 7.2 – The issue isn’t perfect, but the story is inspired enough to remain on my pull.
Kang and Kodos #1
Written and illustrated by various
Reviewed by Drew Bradley
The cover copy of the latest One Shot Wonder from Bongo promises to “Probe today’s important issues.” On a fact sheet about Kang, it says he was in a pop band with a hit single called “UFO No You Didn’t.” The issue includes real political-themed bumper stickers featuring Kang and Kodos. It’s an anthology set with multiple creators’ takes on the alien duo, and features lots of high caliber puns, brick jokes, and even some clever “Futurama” references. Seriously, this book sells itself, I shouldn’t even be reviewing for you. This is just further proof that the Bongo seal is guaranteed quality. High quality.
Final Verdict: 9.0 – This book should be at the top of the August sales charts.
Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Illustrated by Fiona Staples
Reviewed by James Johnston
You read “Saga”, right? Okay, just making sure. We all read “Saga”. It’s in our hands, our homes, or dreams. Everywhere. And for all its hype, “Saga” still manages to keep its world fresh, exciting, and visually stunning. One factor contributing to the title’s consistent success is Hazel and how willing Vaughan and Staples are to mix things up with their characters. Sure, the comic is still about a family trying to hide from the reaches of two faceless empires but “Saga” actually focuses on the long-term effects running from planet to planet. Marko and Alana are changing, and these changes are both a natural evolution and reaction to what they’ve been facing as well as tragic turns for the entire family. Also, Dengo’s easily one of the scariest villains to come out of indie comics in a while.
Final Verdict: 8.7 – It’s “Saga”. You’re already reading it. And loving it.
Star-Spangled War Stories Featuring G.I. Zombie #2
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Illustrated by Scott Hampton
Reviewed by Brian Salvatore
This issue builds on the last issue’s starting place, and drops us deeper into the backwoods region, and provides a bit of context for this corner of the world, especially why a redneck asshole seems to have a huge budget for military-grade weapons. Carmen continues to be a very compelling character, in so much as she really pours herself into her assignments in such a way that you almost think there is a hint of truth to them. Jared doesn’t get too much to do here, but rather just hangs back in the woods until the end, where he gets to play Dr. Strangelove. (Spoilers, maybe?)
Scott Hampton’s art continues to shine here, and his moody work really gives the book a look unlike anything else DC is currently publishing. DC has really tried to make a war book work in the New 52, and while this may not be the answer, they are at least realizing that there needs to be more of a draw than just “war.” When/if this book starts playing around in the mainstream DCU a little more, it’ll be the real test. Although, to be fair, this is about as much of a war book as “Batman” is right now – there is very little Star Spangled about it – yes, he is a soldier, but he’s not on the front lines – he’s in redneck country. Maybe that’s a commentary on modern warfare, but I doubt it. This seems to be DC wanting to have a war book, without actually making a war book.Continued below
Final Verdict: 6.9 – A fun issue for a book struggling to find its role.