Mini Reviews For The Week Ending 4/7
Sometimes, the staff at Graphic Policy read more comics than we’re able to get reviewed. When that happens you’ll see a weekly feature compiling short reviews from the staff of the comics, or graphic novels, we just didn’t get a chance to write a full review for.
These are Graphic Policy’s Mini Reviews.
Batman #44 (DC Comics) Argh Tom King you done it again! After last few deplorable issues, he presents us with a touching retconned tale of Bruce and Selina’s romance. I particularly enjoyed the time stamps of Selena making her way across town and her activities. I have to say that despite sometimes having to cope with wretched storytelling, artist Mikel Janin gifts us some page turning treasures. It’s quite astounding at times. We are of course gearing up for the big wedding event and this was a nice little rehearsal for what we are in store for. Was it ground breaking? No. Was it Everyone loves Ivy? Oh my God no. It was right in the middle where it needed to be. Score: 7.5 Recommendation: Read
Amazing Spider-man #797 (Marvel Comics)* Dan Slott wastes no time getting right to the good stuff. We open with the Green Goblin attacking the Daily Bugle demanding surprise surprise, Spider-Man! Now this isn’t a scene we haven’t seen many times before but it still doesn’t lose its punch. Norman Osborn is just a bastard here, which is how he always should be. We get him decked out in classic Goblin gear with no special upgrades. Nope just his menacing self. Since it is public knowledge that Peter knows Spider-Man he runs off to get him and there is when things get GOOD. I won’t spoil it here but we also get the first battle between Spidey and the Red Goblin and it is awesome. The rest of the issue leaves Peter with an impossible choice. Aren’t those the best kind?? I cannot wait for the next issue and Stuart Immonens art just keeps getting better. Score: 9 Recommendation: Buy
Batman #44 (DC Comics)** – Well, whaddya know. Once again Tom King shows he’s more than capable of a perfectly good one-off issue after yet another absolutely lackluster multi-parter. Mikel Janin and Joelle Jones both do superb work with their respective segments of the story, and the flashback sequences are endearing while the present-day Catwoman yarn feels very true to form. I swear, just when you’re ready to drop this book, along comes a reason to stick it out just a little bit longer. Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy
Ringside #15 (Image)** – Joe Keatinge and Nick Barber provide a thoroughly satisfying and emotionally resonant epilogue-style finish to their decidedly up-and-down wrestling series that should more than satisfy those few of us stuck it out to the end. Barber’s art looks better here than at any time since the first few issues, while Keatinge’s script is simple, straightforward, and undoubtedly effective. This book never found a consistent voice, but it’s nice to see it go out on a high note. Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy
Black Bolt #12 (Marvel)** – On the subject of great finales, Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward absolutely nail this one. All loose ends are tied up, there’s plenty of action, and emotional reunions rule the day. One can argue that Ahmed doesn’t really surprise us with anything on offer in this comic, but that’s okay with me if it works context with all that has come before, which this certainly does — and Ward gives us some spectacular pages to gawk over endlessly, truly finishing with a flourish. I’m definitely going to miss this series. Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy
Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #4 (DC)** – Mark Russell and Mike Feehan just keep getting better as this six-parter goes along, with a creepy-ass story focused on nuclear testing taking center stage (left?) this time out and Huckleberry Hound splitting time with our protagonist as both their respective “arcs” propel toward potentially-catastrophic (but let’s hope not) turning points. Feehan’s art this time out reminds me more than a bit of Jacen Burrows’ superb work on “Providence” — and come to think of it, Russell’s script has a touch of Alan Moore to it, as well. The only drawback? Once again, Brandee Stilwell’s “Sasquatch Detective” back-up strip is a complete and utter waste. Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy
Batman #44 (DC) While I’m not ready to join the legions of readers who have anointed Tom King as DC’s best writer, I think I finally saw a bit of what people are talking about with this issue. King does a really nice job of using the medium to full effect as he cuts between flashbacks to Batman and Cat Woman’s past antagonism with Selina taking in a little…unorthodox wedding dress shopping. It shows a great grasp of both characters. The extensive use of time code is inspired as it tells the read exactly how much time has elapsed between each panel. It’s also a good standalone issue that anyone who is familiar with the characters (and who doesn’t know Batman & Cat Woman at this point?) should be able to read and enjoy. Michael Janin’s art is amazing as always. Score: 7. Recommendation: Buy.
Cyborg #21 (DC): I get why DC has been trying to raise Cyborg’s profile ever since the start of the New 52. Representation in comics is important and Cyborg is probably DC’s most iconic character of color who isn’t part of a legacy (though Static certainly comes close). Unfortunately this issue does Vic Stone no favors. It’s not like this issue is bad…but its not memorable at all. Even now less than a week after I read I’m struggling to remember what happened. There are mechanical suits and an evil samurai guy but I don’t give a good god damn about any of it, the title character least of all. Marv Wolfman and Tom Derenick are two of the best creators around. They should be doing more with their talent than producing a book that reads like the reheated leftovers of Big Hero 6. Rating: 5. Recommendation: Pass.
Isola #1 (Image): I’ve been anticipating this book since I first found out about it shortly before I started to review comics for Graphic Policy and I’m glad to say it doesn’t disappoint. This first issue sets up a mystery in a fantasy world. Who is the young warrior who serves as our focal point and her constant companion, a green tiger named Olwyn?
Writer Brenden Fletcher does a fine job of interweaving the visual elements of the story with the verbal. The dialog is tightly written and serves to explain just enough that we want to know more but are never confused. Karl Kerschl’s art is great, with a style that is reminiscent of traditional manga but layouts that will be more comfortable for readers of western comics. I was also struck by Aditya Bidikar’s lettering which does a nice job of capturing the character of a tiger’s voice. Isola is a helluva ride and I’m in it for the duration. Rating: 9. Recommendation: Buy.
Justice League #42 (DC)– Priest’s run on JL has all the action of a superhero comic and the smarts of a political thriller plus sleek and occasionally gory visuals from Pete Woods. In issue 42, the JL intervene in a battle between the African dictator Red Lion and rebels against his regime to save some refugees. But Wonder Woman ends up getting injured, and the League is played for patsies. Priest introduces Deathstroke as a take no prisoners wild card in this issue , and it’ll be interesting to see if the JL keeps twiddling their thumbs while he’s out head shotting villains. This series is really a fantastic mix of real world issues and fantastic abilities plus Priest shows why Cyborg makes a great JL leader Overall: 8.4 Verdict: Buy
Runaways #8 (Marvel)– Rainbow Rowell sidelines the Molly Hayes’ creepy BFF plot for Karolina’s girlfriend Julie Power coming to town, and Dr Doom randomly showing up. I love the conversations between Julie and Molly as she is a little wistful for a time when good and evil was a little less complex. The fight is a little random, but guest colorist Triona Farrell gets to show off her Lite Brite skills with Karolina and Julie’s powers. Plus Kris Anka digs into Nico’s painful relationship with the Staff of One as she isolates herself from the group in the middle of battle. He also draws cute crop tops and nails the Power Pack’s original design in Molly’s poster. Overall: 7.6 Verdict: Read
Rise of the Black Panther #4(Marvel)- In this issue, we find a weary warrior, as T’Challa and Sheridan find a long lost Wakandan, Njakada. Meanwhile, Doctor Doom looks to take over the Throne of Wakanda, but summons T’Challa to Latveria for a mysterious conference. Here the royal siblings attempt to uncover the real reason Doom brought them there. By issue’s end, they find out betrayal is knocking at their front door, in the shape of either the White Wolf or Njakada, as the next issue gets us closer to the answer.
Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy
I Hate Fairyland #18 (Image)** – If I have to have a Gert-less story, then I will definitely take one where Duncan Dragon and Larry team up on a quest to get her back. It’s still a bit placeholder-y for me, I like my Fairyland stories fast and furious with lots of skewering, but this one isn’t too bad. I do think that Skottie Young is ill-served by plot and hope that once he gets himself out of the box he’s put himself in he’ll get back to delivering sheer mayhem. Overall: 7 Recommendation: Buy.
Sex Criminals #23 (Image)** – Fraction and Zdarsky are not helping themselves when they get all clever and jokey-jokey. At this point, Sexcrims is far more interesting as a meditation on sex and human relationships than as a heist or revenge story. As someone who is also prone to covering up real emotion with sharp wit, I recognize everything they’re doing with a heavy sigh. And then there’s just Suzie in the art gallery in the last panel of page 26 and it’s so simple it breaks my heart. Overall: 6.5 Recommendation: Buy
Koshchei the Deathless #4 (Dark Horse)** – Pride is indeed a terrible thing, and in this installment of Koshchei’s dark tale we get a taste of the price he pays. Mike Mignola and Ben Stenbeck keep chugging along in a solid and satisfying Russian style, like vodka and black bread: nothing surprising, but in the right company a fine way to pass the time. Kudos to Stenbeck for not making K’s sorceress love stereotypically hot & sexy. Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Buy
X-Men: Grand Design Marvel Treasury Edition #1 (Marvel)** – In which Ed Piskor attempts to construct a unified theory of the X-Men. I am a sucker for exactly this type of thing (back in the day, I loved the idea of Marvel Saga), and I love the Treasury size (one of my earliest comics purchases was the Famous First Edition version of Bat Man #1) and I loved the first run of What If? So I was pretty much sold as soon as this thing popped into existence and I saw the Watcher on page 1. What surprised me was how effectively and charmingly Piskor incorporated all the bonkers 90’s stuff right from the beginning, and using the Phoenix Force as the cosmic thread binding this stuff together in the background is pure genius. As a kid collecting comics, I was never quite sure what to make of the Roy Thomas/Neal Adams run, but these days I kind of love its go-for-broke-ness, and Piskor does a great job bringing that to the table. I will be a bit of a contrarian and say that I don’t think the artificial newsprint-yellowing does for this what it did for Hip-Hop Family Tree: X-Men Grand Design is plenty, plenty comicbooky already. A super fun love letter. Overall: 9 Recommendation: don’t ask, just buy!
Well, there you have it, folks. The reviews we didn’t quite get a chance to write. See you next week!
Please note that with some of the above comics, Graphic Policy was provided FREE copies for review. Where we purchased the comics, you’ll see an asterisk (*). If you don’t see that, you can infer the comic was a review copy. In cases where we were provided a review copy and we also purchased the comic you’ll see two asterisks (**).