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.
Doctor Fate #6
Written by Paul Levitz
Illustrated by Sonny Liew
Reviewed by Keith Dooley
The new Doctor Fate continues to struggle with the responsibilities placed on him as bearer of the magical helmet in “Doctor Fate” #6. Both physical and emotional trials are simply and excitingly evident in Paul Levitz’s script, Sonny Liew’s art, and Lee Loughridge’s colors. Although the story has slowly unfolded in its first six issues, we’re getting to know Khalid Nassour and his circle of family and friends. Levitz puts Khalid through a horrifying physical attack in this issue that is powerfully depicted by the expressive and unique stylings of both Liew and Loughridge.
Liew has been a marvelous revelation in this series’ first six issues. His art in “Doctor Fate” #6 continues to enthrall because of his ability to combine the fantastical and the personal. Even when events transpire on an unbelievable scale, we feel a palpable sense of suspense and worry for our hero. His characterization of Khalid is nuanced, whether he’s wearing the helmet of Fate or simply afraid for his life without its protection. Both Levitz and Liew are listed as storytellers in the credits and it makes sense. Without Liew, this book would lack the tinge of something new and unexpected with each turn of the page.
Loughridge’s colors in “Doctor Fate” #6 are more subdued than the previous issue, but still retain a dynamism and richness that conveys terror and mysticism. In one splash page, the Lord of the House of the Dead is set in the middle of the page while various locales experience utter destruction as they emanate from his head. Not only is Liew’s art breathtaking, but Loughridge’s colors add a texture that would make the page less powerful. The various shades of blue, red, and gray (with a touch of blood red) electrify the global proceedings.
“Doctor Fate” #6 is proof why this title is deserving of more readers. With the introduction of a relatable character in an otherworldly situation, Levitz and Liew are able to balance the fantastical with the personal. Add Loughridge’s colors to the mix and you have an issue and a series that goes by way too quickly.
Final Verdict: 8.5 – The main complaint I have with “Doctor Fate” #6 is that it goes by too fast. But it goes by beautifully in its execution.
Martian Manhunter #6
Written by Rob Williams
Illustrated by Eddy Barrows
Reviewed by Brian Salvatore
After last issue’s emotional moment between Alicia and Mister Biscuits, this issue – despite having the fate of Earth in its hands – feels a little less personally devastating at first. Of course, the last few pages then punch you in the gut all over again, and you stop asking which issue hurt more, but simply have to stew in the pain for a little bit longer.
Rob Williams and Eddy Barrows have created a landscape that is absolutely unique and wonderful, and this issue sees the various aspects of J’onn’s personality interacting with each other in a number of different ways, and each piece of the personality gets a little more time to shine. Mister Biscuits winds up being a big Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 fan which is absolutely perfect, of course, and Biscuits continues to be the year’s breakout character. Something that this series has done so effectively is, by splitting himself into the various pieces, J’onn has never been more of a complex, interesting character. His alien-ness is often played as cold and detached, and we get some of that here, but we also get the part of him that loves cookies (or, biscuits, to our UK friends), and the part of him that looks up to other heroes, and the part of him that is truly a detective.Continued below
Barrows continues to do the best work of his career by a longshot – he has truly created each part of J’onn in a handcrafted, lived in, way. He and Williams make the characters feel as if they’ve lived rich, full lives, even though we are told, time and time again, that they have not.
While, perhaps, not as flashy as “Midnighter,” or as beguiling as “The Omega Men,” “Martian Manhunter” deserves to be celebrated as one of the true wins of the DC You initiative and, sadly, looks like it might be the only one to make it out alive.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – Another solid chapter that leaves the reader begging for more.
Written by Joe Keatinge
Illustrated by Leila del Duca and Owen Gieni
Reviewed by Matthew Garcia
Another arc of “Shutter” comes to a close, and though not many questions have been answered, the book’s direction has become more clear. Much of this third arc has been quieter, less wild, even with a ton of crazy stuff hanging around in the background. The issue centers around the trial of Alarm Cat in Leonis, the return of Kate Kristopher, and the gathering of all her siblings. It’s tense and brutal, especially as an already unhinged Alarm Cat becomes even more unhinged; it’s also sort of empowering, especially when Kate finally reappears, with a new haircut, a new outfit, and a new attitude.
Because now Keatinge and del Duca have a Kate who’s taking charge of the situation as best she can. Sure, she ended the last arc by saying she was mad as hell and wasn’t going to take it anymore, but it’s here that she finally does something of her own accord. She claims to know everything and the next section will probably focus on her playing and using all that information to her advantage.
True to form, the world-building on “Shutter” remains top-notch. Del Duca fills out the frame with some great background detail (think about the court, the office of the public worker dude). This issue takes place on essentially one set, but the world feels bigger and more lived in. Keatinge’s attention to details, from speech patterns to small references applicable to only that single area, continues to become more apparent the further the story goes along.
Together, Keatinge and del Duca have made “Shutter” something that plays out satisfying as a single issue serialization and exciting as a collected whole. They’ve juggled their numerous plots with aplomb, delivered twists that elicit genuine gasps, and made this batch of characters whose motivations and values are deeply understandable and worth investing in, including a psychotic robot alarm clock cat. Even if small steps are being made in the story right now, “Shutter” remains an engaging and exciting read.
Final Verdict: 8.9 – February 2016’s not that far away, but it feels so far away.
Written by Dennis Hopeless
Illustrated by Javier Rodriguez
Reviewed by Stephenson Ardern-Sodje
Jessica Drew has been through more than most superheroes. From assassination training as a HYDRA agent, to serious mental manipulation, to eventful, if not particularly long-lasting stints working for both the Avengers and SWORD. And that is, of course, all after she was hit with spider DNA while still in her mother’s womb. So it’s definitely interesting to see a character who’s experienced more growth – both physical and mental – than most coming full circle and considering what it means to become a parent.
Hopeless’ ability to capture the narrative voice of a character is on full, fun-loving display in this first issue, and Jessica’s stubbornness, her charisma, her snark, and her self-doubt all seep from the book in an impressively natural way. Issue one focusses heavily on character and world-building, with a focus on the human element of big name heroes like Captain Marvel, Iron Man, and… Porcupine? (okay, less so that last one) Hopeless’ writing feels cosy, and anyone who followed Fraction’s run on Hawkeye will love the familiarity and grounded nature of the superheroic world.
Rodriguez’ art is vibrant and poppy, managing to conjure images of golden era Marvel while still feeling very much a comic of 2015. There are a number of beautiful sci-fi-infused splash panels that buzz with energy, looking like a dizzying mix of Moebius and Mike Allred (both of whom also too a turn on the similarly space-faring Silver Surfer). However, he manages to temper these alien scenes with profoundly human panels that showcase a similar style of close-up conversation to Javier Pulido’s recent work in She-Hulk’s most recent book. Rodriguez manages to keep this issue visually stimulating whether the scene is an intergalatic hospital or just a roof-top cookout, and it’s clear that his strong visual style is just as comfortable in either camp. I’ll be happy to see his work whether this book turns into an all out action affair or continues to work towards introspection and humour.Continued below
There are parts of this issue that feel a little direction-less, and with so much focus on setting the tone the storyline doesn’t really kick in until the final few pages. But this is clearly a book that is more interested in compelling character than propulsive story, and that isn’t a bad thing. There is a huge fanbase waiting for more content like this done right, and Hopeless and Rodriguez are doing it very right.
Final Verdict: 7.3 – Fun-filled and irreverent, but with serious heart at the core.
Uncanny Inhumans #2
Written by Charles Soule
Illustrated by Steven McNiven
Review by Ken Godberson III
Now this is more like it!
I remarked in my review of issue #1 that it felt very pilot-like and more concerned with catching those that had not read “Inhuman” or “Uncanny Inhumans #0”. With introduction out of the way, Charles Soule dives headfirst into the deep end with the drama around the Inhumans Royal Family and their new advisary. There is something I’ve praised Soule before in the past and that is he is a master of pacing. This issue is incredibly dense but it never feels dense. And a lot happens. Soule manages to fit the development of a character’s life in one issue while also showing some of the more interesting things that Marvel has done with time travel in a long time. The concept of time travel actually serves more than just an excuse to have certain characters in certain places. And Soule is still able to fit in character work with all these major events happening, like the banter between Johnny Storm and Reader, Beasts begrudging respect for Kang’s skills and Medusa’s rage at Black Bolt and fear for her son, Ahura.
McNiven, Leisten and Gho are so on point with this issue. When one of the main characters can’t speak, the visuals have to be very clear and they do an amazing job of letting Black Bolt’s actions speak for him. One particular moment was when he confronted Johnny and their expertise at visual storytelling created a grave warning for the Human Torch in a way words wouldn’t. And hot damn, I love how they depict Beast in this book. That is a character this is tough the render, going too far human or too far animal. But this art team manages to find a great balance. If there’s one criticism with the art, and it’s a minor but important one, it’s this: Inferno (Dante Pertuz) is latino. He’s not white. I mean, Grid is Indian and he was colored fine. It’s minor, but it’s bugging.
A fellow reviewer, Professor Thorgi, described this issue as being a six issue mega arc crammed beautifully well into one issue and I’m inclined to agree. Under other creative teams, everything that took place in this issue would probably have been expanded to be the first collected edition and I’m so glad that it’s not. Last issue I felt wasn’t really worth the $5 price tag. This issue, though? You are so getting your $4 worth of content.
My one hope as we continue on is that I hope this isn’t leading to getting rid of a certain character. Regardless, I’m on board.
Final Verdict: 8.9- This is the Inhumans book we’ve been waiting for.