HEY, KIDS! COMICS! WEEK IN REVIEW

HEY, KIDS! COMICS! WEEK IN REVIEW

By Molly Jane KremerScott Southard, Stefania Rudd, and Jarrod JonesOur Week In Review collects our thoughts on the comics that demand attention. Do you have a deep-rooted desire to know what we think about all your favorite books? Well. This is where you need to be.

STK688243All-New Wolverine #1

Marvel Comics/$4.99

Written by Tom Taylor.

Art by David Lopez & David Navarrot; colors by Nathan Fairbairn.

JJ: If Marvel’s “All-New, All-Different” initiative was going to offer anything truly in the way of “new” and “different”, we’d have seen it by now. Instead, it’s likely you already know the score: one month after Invincible Iron Man #1 was released with a passive shrug, all that’s followed has been a seemingly endless barrage of repurposed properties given over with admittedly all-new creative teams (in most cases) alongside a shiny, more consumer-friendly #1.

All-New Wolverine #1 is an encouraging shift from all of that. If you’re already painfully aware that the name “Wolverine” ain’t nothin’ new, then rest assured that it’s prepared to offer “different” as consolation.

It’s all right there on Bengal’s striking cover: the aggressive headshot, backed up by dark-red hues bleeding into rising yellow sunshine is obviously meant to recall Frank Miller’s Wolverine #1 from way back. Only this time we’re face-to-face with a Wolverine who isn’t here to play with her quarry; from front cover to back, this is a Wolverine who’s just about had it with everyone’s nonsense.

Tom Taylor is a writer gifted with the (mutant?) ability to provide every character put in his care their very own voice, and as Laura Kinney (or: X-23) has shuffled from creator to creator over the last dozen years, the one constant in her personality is an aching desire to kick all sorts of ass. If you’ve loved Kinney and have thrilled to her growth beyond her station as a literal Logan clone (as we have), you’ll be pleased to find that Taylor has given Laura a debut issue that pushes her tenacity to all-new (ah! there it is!) extremes. But the writer knows restraint in a way that Laura is only beginning to truly understand. (A flashback with her former mentor elucidating this is at once shocking and subtle.) It’s an intriguing thing to watch writer and character combat their conflicting ideologies on the printed page, and All-New Wolverine #1 offers us that creative tug-of-war beautifully.

The big-time gripe with All-New Wolverine #1 won’t come from David Lopez and David Navarrot’s cohesive illustrations — their collaboration is coherent, slick, and concise, which is what a good actioner should demand — it comes from the laughable 5 buck price tag. I know that double foldout advertisements are expensive (especially when Marvel is footing the cash themselves, which, thanks?), but sticking potential new readers and avid fans alike with the bill is a swift punch in the guts nobody was expecting from our newly-minted Wolverine. The book’s brisk thirty pages are certainly worthy of a premium price, but when those thirty pages are stuffed full with additional Marvel ad space, it’s only natural to feel a tad hoodwinked.

7.5 out of 10

TheGoddamned01-Cvr-ab5f6The Goddamned #1

Image Comics/$3.99

Written by Jason Aaron.

Art by R.M. Guéra and Giulia Brusco.

MJ: The Old Testament is undeniably one of the most influential pieces of fiction in the Western world, even when it had a tendency to portray the Judeo-Christian god as vengeful and jealous fellow constantly second-guessing His creation of all us pesky humans. The Goddamned takes that idea and runs with it, showing us a barbaric and brutal world that could have easily inspired such an irritable deity to commit mass genocide on his own Creation. Writer Jason Aaron and artist R.M. Guéra (with colorist Giulia Brusco) have not made the sort of devout “retelling within historical context” that brings busloads of churchgoers to the multiplex: with The Goddamned, they’ve done anything but. 

This is instead a reinterpretation (and a substantial, affecting one) of a story that happens to contain certain figures from that ancient tome and their petty god within it. The Goddamned explores and expands its fictional world, with no more religion thrown at the reader than you might find inside Greek myth (or Game of Thrones, or Star Wars). Genres and thematic elements violently smash together in this comic: the skeleton of Cain’s story is given flesh with elements of spaghetti Western, caveman narrative, noir, barbarian adventure, and fantasy. (Aaron himself aptly compared it to Quentin Tarantino remaking The Ten Commandments, only without Q’s oft-overpowering self-indulgence.)

There’s very little dialogue throughout the first half, but Guéra’s art – brutal, with gorgeously heavy inks — is still incredibly energetic, working effectively well with little requirement for the spoken word. The book’s sole (and nearly silent) fight scene goes on for eight pages: weapons arc out of panel only to smash into their target, as characters stab and maim each other with antlers, sticks, jawbones, and the occasional tomahawk. Guéra utilizes imaginative layouts while leaving the line art messy on the surface, reflective of Aaron’s barbaric intent and resulting in a beautifully grotesque, emotive, and visually lifelike comic.

Expressive, startling imagery is everywhere in this comic. The animals that appear are all in the midst of devouring rotting meat—or each other—and the effect is unsettling. Colorist Giulia Brusco’s warmer shades are heavily saturated, ensuring that the crimson splashes of blood (and there are many) have that extra pop. Though much of the book is super gruesome – decaying corpses abound in a bloody, barren landscape – Cain (yes, that Cain) is drawn as attractive, golden-haired and muscular: a Cro-Magnon amongst Neanderthals.

Here Cain refers to his God as both an asshole and a cunt, which seems to be a statement of intent for this comic: it brings out the Old Testament’s nastiness and depravity that’s typically overlooked or brushed aside by higher language or obfuscation. The Goddamned takes this essential cultural touchstone and gets down and dirty with it. Its effectiveness as an antediluvian tale is emphasized in the visceral interpretation, making damn sure this book resonates with a modern audience of all creeds..

9.5 out of 10

28944Zodiac Starforce #3

Dark Horse Comics/$3.99

Written by Kevin Panetta.

Art by Paulina Ganucheau.

SR: Wowee zowee! Did we get an action packed issue #3 or what? Moving the story forward while revealing a major surprise, writer Kevin Panetta and artist Paulina Ganucheau continue to take Zodiac Starforce down a creative and fun path that not only has fans swooning, but industry types as well. In a desperate attempt to save Emma from her mysterious illness, Molly opens a portal to Nephos to find the cure, but things go awry when monsters start pouring out and begin terrorizing the city instead. As our team tries to get rid the world of these creatures, Diana and her henchpeople show up to cause even more trouble.

It’s a series so darn fun, re-reading every issue is compulsory. Panetta’s dialogue continues to stand out with his remarkable ease of teenage hyper-speak. (Like when Kim asks Lily if she can borrow her Dune books, while at the same time trying to reassure Molly that their secret identities are safe with “cool people.” Sweet.) The use of this well-considered language is why I find this book so accessible for people (especially teens) to get into. While Panetta’s charm makes this book a pleasure to read, it’s the detailed beauty of Ganucheau’s artwork and coloring I keep pouring over: the subtle and forking illness veins on Emma’s tan skin, the swirls of water from Savi’s Celestial Tidal Wave, and the use of light and dark shading when Diana shares her history with Astra are but a few good examples of how her art enhances and heightens the story. Additionally, the placement and shape of the panels give each page a strong visual punch.

Zodiac Starforce #3 gives us a great set up—the surprise twist of Diana’s past, Emma’s unknown illness getting worse, and the team learning how to function as their leader is taken—as we head toward the conclusion in the next issue. The talented creative team of Panetta and Ganucheau never disappoint; they’re so good at escalating the story (and our emotions) that you know they have just as much love and enthusiasm for their work as we do delighting over every single page of it.  

10 out of 10

Limbo-1-2015-Page-1Limbo #1

Image Comics/$2.99

Written by Dan Watters.

Art by Caspar Wijngaard.

SS: I’ve sat in front of my laptop for around an hour now, alternating between rereading segments of Limbo #1 and watching the cursor pulse on a blank Google Docs page. I’m not searching for the right words or the perfect encapsulation of the new series from Image, I’m searching for anything to say about it. It’s not that I disliked the issue or have anything particularly negative to say, it just didn’t leave much of an impact on me. At all.

Writer Dan Watters seems to be using Limbo as a space to dabble with any and every storytelling technique he has ever learned, and that presents us one hell of a scattered premiere issue. Ostensibly, the story follows Mr. Clay, a private investigator with no memory of his life prior to the last nine months, as he flounders about in the fictional everything-at-once city of Dedande. (It’s full of organized crime and radioactively fantastical elements that include a spooky forest and ominous docks resting just outside an old western saloon.) As he takes on a new case from a beautiful, mysterious local woman, a world of violence and magic opens up, and we’re led to believe that there’s much more in store for our newly met protagonist.

Which is to say, Limbo has some truly redeeming qualities. Mr. Clay is a generally likeable main character, as far as boozed up, down on their luck detectives go. The inner-monologe/narration of Clay is clever and inventive, giving Limbo a small level of coherence throughout. If there’s any promise in the future of this series, it lies in Clay (and possibly his enigmatic, musical voodoo-practicing landlord/friend, Sandy, but we haven’t seen much from her besides a fun dance sequence and a plea for rent), and his potential to be a relatable hero.

For a book so unsure of itself, the title is more apropos than anyone would have hoped for. It seems as if Limbo is stuck in a purgatorial space between noir, religious fantasy, and tech-horror. It dabbles in amnesia tropes, Dia de Los Muertos celebrations, and mafioso bureaucracies. Without picking a single path and sticking to it, Limbo feels directionless. It’s nothing damnable, I’m just not hooked. Not everything can be the perfect storm of creativity, but it’s unfortunate that something with such neat concepts just can’t find any cohesion beyond its desire to achieve a new aesthetic.

6.5 out of 10

Agree? Disagree? What books are YOU reading this week? We want to know! Tell us about those feelings of yours in the comments section below.

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