Happy Holiday Season! The one where one month of activity is smushed into a couple of weeks, because “nothing” happens during the week or so of actual holiday and you gotta get it all done anyway.

Thankfully, we have comics! What kinds of worlds did we get to escape to this past week?

Writer: Charles Soule; Artist: Ron Garney; Color Artist: Matt Milla 

The first words out of my mouth after reading a comic can be quite telling. In this case? “Creepy!” But I mean it in a good way. It’s just that last page splash of the villain, with a distorted physique and the artists’ use of negative space and lighting— it’s super effective. The art overall was fine, with a roughly hewn quality that reinforced the harsh enviornment and left the viewer unsettled. This is definitley a return to the mean streets of Frank Miller-influenced Daredevil.

That’s furthered by the narrative choices, with tension between Daredevil and Foggy Nelson (again!) and Matt Murdock as tireless yet put-upon lawyer. With a few differences to tweak our interest. First, that Murdock is now a prosecutor, which seems a bit doubling-down on the grittiness of Daredevil’s world and his mission as a vigilante. Maybe it’s a product of a bygone era to consider public defenders/defense attourneys as inherently more ideal-slash-heroic, but it feels like we lost a bit of hope in the book’s world. The second is a new ally, a sidekick of sorts (or IS he?), in Blindspot. There’s really very little we know about him at this point, besides having an awesome costume, so the last page cliffhanger loses a bit of impact.

Grade: B+

It’s a solid issue, for sure, that captures the spirit of Daredevil that hasn’t been seen for some time, unless you count the Netflix series, of course. So that explains a lot. Despite loving the television series, I’m not sure that the perpetually darkened alleys of New York is someplace I want to hang out in, so this “new” direction for Daredevil might be a pass for me.

Writer: Mark Waid; Artist: Adam Kubert; Color Artist: Sonia Black

Another chapter of Random Marvel Team-Upfeaturing characters who might be called the Avengers after another issue or so. The fight against Warbringer allows more heroes to wander by and join in, in this case the Vision and Thor. The comic seems to go out of its way to point out how not-Avengers they still are at this point, which is at least more acknowledgement than what Thor gets when she just… appears. I understand that dramatic full-page splash appearances are a part of any thunder god’s superpower set, but still.

I get that Warbringer is the “threat no single hero can withstand,” and I get that the mysterious villain in the background (odds are on Loki), all harken to the original set-up of the team from its 60s origins, but maybe that’s the problem. It’s all going along precisely as planned, with little through-line. The characters don’t really seem to interact in real ways— except maybe for Nova and Ms. Marvel. Too much stuff is getting in the way, like a lot of exposition or just delivery of a little humor that’s sprinkled so far apart or in inconsequential ways that it’s too disjointed. Heck, Captain America gets maybe one panel for some word balloons, and that’s it.

There are some cool moments, with the team flying together through the city and Spider-Man Jr. surfing on Iron Man’s back, and Thor’s dramatic appearance. But it’s not enough to raise the book to anything meaningful.

Grade: C-    

Writer: Nathan Edmondson; Penciller: Dalibor Talajić; Inker: José Marzan Jr; Color Artist: Miroslav Mrva

Did I miss something? Problably, as the tie-in series 1872 from Secret Wars was a lead-in to this series. There’s a lot in the first part of the book that follows from 1872, but what’s important is the main character’s new status quo as sheriff of Timely Town (a name that’s simulaneoulsy awesome and ludicrous.) Except it’s not that important, maybe, as we’re taken out of that status quo on the last page, a cliffhanger that lands Red Wolf in a completely different environment.

The middle part of the issue is the best part, as Red Wolf tracks down a mysterious killer who turns out to be a man from the future. That right there should be enough of a hook to dive deeply from, but we’re only at surface level as it has to content with everything else in the book. It’s a shame especially as the art also comes alive at this point. The mix of perspectives, the panel layouts and outlines, the use of white space— things get visually more complicated as the tension of this part of the story ramps up. The art is a wonderful reason to continue with this book, if only I was more intrigued by the book overall.

I still have some questions the world of Red Wolf, because it must be a parallel world if there was already a Steve Rogers and there are obvious analogues to Venom and Sandman’s alter-egos, but that doesn’t matter if Red Wolf is going to be in the modern and mainstream world. Red Wolf himself is one of those paragons of characters, who can’t have any flaws except maybe exasperation of the racist world he’s forced to deal with, and his only supporting character is the cliché medicine woman who’s similarly perfect, if a bit cryptic. It’s difficult to expect seriousness and nuance while also hoping for creativity and freshness.

Grade: C+




In other comics: Paper Girls #3 has things continuing to spiral out of control, but now the girls are confronting these things directly, and may have found some allies. It's becoming clear this series will read wonderfully better in a trade paperback collection, though. (A-)Venom: Space Knight #1 happened. It's like one of those media adaptations of a comic, when the movie ends up being so completely different from the source material that you wonder why it isn't a new character altogether. The art from Ariel Olivetti doesn't help, as it lands squarely in the uncanny valley to further distance the reader from the material. It all might work in a different context, or even with a different property, but it's not for me. (D)Prez #6 finishes off a brilliant series, full of imagination, sci-fi coolness, and satire. The main character came into her own, remaining an unlikely source of humanity in a world that's discordant and socially brutal. Hey, I guess it's what heroes do, isn't it? (A)