Weekly Comic Book Review http://weeklycomicbookreview.com Your source for comic book commentary Sun, 23 Jul 2017 20:27:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.7 79102411 Aquaman #25 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2017/06/22/aquaman-25/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2017/06/22/aquaman-25/#respond Thu, 22 Jun 2017 20:24:55 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=48856

I have been waiting for this for months.

I love Aquaman. I know that he has immense potential, but that potential only ever seems to be realized for issues, years at best, at a time. Like the waves, he crests and falls.

Do you know how many Aquaman series there have been? This is the eighth. And that doesn’t count Aquaman: Time and Tide, Aquaman and the Others, or years of appearances in More Fun and Adventure Comics. Like Wonder Woman, Aquaman is no stranger to “Bold New Directions™” so, while I consider myself a staunch fan of the character, I often don’t buy Aquaman comics. Dan Abnett’s latest attempt to give the character his due has intrigued me multiple times since Rebirth began, but nothing I’ve seen or heard has ever quite gotten me to jump back on. Until today.

Say what you want about “moving the needle”, Stjepan Sejic was absolutely what I needed to gleefully pick up Aquaman again. And it felt like a big deal. Perhaps due to the time intensive nature of Sejic’s paintings, this has been a light on the horizon for what feels like ages. Sejic has been giving glimpses of what looks like a pitch perfect Aquaman and Mera on social media for months and it’s been working to get me excited.

So for those like me or who I’ve successfully kindled interest in, let me begin by clearing up a misconception, or at least clarifying a bit. This is not another “Bold New Direction™”.

No, while there’s quite a bit more nuance to it, this is still very much a continuation of the work that Abnett has been doing on the title for the past twenty-four issues. It is not a reboot or even necessarily the start of a ‘new season’, it’s just the beginning of a new arc. And that may surprise. It surprised me, at least. But while this isn’t the ideal jumping on point, I don’t want anyone to think that the issue is unfriendly to new readers, even if the first few pages lean that way a bit harder than what is to follow.

Despite being steeped in Abnett’s previous work -- itself reminiscent of Jeff Parker’s recent take, itself built on Geoff Johns’ foundation -- this issue also serves as a reintroduction and reinvention of the character. Stripped of his kingship and believed dead by his people, Aquaman goes into hiding among the disenfranchised of Atlantis, becoming an avenging specter as his nation descends into totalitarianism. It’s an effective set up, if not a sustainable one, and it really allows Arthur to show off his power as well as his intelligence, a quality that many attempts to finally kill the image of the useless Aquaman fail to call upon.

There’s plenty of Batman inspiration here, culminating in an explicit shout out that channels Batman: Year One beautifully. Thankfully Abnett doesn’t seem to be trying to force Arthur into the Batman mold. One of the things that really works is that, while Batman’s totemism projects a certain invulnerability that Arthur seeks to replicate here, Aquaman has a power and a nobility that helps frame this as a battle of wills between two kings of Atlantis.

Speaking of which, Corum Rath, as an antagonist, is a mixed bag. On one hand, Rath is simple and blunt. He hates the surface world and any implication of imperfection with his Atlantis, but no amount of Shatnerian pauses can disguise his textbook totalitarianism. No, what keeps him interesting is his interactions with others. Though his goals are basic as they come, Rath proves effective at balancing and introducing the various power systems of his court. He gives out praise, but is ready to yank it back and regift it to whoever best supports him in that moment. He surrounds himself with fanatics who he can ‘moderate’ when it suits his purpose. He lets others fumble to guess at his thoughts, welcoming their “advice” when they’re right and lecturing them when they’re wrong.  And in this he makes for a compelling villain.

It also points to something that Abnett has been striving towards that proves effective here, building up Atlantis. With the Silent School, the Widowhood, the Hadalin, the Elders, the Drift, and more, Aquaman has what any good political drama requires: constituencies. The push and pull of these various factions around the new king give Abnett’s Atlantis a vibrancy that’s needed to pull of this story. Unfortunately, new readers, especially those picking up an Aquaman comic for the first time, will not find much to explain who these varied interests are. Additional context clues are included for the reader’s benefit, however they are not enough to make plain the workings of the court and, once a reader moves past any confusion, they can leave scenes feeling performative.

It’s an odd mixture, being at once opaquely complex and excessively expository. Characters tend to say exactly what they think and to lay out their motivations plainly, yet somehow it still feels like Abnett is using a gentle brush to paint his characters, and there’s fun in ‘reading the room’, deciphering who everyone is and how they work together despite knowing exactly what they want.

For any simplicity of expression, however, I must say that Abnett seems to have a strong grasp on his characters. Arthur holds himself with just the right balance of empathy, nobility, and questionable people skills that have defined him since the Bronze Age, while I don’t know that I’ve seen a better summary of the Post-Flashpoint Vulko than this well-meaning, politically inflexible, loudmouth. I can’t say that I like Mera falling to pieces without Arthur, but fans of the queen need not worry in the long run.

As interesting as Abnett’s writing is, Stjepan Sejic was always bound to overshadow him and there is no upset in that regard.

This book is gorgeous. Everything Sejic touches is gorgeous, obviously, but this really is something else. Every page and panel is rich with detail and thought and the colors are practically worth the price of admission alone.

I almost don’t know how Sejic hasn’t been drawing Aquaman for years. The series plays to all of his strengths, encouraging him to draw ornate, semi-organic armors; fantastic animal men; gorgeous redheads; and more. It goes even deeper than that though. Sejic’s set design is wonderful and the vast emptiness of the ocean not only allows him to sometimes leave the background out of focus when it would otherwise distract or take up time but encourages it, conveying a sense of scale and allowing a showcase for his skill with lighting effects.

Especially in political moments, the characters benefit from an emotive ability that is almost entirely separate from the dialogue. That bodes especially well for a story that seems to feature a mute character, but it really does help to balance the delicate information vs. exposition equation I mentioned earlier.

Sejic also does a phenomenal job at structuring his pages. It’s easy to get lost in the sheer beauty of the art, but don’t forget for the minute that Stjepan Sejic is an immensely talented storyteller, and this issue is a incredible reminder of that fact. Stylishly unusual panel shapes and dramatic, integrated location captions set the stage and clear, legible motion throughout each page gives the book a distinctly cinematic flair.

One of the most fascinating elements of Sejic’s artwork is panel size. Especially towards the end of the issue you start to find pages that feature six, seven, ten panels and still feature big, widescreen moments. It’s against conventional wisdom to include such tiny insets, but it actually really works well. The sense of pace is strong and the purpose and action of each panel remains startlingly clear. It would have been a bold move no matter what, but to do so in an extra-sized, twenty-eight page story is quite something and the fact that Sejic pulls it off with such effortlessness should tell you something about what else he may well do before this run is over.

The post Aquaman #25 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

]]>

I have been waiting for this for months.

I love Aquaman. I know that he has immense potential, but that potential only ever seems to be realized for issues, years at best, at a time. Like the waves, he crests and falls.

Do you know how many Aquaman series there have been? This is the eighth. And that doesn’t count Aquaman: Time and Tide, Aquaman and the Others, or years of appearances in More Fun and Adventure Comics. Like Wonder Woman, Aquaman is no stranger to “Bold New Directions™” so, while I consider myself a staunch fan of the character, I often don’t buy Aquaman comics. Dan Abnett’s latest attempt to give the character his due has intrigued me multiple times since Rebirth began, but nothing I’ve seen or heard has ever quite gotten me to jump back on. Until today.

Say what you want about “moving the needle”, Stjepan Sejic was absolutely what I needed to gleefully pick up Aquaman again. And it felt like a big deal. Perhaps due to the time intensive nature of Sejic’s paintings, this has been a light on the horizon for what feels like ages. Sejic has been giving glimpses of what looks like a pitch perfect Aquaman and Mera on social media for months and it’s been working to get me excited.

So for those like me or who I’ve successfully kindled interest in, let me begin by clearing up a misconception, or at least clarifying a bit. This is not another “Bold New Direction™”.

No, while there’s quite a bit more nuance to it, this is still very much a continuation of the work that Abnett has been doing on the title for the past twenty-four issues. It is not a reboot or even necessarily the start of a ‘new season’, it’s just the beginning of a new arc. And that may surprise. It surprised me, at least. But while this isn’t the ideal jumping on point, I don’t want anyone to think that the issue is unfriendly to new readers, even if the first few pages lean that way a bit harder than what is to follow.

Despite being steeped in Abnett’s previous work -- itself reminiscent of Jeff Parker’s recent take, itself built on Geoff Johns’ foundation -- this issue also serves as a reintroduction and reinvention of the character. Stripped of his kingship and believed dead by his people, Aquaman goes into hiding among the disenfranchised of Atlantis, becoming an avenging specter as his nation descends into totalitarianism. It’s an effective set up, if not a sustainable one, and it really allows Arthur to show off his power as well as his intelligence, a quality that many attempts to finally kill the image of the useless Aquaman fail to call upon.

There’s plenty of Batman inspiration here, culminating in an explicit shout out that channels Batman: Year One beautifully. Thankfully Abnett doesn’t seem to be trying to force Arthur into the Batman mold. One of the things that really works is that, while Batman’s totemism projects a certain invulnerability that Arthur seeks to replicate here, Aquaman has a power and a nobility that helps frame this as a battle of wills between two kings of Atlantis.

Speaking of which, Corum Rath, as an antagonist, is a mixed bag. On one hand, Rath is simple and blunt. He hates the surface world and any implication of imperfection with his Atlantis, but no amount of Shatnerian pauses can disguise his textbook totalitarianism. No, what keeps him interesting is his interactions with others. Though his goals are basic as they come, Rath proves effective at balancing and introducing the various power systems of his court. He gives out praise, but is ready to yank it back and regift it to whoever best supports him in that moment. He surrounds himself with fanatics who he can ‘moderate’ when it suits his purpose. He lets others fumble to guess at his thoughts, welcoming their “advice” when they’re right and lecturing them when they’re wrong.  And in this he makes for a compelling villain.

It also points to something that Abnett has been striving towards that proves effective here, building up Atlantis. With the Silent School, the Widowhood, the Hadalin, the Elders, the Drift, and more, Aquaman has what any good political drama requires: constituencies. The push and pull of these various factions around the new king give Abnett’s Atlantis a vibrancy that’s needed to pull of this story. Unfortunately, new readers, especially those picking up an Aquaman comic for the first time, will not find much to explain who these varied interests are. Additional context clues are included for the reader’s benefit, however they are not enough to make plain the workings of the court and, once a reader moves past any confusion, they can leave scenes feeling performative.

It’s an odd mixture, being at once opaquely complex and excessively expository. Characters tend to say exactly what they think and to lay out their motivations plainly, yet somehow it still feels like Abnett is using a gentle brush to paint his characters, and there’s fun in ‘reading the room’, deciphering who everyone is and how they work together despite knowing exactly what they want.

For any simplicity of expression, however, I must say that Abnett seems to have a strong grasp on his characters. Arthur holds himself with just the right balance of empathy, nobility, and questionable people skills that have defined him since the Bronze Age, while I don’t know that I’ve seen a better summary of the Post-Flashpoint Vulko than this well-meaning, politically inflexible, loudmouth. I can’t say that I like Mera falling to pieces without Arthur, but fans of the queen need not worry in the long run.

As interesting as Abnett’s writing is, Stjepan Sejic was always bound to overshadow him and there is no upset in that regard.

This book is gorgeous. Everything Sejic touches is gorgeous, obviously, but this really is something else. Every page and panel is rich with detail and thought and the colors are practically worth the price of admission alone.

I almost don’t know how Sejic hasn’t been drawing Aquaman for years. The series plays to all of his strengths, encouraging him to draw ornate, semi-organic armors; fantastic animal men; gorgeous redheads; and more. It goes even deeper than that though. Sejic’s set design is wonderful and the vast emptiness of the ocean not only allows him to sometimes leave the background out of focus when it would otherwise distract or take up time but encourages it, conveying a sense of scale and allowing a showcase for his skill with lighting effects.

Especially in political moments, the characters benefit from an emotive ability that is almost entirely separate from the dialogue. That bodes especially well for a story that seems to feature a mute character, but it really does help to balance the delicate information vs. exposition equation I mentioned earlier.

Sejic also does a phenomenal job at structuring his pages. It’s easy to get lost in the sheer beauty of the art, but don’t forget for the minute that Stjepan Sejic is an immensely talented storyteller, and this issue is a incredible reminder of that fact. Stylishly unusual panel shapes and dramatic, integrated location captions set the stage and clear, legible motion throughout each page gives the book a distinctly cinematic flair.

One of the most fascinating elements of Sejic’s artwork is panel size. Especially towards the end of the issue you start to find pages that feature six, seven, ten panels and still feature big, widescreen moments. It’s against conventional wisdom to include such tiny insets, but it actually really works well. The sense of pace is strong and the purpose and action of each panel remains startlingly clear. It would have been a bold move no matter what, but to do so in an extra-sized, twenty-eight page story is quite something and the fact that Sejic pulls it off with such effortlessness should tell you something about what else he may well do before this run is over.

The post Aquaman #25 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

]]>
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Ms. Marvel #19 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2017/06/22/ms-marvel-19-2/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2017/06/22/ms-marvel-19-2/#respond Thu, 22 Jun 2017 08:47:43 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=48853

As I look back on Kamala Khan, it can feel like she appeared only a moment ago or it can feel like she’s always been here - hot tip: she kind of has, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It doesn’t feel like long ago at all that I was turning my “ever so discerning eye” on issue #1 and enumerating its flaws or that I was writing about how the hype was underplayed and this was going to be something big or that I was finding ways to hold both of these ideas in my head at once. In that time, Ms. Marvel has become an icon, a part of the superhero landscape. She’s defeated Thomas Edison, had her first real crush and her first real heartbreak, seen herself cloned and kaiju’d, teamed up with Wolverine AND Loki, fought off Canadian ninja, and helped elect a third-party candidate without compromising her principles.

Looking back on Ms. Marvel, I see a sea of adventures, and endless world of friends and adversaries that have sprung up and continue to spring up at an incredible rate. It feels like there’s always a new story around the bend, some new strange yet familiar take on the form waiting for this generation’s superhero.

For good and ill, that changes today.

Ms. Marvel #19 pulls back the curtain on just how hollow that feeling of seperate adventures was. Kamala Khan may be our Spider-Man, but the time of ‘2 Great Feature-Length Thrillers’ is passed and suddenly it’s clear just how much, and just how well, Ms. Marvel vol. 4 has been a single story.

As consumers of media we - largely meaning I in this case - place far too much emphasis on surprise. So much of writing, especially serialized writing, is not judged to be good based on whether it is of quality but whether it surprises us. That’s not really fair to the creators behind it, but this issue is a fantastic example of why realization holds such fetishized narrative power for us. It’s not because Kamala has a brief and horrific moment of clarity or because it gives a new player the chance to build themself up with a solid villain moment. It’s because we as readers are asked to engage with the story.

Ms. Marvel is so much about community and those of us who have read Kamala’s adventures have been very graciously welcomed into a community.

This issue opens with a celebration of Eid al-Adha, a moment of interconnectedness in the Muslim year, calling to Kamala’s mind those less fortunate but certainly to be spent with family. And thanks to G. Willow Wilson’s tireless work, the Khans feel like family friends. And so there’s something personal when that is threatened.

This issue changes the game. It reminds us that simple pleasures like celebrating Eid are foreign to Ms. Marvel’s enemies. If you are stopped, if you lose the election, what have you, there is no giving up. For them, this is a crusade, A game in which they have no skin but infinite investment in winning, and that is actually rather terrifying.

The melting border between mounting tension and sharp realization drives this issue forward and helps this feel like a big moment in Kamala’s life, not to mention gives the audience another opportunity to actively engage with the story.

But as much as it has affected me, that’s hardly all that this issue is or has. Especially in the first few pages, this is also just another lovely issue of Ms. Marvel.

The vibe of Jersey City is strong, once again giving us a reason to care about the villains’ plot and Wilson makes it fun to get a sense of the characters and the holiday. It also helps that the idea heavy issue makes room for some action and uses that opportunity to do some new things and deepen the mystery of Ms. Marvel’s enemies. There’s something very ‘classic X-Men’ about seeing Kamala debut a new power, and it helps, if imperfectly, to avoid a feeling of the fight scene just filling space.

One moment definitely does fall short, however. Late in the issue, Zoe reveals a surprising detail about herself, but this beat simply does not have room to breathe. It’s unclear what the mood in the room is and the whole thing kind of just fades out, taking the energy that kickstarted the whole affair with it. It’s an odd little misstep that feels like it was competing with the issue’s ending for page space and lost.

I have fond memories of Marco Failla from his run on Spider-Man and the X-Men. Failla’s style retains its quirks and trademarks, but there’s certainly a change from the spindly, cartoon style employed there. The energy of the issue is less manic but still comedically rich. The transition from Spider-Man’s wisecracking slapstick to Kamala’s boundless enthusiasm is a success.

There are still some wonky panels here and there. Characters still have a tendency to lean toward the chipmunk-esque at times and some expressions simply don’t work, but, for any weirdness, Failla retains a strength of purpose in his panels and a crucial understanding of the Ms. Marvel look. So while the critic in me feels remiss essentially giving some very awkward anatomy a pass, the fan in me is rather taken with the specific look that Failla brings with him. At least most of the time.

The post Ms. Marvel #19 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

]]>

As I look back on Kamala Khan, it can feel like she appeared only a moment ago or it can feel like she’s always been here - hot tip: she kind of has, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It doesn’t feel like long ago at all that I was turning my “ever so discerning eye” on issue #1 and enumerating its flaws or that I was writing about how the hype was underplayed and this was going to be something big or that I was finding ways to hold both of these ideas in my head at once. In that time, Ms. Marvel has become an icon, a part of the superhero landscape. She’s defeated Thomas Edison, had her first real crush and her first real heartbreak, seen herself cloned and kaiju’d, teamed up with Wolverine AND Loki, fought off Canadian ninja, and helped elect a third-party candidate without compromising her principles.

Looking back on Ms. Marvel, I see a sea of adventures, and endless world of friends and adversaries that have sprung up and continue to spring up at an incredible rate. It feels like there’s always a new story around the bend, some new strange yet familiar take on the form waiting for this generation’s superhero.

For good and ill, that changes today.

Ms. Marvel #19 pulls back the curtain on just how hollow that feeling of seperate adventures was. Kamala Khan may be our Spider-Man, but the time of ‘2 Great Feature-Length Thrillers’ is passed and suddenly it’s clear just how much, and just how well, Ms. Marvel vol. 4 has been a single story.

As consumers of media we - largely meaning I in this case - place far too much emphasis on surprise. So much of writing, especially serialized writing, is not judged to be good based on whether it is of quality but whether it surprises us. That’s not really fair to the creators behind it, but this issue is a fantastic example of why realization holds such fetishized narrative power for us. It’s not because Kamala has a brief and horrific moment of clarity or because it gives a new player the chance to build themself up with a solid villain moment. It’s because we as readers are asked to engage with the story.

Ms. Marvel is so much about community and those of us who have read Kamala’s adventures have been very graciously welcomed into a community.

This issue opens with a celebration of Eid al-Adha, a moment of interconnectedness in the Muslim year, calling to Kamala’s mind those less fortunate but certainly to be spent with family. And thanks to G. Willow Wilson’s tireless work, the Khans feel like family friends. And so there’s something personal when that is threatened.

This issue changes the game. It reminds us that simple pleasures like celebrating Eid are foreign to Ms. Marvel’s enemies. If you are stopped, if you lose the election, what have you, there is no giving up. For them, this is a crusade, A game in which they have no skin but infinite investment in winning, and that is actually rather terrifying.

The melting border between mounting tension and sharp realization drives this issue forward and helps this feel like a big moment in Kamala’s life, not to mention gives the audience another opportunity to actively engage with the story.

But as much as it has affected me, that’s hardly all that this issue is or has. Especially in the first few pages, this is also just another lovely issue of Ms. Marvel.

The vibe of Jersey City is strong, once again giving us a reason to care about the villains’ plot and Wilson makes it fun to get a sense of the characters and the holiday. It also helps that the idea heavy issue makes room for some action and uses that opportunity to do some new things and deepen the mystery of Ms. Marvel’s enemies. There’s something very ‘classic X-Men’ about seeing Kamala debut a new power, and it helps, if imperfectly, to avoid a feeling of the fight scene just filling space.

One moment definitely does fall short, however. Late in the issue, Zoe reveals a surprising detail about herself, but this beat simply does not have room to breathe. It’s unclear what the mood in the room is and the whole thing kind of just fades out, taking the energy that kickstarted the whole affair with it. It’s an odd little misstep that feels like it was competing with the issue’s ending for page space and lost.

I have fond memories of Marco Failla from his run on Spider-Man and the X-Men. Failla’s style retains its quirks and trademarks, but there’s certainly a change from the spindly, cartoon style employed there. The energy of the issue is less manic but still comedically rich. The transition from Spider-Man’s wisecracking slapstick to Kamala’s boundless enthusiasm is a success.

There are still some wonky panels here and there. Characters still have a tendency to lean toward the chipmunk-esque at times and some expressions simply don’t work, but, for any weirdness, Failla retains a strength of purpose in his panels and a crucial understanding of the Ms. Marvel look. So while the critic in me feels remiss essentially giving some very awkward anatomy a pass, the fan in me is rather taken with the specific look that Failla brings with him. At least most of the time.

The post Ms. Marvel #19 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

]]>
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Mighty Morphin Power Rangers 2017 Annual http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2017/06/10/mighty-morphin-power-rangers-2017-annual/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2017/06/10/mighty-morphin-power-rangers-2017-annual/#respond Sat, 10 Jun 2017 01:57:58 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=48850

Of all the nostalgic 90s children’s properties that one could get their hands on, the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers seem like the one that might be least in need of a realistic reboot. The franchise continues to this day, pumping out a new season with each installment of Super Sentai and the original series was brought back to television in 2010 with a “re-version” that met with lukewarm reception. Nevertheless, the Power Rangers have seen not one, but two reboots in the past year and change. The more famous is probably their big screen outing, but it is in comics where they have shined.

Under the creative guidance of Kyle Higgins and Hendry Prasetya, Boom! Studio’s Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers series has been an incredibly fun read. Last year, I passed up the chance to buy the series’ eight-dollar annual on release day and learned to regret it. Can the 2017 Annual capture that rad, 90s-inspired, multicolored lightning in a bottle again?

Kyle Higgins opens the issue with an all-too brief interlude that takes us to an, at first, ambiguous moment between the show and the comic. Tommy is once again in the spotlight here, but Higgins uses familiarity nicely to keep readers off balance and intrigued. This certainly isn’t the Green Ranger that the now twenty-something audience of “Green With Evil” once knew, but that’s very much the point. Is this a continuation of previous evil Tommy stories or merely a look at the history of this version and how close the two were?

Admittedly Tommy is a little more broken here than even the Boom! series suggests and Higgins’ writing, while slick, can’t fully obscure how quickly it has to move the characters around. Higgins’ take on Rita, while no longer entirely fresh, remains enchanting and sinisterly hypnotic however, and Tommy’s exasperation is forcefully conveyed to the reader. Higgins also continues to expand the world of the Power Rangers beyond Angel Grove to great effect. Despite all of this, you won’t mistake this for critical plot or a marquee draw. Solidly constructed as it may be, this seems largely a way to tie this annual into the larger plot and show off Goñi Montes’ artwork.

Montes’ stylized faces might not sit well with some at first, but there’s no denying that his layouts are incredibly dynamic. The colors are stunning and the panels scream out emotions for readers to savor. Faces and features shift with the flow of the scene, impressionistic, if sometimes flat.

It’s hard to say if the intense, human moments or the jazzy, gorgeously saturated ranger action that’s the main draw of Montes’ work, and if one is too stylized or the other’s too simple. Luckily, I suspect that if one of those rings true for you, the other seems woefully unfair.

The next story is “Trini’s Vacation” by Tom Taylor and Dan Mora. Perhaps even more than Zach, with whom she shares in the initial line up’s most obnoxious yet valid criticism, Trini is the ranger that I didn’t appreciate as a kid but do now. Shamed as I am to highlight the two non-white rangers that way, I can’t help but feel like it wasn’t just me or any of the other four year olds who felt the same’s fault. Trini was different. Smart, but not as smart as Billy. Feminine, but not as fashion conscious as Kimberly. Dedicated to martial arts, but not as loud about it as Jason. Trini lacked the one note characterization that defined the show and, as such, it’s nice to see a story striving to highlight her personality apart from the other rangers.

In this, the story is really nice. Trini’s quiet, focused energy survives the translation to the page and she becomes quickly relatable through the serene monologues that Taylor writes for her. No, there isn’t some incredible moment that redefines the character, but she feels right throughout and the story provides some nice opportunities to show, not tell, what makes her a ranger. And, silly as it may be, when it hits her that “I’m not getting to stay in bed”, I feel it like a punch in the gut. We’ve all been there.

The story’s macguffin serves its purpose well, but it seems underutilized in this twelve-page script. The opening exposition is some of Taylor’s clunkiest and least natural but it sets up the babelstone as a weapon worthy of Rita - let’s be honest, of Lord Zedd - and that significance, does not pay off. By far the coolest bit of this little intro is the idea that the babelstone can corrupt spoken language, an idea that seems poised for great things, especially in a medium like comics, but it never comes into play. I mean, this was a good enough to justify an episode of Power Rangers, it just seems like a bit of a waste to only use it to justify keeping Trini solo.

Charming as Taylor’s contribution may be, like Higgins before him, he is overshadowed a bit by his artist. Dan Mora’s art is just stunning here. Strong compositions, striking lines, and a great sense of motion all realized through a sturdy yet subdued color palette, make for some incredible visuals even before Goldar enters the story. And then he does. And it’s glorious.

Mora’s range skills as an artist are on particular display in his representation of Goldar. He’s never quite the same from panel to panel, but he looks fantastic every time. With cartoonish glee in one panel, rich and realistic shading in another, and sinister glee in all of them, Goldar’s depiction is easily one of the most memorable in the issue.

Little details like Rita’s vexation, familiar Power Ranger poses, or the sinister smile of a putty patroller prove that Mora doesn’t need Goldar to shine and make me very excited to realize that we’ll get plenty more MMPR art from him when Go Go Power Rangers launches next month.

As Trini takes a well deserved vacation, the book turns to another underappreciated ranger(s) in “Forever Mighty Morphin Black”. A seeming play on “Forever Red”, Jamal Campbell’s story channels the freshness of Higgins’ early issues on this series, when the stakes were low enough to appreciate the simple fact that there was weight and continuity between adventures.

The story is too short to really get to play with the concept, but Campbell does an admirable job of cramming big moments of character into quick lines. It also does a lot for Zach’s character to see him getting worn down, something we actually did see a bit in the original season, if through coincidence as much as intention. Zach’s love life and passion for dance took up most of his spotlight episodes, but Campbell’s version of the character feels real and grounded enough in what came before to easily hear it in Walter Jones’ classic delivery.

There’s not a lot of plot to speak of but it’s incredibly fun to see all the different Black Rangers that Campbell can come up with, with the stated use of rangers from different space and time allowing for familiar concepts, delightful what-ifs, and blendings of the two.

The art is pretty slick in this one too, with strong body language and lovely lighting and color gradients. The rangers even look similar to their actors, though they’re reimagined a little. Artistically, this probably could have benefitted from an extra page or two, as things can get a little cramped at times, but it rarely, if ever, confuses the action.

On a personal note, I adore that Campbell gave Adam Park a place of honor in this story. I always loved Adam and writing a story that celebrates Zack’s role as the original Black Ranger without putting he and Adam in competition is just lovely.

Last year, Trey Moore wrote one of my favorite stories in the 2016 MMPR Annual, penning the origin of Goldar. It seems that he wasn’t done with Rita’s crew. “Perfect” turns his eye on one of the strangest and least explored characters on Power Rangers, Finster.

Taking a healthy dose of inspiration from Zyuranger, acknowledged cheekily in the name of Finster’s love-starved wife, Moore imagines Rita’s monster maker as a desperate artist unable to reconcile with his demons or imagine himself as anything less than the star of his own story. It’s a shockingly specific portrait, even if it makes liberal use of archetypes to pack it all into its eight-page runtime. It may be the first time a comic writer breaks your heart with the word “Pleps”.

Between art and story, the biggest problem is that it can be a bit unclear, but, my goodness, there are emotions in this little eight-pager. With horrific reality in his words, Moore makes Finster equally relatable and monstrous, at once Rita’s pawn and her superior in the world of real evil. I doubt very much that you will be expecting to find a story like this in a Power Ranger comic, but, as long as you can emotionally handle it, you won’t walk away disappointed. This is easily one of the highlights of these annuals.

Of course it’s not just Moore who makes this a sure thing. Having the sheer power of Fraiser Irving’s art at his back makes Moore’s success a forgone conclusion. Though it doesn’t always read clearly, Irving’s whispy shadows make this an incredible sight. Though his art is sometimes a little flat for my taste, probably intentionally, here that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The stark, high-contrast lighting and omnipresent shadows give the whole story the emotion of a Black Forest fairy tale that no amount of Disney magic could make palatable for kids.

Panels can be repetitive, but the emotion rings true. I love how magical just the slightest dash of color can be when Finster is finally introduced to the true medium for his art.

I also adore how Irving represents Rita. Silly as she may have been in practice, Rita’s iconography is strong and the comic series has pushed hard to redefine her as a serious threat, a snake whispering sweet, fascist nothings into the ears of those who doubt. Irving’s Rita probably wouldn’t work on a long term basis, but, for this story, it’s perfect and wonderfully creepy.

The final story follows this series habit of ending with madcap adventures with two unlikely heroes, but this time it’s Goldar and Scorpina. Their shared aesthetic can make it ambiguous who’s narrating at first, but it’s fun to see the famously mysterious final member of Rita’s gang given some personality. Here Caitlin Kittredge seems to put forth that the reason we see so little of Scorpina is that she’s not really all that into Rita’s mission. Sure she loves doing evil as much as the next scorpion/lamia/whatever she is creature, but she’s not really a team player. Seeing her work her pragmatic charms on a follower like Goldar is great fun and Kittredge nails the voice for this version of Sco-Sabrina.

There’s also Goldar, who has just the right balance of proud warrior for villainy and lovable doof to entertain without losing his intimidating airs. There’s just something about “tiny Goldar” that tugs at the heartstrings, you know?

Unfortunately, as fun as the character writing is and as welcoming as the dialogue can be, the plot lacks punch. Beginning in media res doesn’t do half as much as it ought to for this story and causes some jumpiness between scenes.

Dajung Lee seems a strong fit for this story, bringing a specific but nondistracting look that recalls Danielle di Nicuolo’s work on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Pink, and not only because Sarah Stern colored both. Casual Goldar and Sabrina look great, even if she seems to be rocking the Elisa Maza from Gargoyles. Sabrina gets a range of emotions in this story that is kind of rare and, while Lee doesn’t boast about it in their art, it gives instant direction to the piece. The subtle guidance of Scorpina’s mood helps give this story a narrative spine and a visual identity.

This one’s fun and in touch with emotion in a way that I wish more comics were, but it’s also awkwardly plotted and not all that meaningful. You’ll be glad it’s in there, but it’s not what you’re buying the issue for.

The post Mighty Morphin Power Rangers 2017 Annual appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Of all the nostalgic 90s children’s properties that one could get their hands on, the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers seem like the one that might be least in need of a realistic reboot. The franchise continues to this day, pumping out a new season with each installment of Super Sentai and the original series was brought back to television in 2010 with a “re-version” that met with lukewarm reception. Nevertheless, the Power Rangers have seen not one, but two reboots in the past year and change. The more famous is probably their big screen outing, but it is in comics where they have shined.

Under the creative guidance of Kyle Higgins and Hendry Prasetya, Boom! Studio’s Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers series has been an incredibly fun read. Last year, I passed up the chance to buy the series’ eight-dollar annual on release day and learned to regret it. Can the 2017 Annual capture that rad, 90s-inspired, multicolored lightning in a bottle again?

Kyle Higgins opens the issue with an all-too brief interlude that takes us to an, at first, ambiguous moment between the show and the comic. Tommy is once again in the spotlight here, but Higgins uses familiarity nicely to keep readers off balance and intrigued. This certainly isn’t the Green Ranger that the now twenty-something audience of “Green With Evil” once knew, but that’s very much the point. Is this a continuation of previous evil Tommy stories or merely a look at the history of this version and how close the two were?

Admittedly Tommy is a little more broken here than even the Boom! series suggests and Higgins’ writing, while slick, can’t fully obscure how quickly it has to move the characters around. Higgins’ take on Rita, while no longer entirely fresh, remains enchanting and sinisterly hypnotic however, and Tommy’s exasperation is forcefully conveyed to the reader. Higgins also continues to expand the world of the Power Rangers beyond Angel Grove to great effect. Despite all of this, you won’t mistake this for critical plot or a marquee draw. Solidly constructed as it may be, this seems largely a way to tie this annual into the larger plot and show off Goñi Montes’ artwork.

Montes’ stylized faces might not sit well with some at first, but there’s no denying that his layouts are incredibly dynamic. The colors are stunning and the panels scream out emotions for readers to savor. Faces and features shift with the flow of the scene, impressionistic, if sometimes flat.

It’s hard to say if the intense, human moments or the jazzy, gorgeously saturated ranger action that’s the main draw of Montes’ work, and if one is too stylized or the other’s too simple. Luckily, I suspect that if one of those rings true for you, the other seems woefully unfair.

The next story is “Trini’s Vacation” by Tom Taylor and Dan Mora. Perhaps even more than Zach, with whom she shares in the initial line up’s most obnoxious yet valid criticism, Trini is the ranger that I didn’t appreciate as a kid but do now. Shamed as I am to highlight the two non-white rangers that way, I can’t help but feel like it wasn’t just me or any of the other four year olds who felt the same’s fault. Trini was different. Smart, but not as smart as Billy. Feminine, but not as fashion conscious as Kimberly. Dedicated to martial arts, but not as loud about it as Jason. Trini lacked the one note characterization that defined the show and, as such, it’s nice to see a story striving to highlight her personality apart from the other rangers.

In this, the story is really nice. Trini’s quiet, focused energy survives the translation to the page and she becomes quickly relatable through the serene monologues that Taylor writes for her. No, there isn’t some incredible moment that redefines the character, but she feels right throughout and the story provides some nice opportunities to show, not tell, what makes her a ranger. And, silly as it may be, when it hits her that “I’m not getting to stay in bed”, I feel it like a punch in the gut. We’ve all been there.

The story’s macguffin serves its purpose well, but it seems underutilized in this twelve-page script. The opening exposition is some of Taylor’s clunkiest and least natural but it sets up the babelstone as a weapon worthy of Rita - let’s be honest, of Lord Zedd - and that significance, does not pay off. By far the coolest bit of this little intro is the idea that the babelstone can corrupt spoken language, an idea that seems poised for great things, especially in a medium like comics, but it never comes into play. I mean, this was a good enough to justify an episode of Power Rangers, it just seems like a bit of a waste to only use it to justify keeping Trini solo.

Charming as Taylor’s contribution may be, like Higgins before him, he is overshadowed a bit by his artist. Dan Mora’s art is just stunning here. Strong compositions, striking lines, and a great sense of motion all realized through a sturdy yet subdued color palette, make for some incredible visuals even before Goldar enters the story. And then he does. And it’s glorious.

Mora’s range skills as an artist are on particular display in his representation of Goldar. He’s never quite the same from panel to panel, but he looks fantastic every time. With cartoonish glee in one panel, rich and realistic shading in another, and sinister glee in all of them, Goldar’s depiction is easily one of the most memorable in the issue.

Little details like Rita’s vexation, familiar Power Ranger poses, or the sinister smile of a putty patroller prove that Mora doesn’t need Goldar to shine and make me very excited to realize that we’ll get plenty more MMPR art from him when Go Go Power Rangers launches next month.

As Trini takes a well deserved vacation, the book turns to another underappreciated ranger(s) in “Forever Mighty Morphin Black”. A seeming play on “Forever Red”, Jamal Campbell’s story channels the freshness of Higgins’ early issues on this series, when the stakes were low enough to appreciate the simple fact that there was weight and continuity between adventures.

The story is too short to really get to play with the concept, but Campbell does an admirable job of cramming big moments of character into quick lines. It also does a lot for Zach’s character to see him getting worn down, something we actually did see a bit in the original season, if through coincidence as much as intention. Zach’s love life and passion for dance took up most of his spotlight episodes, but Campbell’s version of the character feels real and grounded enough in what came before to easily hear it in Walter Jones’ classic delivery.

There’s not a lot of plot to speak of but it’s incredibly fun to see all the different Black Rangers that Campbell can come up with, with the stated use of rangers from different space and time allowing for familiar concepts, delightful what-ifs, and blendings of the two.

The art is pretty slick in this one too, with strong body language and lovely lighting and color gradients. The rangers even look similar to their actors, though they’re reimagined a little. Artistically, this probably could have benefitted from an extra page or two, as things can get a little cramped at times, but it rarely, if ever, confuses the action.

On a personal note, I adore that Campbell gave Adam Park a place of honor in this story. I always loved Adam and writing a story that celebrates Zack’s role as the original Black Ranger without putting he and Adam in competition is just lovely.

Last year, Trey Moore wrote one of my favorite stories in the 2016 MMPR Annual, penning the origin of Goldar. It seems that he wasn’t done with Rita’s crew. “Perfect” turns his eye on one of the strangest and least explored characters on Power Rangers, Finster.

Taking a healthy dose of inspiration from Zyuranger, acknowledged cheekily in the name of Finster’s love-starved wife, Moore imagines Rita’s monster maker as a desperate artist unable to reconcile with his demons or imagine himself as anything less than the star of his own story. It’s a shockingly specific portrait, even if it makes liberal use of archetypes to pack it all into its eight-page runtime. It may be the first time a comic writer breaks your heart with the word “Pleps”.

Between art and story, the biggest problem is that it can be a bit unclear, but, my goodness, there are emotions in this little eight-pager. With horrific reality in his words, Moore makes Finster equally relatable and monstrous, at once Rita’s pawn and her superior in the world of real evil. I doubt very much that you will be expecting to find a story like this in a Power Ranger comic, but, as long as you can emotionally handle it, you won’t walk away disappointed. This is easily one of the highlights of these annuals.

Of course it’s not just Moore who makes this a sure thing. Having the sheer power of Fraiser Irving’s art at his back makes Moore’s success a forgone conclusion. Though it doesn’t always read clearly, Irving’s whispy shadows make this an incredible sight. Though his art is sometimes a little flat for my taste, probably intentionally, here that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The stark, high-contrast lighting and omnipresent shadows give the whole story the emotion of a Black Forest fairy tale that no amount of Disney magic could make palatable for kids.

Panels can be repetitive, but the emotion rings true. I love how magical just the slightest dash of color can be when Finster is finally introduced to the true medium for his art.

I also adore how Irving represents Rita. Silly as she may have been in practice, Rita’s iconography is strong and the comic series has pushed hard to redefine her as a serious threat, a snake whispering sweet, fascist nothings into the ears of those who doubt. Irving’s Rita probably wouldn’t work on a long term basis, but, for this story, it’s perfect and wonderfully creepy.

The final story follows this series habit of ending with madcap adventures with two unlikely heroes, but this time it’s Goldar and Scorpina. Their shared aesthetic can make it ambiguous who’s narrating at first, but it’s fun to see the famously mysterious final member of Rita’s gang given some personality. Here Caitlin Kittredge seems to put forth that the reason we see so little of Scorpina is that she’s not really all that into Rita’s mission. Sure she loves doing evil as much as the next scorpion/lamia/whatever she is creature, but she’s not really a team player. Seeing her work her pragmatic charms on a follower like Goldar is great fun and Kittredge nails the voice for this version of Sco-Sabrina.

There’s also Goldar, who has just the right balance of proud warrior for villainy and lovable doof to entertain without losing his intimidating airs. There’s just something about “tiny Goldar” that tugs at the heartstrings, you know?

Unfortunately, as fun as the character writing is and as welcoming as the dialogue can be, the plot lacks punch. Beginning in media res doesn’t do half as much as it ought to for this story and causes some jumpiness between scenes.

Dajung Lee seems a strong fit for this story, bringing a specific but nondistracting look that recalls Danielle di Nicuolo’s work on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Pink, and not only because Sarah Stern colored both. Casual Goldar and Sabrina look great, even if she seems to be rocking the Elisa Maza from Gargoyles. Sabrina gets a range of emotions in this story that is kind of rare and, while Lee doesn’t boast about it in their art, it gives instant direction to the piece. The subtle guidance of Scorpina’s mood helps give this story a narrative spine and a visual identity.

This one’s fun and in touch with emotion in a way that I wish more comics were, but it’s also awkwardly plotted and not all that meaningful. You’ll be glad it’s in there, but it’s not what you’re buying the issue for.

The post Mighty Morphin Power Rangers 2017 Annual appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Luke Cage #1 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2017/05/24/luke-cage-1/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2017/05/24/luke-cage-1/#respond Wed, 24 May 2017 06:19:20 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=48845

Did you know that there’s never been a series called Luke Cage before?

It’s true. Though he was the first black superhero to star in his own series and has long been known by his full name, Luke Cage’s previous leading roles have always referred to him by his last name or featured a subtitle, as in New Avengers: Luke Cage or Luke Cage, Power Man, the latter of which revealed its official position when the last two issues simply read Power Man. So, strange as that is, it feels strangely resonant that David Walker’s latest series takes that name as it turns its eye on the man beneath the tiara and the unbreakable skin.

Though I expect my comfort with the genre contributes, at times you can almost forget that Luke Cage #1 is a superhero comic. Yes, it frequently deals with Marvel continuity, and, yes, there’s plenty of science-fiction driving the plot, but Luke Cage’s stripped down approach to superheroics and hardboiled roots are the stronger elements of this story.

When the man who made Carl Lucas into Luke Cage commits suicide, the hero for hire discovers that family comes with complications and that some things can sting even a bulletproof man. To be perfectly honest, I’ve actually given you not only the starting point for this story in that sentence but most of the subtext as well. This is not, to my eyes at least, a terribly complicated story. The plot moves forward in a classic detective formula, the prose is straight-forward, and the concepts explored are relatively few and easy to grasp. However, David Walker turns in a script that’s overflowing with sincerity, enough to make all of those seeming criticisms into strengths. There’s no need for cheap surprises at this stage, Luke Cage #1, like its protagonist, is straightforward and thoughtful, drawing readers in with honest emotion and solid character beats.

From Luke’s rapidly shifting reactions to the discovery of a family he didn’t know he had to his quiet eulogy for Dr. Burstein, there are abundant moments of heartfelt subtlety in this book. And, yes, many are familiar, but they just work as executed here. My favorite example comes early, when Luke gets the fateful call. There’s no voice on the other end, just Luke and the fading color and breadth of the world around him. It’s been done before, but I don’t care. It connects you to the character instantly and Nelson Blake II conveys Walker’s intention wonderfully.

It’s easy to mistake a comic writer for another type of writer. We think of them like a screenwriter, turning over their concept to be realized by someone else, and treat them like novelists when the craft is strikingly different. Nevertheless, Walker’s work in both of those fields clearly influences his writing here and does so for the better. There’s a really nice dichotomy between Cage’s direct, focused voice and the strong emotion it conveys. Some writers would lean into that too far, make Luke cold or inarticulate against the sea of feelings within him, but Walker’s vision of Luke and of manhood is stronger than that and the same concepts are explored without obscuring subtlety or patronizing obviousness.

The main thing that this issue is missing is an engaging villain. Admittedly the narration does a decent job of building what could have read as a nameless goon into a legitimate threat for an Avenger out of his element, but these mysterious baddies are nowhere near as interesting or entertaining as Luke’s brutal take down of their means of conveyance.

Perhaps the best answer to this is a delightful scene that, on its face, is just exposition, but drips with quiet, racially charged tension. I mean, that’s a villain introduction, right? And honestly, that question mark is the key, because reading this story, straightforward as I’ve said, I know that Walker is more than smart enough to pull that certainty out from under me or prove it true with force I didn’t expect. It could also fall flat, but as a single issue, this debut is able to draw enough faith out of me as a reader to put the charge of possibility into the pages.

I also wanted to talk briefly about the prologue. Once again this is a fairly standard plot, with a fairly standard resolution. But what I like about it is the degree that it talks directly about Luke Cage and who he is as a hero.

“People come to me with their problems,” the first page begins.

“Mostly it’s people who feel like the cops don’t care...

“Or the Avengers are paying attention to bigger problems.

“Maybe they’d call Spider-Man -- if he was listed.

“My number -- That they have.”

It’s not “I find people who need help” or “I save people”, It’s “People come to me with their problems.” And not specifically supervillains or monsters, just “their problems” Problems that “the cops don’t care” about. Right there, in a few lines Walker establishes Luke’s connection to the community. In fact, for those of you who see issue with the Hero for Hire model, he kind of addresses that; after all, he waits for you to come to him. What’s ever more, that comparison to Spider-Man is brilliant. It grounds you in Marvel’s New York, but it says something about Luke. It shows a little bit of where he came from. “If he was listed”, that’s a good burn. And yet, they would call Spider-Man if they could. For any resentment, Luke knows that he’s second string, that he’s street level and Spider-Man is the big leagues, but, you know what, that’s how he likes it.

By the time the phone rings, you know Luke Cage. He has a guy, not necessarily a friend, who needs a job. He knows the over-under of buying his shirts in bulk. He stammers discussing relationships with a teenaged girl. You thank him for everything, not just the rescue. And, while there’s nothing that redefines the character, the ease and subtlety with which he’s introduced is impressive.

Nelson Blake is an appropriate match to the story and its strengths and weaknesses. In terms of linework, this book is admittedly simple. At times figures can become overly geometric. That said, the book never feels bloated by line weight or crowded to the point of confusion and the characters look good around the moments of angularity. In fact, together with Marcio Meynz, Blake does a great job of communicating specific moments and emotions with very little. With such sparsity, the faintest shade or curve of a line can color an entire panel.

Indeed, Blake’s strength lies not in any single character or setting, but in his storytelling. This issue is full of clever layouts and cinematic ‘camera movement’, for lack of more comic specific term. Even the simplest panels possess clear motion and tone and, more often than not they flow meaningfully into the next one.

A Thought:

  • It is seriously weird to compare this with the first issue of Power Man and Iron Fist and, in fact, kind of ironic. Despite the classic title, the hero who appeared in that series was very much the Luke Cage version: calmer, sturdy, concerned about his wife and daughter. Amazingly, in the span of those fifteen incredible issues, Luke’s life has drastically changed off panel. All of a sudden, he’s on his own, doing good in exchange for (extremely altruistic) favors. He’s one tiara short of a Power Man! They both work, but it's definitely odd to think that the character could shift from one interpretation to the other with almost no mention in either series.

The post Luke Cage #1 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

]]>

Did you know that there’s never been a series called Luke Cage before?

It’s true. Though he was the first black superhero to star in his own series and has long been known by his full name, Luke Cage’s previous leading roles have always referred to him by his last name or featured a subtitle, as in New Avengers: Luke Cage or Luke Cage, Power Man, the latter of which revealed its official position when the last two issues simply read Power Man. So, strange as that is, it feels strangely resonant that David Walker’s latest series takes that name as it turns its eye on the man beneath the tiara and the unbreakable skin.

Though I expect my comfort with the genre contributes, at times you can almost forget that Luke Cage #1 is a superhero comic. Yes, it frequently deals with Marvel continuity, and, yes, there’s plenty of science-fiction driving the plot, but Luke Cage’s stripped down approach to superheroics and hardboiled roots are the stronger elements of this story.

When the man who made Carl Lucas into Luke Cage commits suicide, the hero for hire discovers that family comes with complications and that some things can sting even a bulletproof man. To be perfectly honest, I’ve actually given you not only the starting point for this story in that sentence but most of the subtext as well. This is not, to my eyes at least, a terribly complicated story. The plot moves forward in a classic detective formula, the prose is straight-forward, and the concepts explored are relatively few and easy to grasp. However, David Walker turns in a script that’s overflowing with sincerity, enough to make all of those seeming criticisms into strengths. There’s no need for cheap surprises at this stage, Luke Cage #1, like its protagonist, is straightforward and thoughtful, drawing readers in with honest emotion and solid character beats.

From Luke’s rapidly shifting reactions to the discovery of a family he didn’t know he had to his quiet eulogy for Dr. Burstein, there are abundant moments of heartfelt subtlety in this book. And, yes, many are familiar, but they just work as executed here. My favorite example comes early, when Luke gets the fateful call. There’s no voice on the other end, just Luke and the fading color and breadth of the world around him. It’s been done before, but I don’t care. It connects you to the character instantly and Nelson Blake II conveys Walker’s intention wonderfully.

It’s easy to mistake a comic writer for another type of writer. We think of them like a screenwriter, turning over their concept to be realized by someone else, and treat them like novelists when the craft is strikingly different. Nevertheless, Walker’s work in both of those fields clearly influences his writing here and does so for the better. There’s a really nice dichotomy between Cage’s direct, focused voice and the strong emotion it conveys. Some writers would lean into that too far, make Luke cold or inarticulate against the sea of feelings within him, but Walker’s vision of Luke and of manhood is stronger than that and the same concepts are explored without obscuring subtlety or patronizing obviousness.

The main thing that this issue is missing is an engaging villain. Admittedly the narration does a decent job of building what could have read as a nameless goon into a legitimate threat for an Avenger out of his element, but these mysterious baddies are nowhere near as interesting or entertaining as Luke’s brutal take down of their means of conveyance.

Perhaps the best answer to this is a delightful scene that, on its face, is just exposition, but drips with quiet, racially charged tension. I mean, that’s a villain introduction, right? And honestly, that question mark is the key, because reading this story, straightforward as I’ve said, I know that Walker is more than smart enough to pull that certainty out from under me or prove it true with force I didn’t expect. It could also fall flat, but as a single issue, this debut is able to draw enough faith out of me as a reader to put the charge of possibility into the pages.

I also wanted to talk briefly about the prologue. Once again this is a fairly standard plot, with a fairly standard resolution. But what I like about it is the degree that it talks directly about Luke Cage and who he is as a hero.

“People come to me with their problems,” the first page begins.

“Mostly it’s people who feel like the cops don’t care...

“Or the Avengers are paying attention to bigger problems.

“Maybe they’d call Spider-Man -- if he was listed.

“My number -- That they have.”

It’s not “I find people who need help” or “I save people”, It’s “People come to me with their problems.” And not specifically supervillains or monsters, just “their problems” Problems that “the cops don’t care” about. Right there, in a few lines Walker establishes Luke’s connection to the community. In fact, for those of you who see issue with the Hero for Hire model, he kind of addresses that; after all, he waits for you to come to him. What’s ever more, that comparison to Spider-Man is brilliant. It grounds you in Marvel’s New York, but it says something about Luke. It shows a little bit of where he came from. “If he was listed”, that’s a good burn. And yet, they would call Spider-Man if they could. For any resentment, Luke knows that he’s second string, that he’s street level and Spider-Man is the big leagues, but, you know what, that’s how he likes it.

By the time the phone rings, you know Luke Cage. He has a guy, not necessarily a friend, who needs a job. He knows the over-under of buying his shirts in bulk. He stammers discussing relationships with a teenaged girl. You thank him for everything, not just the rescue. And, while there’s nothing that redefines the character, the ease and subtlety with which he’s introduced is impressive.

Nelson Blake is an appropriate match to the story and its strengths and weaknesses. In terms of linework, this book is admittedly simple. At times figures can become overly geometric. That said, the book never feels bloated by line weight or crowded to the point of confusion and the characters look good around the moments of angularity. In fact, together with Marcio Meynz, Blake does a great job of communicating specific moments and emotions with very little. With such sparsity, the faintest shade or curve of a line can color an entire panel.

Indeed, Blake’s strength lies not in any single character or setting, but in his storytelling. This issue is full of clever layouts and cinematic ‘camera movement’, for lack of more comic specific term. Even the simplest panels possess clear motion and tone and, more often than not they flow meaningfully into the next one.

A Thought:

  • It is seriously weird to compare this with the first issue of Power Man and Iron Fist and, in fact, kind of ironic. Despite the classic title, the hero who appeared in that series was very much the Luke Cage version: calmer, sturdy, concerned about his wife and daughter. Amazingly, in the span of those fifteen incredible issues, Luke’s life has drastically changed off panel. All of a sudden, he’s on his own, doing good in exchange for (extremely altruistic) favors. He’s one tiara short of a Power Man! They both work, but it's definitely odd to think that the character could shift from one interpretation to the other with almost no mention in either series.

The post Luke Cage #1 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

]]>
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The Ultimates 2 #6 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2017/05/01/ultimates-2-6/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2017/05/01/ultimates-2-6/#respond Mon, 01 May 2017 08:36:30 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=48840

Al Ewing is a writer who has employed an impressive number of strategies in answering the questions of continuity and event comics. He’s taken an “all things are true” approach in Loki: Agent of Asgard, fought for ideas that matter to him in Avengers: Ultron Forever, and launched teams out of editorial demands in the case of Mighty Avengers, but this week’s issue of Ultimates^2 makes it clear that he has been playing with one particularly bold strategy. You see, while many a creator struggles to justify how their book fits within the context of the greater Marvel Universe, The Ultimates^2 has simply decided that it’s going to take a moment to explain how the Marvel Universe fits within the greater context of this series.

Given that The Ultimates ran for twelve issues before being, in my opinion questionably, rebranded into this series, it makes a certain degree of sense that issue #6 brings the current story to a close and sets up for the, seemingly, final battle to come. Given the stakes as we enter this issue, that’s no small thing.

In actuality, that can be the cause of a number of this issue’s biggest flaws. Put simply, there are so many, literally, epic ideas in these pages clashing and interweaving with each other that some of them lose some impact. Adam and Monica’s big moment in particular feels muted because there isn’t space or context enough to appreciate its enormity. All of this is further exacerbated by the issue’s need to provide not only an effective history of the Marvel Multiverse but for the Troubleshooters as well. There’s simply not a lot of time for a battle on this scale to take place when those reveals take somewhere between nine and eleven pages, depending on how you count.

Don’t get me wrong though. There may be no more masterful conductor of Marvel’s continuity than Ewing and this issue is an absolute love letter to some largely ignored portions of the universe. Tying together disparate and sometimes contradictory histories of the Celestials, the New Universe, and cosmic Marvel, Ultimates^2 #6 creates something with all the strangeness, depth, and beauty deserved of Jack Kirby’s successors and makes it look effortless.

And it’s not just the ideas. While you might fairly be unable to tell me who the remaining corporeal members of the Troubleshooters are without a knowledge of the New Universe, Jim Tensen, Galactus, and Blue Marvel are written with specificity and with a clear eye towards emotion and arc. Nowhere is this better seen than in Anti-Man, whose place on the sidelines over the last few issues only highlight how forcefully Ewing has crafted the unique tragedy of Connor Sims. When the time finally comes for him to step into the action at hand, there is a quiet power at play that, honestly, has very little to do with the dialogue on the page compared to the weight that Ewing has imbued his characters with.

And, of course all of this is in addition to the sheer scale of the story. This easily could have been Marvel’s summer event, - it’s easily bigger in scope than any I can remember, save perhaps “Secret Wars” - but the choice to present it in a monthly book gives it both a sense of surprise and a sincerity that I doubt a ten-issue limited series and a dozen tie-ins could muster. In this day and age of comic books, it is insane to think that all eighteen issues of Ultimates have been telling a single story, much less that the origins of this team go all the way back to Mighty Avengers.

Regardless, it is one story and what a story it is. The First Firmament is not an incredibly original villain, but the trappings of Marvel’s multiverse provide him a level of gravitas rarely seen. Appropriately enough, he’s sort of a Galactus for our time, complete with requirement of a better way out than an Ultimate Nullifier and the accompanying tension of how he could be defeated. One wonders how the fairly simple monstrosity will fare out in the open, when so much of his charm has come from the personality of his agents, like Logos and Rodstvow, but that question is for another month. For the purposes of this issue, The First Firmament serves his function ably.

Speaking of The First Firmament and what makes him work as a villain, it’s almost impossible to ignore Travel Foreman and Matt Tackey’s contributions in this regard. Though he only appears in full on one page, the power of The First Firmament’s design is present throughout the book and demonstrates what this artistic team is best at: striking imagery, grand compositions, and gorgeously layered cosmic visions.

The smooth eeriness of The First Firmament contrasts with the detailed starkness of Anti-Man’s return to battle, which proves decidedly distinct from Jim Tensen’s full-page explanation. Foreman and Yackey manage to hold on to their unique style while also feeling in line with the tone that Kenneth Rocafort set on the original Ultimates.

There’s an impressive level of variety, however, there are places where that cuts both ways. While lovely, early images of the Celestials are a little flat and the issue ends poorly on an uncannily smooth and characterless America Chavez. That’s partially because it’s the wild and fantastic that brings out the best in Foreman and Yackey, but, minor as it is, a similarly awkward America butt-shot proves another distraction.

The post The Ultimates 2 #6 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Al Ewing is a writer who has employed an impressive number of strategies in answering the questions of continuity and event comics. He’s taken an “all things are true” approach in Loki: Agent of Asgard, fought for ideas that matter to him in Avengers: Ultron Forever, and launched teams out of editorial demands in the case of Mighty Avengers, but this week’s issue of Ultimates^2 makes it clear that he has been playing with one particularly bold strategy. You see, while many a creator struggles to justify how their book fits within the context of the greater Marvel Universe, The Ultimates^2 has simply decided that it’s going to take a moment to explain how the Marvel Universe fits within the greater context of this series.

Given that The Ultimates ran for twelve issues before being, in my opinion questionably, rebranded into this series, it makes a certain degree of sense that issue #6 brings the current story to a close and sets up for the, seemingly, final battle to come. Given the stakes as we enter this issue, that’s no small thing.

In actuality, that can be the cause of a number of this issue’s biggest flaws. Put simply, there are so many, literally, epic ideas in these pages clashing and interweaving with each other that some of them lose some impact. Adam and Monica’s big moment in particular feels muted because there isn’t space or context enough to appreciate its enormity. All of this is further exacerbated by the issue’s need to provide not only an effective history of the Marvel Multiverse but for the Troubleshooters as well. There’s simply not a lot of time for a battle on this scale to take place when those reveals take somewhere between nine and eleven pages, depending on how you count.

Don’t get me wrong though. There may be no more masterful conductor of Marvel’s continuity than Ewing and this issue is an absolute love letter to some largely ignored portions of the universe. Tying together disparate and sometimes contradictory histories of the Celestials, the New Universe, and cosmic Marvel, Ultimates^2 #6 creates something with all the strangeness, depth, and beauty deserved of Jack Kirby’s successors and makes it look effortless.

And it’s not just the ideas. While you might fairly be unable to tell me who the remaining corporeal members of the Troubleshooters are without a knowledge of the New Universe, Jim Tensen, Galactus, and Blue Marvel are written with specificity and with a clear eye towards emotion and arc. Nowhere is this better seen than in Anti-Man, whose place on the sidelines over the last few issues only highlight how forcefully Ewing has crafted the unique tragedy of Connor Sims. When the time finally comes for him to step into the action at hand, there is a quiet power at play that, honestly, has very little to do with the dialogue on the page compared to the weight that Ewing has imbued his characters with.

And, of course all of this is in addition to the sheer scale of the story. This easily could have been Marvel’s summer event, - it’s easily bigger in scope than any I can remember, save perhaps “Secret Wars” - but the choice to present it in a monthly book gives it both a sense of surprise and a sincerity that I doubt a ten-issue limited series and a dozen tie-ins could muster. In this day and age of comic books, it is insane to think that all eighteen issues of Ultimates have been telling a single story, much less that the origins of this team go all the way back to Mighty Avengers.

Regardless, it is one story and what a story it is. The First Firmament is not an incredibly original villain, but the trappings of Marvel’s multiverse provide him a level of gravitas rarely seen. Appropriately enough, he’s sort of a Galactus for our time, complete with requirement of a better way out than an Ultimate Nullifier and the accompanying tension of how he could be defeated. One wonders how the fairly simple monstrosity will fare out in the open, when so much of his charm has come from the personality of his agents, like Logos and Rodstvow, but that question is for another month. For the purposes of this issue, The First Firmament serves his function ably.

Speaking of The First Firmament and what makes him work as a villain, it’s almost impossible to ignore Travel Foreman and Matt Tackey’s contributions in this regard. Though he only appears in full on one page, the power of The First Firmament’s design is present throughout the book and demonstrates what this artistic team is best at: striking imagery, grand compositions, and gorgeously layered cosmic visions.

The smooth eeriness of The First Firmament contrasts with the detailed starkness of Anti-Man’s return to battle, which proves decidedly distinct from Jim Tensen’s full-page explanation. Foreman and Yackey manage to hold on to their unique style while also feeling in line with the tone that Kenneth Rocafort set on the original Ultimates.

There’s an impressive level of variety, however, there are places where that cuts both ways. While lovely, early images of the Celestials are a little flat and the issue ends poorly on an uncannily smooth and characterless America Chavez. That’s partially because it’s the wild and fantastic that brings out the best in Foreman and Yackey, but, minor as it is, a similarly awkward America butt-shot proves another distraction.

The post The Ultimates 2 #6 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Batman #21 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2017/04/29/batman-21/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2017/04/29/batman-21/#respond Sat, 29 Apr 2017 07:10:13 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=48834

The secret of DC's Rebirth project is that there is no secret at all. Commercially, the project aims at discerning the most popular versions of the company's proprietary characters and presenting those versions to readers. Whether it is a true renewal or a giant exercise in retail pandering, or whether there is any real difference between those things, is a judgment that can be safely left to comic book fans. After all, those fans are famously, and notoriously, erudite and combative.

Rebirth also has a full creative agenda yet to be completely revealed. So far, it is clear that the initiative involves the intrusion of Doctor Manhattan, and perhaps other Watchmen, into the DC Universe. One suspect yes that somewhere in Northampton Alan Moore, bizarre curmudgeon that he is for all of his undoubted talent, is figuratively howling at the moon. Nevertheless, Batman #21 features a variety of homages to Moore and Dave Gibbon's 1986 opus. Most of those come by way of artist Jason Fabok, who utilizes Gibbon's famous nine-panel layout to frame (literally) the tale of a confrontation between Batman and Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash who, we know from the pages of The Flash, has recovered his memories of the Flashpoint event, including his death at the hands of Thomas Wayne. Fabok also makes use of the bloodstained Smiley Face, both in its actual form and in various symbolic representations of circles and slashes.

The actual story, as penned by Tom King, is rather less successful than the art. King's formalism fits well with an exploration of Moore's themes. Indeed, King has stated on multiple occasions that Moore is one of his literary heroes. However, King's heavy handed emphasis on patterns and themes and his overwrought plots and dialogue tend to lay bare what the more subtle hand of Moore revealed gradually and/or through dramatic twists. It doesn't help that King is setting up the first installment of a crossover, or that he has the thankless task of chronicling a fight between Bruce Wayne and Eobard Thawne. The legions of rabid Bat fans will explode if the feel Batman has been used as a helpless punching bag. On the other hand, hordes of obsessive continuity experts will want to know how the human Bruce can survive more than a few seconds, literally, against a time-traveling super speedster. It also doesn't help that many of these fans are one and the same, or that an important plot twist has already been spoiled by solicits.

But the story, or rather the story mechanics and elements, have never been the important part of Rebirth. This initiative is about the destination, not the journey. We aren't exactly getting there with the speed of a Flash, but things are moving along very nicely, indeed.

The post Batman #21 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

]]>

The secret of DC's Rebirth project is that there is no secret at all. Commercially, the project aims at discerning the most popular versions of the company's proprietary characters and presenting those versions to readers. Whether it is a true renewal or a giant exercise in retail pandering, or whether there is any real difference between those things, is a judgment that can be safely left to comic book fans. After all, those fans are famously, and notoriously, erudite and combative. Rebirth also has a full creative agenda yet to be completely revealed. So far, it is clear that the initiative involves the intrusion of Doctor Manhattan, and perhaps other Watchmen, into the DC Universe. One suspect yes that somewhere in Northampton Alan Moore, bizarre curmudgeon that he is for all of his undoubted talent, is figuratively howling at the moon. Nevertheless, Batman #21 features a variety of homages to Moore and Dave Gibbon's 1986 opus. Most of those come by way of artist Jason Fabok, who utilizes Gibbon's famous nine-panel layout to frame (literally) the tale of a confrontation between Batman and Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash who, we know from the pages of The Flash, has recovered his memories of the Flashpoint event, including his death at the hands of Thomas Wayne. Fabok also makes use of the bloodstained Smiley Face, both in its actual form and in various symbolic representations of circles and slashes. The actual story, as penned by Tom King, is rather less successful than the art. King's formalism fits well with an exploration of Moore's themes. Indeed, King has stated on multiple occasions that Moore is one of his literary heroes. However, King's heavy handed emphasis on patterns and themes and his overwrought plots and dialogue tend to lay bare what the more subtle hand of Moore revealed gradually and/or through dramatic twists. It doesn't help that King is setting up the first installment of a crossover, or that he has the thankless task of chronicling a fight between Bruce Wayne and Eobard Thawne. The legions of rabid Bat fans will explode if the feel Batman has been used as a helpless punching bag. On the other hand, hordes of obsessive continuity experts will want to know how the human Bruce can survive more than a few seconds, literally, against a time-traveling super speedster. It also doesn't help that many of these fans are one and the same, or that an important plot twist has already been spoiled by solicits. But the story, or rather the story mechanics and elements, have never been the important part of Rebirth. This initiative is about the destination, not the journey. We aren't exactly getting there with the speed of a Flash, but things are moving along very nicely, indeed.

The post Batman #21 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

]]>
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Woman Inherits the Earth: An Interview with Natasha Alterici http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2017/04/22/woman-inherits-earth-interview-natasha-alterici/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2017/04/22/woman-inherits-earth-interview-natasha-alterici/#respond Sat, 22 Apr 2017 01:47:03 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=48827

We are living in a golden age of comics discovery. As more and more creators are finding ways to fund and get their comics out there, there are an ever expanding number of publishers interested in giving those talents wider exposure. Natasha Alterici is a prime example of both phenomena. Her queer, feminist, viking epic, Heathen is not only a crowdfunding success story, but it's now the flagship title of Vault Comics!

Alterici's art is some of the most forceful and unique that I've had the fortune to discover in a long time and Heathen is just one of many projects that demonstrates her significant ability as a writer. There has never been a better time to get on board with her work and I'm thrilled that Natasha took a little time off from being a comics badass to speak with us.

 

 

 

Noah Sharma: You started Heathen over two years ago. What’s it like seeing the early issues released now, when you and the world have changed?

Natasha Alterici: It’s a bit surreal. When I was looking for a new publisher to re-release the older issues and continue the series after that, I knew that we ran the risk of it landing flat. I feared it just wouldn’t feel relevant anymore, but unfortunately, current events have only made it resonate more with audiences. My feelings about that are conflicted. It’s good to have an outlet though, especially now that the series is going to continue, I’ll get a chance to touch on topics that I didn’t previously, and just dig into the world of Heathen more.

Looking back on it, are there any large things you would do differently. Is there anything that you value more with the perspective of time?

Not particularly. Since the book was on hiatus for a year, I had time to rework and redraw, and part of me wanted to, but in the end I felt like it was important to leave it be. I think part of the philosophy of the boom is about flawed people trying to do good and making mistakes along the way, so even the things I would consider “mistakes” in the story serve that philosophy. Leaving it sort of allows myself and the reader to grow with the characters.

 

 

In issue #2 we get an explanation for the horns on Aydis’ helmet. What were the best and most frustrating parts of working within the historical and mythological worlds of the Nordic people.

Heathen is first and foremost a fantasy story, but it is set in a specific region and time, and I try to be as faithful as I can to the cultures represented therein. In my early research of Viking and Scandinavian/Germanic/Norse cultures, I learned that like many cultures that were eventually overtaken by Christianity, there is little history that remains. What information we do have has been reconstructed and unfortunately a lot is still missing. Same goes for Norse Mythology, many stories are simply gone. So, understanding that, and understanding that my book would take place in both mortal and immortal realms, I tried to put together a world that would feel faithful to a time period when two cultures were colliding.

 

Though we, not entirely unfairly, tie it to a particular era in time, Norse Heathenry is still alive today, both in some surviving traditions and numerous revivalist movements. Unfortunately, for many, Heathenry has become connected to white supremacy (in spite of the historical multiculturalism of many Norse peoples). Was that connection ever a challenge for you in creating Heathen?

I have to admit, I chose the title Heathen for its common-use definition, as in one that doesn’t adhere to widely held religious beliefs. For my story it fits on two levels, first being the pagan/christian conflict happening in the wider world, and second that the main character is considered by her to be a deviant and sinner. I have since learned that Heathery still thrives today, and I’ve gotten feedback from some adherents, admittedly not all positive. Some of them have been angry men who’ve accused my book of misrepresenting not only Heathenism, but Odin specifically. To these claims I say, my book is a fantasy story, a fictional one utilizing mythological figures who are in the public domain. I’ve constructed the world of Heathen to tell a specific story, that of a lesbian viking destroying a patriarchy. Whether my book perfectly captures how it really was back then or not is a moot point. This is a story for a modern audience concerned with modern issues. One thing I want to make clear in the story is that no culture is superior to another, however the ones that hold the most power are the ones which we as artists have a responsibility to criticize.

 

 

Heathen is also an incredibly beautiful and striking comic. What defined the look of the series?

When it came to designing the look of Heathen I spent some time looking at how Vikings and Norse Mythos has been portrayed in comics, film, and fine arts. There is a commonality among a lot of them, repetitive designs and tropes popped up across different media. I ended up putting aside all these and just focusing on things I found visually interesting. For me this meant going back to nature for inspiration. I was lucky enough to get to take a trip to Ireland a few year back and I’ve used photos gathered on that trip to help design the environment. For the characters I wanted to go for a minimalistic look that I thought would complement the barren land. And then the few iconic pieces that would give it the Norse look, winged helmets, cloaks, and traditional weaponry. Overall I wanted the idea of a lonely warrior to come through.

 

 

Issue #3 really introduces us to Freyja, a goddess who wore many hats (if not much else). Particularly in a series that’s very concerned with the connections between monarchy, divinity, and literal and figurative patriarchy, what does Freyja’s character mean to you?

Heathen has three main characters, Aydis, Brynhild, and Freyja. The goddess of sex and love is incredibly important to the story, given that she is the one person in a perfect position to actually stand up to Odin. But somehow or another she finds herself subject to his authority, despite being a god of equal power. We see the same thing in modern patriarchal societies, we see women of such strength and intelligence and empowerment still somehow allowing men to take all the leadership roles, all the power and ownership. Why are we still letting them do this? We know better, and I think Freyja knows better too. I can’t get into too much more without giving it away, but we will definitely be seeing more of her.

 

 

I actually discovered you twice: once as the creator of Heathen and once as that lady who draws the gorgeous dinosaurs. Lots of people like dinosaurs when they’re young, but only a few of us carry that love into adulthood. What is it about their world that makes you want to explore it through your art?

I saw Jurassic Park when I was six years old, and have been obsessed since. I always enjoyed drawing animals, but there’s a certain kind of magic to drawing animals that have been extinct for millions of years. You’ve got to combine science and art to draw convincing dinosaurs, and for a nerd like me, it’s a perfect combo.

 

You did some work with DC’s Batman office recently. Especially with Heathen seeing a monthly release, are ‘mainstream’ or work-for-hire comics something that you’re interested in as an artist?

While I was very grateful for my opportunities to work on Gotham Academy and Grayson, I can’t see myself working in the mainstream way. I like working independently on looser timelines. Even if the money isn’t as good, it’s better for my soul I think.

 

Is there a character, particular or archetypal, that you dream of working with?

Not particularly. Maybe a Planet of the Apes comic? There is a novel by Sarah Waters called “Fingersmith” that I’d like to adapt into a comic book.

 

 

Your latest project is an extremely ambitious one, comics reviewing every lesbian movie ever! What makes a movie a ‘lez film’ to you?

This was the question I had to ask myself when I started searching for them, and it was surprisingly difficult to answer. Eventually I decided it was best to be as broad as possible. So to qualify as a lez film there a few questions as ask of any potential lez film: 1) does a main or supporting female character identify as a lesbian or bisexual? 2) does a main or supporting female character express romantic affection or sexual attraction for another female? 3) is there enough lesbian subtext or innuendo to reasonably argue it’s inclusion in the list? With these questions in mind I searched out and found over 200 contenders. I’ve watched about half of these so far.

 

Have there been any unexpected discoveries made watching lesbian films as a genre?

The biggest thing I’ve discovered is that there really isn’t a lesbian film genre, there are films that include lesbian characters which fit a wide array of genres; romance, drama, mystery/thriller, horror, musicals, biopics, action/adventure, etc. The one thing I haven’t found yet is a kid’s movie, or a film with a G or even a PG-rating that includes lesbian characters, which is pretty disappointing (though there is a kid’s movie with a gay male character, Paranorman). The best surprise I’ve had is finding that there are far more good lez films than I previously thought. And new ones are being made each year.

 

So often copyright and social stigma keep us from openly commenting on the media we consume through comics and, when we do, it is frequently in-universe fan fiction. Are there any particular challenges or joys in talking about film through comics?

I don’t worry too much about any copyright business, because reviews fall under fair use. As for the social stigma, I think that only motivates me more. The challenge is in the formating. I can write up a review no problem but trying to structure it as a comic was tricky. The one standard I had to look to for inspiration was Erika Moen’s “Oh Joy, Sex Toy!” which is a comic that reviews sex toys. It’s very cleverly formatted. Otherwise it’s just a matter of figuring out what it notable for each film; I usually watch them a couple of times each, read up on their IMDB page and if there’s any supplemental reading that needs to be done I go for it, such as, if a movie was met with a lot of controversy or something like that, I’d want to know more. The joy is in the films themselves, just finding a new way lesbians have been represented on screen is exciting, and potentially finding a new favorite movie.

 

Heathen #3 is on sale now at your local comic shop and on Comixology.

The post Woman Inherits the Earth: An Interview with Natasha Alterici appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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We are living in a golden age of comics discovery. As more and more creators are finding ways to fund and get their comics out there, there are an ever expanding number of publishers interested in giving those talents wider exposure. Natasha Alterici is a prime example of both phenomena. Her queer, feminist, viking epic, Heathen is not only a crowdfunding success story, but it's now the flagship title of Vault Comics! Alterici's art is some of the most forceful and unique that I've had the fortune to discover in a long time and Heathen is just one of many projects that demonstrates her significant ability as a writer. There has never been a better time to get on board with her work and I'm thrilled that Natasha took a little time off from being a comics badass to speak with us.       Noah Sharma: You started Heathen over two years ago. What’s it like seeing the early issues released now, when you and the world have changed? Natasha Alterici: It’s a bit surreal. When I was looking for a new publisher to re-release the older issues and continue the series after that, I knew that we ran the risk of it landing flat. I feared it just wouldn’t feel relevant anymore, but unfortunately, current events have only made it resonate more with audiences. My feelings about that are conflicted. It’s good to have an outlet though, especially now that the series is going to continue, I’ll get a chance to touch on topics that I didn’t previously, and just dig into the world of Heathen more. Looking back on it, are there any large things you would do differently. Is there anything that you value more with the perspective of time? Not particularly. Since the book was on hiatus for a year, I had time to rework and redraw, and part of me wanted to, but in the end I felt like it was important to leave it be. I think part of the philosophy of the boom is about flawed people trying to do good and making mistakes along the way, so even the things I would consider “mistakes” in the story serve that philosophy. Leaving it sort of allows myself and the reader to grow with the characters.     In issue #2 we get an explanation for the horns on Aydis’ helmet. What were the best and most frustrating parts of working within the historical and mythological worlds of the Nordic people. Heathen is first and foremost a fantasy story, but it is set in a specific region and time, and I try to be as faithful as I can to the cultures represented therein. In my early research of Viking and Scandinavian/Germanic/Norse cultures, I learned that like many cultures that were eventually overtaken by Christianity, there is little history that remains. What information we do have has been reconstructed and unfortunately a lot is still missing. Same goes for Norse Mythology, many stories are simply gone. So, understanding that, and understanding that my book would take place in both mortal and immortal realms, I tried to put together a world that would feel faithful to a time period when two cultures were colliding.   Though we, not entirely unfairly, tie it to a particular era in time, Norse Heathenry is still alive today, both in some surviving traditions and numerous revivalist movements. Unfortunately, for many, Heathenry has become connected to white supremacy (in spite of the historical multiculturalism of many Norse peoples). Was that connection ever a challenge for you in creating Heathen? I have to admit, I chose the title Heathen for its common-use definition, as in one that doesn’t adhere to widely held religious beliefs. For my story it fits on two levels, first being the pagan/christian conflict happening in the wider world, and second that the main character is considered by her to be a deviant and sinner. I have since learned that Heathery still thrives today, and I’ve gotten feedback from some adherents, admittedly not all positive. Some of them have been angry men who’ve accused my book of misrepresenting not only Heathenism, but Odin specifically. To these claims I say, my book is a fantasy story, a fictional one utilizing mythological figures who are in the public domain. I’ve constructed the world of Heathen to tell a specific story, that of a lesbian viking destroying a patriarchy. Whether my book perfectly captures how it really was back then or not is a moot point. This is a story for a modern audience concerned with modern issues. One thing I want to make clear in the story is that no culture is superior to another, however the ones that hold the most power are the ones which we as artists have a responsibility to criticize.     Heathen is also an incredibly beautiful and striking comic. What defined the look of the series? When it came to designing the look of Heathen I spent some time looking at how Vikings and Norse Mythos has been portrayed in comics, film, and fine arts. There is a commonality among a lot of them, repetitive designs and tropes popped up across different media. I ended up putting aside all these and just focusing on things I found visually interesting. For me this meant going back to nature for inspiration. I was lucky enough to get to take a trip to Ireland a few year back and I’ve used photos gathered on that trip to help design the environment. For the characters I wanted to go for a minimalistic look that I thought would complement the barren land. And then the few iconic pieces that would give it the Norse look, winged helmets, cloaks, and traditional weaponry. Overall I wanted the idea of a lonely warrior to come through.     Issue #3 really introduces us to Freyja, a goddess who wore many hats (if not much else). Particularly in a series that’s very concerned with the connections between monarchy, divinity, and literal and figurative patriarchy, what does Freyja’s character mean to you? Heathen has three main characters, Aydis, Brynhild, and Freyja. The goddess of sex and love is incredibly important to the story, given that she is the one person in a perfect position to actually stand up to Odin. But somehow or another she finds herself subject to his authority, despite being a god of equal power. We see the same thing in modern patriarchal societies, we see women of such strength and intelligence and empowerment still somehow allowing men to take all the leadership roles, all the power and ownership. Why are we still letting them do this? We know better, and I think Freyja knows better too. I can’t get into too much more without giving it away, but we will definitely be seeing more of her.     I actually discovered you twice: once as the creator of Heathen and once as that lady who draws the gorgeous dinosaurs. Lots of people like dinosaurs when they’re young, but only a few of us carry that love into adulthood. What is it about their world that makes you want to explore it through your art? I saw Jurassic Park when I was six years old, and have been obsessed since. I always enjoyed drawing animals, but there’s a certain kind of magic to drawing animals that have been extinct for millions of years. You’ve got to combine science and art to draw convincing dinosaurs, and for a nerd like me, it’s a perfect combo.   You did some work with DC’s Batman office recently. Especially with Heathen seeing a monthly release, are ‘mainstream’ or work-for-hire comics something that you’re interested in as an artist? While I was very grateful for my opportunities to work on Gotham Academy and Grayson, I can’t see myself working in the mainstream way. I like working independently on looser timelines. Even if the money isn’t as good, it’s better for my soul I think.   Is there a character, particular or archetypal, that you dream of working with? Not particularly. Maybe a Planet of the Apes comic? There is a novel by Sarah Waters called “Fingersmith” that I’d like to adapt into a comic book.     Your latest project is an extremely ambitious one, comics reviewing every lesbian movie ever! What makes a movie a ‘lez film’ to you? This was the question I had to ask myself when I started searching for them, and it was surprisingly difficult to answer. Eventually I decided it was best to be as broad as possible. So to qualify as a lez film there a few questions as ask of any potential lez film: 1) does a main or supporting female character identify as a lesbian or bisexual? 2) does a main or supporting female character express romantic affection or sexual attraction for another female? 3) is there enough lesbian subtext or innuendo to reasonably argue it’s inclusion in the list? With these questions in mind I searched out and found over 200 contenders. I’ve watched about half of these so far.   Have there been any unexpected discoveries made watching lesbian films as a genre? The biggest thing I’ve discovered is that there really isn’t a lesbian film genre, there are films that include lesbian characters which fit a wide array of genres; romance, drama, mystery/thriller, horror, musicals, biopics, action/adventure, etc. The one thing I haven’t found yet is a kid’s movie, or a film with a G or even a PG-rating that includes lesbian characters, which is pretty disappointing (though there is a kid’s movie with a gay male character, Paranorman). The best surprise I’ve had is finding that there are far more good lez films than I previously thought. And new ones are being made each year.   So often copyright and social stigma keep us from openly commenting on the media we consume through comics and, when we do, it is frequently in-universe fan fiction. Are there any particular challenges or joys in talking about film through comics? I don’t worry too much about any copyright business, because reviews fall under fair use. As for the social stigma, I think that only motivates me more. The challenge is in the formating. I can write up a review no problem but trying to structure it as a comic was tricky. The one standard I had to look to for inspiration was Erika Moen’s “Oh Joy, Sex Toy!” which is a comic that reviews sex toys. It’s very cleverly formatted. Otherwise it’s just a matter of figuring out what it notable for each film; I usually watch them a couple of times each, read up on their IMDB page and if there’s any supplemental reading that needs to be done I go for it, such as, if a movie was met with a lot of controversy or something like that, I’d want to know more. The joy is in the films themselves, just finding a new way lesbians have been represented on screen is exciting, and potentially finding a new favorite movie.   Heathen #3 is on sale now at your local comic shop and on Comixology.

The post Woman Inherits the Earth: An Interview with Natasha Alterici appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Godshaper #1 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2017/04/17/godshaper-1/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2017/04/17/godshaper-1/#respond Mon, 17 Apr 2017 06:06:35 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=48824

The world of Godshaper is a remarkably fresh, if not necessarily original, one. In a world where technology has been replaced by personal deities, godless “shapers” make up a highly demanded underclass. With shades of His Dark Materials providing a popular and time-tested blueprint, Godshaper dives straight into building up its wonderfully peculiar world.

Part of what makes Godshaper so interesting is the mundanity of its world. Sure, almost everyone has a god but people use them to make ice cream, or send letters, or print nudie pics. The whole world, or at least all of the midwest town we spend this issue in, has a very specific feel to it. There’s a certain southern politeness, but it’s shallow to say the least and there’s a blend of early 60s conservatism and quintessentially American status-worship lurking just below.

Si Spurrier has also done a fine job of presenting both the mainstream feeling of the world and its counter culture. Cantik gets a little more of a brief, straightforward introduction, but its queer, combative, unplugged energy makes for a striking addition to the story and that leads us to our main character.

Ennay is our protagonist, but he’s not really our hero. Usually that set up results in a charming rogue, but I really enjoy the degree to which Godshaper doesn’t go out of its way to make Ennay likable. Just spending time with him, seeing this world through his eyes, is enough to get you attached and the dual draw and repulsion of being an unethical, free-lovin’, snobbish, unappreciated rockstar is a much more interesting than your standard comics protagonist. Besides that’s why we have Bud, who’s all too happy to play BB-8 for us. Especially with Clara presenting a nice contrast of differing appeals, the story becomes easily engrossing.

Of course, it also doesn’t feel like the full scope of Spurrier’s ambitions has been revealed yet. Notably the significance of making this an alternate history rather than simply a secondary world is unclear. One likely, if incomplete, answer is simply that it provides context and grounding in an otherwise unknown world. However, I’m not satisfied by that explanation, especially because that’s probably going to be hit and miss with readers.

Put simply, I love that Spurrier is trying to introduce us to this universe without resorting to infodumps, but there are plenty of places where it crosses from subtle to confusing and, occasionally, even distracting. The fact that we never get a strong explaination of what beads are seems a particularly notably example. And, given the requirements of this mode of world building, one has to admit that the otherwise standard repetition of ideas in narration and dialogue feels like a bit of a waste.

The art is similarly distinctive. There’s a great, indy malleability in the vastmajority of the action and designs, but Jonas Goonface can bring out the real and the striking at the flip of a switch. Actually, no, switches imply a binary state, and what’s so fun about this quality is how these two aesthetics coexist so naturally, often within the same panel. Bold outlines and careful crosshatching allow this book to run the gamut of the representational, hovering in the simple and universal for panel after panel until the specific crashes into the foreground.

The panel compositions are always lively and pointedly expressive. Goonface doesn’t hide what his intentions for a panel are, but many are subtle enough to communicate to you without the reader noticing. And, as if to put icing on that cake, the total pages  always look great.

The art of Godshaper is definitely not standard and it doesn’t even quite fit into the traditional look of modern wiggly, cartoonishness. That might leave some prospective readers feeling unimpressed at first glance, but the longer you look at it the more interesting and skillful it becomes.

I also have to mention just how forcefully rad Goonface’s colors are, because they absolutely make this book. With the glowing gods serving as both an excuse and a highlight for the book’s electric pastel palette, there’s always something wonderful to absorb.

The post Godshaper #1 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

]]>

The world of Godshaper is a remarkably fresh, if not necessarily original, one. In a world where technology has been replaced by personal deities, godless “shapers” make up a highly demanded underclass. With shades of His Dark Materials providing a popular and time-tested blueprint, Godshaper dives straight into building up its wonderfully peculiar world.

Part of what makes Godshaper so interesting is the mundanity of its world. Sure, almost everyone has a god but people use them to make ice cream, or send letters, or print nudie pics. The whole world, or at least all of the midwest town we spend this issue in, has a very specific feel to it. There’s a certain southern politeness, but it’s shallow to say the least and there’s a blend of early 60s conservatism and quintessentially American status-worship lurking just below.

Si Spurrier has also done a fine job of presenting both the mainstream feeling of the world and its counter culture. Cantik gets a little more of a brief, straightforward introduction, but its queer, combative, unplugged energy makes for a striking addition to the story and that leads us to our main character.

Ennay is our protagonist, but he’s not really our hero. Usually that set up results in a charming rogue, but I really enjoy the degree to which Godshaper doesn’t go out of its way to make Ennay likable. Just spending time with him, seeing this world through his eyes, is enough to get you attached and the dual draw and repulsion of being an unethical, free-lovin’, snobbish, unappreciated rockstar is a much more interesting than your standard comics protagonist. Besides that’s why we have Bud, who’s all too happy to play BB-8 for us. Especially with Clara presenting a nice contrast of differing appeals, the story becomes easily engrossing.

Of course, it also doesn’t feel like the full scope of Spurrier’s ambitions has been revealed yet. Notably the significance of making this an alternate history rather than simply a secondary world is unclear. One likely, if incomplete, answer is simply that it provides context and grounding in an otherwise unknown world. However, I’m not satisfied by that explanation, especially because that’s probably going to be hit and miss with readers.

Put simply, I love that Spurrier is trying to introduce us to this universe without resorting to infodumps, but there are plenty of places where it crosses from subtle to confusing and, occasionally, even distracting. The fact that we never get a strong explaination of what beads are seems a particularly notably example. And, given the requirements of this mode of world building, one has to admit that the otherwise standard repetition of ideas in narration and dialogue feels like a bit of a waste.

The art is similarly distinctive. There’s a great, indy malleability in the vastmajority of the action and designs, but Jonas Goonface can bring out the real and the striking at the flip of a switch. Actually, no, switches imply a binary state, and what’s so fun about this quality is how these two aesthetics coexist so naturally, often within the same panel. Bold outlines and careful crosshatching allow this book to run the gamut of the representational, hovering in the simple and universal for panel after panel until the specific crashes into the foreground.

The panel compositions are always lively and pointedly expressive. Goonface doesn’t hide what his intentions for a panel are, but many are subtle enough to communicate to you without the reader noticing. And, as if to put icing on that cake, the total pages  always look great.

The art of Godshaper is definitely not standard and it doesn’t even quite fit into the traditional look of modern wiggly, cartoonishness. That might leave some prospective readers feeling unimpressed at first glance, but the longer you look at it the more interesting and skillful it becomes.

I also have to mention just how forcefully rad Goonface’s colors are, because they absolutely make this book. With the glowing gods serving as both an excuse and a highlight for the book’s electric pastel palette, there’s always something wonderful to absorb.

The post Godshaper #1 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Titans Annual #1 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2017/04/04/titans-annual-1/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2017/04/04/titans-annual-1/#respond Tue, 04 Apr 2017 15:59:16 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=48815

DC comics have always been at their strongest when emphasizing deep continuity. The long history of the DC universe in real time, with a corresponding but convoluted chronology within the fictional reality it represents, provides rich opportunity to explore long term developments and the thick texture of layered stories. In terms of character, this manifests in the multiple generations of legacy heroes for which DC is justly famous.

The New 52 era was to an extent a departure from this tradition. The experiment was not altogether successful, to put it diplomatically. The Rebirth initiative has taken the restoration of history and legacy as one of its chief goals, so far to generally good critical and commercial reception. Titans is a direct result of this new emphasis on history and legacy. Or, it has been about legacy in theory, as we have had little chance to see the team members interacting with their older counterparts, Nightwing's relationship with Batman providing a crucial exception. In this annual, writer Dan Abnett takes the opportunity to explore some of these relationships in the world of Rebirth.

The set up to the story is familiar from any number of science fiction stories and films. Four Titans, Nightwing, Tempest, Wally West, and Donna Troy, find themselves transported into a vast metallic labyrinth, cut off from the outside world and beset by various synthetic foes. They are joined by Batman, Aquaman, Barry Allen, and Wonder Woman. The villain is almost incidental to the story. It turns out the Key has kidnapped these heroes to manipulate them psychologically, siphoning the energy of conflict and distress to break a mysterious entity out of an extradimensional prison. We never learn the identity of this ultimate foe, although one suspects it is the hungry demon introduced by Abnett in Titans Hunt and Justice League #52.

The heart of this story lies in the character interactions and the themes they reveal. That between the two Flashes is warm, friendly, and smooth. That between Nightwing and Batman is superficially very different, but probably even smoother and stronger. Aquaman, on the other hand, shows a haughty side to his personality that comes as a surprise to those who forget that he is, after all, a king. Tempest, whose particular relationship with his mentor in modern continuity has yet to be chronicled, reacts with respect laced with tension and rebelliousness. Wonder Woman reacts to Donna with suspicion and hostility, much to the latter's confusion.

And here Abnett drops a bombshell. It turns out that Donna has a new origin, not in itself surprising considering her long history of those. As we saw in the New 52, she was created from clay as a weapon to destroy Diana. It isn't clear the rest of her New 52 story still holds, although considering it involved mass murder one suspects it does not. Nevertheless, her memories are largely false, created to give her stability and the illusion  of humanity.

The post Titans Annual #1 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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DC comics have always been at their strongest when emphasizing deep continuity. The long history of the DC universe in real time, with a corresponding but convoluted chronology within the fictional reality it represents, provides rich opportunity to explore long term developments and the thick texture of layered stories. In terms of character, this manifests in the multiple generations of legacy heroes for which DC is justly famous. The New 52 era was to an extent a departure from this tradition. The experiment was not altogether successful, to put it diplomatically. The Rebirth initiative has taken the restoration of history and legacy as one of its chief goals, so far to generally good critical and commercial reception. Titans is a direct result of this new emphasis on history and legacy. Or, it has been about legacy in theory, as we have had little chance to see the team members interacting with their older counterparts, Nightwing's relationship with Batman providing a crucial exception. In this annual, writer Dan Abnett takes the opportunity to explore some of these relationships in the world of Rebirth. The set up to the story is familiar from any number of science fiction stories and films. Four Titans, Nightwing, Tempest, Wally West, and Donna Troy, find themselves transported into a vast metallic labyrinth, cut off from the outside world and beset by various synthetic foes. They are joined by Batman, Aquaman, Barry Allen, and Wonder Woman. The villain is almost incidental to the story. It turns out the Key has kidnapped these heroes to manipulate them psychologically, siphoning the energy of conflict and distress to break a mysterious entity out of an extradimensional prison. We never learn the identity of this ultimate foe, although one suspects it is the hungry demon introduced by Abnett in Titans Hunt and Justice League #52. The heart of this story lies in the character interactions and the themes they reveal. That between the two Flashes is warm, friendly, and smooth. That between Nightwing and Batman is superficially very different, but probably even smoother and stronger. Aquaman, on the other hand, shows a haughty side to his personality that comes as a surprise to those who forget that he is, after all, a king. Tempest, whose particular relationship with his mentor in modern continuity has yet to be chronicled, reacts with respect laced with tension and rebelliousness. Wonder Woman reacts to Donna with suspicion and hostility, much to the latter's confusion. And here Abnett drops a bombshell. It turns out that Donna has a new origin, not in itself surprising considering her long history of those. As we saw in the New 52, she was created from clay as a weapon to destroy Diana. It isn't clear the rest of her New 52 story still holds, although considering it involved mass murder one suspects it does not. Nevertheless, her memories are largely false, created to give her stability and the illusion  of humanity.

The post Titans Annual #1 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Occupy Avengers #5 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2017/04/04/occupy-avengers-5/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2017/04/04/occupy-avengers-5/#respond Tue, 04 Apr 2017 07:00:03 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=48812

There is perhaps no more powerful moment in life or in fiction than the one where ‘us’ becomes ‘them’ and vice versa. It signals redemption and self-discovery and atrocity. And it just so happens that there is a group in the Marvel Universe who specialize in one particular form of ‘us-them’ turns.

Occupy Avengers slows down a bit this month as Clint and the gang stop to get their ride repaired. It’s an utterly mundane experience, even with the former Hawkeye calling in some super science favors, but, unfortunately, it’s not mundane enough for the town they discover.

Anyone looking to pin David Walker with the humorless SJW label needs look no farther  than Dungston, Iowa. Though it’s certainly a slight deviation from expectation, Dungston immediately radiates charm as strong as its odor. It’s equal parts comforting americana and never-knew-you-wanted-it magical realism.

The unanimity of the town is overpowering, even as Walker gives us glimpses into the differing personalities that populate Dungston, and, particularly in this moment in time, it can become unsettling. The swiftness and preemptiveness of their response immediately summons a sense of paranoia in the reader to match their own. Walker is playing with expectations brilliantly here. What war did Lovett fight in? Is the mysterious man in the prologue hunting him or hunting for him? And what kind of story is Walker really telling.

Even as hints of crime and superpowers enter into the equation, Walker and Walta do a fantastic job of keeping the fear of a town that will kill to maintain its quaint way of life in your mind. It’s all too easy to take a bunch of unusually normal people seriously as antagonists when even the slightest hint of ‘outside’ or ‘unknown’ whips the town into a panic. It’s timely without being ham-fisted and demonstrates just how aptly suited Walker is to telling stories like these. But, of course, it’s not that simple and Walker’s ending flips the script around, revealing all new concerns and reflections of life.

That slow build proves tense and potent as the various factions wind their way towards collision and, once they get there, well, it’s pretty impressive. Walker and Walta are clearly a strong pair, utilizing panel size, crosscutting, and page composition to sell the moment beautifully.

Unfortunately, the one of the issue’s strongest attributes also fosters some of its greatest weaknesses. Put simply, the pacing in this issue serves a grand purpose but doesn’t always hold up page to page. The frequent meetings between neighbors don’t always differentiate themselves and, though it’s often cute, the team’s everyday struggles and foibles don’t make for the most engrossing comics. Watching Clint struggle to come up with a half-decent lie is both charming and character-building, but it takes the better part of a copy-dense page to sell the gag. Likewise, the burgeoning romance and/or restraining order between Red Wolf and Tilda is a fun and different team dynamic, but it doesn’t move beyond the chuckle-worthy.

Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Jordie Bellaire are easily one of modern comics’ most impressive artistic teams. Even without the aforementioned synergy that Walta and Walker seem to share, he and Bellaire are an automatic infusion of class and detail to just about any book you put them on.

That’s true here, but Occupy Avengers #5’s pacing problems are mirrored in its art. Walta shines in moments of tension and suspense, but simple talking heads and the flat, dusty colors of Dungston don’t bring out he or Bellaire’s best. Walta’s anatomy doesn’t always hold up perfectly face on and there are some pages that lack energy in layout and execution. In his defense, I expect that this is largely intentional, with these pages almost uniformly featuring Barton undertaking mundane tasks in a town trying its best to seem normal, but that still leaves things a little underwhelming.

But, as I said, this is still a Walta/Bellaire book and, particularly in the last section of the issue, it can look simply gorgeous. Walta’s knack for capturing emotion, both in faces and in composition, is on full display and the more dramatic the lighting gets the stronger Bellaire’s work seems to become.

The limited colors present in the early section of the issue make the arrival of Clint’s specialists all the more stunning and marks a clear change, not only for the art, but for the mood of the town.

The post Occupy Avengers #5 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

]]>

There is perhaps no more powerful moment in life or in fiction than the one where ‘us’ becomes ‘them’ and vice versa. It signals redemption and self-discovery and atrocity. And it just so happens that there is a group in the Marvel Universe who specialize in one particular form of ‘us-them’ turns.

Occupy Avengers slows down a bit this month as Clint and the gang stop to get their ride repaired. It’s an utterly mundane experience, even with the former Hawkeye calling in some super science favors, but, unfortunately, it’s not mundane enough for the town they discover.

Anyone looking to pin David Walker with the humorless SJW label needs look no farther  than Dungston, Iowa. Though it’s certainly a slight deviation from expectation, Dungston immediately radiates charm as strong as its odor. It’s equal parts comforting americana and never-knew-you-wanted-it magical realism.

The unanimity of the town is overpowering, even as Walker gives us glimpses into the differing personalities that populate Dungston, and, particularly in this moment in time, it can become unsettling. The swiftness and preemptiveness of their response immediately summons a sense of paranoia in the reader to match their own. Walker is playing with expectations brilliantly here. What war did Lovett fight in? Is the mysterious man in the prologue hunting him or hunting for him? And what kind of story is Walker really telling.

Even as hints of crime and superpowers enter into the equation, Walker and Walta do a fantastic job of keeping the fear of a town that will kill to maintain its quaint way of life in your mind. It’s all too easy to take a bunch of unusually normal people seriously as antagonists when even the slightest hint of ‘outside’ or ‘unknown’ whips the town into a panic. It’s timely without being ham-fisted and demonstrates just how aptly suited Walker is to telling stories like these. But, of course, it’s not that simple and Walker’s ending flips the script around, revealing all new concerns and reflections of life.

That slow build proves tense and potent as the various factions wind their way towards collision and, once they get there, well, it’s pretty impressive. Walker and Walta are clearly a strong pair, utilizing panel size, crosscutting, and page composition to sell the moment beautifully.

Unfortunately, the one of the issue’s strongest attributes also fosters some of its greatest weaknesses. Put simply, the pacing in this issue serves a grand purpose but doesn’t always hold up page to page. The frequent meetings between neighbors don’t always differentiate themselves and, though it’s often cute, the team’s everyday struggles and foibles don’t make for the most engrossing comics. Watching Clint struggle to come up with a half-decent lie is both charming and character-building, but it takes the better part of a copy-dense page to sell the gag. Likewise, the burgeoning romance and/or restraining order between Red Wolf and Tilda is a fun and different team dynamic, but it doesn’t move beyond the chuckle-worthy.

Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Jordie Bellaire are easily one of modern comics’ most impressive artistic teams. Even without the aforementioned synergy that Walta and Walker seem to share, he and Bellaire are an automatic infusion of class and detail to just about any book you put them on.

That’s true here, but Occupy Avengers #5’s pacing problems are mirrored in its art. Walta shines in moments of tension and suspense, but simple talking heads and the flat, dusty colors of Dungston don’t bring out he or Bellaire’s best. Walta’s anatomy doesn’t always hold up perfectly face on and there are some pages that lack energy in layout and execution. In his defense, I expect that this is largely intentional, with these pages almost uniformly featuring Barton undertaking mundane tasks in a town trying its best to seem normal, but that still leaves things a little underwhelming.

But, as I said, this is still a Walta/Bellaire book and, particularly in the last section of the issue, it can look simply gorgeous. Walta’s knack for capturing emotion, both in faces and in composition, is on full display and the more dramatic the lighting gets the stronger Bellaire’s work seems to become.

The limited colors present in the early section of the issue make the arrival of Clint’s specialists all the more stunning and marks a clear change, not only for the art, but for the mood of the town.

The post Occupy Avengers #5 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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