Reviews in Brief (7/13 to 7/27 – 2016)

Here are reviews of a bunch of comics that I’ve read recently. Most of these came out July 13, 20 or 27, but a couple of them are from earlier that I picked up when I picked up the books on my pull-list.  I’m looking to cut what is on my pull-list, so I am introducing a new feature to Reviews in Brief called “On the Bubble.” At the end of each set of reviews I will list comics I am considering dropping.

Black_Panther_Vol_6_4Black Panther vol. 6, #4 (released 7/27)
Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artists: Brian Stelfreeze (w/ colors by Laura Martin and Matt Milla)

This comic book remains too talky-talky and decompressed for my tastes and it feels disjointed. I think Coates has said the first chapter is 12 issues long. I’ll probably give it that long, but not longer (and if I see no improvement soon, I am likely to give it significantly less time).

The Flintstones #1 (released 7/6)
Writer: Mark Russell
Artists: Steve Pugh

I bought this because a negative review of it I read made it seem really compelling. Mark Russell, who wrote the recent truncated and underrated run of Prez (that I loved) gives us a vision of the Flintstones that is dark in its banal racist and paleo-capitalist “civilization.” In that sense I appreciate the perspective, but the problem is it is more depressing than funny. It fails as satire even as I admire its ability to mock the post-war boom of the 1950s that the Flintstones cartoon was aping in the 1960s by essentially mimicking the structure of the Honeymooners (which was about pretty poor working class people, not homeowners) and equating that era’s self-image as progressive with the literal Stone Age. The art style, which transforms the block cartoon characters into something approaching realism does a lot of the work of conveying the soul-crushing weight of everyday life. I doubt I will buy any more issues of this DC comics series, but I will flip through the next one just to get a sense if it is worth keeping up with just to write about.

HulkasaurusTotally Awesome Hulk #9 (released 7/27)
Writer: Greg Pak
Artists: Mike Del Mundo (w/colors by Del Mundo and Marco D’Alfonso)

I wan to like this issue, the art, the sense of tension, but ultimately it felt like something meant to fill the necessary Civil War II crossover gap mandated by editorial. I only knew that Hawkeye had killed Bruce Banner because I read about it in some article, so I was able to follow what was going on, but the comic itself does no work to be self-contained, and while the fake out ending fits Amadeus Cho’s 19-year old impulsiveness, in terms of the narrative it felt like a cop out. Again, I feel like I am on the verge of dropping this book, and I regret getting this issue. I should have skipped it and checked back in when this Civil War II bullshit is over. Oh, and why is Carol Danvers being characterized as so totalitarian, awful and lacking confidence. It is the worst take on her I’ve seen in a long while. Lastly, Frank Cho is a douche, but his art is missed here.

LJ14Lumberjanes #14 (released 5/20/2015)
Writers: Shannon Watters, Noelle Stevenson
Artist: Brooke A. Allen

I know this is not a recent comic (it came out last year), but I picked it up at the Half-Price Books clearance sale in Monroeville, PA for a quarter on a whim and was enchanted and delighted by it. I didn’t quite know what was going on, but it didn’t matter. I immediately got a sense of its setting and spirit and want to not only read more, but want to give trades to some of the young kids I know so they have access to an excellent all-ages book.

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur (released 7/27)
Writers: Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder
Artists: Natacha Bustos (w/colors by Tamra Bonvillian)

Evidence that an all-ages book can still be fun and compelling for adult readers. “All-Ages” doesn’t mean “Just for kids.” The art remains a delight and the appearance of Ms. Marvel in the final panel was a nice surprise.

MG+MMMs. Marvel vol.4, #9 (released 7/27)
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artists: Takeshi Miyazawa and Adrian Alphona (w/ colors by Ian Herring)

This may be a CIvil War II tie-in issue, but Wilson knows how to write a story that complies with the editorial crossover mandate, but that keeps its focus on the title’s characters and their relationships. I love this book.  Alphona and Miyaski alternating art duties for flashbacks and current times works well.

Nighthawk vol.2, #3 (released 7/20)
Writer: David Walker
Artists: Martin Marazzo (w/colors by Tamra Bonvillian)

This comic is crazy violent. I mean, Nighthawk impales a dude with his grappling hook through the back through the roof of a moving van and then yanks him up. In the words of one of the dude’s criminal colleagues, “His guts are hanging out” and there is plenty of magenta blood all over the place. Sure, the scene is amazingly rendered in a two-page spread cutaway view of the van, but damn man! This is some MAX or Vertigo (or at the very least Marvel Knights imprint) level shit.  I don’t know if I can stick with this book, though the racial dynamics, corrupt police and Chicago setting all interest me. It feels  little gratuitous. We’ll see.

Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #8 (released 7/20)
Writer: Kate Leth
Artists: Brittany Williams (w/colors by Rachel Rosenberg)

Might be the best Civil War II tie-in yet because while it relies on an event from the Civil War II series, the focus is on Patsy and her strong ensemble processing their grief. Ultimately, She-Hulk’s injury and resultant coma could have happened in any book or none at all, the so-called “Civil War” was beside the point. What matters is Leth’s sweet exploration of friendship. This issue returned to the regular artist, and except for Howard the Duck (and maybe She-Hulk’s paralegal, Angie Huang), everyone looked great in the issue.

PM-IF-PWHCPower Man & Iron Fist volume 3, #6 (released 7/13)
Writer: David Walker
Artists: Flaviano Armentaro (w/colors by John Rauch)

Hey! This Civil War II tie-in wasn’t bad either. Sure, the bit about Danny Rand having had a relationship to She-Hulk in order to make him more invested in her critical injuries felt forced, and honestly the whole scene with Captain Marvel was unnecessary, but Walker was smart enough to skip most of the exposition and to focus on the story of vigilantes using some kind of pre-crime algorithm app to target the marginalized. Flaviano Armentaro does a great job mimicking Sanford Greene’s style to keep a sense of continuity with previous issues despite the artist change. Walker still needs to work on how he writes Jessica Jones, though. In one scene she shows up to make sure the guy aren’t just eating junk food. . . gimme a break. Just because she is a mom doesn’t mean she needs to be mommified.

Spider-Man_Vol_2_6Spider-Man vol.2, #6 (released 7/20)
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Nico Leon (w/colors by Marte Garcia)

I didn’t think this issue was as bad as some folks I’ve chatted with on Twitter thought it was. The worst part was the long Iron Man exposition, and the very boring way this issue incorporates what’s at stake in Civil War II. The profiling analogy felt stilted and wrong, and while I am glad Bendis had Miles ask Iron Man his motives for using the language of profiling when explaining it to Miles, the answer did not seem sufficient.  Miles’s conversation with his dad was much better, and the conversation between Miles, Ganke and Fabio seemed close enough to how 16-year old nerdy boys talk about girls without being as creepy and nasty as they can be in reality. No Sara Pichelli on art duties meant this issue was also visually less interesting than it could be. There is so much potential with this character interacting with these themes, unfortunately, not only does Bendis not seem like the guy to do it. I am not sure Marvel is the company to pull it off.

Star Wars vol.2, #21 (released 7/13)
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: Jorge Molina  (w/colors by Mat Milla)

This issue focuses on S.C.A.R. (Special Command Advanced Recon), an elite Stormtrooper squad. The first person narration from the point of view of the Stormtrooper sergeant really works, but other than that I think it would have worked as a mostly silent issue. These stormtroopers talked too much to seem like stormtroopers of that cinematic era (between Episodes IV and V), and come off like clone troopers from the cartoon prequels. I like that the Star Wars book takes time to explore stories of the wider galaxy and its characters, but the sharpness and clear action-oriented art of the initial issues by John Cassaday and those later ones by Stuart Immonen is sorely missed lately. The art here looks muddy. It might be the inking or the colors, but either way, it doesn’t do it for me or visually evoke Star Wars except in the basic way that some vehicle and uniforms are recognizable.  I may drop this book and try it again later if I hear of a return to art that works for me.

Vision_Vol_3_9The Vision vol.3, #9 (released 7/13)
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Gabriel Hernandez Walta (w/colors by Jordie Bellaire)

This series continues to evoke dread. I would have preferred it distinct from any interaction with broader continuity, but that is a minor quibble, because even in bringing in Victor Mancha (a character from Runaways I’d never head of and that, like the Vision, was created by Ultron) everything is tightly plotted and full of pathos. I highly recommend it.

All-New Wolverine, #10 (released 7/20)
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artists:Ig Guara (w/inks by Bob Wiacek and Victor Olazaba/ Colors by John Rauch)

It seems like not even a Wolverine comic can escape the tradition of having Wolverine guest in your book, because now Old Man Logan is hanging with Laura and Gabby. And that’s fine. I am happy to see stories based on convoluted alternate dystopian future timelines and clones of clones if the characterization remains strong, but crossovers ruin everything, and I was naive enough to think the tie-in issues would remain sufficiently self-enclosed. Oh, and the depiction of how Ulysses’s Inhuman power works to see the future (some vague dream/vision) made Captain Marvel seem like even more unhinged and mischaracterized than this whole Civil War II thing has already done.  Sad Christmas.

WW-2-3Wonder Woman vol. 5, #2 and #3 (released 7/13 and 7/27)
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artists: [Issue #2] Nicola Scott (w/colors by Romulo Fajardo, Jr.); [issue #3] Liam Sharpe (w/colors by Laura Martin)

I read #3 before #2 since I picked them both up the same day and it takes up immediately after issue #1. Anyway, the art in #3 is certainly moody and evocative, but the story still feels way too decompressed. This and issue #1 could have easily been one issue,because on their own these issues don’t feel like they do much but continue to layout groundwork for exploring the convolutions of continuity. I want to read Wonder Woman stories about her being a superhero, not lurking in a dark  forest talking. Issue #2 was much better. I prefer the art and the color palate, and while I am tired of re-treading origins, when it comes to Wonder Woman’s various ret-cons, it seems like it might be important. More importantly it strongly establishes the culture and attitude of the Amazons.

—-

On the Bubble: Black Panther, The Flintstones, Wonder Woman, Totally Awesome Hulk, Star Wars.

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