Weekly Comic Book Review http://weeklycomicbookreview.com Your source for comic book commentary Mon, 31 Aug 2015 03:46:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 Fight Club 2 #4http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2015/08/31/fight-club-2-4/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2015/08/31/fight-club-2-4/#comments Mon, 31 Aug 2015 03:46:48 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=47102 Fight Club 2 #4

How far would you go to rescue your family? In the Fight Club universe, it means ingratiating yourself into an artisan soap making operation and/or into an international mercenary military corporation. Or possibly even traveling into the heart of Mogadishu. Then there’s also the matter of having your face smashed in.   

While the tone of this series often aimed to capture a heightened level of intensity, this issue seems to be a bit more, let’s say, playful. Unfortunately, that defuses some of moments that are meant to be more intense, and the whole thing becomes hard to take seriously. Compounding the problem is that the son— the character that has now officially become just a MacGuffin to spurs our Narrator and Marla into action, as he’s been pushed more and more into the periphery of our plot. The characters (and reader) have to remark every once in a while “oh, yeah! Their son. That’s why all this is happening.”

In the real world, Fight Club has become so ingrained in our culture that jokes about the name or the “rules” or other aspects are quite second nature, so it’s only natural that the sequel itself takes up what has become tropes and play with them. Case in point— the set-up, a landscape panel that is identical to the Victorian house (or is it Edwardian? I can never tell) that Fight Club has made its headquarters, and the joke, that Marla undercuts the progress we think she is making by remarking simply “Quilt Club?”. Before that, however, there’s a completely gratuitous scene of the author making an appearance as leader of Write Klub (sic), which plays as something that was supposed to be funny in the vein of all this playfulness but instead comes across as a bunch of in-jokes that readers aren’t privy to.       

Also, I think I missed something else because Marla uses the scrap of paper she gets from The Writer to find the Quilt Club, but The Writer also says to not call unless the plot lags. So, does this mean the writer himself is thinking the plot is lagging now? Well, my job as a reviewer is done when the writer and characters are doing it for me.

The comedy of the book is tempered a bit by the violence and despair, that tone of “intensity” that I mentioned earlier. There’s an attempted rape and a truly brutal one-on-one between Sebastian and a figure from his past, both of which are physically and emotionally wrecking. The art mirrors the interplay between the tones, with very typical straight-edged and regular panels for most scenes, until the violence disrupts the page and panels are haphazard, overlapping, or falling all over.    

The last page says it all— the stamp of the Comics Code Authority, bloodstained and  rendered in a distressed, blurred look with colors running and bleeding all over. It’s violent and disturbing but also comical and a visual narrative. Unfortunately, this issue doesn’t quite strike the right balance of the two, which seems to push the story into a universe of its own rather than being something very world-next-door. That’s okay, of course, but as the story moves more and more from “reality,” then a lot of the themes are becoming more and more disconnected from us.    

The post Fight Club 2 #4 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Fight Club 2 #4

How far would you go to rescue your family? In the Fight Club universe, it means ingratiating yourself into an artisan soap making operation and/or into an international mercenary military corporation. Or possibly even traveling into the heart of Mogadishu. Then there’s also the matter of having your face smashed in.   

While the tone of this series often aimed to capture a heightened level of intensity, this issue seems to be a bit more, let’s say, playful. Unfortunately, that defuses some of moments that are meant to be more intense, and the whole thing becomes hard to take seriously. Compounding the problem is that the son— the character that has now officially become just a MacGuffin to spurs our Narrator and Marla into action, as he’s been pushed more and more into the periphery of our plot. The characters (and reader) have to remark every once in a while “oh, yeah! Their son. That’s why all this is happening.”

In the real world, Fight Club has become so ingrained in our culture that jokes about the name or the “rules” or other aspects are quite second nature, so it’s only natural that the sequel itself takes up what has become tropes and play with them. Case in point— the set-up, a landscape panel that is identical to the Victorian house (or is it Edwardian? I can never tell) that Fight Club has made its headquarters, and the joke, that Marla undercuts the progress we think she is making by remarking simply “Quilt Club?”. Before that, however, there’s a completely gratuitous scene of the author making an appearance as leader of Write Klub (sic), which plays as something that was supposed to be funny in the vein of all this playfulness but instead comes across as a bunch of in-jokes that readers aren’t privy to.       

Also, I think I missed something else because Marla uses the scrap of paper she gets from The Writer to find the Quilt Club, but The Writer also says to not call unless the plot lags. So, does this mean the writer himself is thinking the plot is lagging now? Well, my job as a reviewer is done when the writer and characters are doing it for me.

The comedy of the book is tempered a bit by the violence and despair, that tone of “intensity” that I mentioned earlier. There’s an attempted rape and a truly brutal one-on-one between Sebastian and a figure from his past, both of which are physically and emotionally wrecking. The art mirrors the interplay between the tones, with very typical straight-edged and regular panels for most scenes, until the violence disrupts the page and panels are haphazard, overlapping, or falling all over.    

The last page says it all— the stamp of the Comics Code Authority, bloodstained and  rendered in a distressed, blurred look with colors running and bleeding all over. It’s violent and disturbing but also comical and a visual narrative. Unfortunately, this issue doesn’t quite strike the right balance of the two, which seems to push the story into a universe of its own rather than being something very world-next-door. That’s okay, of course, but as the story moves more and more from “reality,” then a lot of the themes are becoming more and more disconnected from us.    

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Magneto #21http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2015/08/29/magneto-21/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2015/08/29/magneto-21/#comments Sat, 29 Aug 2015 21:29:40 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=47093 image

Looking back on my early reviews of Cullen Bunn’s Magneto, the word that comes up again and again in the crucial lines is ‘breathless’. It’s a word that called to my mind a physical pressure in the pacing of a story and a conscious awareness of how long everything takes. In the context of those associations, I have to say that I agree with my initial interpretation and that Bunn still has it.

At long last, Magneto has come to an end and Cullen Bunn delivers an impressive, if occasionally rote, look at what a life flashing before ones eyes looks like when you’ve survived the holocaust, a de-aging, a sovereignty, and more.

The twin joys of this issue are Magneto’s final monologue and the chance to look back upon some of the Master of Magnetism’s greatest hits with a fresh eye. The flashbacks weave Bunn’s distinctive style into these classic moments rather seamlessly, to the point were I had to dig out my Marvel Masterworks collection to prove to myself that the opening monologue wasn’t built upon a Stan Lee original. Though the age of this series’ Magneto has suited Bunn quite nicely, it’s fun to see him tackling the classic era once before we say goodnight. It’s also interesting that in this moment of self-loathing, seeing Magneto at his most tyrannical actually serves to highlight his humanity more than watching him struggle to save the world. As Polaris reminds us, Magneto is excellent at letting ends justify means, but Bunn grasps the core intrigue of the character by showing how fervently he believed in his own justifications.

Of course, the arc of the story lies in examining how Magneto imagines his legacy now that his story is coming to an end. More than most that I’ve read, Magneto’s “Last Days” really feel like they’re taking advantage of something that simply can’t be done with a near miss apocalypse. Though I honestly wish that we could have gotten a little more of a sense of Magneto’s final thoughts, Bunn ends the series as poetically as it began and, unsurprisingly, with the same sense of loneliness.

But while the writing remains strong, this is the fourth issue of this arc and it was clear where this was leading from the first. We all knew that Magneto was seeking to increase his power enough to hold off the Incursion and we knew that the existence of “Secret Wars” meant that he, at least, wasn’t getting a traditional happy ending. The lack of a shocking turn in the narrative only drives home how over-decompressed this arc has been and draws attention to one of the major flaws of Bunn’s storytelling. You see, while there is some gravitas about the whole thing, there’s no tension in the present day scenes. Magneto holds his arms out as lightning crackles toothlessly around him, but neither Bunn nor his collaborators manage to channel the slim hope of a successful outcome or the aching panic of the last line falling. It’s intentionally fatalistic, but such moments need contrast and, after four issues, it just feels like there’s nothing but grim certainty left in the audience or the creators.

I’m so grateful that we get a full issue of Gabriel Hernandez Walta to see this series off. Bunn would have made Magneto a fascinating read with more or less any artist, but describing Walta’s art as anything less than an immense draw would be an insult to the man. Working with a popular pick for best colorist in the business, Walta crafts something appropriately world-weary and beautiful to mark the end of this old man’s eighty-five year tragedy.

There’s no denying that these panels are beautiful and they combine nicely into a series of lovely pages. Walta and Jordie Bellaire work marvelously together and each of their contributions feel innately linked. I will say that Polaris and Briar Raleigh are looking a little heavy, which would be fine if it were intentional but I can't imagine why it would be here. The only problem with the storytelling, however, is the aforementioned lack of energy in the present day sections.

It helps that Magneto practically defined the classic ‘above it all’ villain posture, leaving Walta countless engaging choices to make about the mutant savior’s body language that, in turn, give the compositions a certain sensuous flow. The flashbacks are also a genuine gift to Walta and Bellaire. Beyond the inherent weight that comes with comics’ reverence towards nostalgia,the art team really contributes immensely to the story through the contrasts between past and present and this issue and the original stories. Admittedly, I could just look at the final panel of the first flashback for ages, but how Walta and Bellaire depict Magneto’s ‘triumphs’ is as essential, if not more so, than their aesthetic beauty. These versions of the classic scenes are from Magneto’s point of view and that distinction is paramount. Most obvious is the increased gore and weight of the scenes. It’s fascinating how unambiguously evil Magneto was back in 1963 when he merely threatened to do wrong yet how sympathetic he remains now, when you’re forced to look his offscreen victims in the eye.

While it’s easy to miss in the visual splendor and lyrical dialogue of a first read, each of these scenes actually contains a critical moment of doubt or reassurance for Magnus. The fact that Bunn trusted these critical story beats entirely to his artists is a testament to what has made this series so excellent and allows those moments where you recognize what’s happening an appropriate solemnity. Walta depicts a Magneto who is not immune to the suffering of others, but rather consciously dismissive. We talk all the time about how the ends justify the means for Erik or how he doesn’t realize what he’s become, but these small moments of doubt, the acknowledgement that he knows he’s a monster and doesn’t care, help elevate the final moments of this issue from a well-written but largely standard monologue to a fitting capstone for this series.

A Thought:

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

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image

Looking back on my early reviews of Cullen Bunn’s Magneto, the word that comes up again and again in the crucial lines is ‘breathless’. It’s a word that called to my mind a physical pressure in the pacing of a story and a conscious awareness of how long everything takes. In the context of those associations, I have to say that I agree with my initial interpretation and that Bunn still has it.

At long last, Magneto has come to an end and Cullen Bunn delivers an impressive, if occasionally rote, look at what a life flashing before ones eyes looks like when you’ve survived the holocaust, a de-aging, a sovereignty, and more.

The twin joys of this issue are Magneto’s final monologue and the chance to look back upon some of the Master of Magnetism’s greatest hits with a fresh eye. The flashbacks weave Bunn’s distinctive style into these classic moments rather seamlessly, to the point were I had to dig out my Marvel Masterworks collection to prove to myself that the opening monologue wasn’t built upon a Stan Lee original. Though the age of this series’ Magneto has suited Bunn quite nicely, it’s fun to see him tackling the classic era once before we say goodnight. It’s also interesting that in this moment of self-loathing, seeing Magneto at his most tyrannical actually serves to highlight his humanity more than watching him struggle to save the world. As Polaris reminds us, Magneto is excellent at letting ends justify means, but Bunn grasps the core intrigue of the character by showing how fervently he believed in his own justifications.

Of course, the arc of the story lies in examining how Magneto imagines his legacy now that his story is coming to an end. More than most that I’ve read, Magneto’s “Last Days” really feel like they’re taking advantage of something that simply can’t be done with a near miss apocalypse. Though I honestly wish that we could have gotten a little more of a sense of Magneto’s final thoughts, Bunn ends the series as poetically as it began and, unsurprisingly, with the same sense of loneliness.

But while the writing remains strong, this is the fourth issue of this arc and it was clear where this was leading from the first. We all knew that Magneto was seeking to increase his power enough to hold off the Incursion and we knew that the existence of “Secret Wars” meant that he, at least, wasn’t getting a traditional happy ending. The lack of a shocking turn in the narrative only drives home how over-decompressed this arc has been and draws attention to one of the major flaws of Bunn’s storytelling. You see, while there is some gravitas about the whole thing, there’s no tension in the present day scenes. Magneto holds his arms out as lightning crackles toothlessly around him, but neither Bunn nor his collaborators manage to channel the slim hope of a successful outcome or the aching panic of the last line falling. It’s intentionally fatalistic, but such moments need contrast and, after four issues, it just feels like there’s nothing but grim certainty left in the audience or the creators.

I’m so grateful that we get a full issue of Gabriel Hernandez Walta to see this series off. Bunn would have made Magneto a fascinating read with more or less any artist, but describing Walta’s art as anything less than an immense draw would be an insult to the man. Working with a popular pick for best colorist in the business, Walta crafts something appropriately world-weary and beautiful to mark the end of this old man’s eighty-five year tragedy.

There’s no denying that these panels are beautiful and they combine nicely into a series of lovely pages. Walta and Jordie Bellaire work marvelously together and each of their contributions feel innately linked. I will say that Polaris and Briar Raleigh are looking a little heavy, which would be fine if it were intentional but I can't imagine why it would be here. The only problem with the storytelling, however, is the aforementioned lack of energy in the present day sections.

It helps that Magneto practically defined the classic ‘above it all’ villain posture, leaving Walta countless engaging choices to make about the mutant savior’s body language that, in turn, give the compositions a certain sensuous flow. The flashbacks are also a genuine gift to Walta and Bellaire. Beyond the inherent weight that comes with comics’ reverence towards nostalgia,the art team really contributes immensely to the story through the contrasts between past and present and this issue and the original stories. Admittedly, I could just look at the final panel of the first flashback for ages, but how Walta and Bellaire depict Magneto’s ‘triumphs’ is as essential, if not more so, than their aesthetic beauty. These versions of the classic scenes are from Magneto’s point of view and that distinction is paramount. Most obvious is the increased gore and weight of the scenes. It’s fascinating how unambiguously evil Magneto was back in 1963 when he merely threatened to do wrong yet how sympathetic he remains now, when you’re forced to look his offscreen victims in the eye.

While it’s easy to miss in the visual splendor and lyrical dialogue of a first read, each of these scenes actually contains a critical moment of doubt or reassurance for Magnus. The fact that Bunn trusted these critical story beats entirely to his artists is a testament to what has made this series so excellent and allows those moments where you recognize what’s happening an appropriate solemnity. Walta depicts a Magneto who is not immune to the suffering of others, but rather consciously dismissive. We talk all the time about how the ends justify the means for Erik or how he doesn’t realize what he’s become, but these small moments of doubt, the acknowledgement that he knows he’s a monster and doesn’t care, help elevate the final moments of this issue from a well-written but largely standard monologue to a fitting capstone for this series.

A Thought:

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

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Invader Zim #2http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2015/08/26/invader-zim-2/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2015/08/26/invader-zim-2/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 06:00:47 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=47083 Invader Zim #2

After a fantastic return to his cult-favorite animation last month, Jhonen Vasquez is back again to round out this story and continue the adventures of Dib, Zim, and all that weirdness what’s up there in space.

The strange but hilarious acknowledgements of the series’ cancelation that defined the opening issue are largely put behind us this month and, somehow, it’s almost as if the show never left the air. At times that’s actually a little bit too much the case and certain jokes lose something in the translation to sequential image. Every here and there you can sense the missing reaction shot or might need to reread a line to catch the intended inflection. Nonetheless it’s rather remarkable how many of the jokes retain all or most of their humor, even without the benefits of movement or sound. These characters are familiar enough to hear through the pages and, while some might chalk it up to routine, this issue is all to happy to prove that Vasquez can not only still write these characters truthfully, but can easily do so in new situations, adding to the series instead of just digging up its corpse.

One particularly adept modernization is the case of GIR. GIR was a perennial favorite, loved by fans and creators alike, even if segments of both communities were occasionally put off by the sad, insane little robot’s runaway hype machine. Unsurprisingly, Vasquez seems to be placing special attention on not only replicating GIR’s success, but doing so in a way that breaks free of some of his old schtick. Still unstoppably excited, much of GIR’s comedy comes from the particular way of speaking he employs, frequently dropping words to great effect. It’s a joke that Zim employed here and there back in the day, but the benefit of a lengthy cancellation is being able to reap the fruit of it planted now that those jokes have ripened into timeliness.

Even GIR can’t compete with the breakout star of the issue however, as Dib’s interactions with Tak’s ship are, by far the funniest moments of the issue. The disdain in the ship’s voice is just so palpable and all the better if you imagine it with Olivia d'Abo’s posh frustration. Hot Topic moneymaker as it was, Zim is ultimately a sci-fi series and it’s quite good at leveraging the weird concepts surrounding technology, consciousness and more to comedic effect. Where else are you going to find statements like, “I hate that your butt is touching me” without irony or predictability?

The issue’s running gag concerns intergalactic road-side attractions, which is a funny enough concept, but this is probably where the issue falls flattest. The personalities Dib encounters are cute but not funny enough to carry a scene. There aren’t many of them, but they outstay their welcome by just a bit and feel a little too similar in how they interact with Dib. There’s also montage page depicting several attractions, but I was surprised to find that these quick panels didn’t carry much of a punch. Still the idea is hardly a flop. Viewed on its own, the flashback to Zim’s visit to the Universe’s Largest Ball of Shmoop is pretty darn funny and, for some reason, I can’t help but laugh at its accompanying ‘roadsign’ proudly declareing “IT’S KIND OF SENTIENT!”.

The eventual reveal of Zim’s plans for the Gargantis Array is clever and certainly nails the requisite tone, but the issue’s resolution is a little bit rushed. I don’t think anyone expected a traditional heroic victory for Dib, but the abruptness of how things actually play out is odd. While it makes a surprising amount of sense, the ending isn’t as satisfying or outright funny as you might expect.

The art continues to beautifully replicate the feel of the television series. You won’t find too much new in the style of the art, however, the layouts and use of the comics form definitely bring something new and exciting to Zim. You won’t find any overused 2x3 grids here or, in fact, any basic grid layouts. While there’s never truly enough space to replicate the freedoms of animation, Invader Zim is an impressively cinematic book and one that manages to avoid the clichés of widescreen comics.

It’s a big help that Zim’s reactions are so distinct. There are a lot of really funny conversations in this issue and, for many books, that can lead to great dialogue but unmemorable art. Thankfully, that’s very much not the case as Aaron Alexovich leaves no panel asking for character. One thing that is interesting is that the lines look very much smoother compared to last issue. The result is something more familiar but less daring. I imagine there will be those who prefer one look and those that prefer the other, but I would be happy to see the other version return, as it was another way that the opening issue successfully adapted to the new medium.

The post Invader Zim #2 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Invader Zim #2

After a fantastic return to his cult-favorite animation last month, Jhonen Vasquez is back again to round out this story and continue the adventures of Dib, Zim, and all that weirdness what’s up there in space.

The strange but hilarious acknowledgements of the series’ cancelation that defined the opening issue are largely put behind us this month and, somehow, it’s almost as if the show never left the air. At times that’s actually a little bit too much the case and certain jokes lose something in the translation to sequential image. Every here and there you can sense the missing reaction shot or might need to reread a line to catch the intended inflection. Nonetheless it’s rather remarkable how many of the jokes retain all or most of their humor, even without the benefits of movement or sound. These characters are familiar enough to hear through the pages and, while some might chalk it up to routine, this issue is all to happy to prove that Vasquez can not only still write these characters truthfully, but can easily do so in new situations, adding to the series instead of just digging up its corpse.

One particularly adept modernization is the case of GIR. GIR was a perennial favorite, loved by fans and creators alike, even if segments of both communities were occasionally put off by the sad, insane little robot’s runaway hype machine. Unsurprisingly, Vasquez seems to be placing special attention on not only replicating GIR’s success, but doing so in a way that breaks free of some of his old schtick. Still unstoppably excited, much of GIR’s comedy comes from the particular way of speaking he employs, frequently dropping words to great effect. It’s a joke that Zim employed here and there back in the day, but the benefit of a lengthy cancellation is being able to reap the fruit of it planted now that those jokes have ripened into timeliness.

Even GIR can’t compete with the breakout star of the issue however, as Dib’s interactions with Tak’s ship are, by far the funniest moments of the issue. The disdain in the ship’s voice is just so palpable and all the better if you imagine it with Olivia d'Abo’s posh frustration. Hot Topic moneymaker as it was, Zim is ultimately a sci-fi series and it’s quite good at leveraging the weird concepts surrounding technology, consciousness and more to comedic effect. Where else are you going to find statements like, “I hate that your butt is touching me” without irony or predictability?

The issue’s running gag concerns intergalactic road-side attractions, which is a funny enough concept, but this is probably where the issue falls flattest. The personalities Dib encounters are cute but not funny enough to carry a scene. There aren’t many of them, but they outstay their welcome by just a bit and feel a little too similar in how they interact with Dib. There’s also montage page depicting several attractions, but I was surprised to find that these quick panels didn’t carry much of a punch. Still the idea is hardly a flop. Viewed on its own, the flashback to Zim’s visit to the Universe’s Largest Ball of Shmoop is pretty darn funny and, for some reason, I can’t help but laugh at its accompanying ‘roadsign’ proudly declareing “IT’S KIND OF SENTIENT!”.

The eventual reveal of Zim’s plans for the Gargantis Array is clever and certainly nails the requisite tone, but the issue’s resolution is a little bit rushed. I don’t think anyone expected a traditional heroic victory for Dib, but the abruptness of how things actually play out is odd. While it makes a surprising amount of sense, the ending isn’t as satisfying or outright funny as you might expect.

The art continues to beautifully replicate the feel of the television series. You won’t find too much new in the style of the art, however, the layouts and use of the comics form definitely bring something new and exciting to Zim. You won’t find any overused 2x3 grids here or, in fact, any basic grid layouts. While there’s never truly enough space to replicate the freedoms of animation, Invader Zim is an impressively cinematic book and one that manages to avoid the clichés of widescreen comics.

It’s a big help that Zim’s reactions are so distinct. There are a lot of really funny conversations in this issue and, for many books, that can lead to great dialogue but unmemorable art. Thankfully, that’s very much not the case as Aaron Alexovich leaves no panel asking for character. One thing that is interesting is that the lines look very much smoother compared to last issue. The result is something more familiar but less daring. I imagine there will be those who prefer one look and those that prefer the other, but I would be happy to see the other version return, as it was another way that the opening issue successfully adapted to the new medium.

The post Invader Zim #2 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Weirdworld #3http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2015/08/26/weirdworld-3/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2015/08/26/weirdworld-3/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 05:59:25 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=47075 Weirdworld #3

First of all, that cover— a haunting image of the blood-red ocean and sunset with the suggestion of a skull. It’s not wholly an original concept, but it captures so well the feel of the series. It’s intense, painterly, with tones of mystery and, well, weirdness. And Arkon, as a tiny figure at the bottom, stands defiant but overwhelmed, struggling forward but dominated by his surroundings. It’s pretty and poetic.

Inside, there’s more of the fantasy epic we’ve come to expect, starting with the war against the Magma Men and ending with a more personal struggle against a new antagonist, Skull the Slayer. The latter’s appearance continues to draw upon Marvel Comics’ history of high-fantasy barbarian comics, and the last-page cliffhanger (somewhat literally) also features an intriguing tease for next issue’s appearance of another familiar character. Both Skull the Slayer and the Man-Thing make perfect sense for what Weirdworld has become. There’s further mention how the floating island is constantly shifting, allowing for an almost stream-of-consciousness use of various settings and characters.   

In other words, while one adventure resolves itself, our hero Arkon simply rolls right into another. It makes for a narrative momentum more like an adventure serial of old, but there’s a downside that we don’t get too much pay-off of the last before we’re thrust into the next. The team-up with Warbow is basically inconsequential, as the map Arkon receives as an award is useless and Warbow leaves almost flippantly. We may already have seen the denouement of Skull’s encounter as Arkon is entangled with another.

All of it does play into the theme of insanity that seems to be popping up— the lands themselves are “schizophrenic” and lack coherence, as are basically every character who crosses Arkon’s path. I’m tempted to go even more more step into metacommentary; after all, if Battleworld is a patchwork of different lands, are we readers being rolled from one inconsequential encounter to another? What about *our* sanity!

Arkon himself continues to prove a very fatalistic barbarian. He plows forward in his quest, but seems almost resigned that it’s impossible. There’s still a sense of giving up despite his moving forward, perhaps even suicidally so, as we saw in the first issue. Could his quest really be a kind of suicide-by-adventure, and he hopes that at one point, someone really will get the better of him? That’s some pretty dark stuff for a world full of whimsical weirdness.

I appreciate the whimsical weirdness of the art, too. There’s a “swinging salloon” that’s suspended on vines for no real reason other than weirdness, and Morgan feeding her dragon while dialoguing is some fun, but disturbing, background action. The colors are always bright but used in dismal or darkening scenes, meaning we get some intriguing combinations of things like magentas and greens, and some textured reds and yellow glows. The scenes really pop as the colors shift with the locations, all of which feature to illustrate the world itself as a character, not just Arkon and his enemies.

The post Weirdworld #3 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Weirdworld #3

First of all, that cover— a haunting image of the blood-red ocean and sunset with the suggestion of a skull. It’s not wholly an original concept, but it captures so well the feel of the series. It’s intense, painterly, with tones of mystery and, well, weirdness. And Arkon, as a tiny figure at the bottom, stands defiant but overwhelmed, struggling forward but dominated by his surroundings. It’s pretty and poetic.

Inside, there’s more of the fantasy epic we’ve come to expect, starting with the war against the Magma Men and ending with a more personal struggle against a new antagonist, Skull the Slayer. The latter’s appearance continues to draw upon Marvel Comics’ history of high-fantasy barbarian comics, and the last-page cliffhanger (somewhat literally) also features an intriguing tease for next issue’s appearance of another familiar character. Both Skull the Slayer and the Man-Thing make perfect sense for what Weirdworld has become. There’s further mention how the floating island is constantly shifting, allowing for an almost stream-of-consciousness use of various settings and characters.   

In other words, while one adventure resolves itself, our hero Arkon simply rolls right into another. It makes for a narrative momentum more like an adventure serial of old, but there’s a downside that we don’t get too much pay-off of the last before we’re thrust into the next. The team-up with Warbow is basically inconsequential, as the map Arkon receives as an award is useless and Warbow leaves almost flippantly. We may already have seen the denouement of Skull’s encounter as Arkon is entangled with another.

All of it does play into the theme of insanity that seems to be popping up— the lands themselves are “schizophrenic” and lack coherence, as are basically every character who crosses Arkon’s path. I’m tempted to go even more more step into metacommentary; after all, if Battleworld is a patchwork of different lands, are we readers being rolled from one inconsequential encounter to another? What about *our* sanity!

Arkon himself continues to prove a very fatalistic barbarian. He plows forward in his quest, but seems almost resigned that it’s impossible. There’s still a sense of giving up despite his moving forward, perhaps even suicidally so, as we saw in the first issue. Could his quest really be a kind of suicide-by-adventure, and he hopes that at one point, someone really will get the better of him? That’s some pretty dark stuff for a world full of whimsical weirdness.

I appreciate the whimsical weirdness of the art, too. There’s a “swinging salloon” that’s suspended on vines for no real reason other than weirdness, and Morgan feeding her dragon while dialoguing is some fun, but disturbing, background action. The colors are always bright but used in dismal or darkening scenes, meaning we get some intriguing combinations of things like magentas and greens, and some textured reds and yellow glows. The scenes really pop as the colors shift with the locations, all of which feature to illustrate the world itself as a character, not just Arkon and his enemies.

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Wonder Woman #43http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2015/08/26/wonder-woman-43/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2015/08/26/wonder-woman-43/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 05:58:53 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=47077 Wonder Woman #43

There is a great mystery at DC Entertainment, and her name is Donna Troy.  I know, I know, Donna and her troubles with origins have been a controversy, or at least a curiosity, for over half a century.  Wherever superhero fans gather and the conversation flags, whenever less dangerous topics like politics and religion have run their course, the tangled saga of Donna Troy inevitably arises.  But now the topic has taken on new urgency as DC has chosen to embrace the contradictions in Donna's history, rather than downplaying them.

The story opens with Donna having fled from her imprisonment on Mount Olympus.  She is consumed with remorse and self-loathing for her role in the massacre of the Amazons' brothers, who had come to seek shelter on Paradise Island.  Unfortunately, she is immortal, created from clay for the purpose of overthrowing Diana, a task at which she has proved singularly inept.  In any case, the malicious goddess Strife arranges for her escape and tells her the key to her ultimate freedom, that is her death, lies with the three Fates.

Donna finds the Fates, three old women in a London pub, who tell her that they did not spin the thread of her life.  Her being, her destiny, lies outside of time and beyond their purview.  She departs, disappointed.  Diana arrives soon afterward to find the Fates murdered, evidently by Donna, although we readers know she is innocent. Diana has no chance to pursue Donna, however, before being attacked by the archer Aegeus and his winged horse, Discordia.  The ambush does not go as the young man had hoped, and as the book closes he is facing a very annoyed God of War who is quite put out at having to interrupt her business to deal with the likes of him.

The crux of the issue is the revelation of Donna's nature.  It is not even clear that her beginning springs from the clay from which her body was shaped.  As the fate Atropos intones in doggerel to warm the hellish heart of Etrigan, "Is this the beginning? We cannot say.  A darker magic hides that day."

That could prove interesting enough if it only signals a further arc in Wonder Woman.  But we know that Donna is slated for other things.  Come October, she will be a character in the Titans Hunt series, which in its turn, judging by solicits and cover art, is a partial homage to the SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY arc of the 1970s Justice League.  In that story, a group of friends saved the universe, at the cost of being separated and scattered through time.  Perhaps Donna was hurled not just through time,but out of it.

The post Wonder Woman #43 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Wonder Woman #43

There is a great mystery at DC Entertainment, and her name is Donna Troy.  I know, I know, Donna and her troubles with origins have been a controversy, or at least a curiosity, for over half a century.  Wherever superhero fans gather and the conversation flags, whenever less dangerous topics like politics and religion have run their course, the tangled saga of Donna Troy inevitably arises.  But now the topic has taken on new urgency as DC has chosen to embrace the contradictions in Donna's history, rather than downplaying them.The story opens with Donna having fled from her imprisonment on Mount Olympus.  She is consumed with remorse and self-loathing for her role in the massacre of the Amazons' brothers, who had come to seek shelter on Paradise Island.  Unfortunately, she is immortal, created from clay for the purpose of overthrowing Diana, a task at which she has proved singularly inept.  In any case, the malicious goddess Strife arranges for her escape and tells her the key to her ultimate freedom, that is her death, lies with the three Fates.Donna finds the Fates, three old women in a London pub, who tell her that they did not spin the thread of her life.  Her being, her destiny, lies outside of time and beyond their purview.  She departs, disappointed.  Diana arrives soon afterward to find the Fates murdered, evidently by Donna, although we readers know she is innocent. Diana has no chance to pursue Donna, however, before being attacked by the archer Aegeus and his winged horse, Discordia.  The ambush does not go as the young man had hoped, and as the book closes he is facing a very annoyed God of War who is quite put out at having to interrupt her business to deal with the likes of him.The crux of the issue is the revelation of Donna's nature.  It is not even clear that her beginning springs from the clay from which her body was shaped.  As the fate Atropos intones in doggerel to warm the hellish heart of Etrigan, "Is this the beginning? We cannot say.  A darker magic hides that day."That could prove interesting enough if it only signals a further arc in Wonder Woman.  But we know that Donna is slated for other things.  Come October, she will be a character in the Titans Hunt series, which in its turn, judging by solicits and cover art, is a partial homage to the SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY arc of the 1970s Justice League.  In that story, a group of friends saved the universe, at the cost of being separated and scattered through time.  Perhaps Donna was hurled not just through time,but out of it.

The post Wonder Woman #43 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Robin: Son of Batman #3http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2015/08/25/robin-son-batman-3/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2015/08/25/robin-son-batman-3/#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2015 04:25:58 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=47059 Robin- Son of Batman #3

I suppose there is some law, somewhere, or at least a statistical probability, that any discussion of English-language storytelling will sooner or later end up at William Shakespeare.  And, arriving at the Bard, it is very likely that the discussion will segue to Hamlet.  Let us then satisfy probability by quoting the Danish prince's advice to the players that they suit "the action to the words, the word to the action."  It is not given to comic book creators to follow that rule very often, as words and actions, or rather words and images, usually come from the work of different people.  In the case of Robin: Son of Batman, we see what happens when one person, in this case Patrick Gleason, really can create both script and art.

Issue #3 of Gleason's book is visually busy to the point of chaos.  Panels crowd nearly every page, with almost every page presenting a different layout.  The result is a book crammed with so much visual information that many pages need a couple of quick scans before the reader can grasp the flow of the action.  The torrent of visual data is matched by the flood of verbal exposition, which likewise rewards repeated reading.

Luckily, Gleason has already established something of a pattern for the series. Damian's quest to atone for his year of blood by undoing the evil acts he performed during that al Ghul rite of passage provides the continuing structure the series requires.  The particular quest in this issue involves returning a crystal stolen from a race of winged humanoids dwelling in a remote peak in Iceland, a task that allows for some spectacular aerial acrobatics.

Further structure comes from Damian's continued rivalry with the younger Nobody, a rivalry that erupts in an amusing hand-to-hand duel in this issue.  This is a strong secondary plot, but frankly one that Gleason plays strictly by the numbers.  It is an enemies-becoming-friends storyline that could have shown up in any major entertainment medium over the last twenty years or so.  Right on cue, the two antagonists settle down to share experiences with demanding legacies, not to mention difficult fathers, and let slip small but important personal details.  The young Nobody tells Damian her real name, Maya Ducard, while Damian reveals the biologically improbable but extremely ironic fact that he still has his primary teeth.

However, while this very predictable set of developments unfolds, several chaotic factors threaten to make life very interesting for the two young heroes.  First of all, Maya decides to pull out of an agreement her father had previously entered into with an unknown party.  It turns out that said party was Slade Wilson, Deathstroke, and he is not pleased at having a contract arbitrarily cancelled.

But Damian has an even greater complication headed in his direction.  His mother, Talia al Ghul, has been revived by a mysterious, apparently subterranean, sect known as the Lu'un Darga.  She has escaped from them and is making for the surface through a mystical obstacle called the Lazarus Heart.  Her memories seem to have been partially expunged, except her hatred of her father, and her love for Damian.

The post Robin: Son of Batman #3 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Robin- Son of Batman #3

I suppose there is some law, somewhere, or at least a statistical probability, that any discussion of English-language storytelling will sooner or later end up at William Shakespeare.  And, arriving at the Bard, it is very likely that the discussion will segue to Hamlet.  Let us then satisfy probability by quoting the Danish prince's advice to the players that they suit "the action to the words, the word to the action."  It is not given to comic book creators to follow that rule very often, as words and actions, or rather words and images, usually come from the work of different people.  In the case of Robin: Son of Batman, we see what happens when one person, in this case Patrick Gleason, really can create both script and art.Issue #3 of Gleason's book is visually busy to the point of chaos.  Panels crowd nearly every page, with almost every page presenting a different layout.  The result is a book crammed with so much visual information that many pages need a couple of quick scans before the reader can grasp the flow of the action.  The torrent of visual data is matched by the flood of verbal exposition, which likewise rewards repeated reading.Luckily, Gleason has already established something of a pattern for the series. Damian's quest to atone for his year of blood by undoing the evil acts he performed during that al Ghul rite of passage provides the continuing structure the series requires.  The particular quest in this issue involves returning a crystal stolen from a race of winged humanoids dwelling in a remote peak in Iceland, a task that allows for some spectacular aerial acrobatics.Further structure comes from Damian's continued rivalry with the younger Nobody, a rivalry that erupts in an amusing hand-to-hand duel in this issue.  This is a strong secondary plot, but frankly one that Gleason plays strictly by the numbers.  It is an enemies-becoming-friends storyline that could have shown up in any major entertainment medium over the last twenty years or so.  Right on cue, the two antagonists settle down to share experiences with demanding legacies, not to mention difficult fathers, and let slip small but important personal details.  The young Nobody tells Damian her real name, Maya Ducard, while Damian reveals the biologically improbable but extremely ironic fact that he still has his primary teeth.However, while this very predictable set of developments unfolds, several chaotic factors threaten to make life very interesting for the two young heroes.  First of all, Maya decides to pull out of an agreement her father had previously entered into with an unknown party.  It turns out that said party was Slade Wilson, Deathstroke, and he is not pleased at having a contract arbitrarily cancelled.But Damian has an even greater complication headed in his direction.  His mother, Talia al Ghul, has been revived by a mysterious, apparently subterranean, sect known as the Lu'un Darga.  She has escaped from them and is making for the surface through a mystical obstacle called the Lazarus Heart.  Her memories seem to have been partially expunged, except her hatred of her father, and her love for Damian.

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Empowered Vol. 9http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2015/08/24/empowered-vol-9/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2015/08/24/empowered-vol-9/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 21:45:51 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=47051 Empowered Vol 9

Has it really been nearly two years since I reviewed Empowered vol. 8 for this site? What a bittersweet wait it has been for the next volume in one of my favorite series.

Well, hard as it’s been, fans and newcomers alike will relish three new chapters over a gargantuan 232 pages. The story this time rests firmly on Empowered, herself, as we (finally) deal with the fallout of volumes 4 and 8. You see, in both of those issues, Emp wound up taking on big-time baddies in secret, and the consequences of the suprahuman community’s perception of these events has finally come to a head in the form of an emergency Executive Council hearing over her actions. Though we briefly check in with Emp’s immediate supporting cast and see some words of support from the allies she’s gained over the last four volumes, Emp is very much on her own this time.

It’s definitely nice to have our girl firmly in the spotlight, but you can’t deny that there are plenty of tantalizing plot threads left untouched. Indeed, though I don’t think we could fairly demand any more from Adam Warren, it’s becoming increasingly clear that this world is simply too big and too wonderful for its own good sometime. Inevitably there’s not enough space in one volume to tell this story while also giving us some follow up on Ninjette’s recovery or Thugboy’s past or Emp’s daddy issues. But lest you feel like you’re not getting what you were hoping for, there is a fantastic moment with Sistah Spooky and some hints that Emp’s other big win, in volume 6, hasn’t been forgotten.

This volume isn’t nearly as heavy as the last four and the plot is a lot more action based. Warren gives readers plenty of good old fashioned brawls and escapes, as Empowered fights off a veritable horde of angry supervillains. The brilliant, if peculiar, mind of the storyteller has clearly been churning as we’re introduced to fantastic villains like Hardpoint, Dreadnaughty Naughty, Mightier Pen, and the anguilliform syndicate known as H.E.E.L. A lot of the volume’s humor is of this witty, character-based vein, as the requirements of the plot don’t leave as much space for out and out situational gags as early volumes, but there’s definitely a lightness about the story. It’s pleasantly cartoonish in how zany and fast-paced it all moves.

Despite this, Warren retains and carefully employs his ability to utterly shatter your heart. I don’t know that anything hits the heights that the series has reached, but between an early glimpse of Sistah Spooky and a fantastically well paced climax, there’s more than enough to make you forget that these are just lines on a page. While the volume ends with a long awaited and incredibly satisfying culmination to the last few volumes’ successes, the final page reminds that, in this universe, victory comes at a cost and no one can pay it alone.

As beautifully as it all comes together, I can’t help but feel like Warren probably could have adjusted priorities to include a greater variety of material. There is validity in building up the scrambling roulette of villainy that comes after Emp, however there are definitely moments where it feels like not all of them are necessary. Much as I would miss them, I think that that we probably could have had this story without Dreadnaughty Naughty, the Brawn-E Boys, or even H.E.E.L.! Particularly when a very notable cameo pops in to pull our heroine’s much commented upon derrière out of the fire - the second and less necessary of its kind in this volume - and she immediately falls into a similar situation of distress you can become rather aware of the repetition in this story. It wouldn’t be so troubling if not for the realities of the series. With no less than a year between installments, the thought that more unique elements might have been cut in favor of hammering home the central conceit of this story is a little distressing. It’s not really this volume’s fault, not really even Warren’s fault, but the shift to a few, longer stories is a mixed blessing and it takes some getting used to.

The other major criticism worth mentioning about the story is simply that the big reveal is something of an obvious retcon. There are plenty of scenarios where this plot point could have, and likely would have, come into play in previous volumes and, while this is absolutely the appropriate place in the narrative to play that card, it does take a little bit of suspension of disbelief to accept that the audience is only just discovering it.

But these are ultimately minor trifles in the face of Warren’s mastery of the adorable, the terrifying, the hilarious, and the tragic. Highlights of the issue include Zappatista and Black Mechamamba’s personal politics, the number of new light and dark capes introduced, and the sheer creepiness of the volume’s villains. “Mightier Pen” is a pitch perfect representation of all the worst false kindness this world has to offer women. Emp hits the nail on the head when she places “disingenuous” up alongside his host of more obvious creeper tendencies. Is it a bit on the nose at times? Yes. Warren even pulls the curtain pretty much all the way back by having a Hero Net reporter explicitly talk about the central metaphor of Emp’s revealing costume, but in the environment we find ourselves in, having a heroine actively stand up to harassment, even if and perhaps exactly because she’s often put back down by the assholes of the world, is kind of wonderful.

I won’t say too much about the other major baddie of this volume, as there are so many new faces and a couple of big returns, but I will say that Warren’s art takes a gruesome design into the realm of real horror, eagerly assisted by the true sense of malice he works into his writing. Especially after seeing the truth about the EMP-verse’s superbaddies revealed, the palpable evil of Warren’s endgame is a literal gut punch. The whole scene could have been incredibly and unnecessarily gory, but Warren manages to overcome his writing material and create a scene that doesn’t go out of its way to prove itself, instead quietly and solidly supporting a great showdown.

Keeping on that track, I’m deep into this review and I’ve barely even mentioned the art. That won’t do.

From an artistic standpoint, it seems like this issue represents something of a back-to-basics approach. Previous volumes often experimented specifically with one or two new techniques, but the focus this go around seems to be on bringing all of Warren’s visual evolution back into the core aesthetic of the series. The fire effects of the last issue or the high contrast objects that the series has played with over the last few years are put to good use and there’s a general improvement and refocusing that’s particularly visible in the case of characters who we haven’t seen in a volume or two, like Manny or Deathmonger.

Largely this is the same quality work that we’ve come to expect from Empowered, but the characters feel a little stronger in their designs and Warren proves particularly capable of conveying the dynamics of a scene through single images. Perhaps this last development can be attributed to the sheer number of introductory panels this volume, but, whatever the reason, it helps the communicative power of Warren’s already expressive style.

As ever, those who bemoan the ‘manga-fication’ of American comics will probably find plenty to complain about, though if anyone could make converts of them Warren would be a decent bet. I also imagine that some more casual readers will be disappointed by the series’ lack of color, but one can only hope that they come around on that issue as Empowered is a fantastic argument not only for black and white comics, but for the importance of inkwork. Not to mention that the time and clarity Warren saves by eschewing color allows him to employ some rather insane levels of detail, especially in his depictions of tech.

A (Spoilery) Thought:

  • While I would totally understand if we didn’t see more of Fleshmaster, especially after whining so much about the series’ abundance of untouched plot threads, Warren has totally set him up as a fantastic ‘evil mirror’ for Emp. Especially with this volume’s developments, he’s kind of becoming Emp’s Venom. Fleshmaster was already clearly a foil for Emp, not only her opposite as a successful and popular cape but her equal, a victim of the Superhomeys who was only spurred to evil when her treatment reawakened his memories of victimization. With what he does to Manny and the revelation that he can manifest a copy of Emp’s supersuit easily set him up to become a kind of anti-Emp if Warren should chose to bring him back. Combine that with a fantastic redesign that really moves him into the upper echelons alongside Deathmonger and Willy Pete and you’ve got the makings of another A-lister. I’m just not sure we should expect to see him again for a while, if ever.

The post Empowered Vol. 9 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Empowered Vol 9

Has it really been nearly two years since I reviewed Empowered vol. 8 for this site? What a bittersweet wait it has been for the next volume in one of my favorite series.

Well, hard as it’s been, fans and newcomers alike will relish three new chapters over a gargantuan 232 pages. The story this time rests firmly on Empowered, herself, as we (finally) deal with the fallout of volumes 4 and 8. You see, in both of those issues, Emp wound up taking on big-time baddies in secret, and the consequences of the suprahuman community’s perception of these events has finally come to a head in the form of an emergency Executive Council hearing over her actions. Though we briefly check in with Emp’s immediate supporting cast and see some words of support from the allies she’s gained over the last four volumes, Emp is very much on her own this time.

It’s definitely nice to have our girl firmly in the spotlight, but you can’t deny that there are plenty of tantalizing plot threads left untouched. Indeed, though I don’t think we could fairly demand any more from Adam Warren, it’s becoming increasingly clear that this world is simply too big and too wonderful for its own good sometime. Inevitably there’s not enough space in one volume to tell this story while also giving us some follow up on Ninjette’s recovery or Thugboy’s past or Emp’s daddy issues. But lest you feel like you’re not getting what you were hoping for, there is a fantastic moment with Sistah Spooky and some hints that Emp’s other big win, in volume 6, hasn’t been forgotten.

This volume isn’t nearly as heavy as the last four and the plot is a lot more action based. Warren gives readers plenty of good old fashioned brawls and escapes, as Empowered fights off a veritable horde of angry supervillains. The brilliant, if peculiar, mind of the storyteller has clearly been churning as we’re introduced to fantastic villains like Hardpoint, Dreadnaughty Naughty, Mightier Pen, and the anguilliform syndicate known as H.E.E.L. A lot of the volume’s humor is of this witty, character-based vein, as the requirements of the plot don’t leave as much space for out and out situational gags as early volumes, but there’s definitely a lightness about the story. It’s pleasantly cartoonish in how zany and fast-paced it all moves.

Despite this, Warren retains and carefully employs his ability to utterly shatter your heart. I don’t know that anything hits the heights that the series has reached, but between an early glimpse of Sistah Spooky and a fantastically well paced climax, there’s more than enough to make you forget that these are just lines on a page. While the volume ends with a long awaited and incredibly satisfying culmination to the last few volumes’ successes, the final page reminds that, in this universe, victory comes at a cost and no one can pay it alone.

As beautifully as it all comes together, I can’t help but feel like Warren probably could have adjusted priorities to include a greater variety of material. There is validity in building up the scrambling roulette of villainy that comes after Emp, however there are definitely moments where it feels like not all of them are necessary. Much as I would miss them, I think that that we probably could have had this story without Dreadnaughty Naughty, the Brawn-E Boys, or even H.E.E.L.! Particularly when a very notable cameo pops in to pull our heroine’s much commented upon derrière out of the fire - the second and less necessary of its kind in this volume - and she immediately falls into a similar situation of distress you can become rather aware of the repetition in this story. It wouldn’t be so troubling if not for the realities of the series. With no less than a year between installments, the thought that more unique elements might have been cut in favor of hammering home the central conceit of this story is a little distressing. It’s not really this volume’s fault, not really even Warren’s fault, but the shift to a few, longer stories is a mixed blessing and it takes some getting used to.

The other major criticism worth mentioning about the story is simply that the big reveal is something of an obvious retcon. There are plenty of scenarios where this plot point could have, and likely would have, come into play in previous volumes and, while this is absolutely the appropriate place in the narrative to play that card, it does take a little bit of suspension of disbelief to accept that the audience is only just discovering it.

But these are ultimately minor trifles in the face of Warren’s mastery of the adorable, the terrifying, the hilarious, and the tragic. Highlights of the issue include Zappatista and Black Mechamamba’s personal politics, the number of new light and dark capes introduced, and the sheer creepiness of the volume’s villains. “Mightier Pen” is a pitch perfect representation of all the worst false kindness this world has to offer women. Emp hits the nail on the head when she places “disingenuous” up alongside his host of more obvious creeper tendencies. Is it a bit on the nose at times? Yes. Warren even pulls the curtain pretty much all the way back by having a Hero Net reporter explicitly talk about the central metaphor of Emp’s revealing costume, but in the environment we find ourselves in, having a heroine actively stand up to harassment, even if and perhaps exactly because she’s often put back down by the assholes of the world, is kind of wonderful.

I won’t say too much about the other major baddie of this volume, as there are so many new faces and a couple of big returns, but I will say that Warren’s art takes a gruesome design into the realm of real horror, eagerly assisted by the true sense of malice he works into his writing. Especially after seeing the truth about the EMP-verse’s superbaddies revealed, the palpable evil of Warren’s endgame is a literal gut punch. The whole scene could have been incredibly and unnecessarily gory, but Warren manages to overcome his writing material and create a scene that doesn’t go out of its way to prove itself, instead quietly and solidly supporting a great showdown.

Keeping on that track, I’m deep into this review and I’ve barely even mentioned the art. That won’t do.

From an artistic standpoint, it seems like this issue represents something of a back-to-basics approach. Previous volumes often experimented specifically with one or two new techniques, but the focus this go around seems to be on bringing all of Warren’s visual evolution back into the core aesthetic of the series. The fire effects of the last issue or the high contrast objects that the series has played with over the last few years are put to good use and there’s a general improvement and refocusing that’s particularly visible in the case of characters who we haven’t seen in a volume or two, like Manny or Deathmonger.

Largely this is the same quality work that we’ve come to expect from Empowered, but the characters feel a little stronger in their designs and Warren proves particularly capable of conveying the dynamics of a scene through single images. Perhaps this last development can be attributed to the sheer number of introductory panels this volume, but, whatever the reason, it helps the communicative power of Warren’s already expressive style.

As ever, those who bemoan the ‘manga-fication’ of American comics will probably find plenty to complain about, though if anyone could make converts of them Warren would be a decent bet. I also imagine that some more casual readers will be disappointed by the series’ lack of color, but one can only hope that they come around on that issue as Empowered is a fantastic argument not only for black and white comics, but for the importance of inkwork. Not to mention that the time and clarity Warren saves by eschewing color allows him to employ some rather insane levels of detail, especially in his depictions of tech.

A (Spoilery) Thought:

  • While I would totally understand if we didn’t see more of Fleshmaster, especially after whining so much about the series’ abundance of untouched plot threads, Warren has totally set him up as a fantastic ‘evil mirror’ for Emp. Especially with this volume’s developments, he’s kind of becoming Emp’s Venom. Fleshmaster was already clearly a foil for Emp, not only her opposite as a successful and popular cape but her equal, a victim of the Superhomeys who was only spurred to evil when her treatment reawakened his memories of victimization. With what he does to Manny and the revelation that he can manifest a copy of Emp’s supersuit easily set him up to become a kind of anti-Emp if Warren should chose to bring him back. Combine that with a fantastic redesign that really moves him into the upper echelons alongside Deathmonger and Willy Pete and you’ve got the makings of another A-lister. I’m just not sure we should expect to see him again for a while, if ever.

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Fear the Walking Dead – Pilothttp://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2015/08/24/fear-walking-dead-s01e01/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2015/08/24/fear-walking-dead-s01e01/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 17:18:40 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=47053 FTWD2

It's been a while since we had a fix of The Walking Dead.  Last we saw Rick & Gang, they were in the Alexandria Safe Zone, where Rick had killed Porchdick, and Morgan had finally showed up after escaping from those weird guys carving Ws into the heads of zombies.  It was like watching a train wreck, you couldn't turn away...

So with this spinoff, it was kinda cool to see this fresh new show set in the same universe.  All of these characters are clean and without baggage. No ties to that awkward time in Season 2 when Beth/Rick/Dale/Lori did singing/farming/moralizing/sexytime with a campfire/a shovel/his mouth/Shane/.

My favorite part of the pilot episode (which was quite solid) was the setting.  Rather than starting in the midst of the apocalypse like TWD, FTWD starts in normal everyday Los Angeles.  This is made clear in a very effective opening scene that shows a pretty typical zombie moment with druggie Nick waking up to look for his girlfriend in a creepy drug den set in a church.  As the audience, we all know exactly what is going to happen when we hear the screams as he goes to investigate, and the whole thing proceeds along the predictable lines until Nick flees outside and gets hit by a car because - SURPRISE - society hasn't fallen yet.  It was a very nice statement that FTWD is about how society falls and makes it different than just another story from the TWD-universe.

The other thing I generally liked were the characters.  TWD is full of annoying folks like Rick, but I generally liked all the characters from the Pilot of FTWD.  Perhaps the son (Nick) is a little annoying, but both mother (Madison, who I remember as Sawyer's con artist girlfriend from LOST) and step-dad (Travis) were pretty solid and cool.  The daughter, Alica, seemed like a nice contrast to Nick and I even liked her boyfriend.  It all lined up pretty well.  I'm into watching this family try to survive over the next few weeks as the shit hits the fan.

It wasn't all perfect though.

1. The episode played around a little too much with the "OMG!  THIS is when the zombie will attack!"  Witness: the kid with his head down on his desk in class, the slumped over principal, the patient in the next bed over, the shaky-cam images of people in the park who MIGHT be shambling a little too much, Travis' investigation of the church, etc.   [Where the hell were the church zombies, btw?]  Too many fake outs.

2. It also took a while to actually associate names with characters other than Nick.  My notes just refer to Madison as "Mom" and Travis as "Boyfriend".  I had to look up all their names on Wikipedia.  And we only knew about Nick's name because we spent most of the episode searching for him all over town, which was a little overdone.

3. I also wrote "this is taking too long" in my notes several times.  Given that the episode was 90 minutes, it got a little dull and lacked urgency.  It's almost like they had a normal episode's worth of story and stretched it over 90 minutes to squeeze in a few more commercial breaks.

4. And Travis is a hell of a lot more compelling and charismatic than any high school english teacher I ever had.

-Dean Stell

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FTWD2

It's been a while since we had a fix of The Walking Dead.  Last we saw Rick & Gang, they were in the Alexandria Safe Zone, where Rick had killed Porchdick, and Morgan had finally showed up after escaping from those weird guys carving Ws into the heads of zombies.  It was like watching a train wreck, you couldn't turn away...So with this spinoff, it was kinda cool to see this fresh new show set in the same universe.  All of these characters are clean and without baggage. No ties to that awkward time in Season 2 when Beth/Rick/Dale/Lori did singing/farming/moralizing/sexytime with a campfire/a shovel/his mouth/Shane/.My favorite part of the pilot episode (which was quite solid) was the setting.  Rather than starting in the midst of the apocalypse like TWD, FTWD starts in normal everyday Los Angeles.  This is made clear in a very effective opening scene that shows a pretty typical zombie moment with druggie Nick waking up to look for his girlfriend in a creepy drug den set in a church.  As the audience, we all know exactly what is going to happen when we hear the screams as he goes to investigate, and the whole thing proceeds along the predictable lines until Nick flees outside and gets hit by a car because - SURPRISE - society hasn't fallen yet.  It was a very nice statement that FTWD is about how society falls and makes it different than just another story from the TWD-universe.The other thing I generally liked were the characters.  TWD is full of annoying folks like Rick, but I generally liked all the characters from the Pilot of FTWD.  Perhaps the son (Nick) is a little annoying, but both mother (Madison, who I remember as Sawyer's con artist girlfriend from LOST) and step-dad (Travis) were pretty solid and cool.  The daughter, Alica, seemed like a nice contrast to Nick and I even liked her boyfriend.  It all lined up pretty well.  I'm into watching this family try to survive over the next few weeks as the shit hits the fan.It wasn't all perfect though.1. The episode played around a little too much with the "OMG!  THIS is when the zombie will attack!"  Witness: the kid with his head down on his desk in class, the slumped over principal, the patient in the next bed over, the shaky-cam images of people in the park who MIGHT be shambling a little too much, Travis' investigation of the church, etc.   [Where the hell were the church zombies, btw?]  Too many fake outs.2. It also took a while to actually associate names with characters other than Nick.  My notes just refer to Madison as "Mom" and Travis as "Boyfriend".  I had to look up all their names on Wikipedia.  And we only knew about Nick's name because we spent most of the episode searching for him all over town, which was a little overdone.3. I also wrote "this is taking too long" in my notes several times.  Given that the episode was 90 minutes, it got a little dull and lacked urgency.  It's almost like they had a normal episode's worth of story and stretched it over 90 minutes to squeeze in a few more commercial breaks.4. And Travis is a hell of a lot more compelling and charismatic than any high school english teacher I ever had.-Dean Stell

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Justice League #43http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2015/08/24/justice-league-43/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2015/08/24/justice-league-43/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 03:19:07 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=47038 Justice League #43

It would seem that the three Justice League titles, Geoff Johns' Justice League, Bryan Hitch's Justice League of America, and Jeff Parker's Justice League United, are speaking with one voice and one opinion - gods and prophets are at best treacherous and at worst poisonous.  Based on the evidence presented in these books since DC finished its Convergence publishing break, the appearance of a divinity, or the messenger of such, should be enough to send any intelligent superhero, never mind any ordinary mortal, screaming in the opposite direction.

Justice League #43 finds Superman and Luthor still trapped on Apokalips, and having quite a struggle, which is mildly amusing as Batman and his family managed just fine in Batman and Robin last year, including a hand-to-hand battle with Darkseid himself. In any case, the atmosphere of Apokalips blocks both Superman's x-ray vision and his ability to absorb energy from sunlight, leaving him a mere mortal.  Luthor decides to address this problem by hurling Clark into one of the planet's fire pits, which he believes to be powered by concentrated solar energy.  The flames certainly restore Superman's power level, but also leave him possessed of a malignant intent to kill Luthor.  Oops.

Meanwhile, Darkseid gathers together his lieutenants, including Kalibak, evidently recovered from the humiliation he suffered in Batman and Robin, and Steppenwolf, obviously having overcome the slight case of death inflicted on him in Earth 2: World's End.  They prepare to invade Earth to find Grail, Darkseid's daughter, and defeat her ally, the Anti-Monitor.  At this point, one can only remember the motto of the DC YOU, "story over continuity," and take this as one of the more obvious, some would say egregious, examples.

In the Rock of Eternity, Batman remains in possession of Metron's Mobius chair.  Actually, as with Superman and the flames of Apokalips, the signs point to Batman no longer being the one in control.  He keeps talking about "his" chair and its abilities in terms rather reminiscent of a character from Tolkien talking about a Ring of Power.  Which is not to say that the Mobius Chair isn't a very useful tool.  It does, Batman says, know the answer to everything except how to stop the Anti-Monitor (and where Aquaman's been the last few issues).  That implies that it really did tell Batman the Joker's true name, which would have obviated a great deal of the plot in the ENDGAME arc in Batman, but perhaps Bruce will lose the knowledge when he departs his new throne.  He says the Mobius Chair has told him the key to defeating the Anti-Monitor is in the depths of the multiverse, and he must set off to find it, accompanied by Hal Jordan.

The arrival of Scot Free sets up a confrontation with the unseated Metron.  That Mister Miracle does not trust the manipulative New God of Knowledge is scarcely surprising.  And his accusation that Metron tricked Batman into taking the Mobius Chair is plausible.  We know from previous issues that Metron has a history with the Anti-Monitor, and he tells us in this issue that he longs to be free, but from what he does not say.

The post Justice League #43 appeared first on Weekly Comic Book Review.

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Justice League #43

It would seem that the three Justice League titles, Geoff Johns' Justice League, Bryan Hitch's Justice League of America, and Jeff Parker's Justice League United, are speaking with one voice and one opinion - gods and prophets are at best treacherous and at worst poisonous.  Based on the evidence presented in these books since DC finished its Convergence publishing break, the appearance of a divinity, or the messenger of such, should be enough to send any intelligent superhero, never mind any ordinary mortal, screaming in the opposite direction.Justice League #43 finds Superman and Luthor still trapped on Apokalips, and having quite a struggle, which is mildly amusing as Batman and his family managed just fine in Batman and Robin last year, including a hand-to-hand battle with Darkseid himself. In any case, the atmosphere of Apokalips blocks both Superman's x-ray vision and his ability to absorb energy from sunlight, leaving him a mere mortal.  Luthor decides to address this problem by hurling Clark into one of the planet's fire pits, which he believes to be powered by concentrated solar energy.  The flames certainly restore Superman's power level, but also leave him possessed of a malignant intent to kill Luthor.  Oops.Meanwhile, Darkseid gathers together his lieutenants, including Kalibak, evidently recovered from the humiliation he suffered in Batman and Robin, and Steppenwolf, obviously having overcome the slight case of death inflicted on him in Earth 2: World's End.  They prepare to invade Earth to find Grail, Darkseid's daughter, and defeat her ally, the Anti-Monitor.  At this point, one can only remember the motto of the DC YOU, "story over continuity," and take this as one of the more obvious, some would say egregious, examples.In the Rock of Eternity, Batman remains in possession of Metron's Mobius chair.  Actually, as with Superman and the flames of Apokalips, the signs point to Batman no longer being the one in control.  He keeps talking about "his" chair and its abilities in terms rather reminiscent of a character from Tolkien talking about a Ring of Power.  Which is not to say that the Mobius Chair isn't a very useful tool.  It does, Batman says, know the answer to everything except how to stop the Anti-Monitor (and where Aquaman's been the last few issues).  That implies that it really did tell Batman the Joker's true name, which would have obviated a great deal of the plot in the ENDGAME arc in Batman, but perhaps Bruce will lose the knowledge when he departs his new throne.  He says the Mobius Chair has told him the key to defeating the Anti-Monitor is in the depths of the multiverse, and he must set off to find it, accompanied by Hal Jordan.The arrival of Scot Free sets up a confrontation with the unseated Metron.  That Mister Miracle does not trust the manipulative New God of Knowledge is scarcely surprising.  And his accusation that Metron tricked Batman into taking the Mobius Chair is plausible.  We know from previous issues that Metron has a history with the Anti-Monitor, and he tells us in this issue that he longs to be free, but from what he does not say.

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Howard the Human #1http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2015/08/22/howard-human-1/ http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/2015/08/22/howard-human-1/#comments Sat, 22 Aug 2015 17:38:59 +0000 http://weeklycomicbookreview.com/?p=47032 Howard the Human #1

There’s a thousand stories in New Quack City. This is one of them.

And only one of them, as this issue stands as a stand-alone issue. We got a lot of the typical “noir” tropes for a hard-boiled (sorry) detective like Howard, full of world-weary detectives, trigger-happy gangs, wily crime bosses, and sniveling snitches. Oh, yeah. And monkey ninjas.

I expected the comic to switch Howard the Duck’s status quo around— instead of being a duck in a human’s world, he’d be a human in a duck’s world. After all, everyone loves a great Carl Bark’s duck story, and I don’t think we’ve really seen Howard’s world ever before. Why not have Dr. Doom’s Battleworld bring us a glimpse? But this comicbook is less DuckTales and more Zootopia. So we don’t get Iron Duck or Spider-Beak the Web-Footed Wonder, but we do get, well, the Lizard, Vulture, the Black Cat, among others. Which, hey, is still pretty fun.

The “joke” of the book is in the title, then, and also shows up in Howard’s caricature. He’s a bushy-haired blonde with a 70s’ cop ‘stache and sideburns, at home in the typical brown waistcoat and jacket. With Jim Mahfood on art, it’s further pushed into zany, signature-style edginess and angular, vibrant simplicity. I would point out, however, that a hallmark of Howard’s depiction, especially in his original appearances, was the weird juxtaposition, visually, of a cartoony duck in a world of naturally illustrated people. In his most recent series, drawn by Joe Quinones, that distinction is somewhat lost as Howard the Duck’s design isn’t that far off from the graphically and more simplistic design of the people and environment. So, with Mahfood’s kinetic frenzy, Howard as a human doesn’t stand out at all. How out-of-place can Howard truly be if blends in so seamlessly with everything around him?

The rest of the book doesn’t seem that interested in one-liners or verbal humor to the same extent as his most recent series. Once the gimmick is in place, that’s pretty much about it. Some of the twists rely on the visuals, such as a great vicious-looking Vulture and an imposing gorilla Kingpin, with a few on the more verbal/situational, like Daredevil being a blind mouse (because, of course) or Peter Possum (should that be Parker?) being a key to the mystery (because, of COURSE).

While I enjoyed the book, I’m glad it was only for a short moment. The art is very kinetic, and while I can appreciate what it lends to the energy and tone of the story, it would be too overwhelming for me, personally, in a larger dose. Even the panels themselves are sketchy and skewed, more of that zigzag vibrancy. It helps break the story from the very noir-ish tradition that it is a part of, so I wonder how the story would have worked if it stuck with that for the art, such as something more Mignolia-like. Maybe we would criticize it for playing it too close to the vest, being what we expect. But without it, the whole thing comes across as a side-note or afterthought to something more substantial.    

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Howard the Human #1

There’s a thousand stories in New Quack City. This is one of them.

And only one of them, as this issue stands as a stand-alone issue. We got a lot of the typical “noir” tropes for a hard-boiled (sorry) detective like Howard, full of world-weary detectives, trigger-happy gangs, wily crime bosses, and sniveling snitches. Oh, yeah. And monkey ninjas.

I expected the comic to switch Howard the Duck’s status quo around— instead of being a duck in a human’s world, he’d be a human in a duck’s world. After all, everyone loves a great Carl Bark’s duck story, and I don’t think we’ve really seen Howard’s world ever before. Why not have Dr. Doom’s Battleworld bring us a glimpse? But this comicbook is less DuckTales and more Zootopia. So we don’t get Iron Duck or Spider-Beak the Web-Footed Wonder, but we do get, well, the Lizard, Vulture, the Black Cat, among others. Which, hey, is still pretty fun.

The “joke” of the book is in the title, then, and also shows up in Howard’s caricature. He’s a bushy-haired blonde with a 70s’ cop ‘stache and sideburns, at home in the typical brown waistcoat and jacket. With Jim Mahfood on art, it’s further pushed into zany, signature-style edginess and angular, vibrant simplicity. I would point out, however, that a hallmark of Howard’s depiction, especially in his original appearances, was the weird juxtaposition, visually, of a cartoony duck in a world of naturally illustrated people. In his most recent series, drawn by Joe Quinones, that distinction is somewhat lost as Howard the Duck’s design isn’t that far off from the graphically and more simplistic design of the people and environment. So, with Mahfood’s kinetic frenzy, Howard as a human doesn’t stand out at all. How out-of-place can Howard truly be if blends in so seamlessly with everything around him?

The rest of the book doesn’t seem that interested in one-liners or verbal humor to the same extent as his most recent series. Once the gimmick is in place, that’s pretty much about it. Some of the twists rely on the visuals, such as a great vicious-looking Vulture and an imposing gorilla Kingpin, with a few on the more verbal/situational, like Daredevil being a blind mouse (because, of course) or Peter Possum (should that be Parker?) being a key to the mystery (because, of COURSE).

While I enjoyed the book, I’m glad it was only for a short moment. The art is very kinetic, and while I can appreciate what it lends to the energy and tone of the story, it would be too overwhelming for me, personally, in a larger dose. Even the panels themselves are sketchy and skewed, more of that zigzag vibrancy. It helps break the story from the very noir-ish tradition that it is a part of, so I wonder how the story would have worked if it stuck with that for the art, such as something more Mignolia-like. Maybe we would criticize it for playing it too close to the vest, being what we expect. But without it, the whole thing comes across as a side-note or afterthought to something more substantial.    

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