By Molly Jane Kremer and Jarrod JonesOur Week In Review serves to fill in the gaps our frequently verbose comic book coverage leaves behind. Each week, we take a brief look into the books that demand attention.

LDYKLR-3-CVRLady Killer #3

Dark Horse/$3.50

Story by Joëlle Jones and Jamie S. Rich.

Art by Joëlle Jones; colors by Laura Allred.

JJ: The life of Josie Schuller is a complicated one, but don’t tell her family; to the majority of the Schuller residence, Josie’s well-lived life is an effortless one, where her two healthy girls thrive and her unexcitable husband comes home to casually enjoy the fruits of their charmed existence. As Josie blithely glides through the rigmarole of her everyday suburban life, no one suspects that she is, in secret, an assassin, one so efficient and so deadly that if the truth were to ever out, everything would change forever.

So imagine her plight as you read the latest issue of Lady Killer, Joëlle Jones and Jamie S. Rich’s vibrant and darkly humorous new mini-series from Dark Horse Comics, and make sure you contextualize her predicament through the prism of the paradigm-shift of the 1960s. (Janelle Asselin does a fine job in describing the mountain Josie has to climb in her review over at Comics Alliance.) Any person who lives a double life is bound to crack, and it appears in Jones & Rich’s latest issue of this fantastic series that Josie is coming undone.

While the signs leading towards self-implosion are all over the place, it seems that Josie’s been fit to unravel for some time now (her employer, Mr. Stenholm, has photos of Josie at a very early age standing over a knife-riddled corpse). And it appears that her ability to control any given situation is slipping too, whether it’s by her design (letting her mark, a young boy, purposefully slip through her fingers) or by someone else’s suspicions (Mother Schuller finally vocalizes her disdain for Josie’s apparent subterfuge). Jones’ slick artwork gives Josie visual ticks that show how tenuous her grip on stability truly is, while Rich’s deft characterization creates the dread feeling that the noose is tightening around our protagonist’s neck. It leaves behind a devastating effect.

There are only two more issues left to Lady Killer. There is something woefully wrong about that sentence.

9 out of 10

descender_coverDescender #1

Image Comics/$2.99

Written by Jeff Lemire.

Art by Dustin Nguyen.

MJ: Image has been practically throwing high-quality sci-fi at comics fans for the past year or so, and the first few months of 2015 have been no exception. One of the best so far (and Sony Pictures seems to agree) is Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen’s Descender, a gorgeously illustrated meditation on the nature of humanity and technology, seen through the eyes of a lone robot-boy by the name of Tim. Though dramatically heightened expectations come with having an all-star team of creators at the helm, Descender by all means meets them.

Writer Lemire’s excellent grasp of character and pacing is again on display, and like many good writer/artists, he knows how to write scripts that show, don’t tell. Lemire already has some experience chronicling the story of an isolated child making his way through a battered future (haven’t you read Lemire’s Sweet Tooth from Vertigo yet? Go do it. You’ll thank me.) and while on the surface Descender shows hints of being “Sweet Tooth in space”, it clearly has a different angle to exploit.

Dustin Nguyen’s watercolors are phenomenal, somehow a step up from the already-stellar work he does regularly for DC. His use of color alone is astounding: It’s always a treat to see comic pages that consist of watercolored art in the first place, but Nguyen’s is the work of a master. The planet Niyrata is at first painted as a clean and bright vision of an optimistic future (in a wash of pastels-on-white with occasional bursts of bold color), but it’s then shown – after ten years have passed – as dingy and dusty and full of smog. Meanwhile, the scenes of Tim as he’s waking up in a far-off mining outpost are almost exclusively painted in shades of blue-green and black. Dialogue barely hampers this scene – Lemire communicates so much with very little – and the beautiful sequentials are allowed to shine.

Not relying on bombastics, the quiet nature of this comic makes it stand out from the many science fiction books now on the stands. This is a series that looks to be an intelligent and introspective addition to Image’s already-excellent roster.

9 out of 10

SWOMAN2014005-DC11-2b77cSpider-Woman #5

Marvel Comics/$3.99

Written by Dennis Hopeless.

Art by Javier Rodriguez and Alvaro Lopez.

JJ: You know we have to talk about it, right? Y’know. It. The cover reviled ’round the world. It’s been seven months since Marvel Comics unleashed their shame all over the internet, and while it appears that in their embarrassment they’ve accomplished a severe course-correction, it’s important to never forget the day Jessica Drew became a national catastrophe.

Because to dismiss Marvel’s most egregious editorial misstep since… well, since the last time the publisher got it so wrong is to dismiss the importance of taking our beloved comics creators to task when they foul up so disastrously. Be it seven months ago, today, or seven years from now, it’s vitally important to keep the industry we all absolutely adore on the right course, because while things are better now, we must always strive to constantly ensure things are better for everybody.

All right. I’ll get down from my soap box. (For now.) Because it’s time to breathe a sigh of relief and turn a new page for Spider-Woman. Issue #5 is a suitably cautious revamp of the Jessica Drew character, a book that not only features a new costume for our heroine (one that includes a kid-tested and publisher-approved leather jacket), but a refreshing new direction for one of Marvel Comics’ most iconic superheroes. Writer Dennis Hopeless seems to have an electric current running through him now that his book is no longer indebted to the Spider-Verse saga, and it shows in this effervescent premiere issue. (Though why Marvel didn’t just reset to #1 – at least for the sake of future trade paperbacks – is a baffling question.) Jessica Drew has a new life now, one that isn’t beholden to an Avengers membership, but what exactly is she to do with all this free time?

Hopeless takes time to answer that question while bothering to inject some humanity into the notoriously snarky Drew (at least humility seems to be a new character trait: “I once lost a week of my life shame-Googling “Spider-Woman butt…“). Javier Rodriguez gives our brand-new Spider-Woman a distinctive beauty and a visual strength, one that is aided by Alvaro Lopez’s slick inks and Rodriguez’s own brilliant colors. Change might come with some difficulty for Spider-Woman, but it sure looks spectacular.

Jessica Drew wants to change her life. Aided by Hopeless’ visible enthusiasm and Marvel editorial’s willingness to adapt, it’s pretty damned easy to get excited about that.

8.5 out of 10

Princess-Leia-1-Cover-1459bStar Wars: Princess Leia #1

Marvel Comics/$3.99

Written by Mark Waid.

Art by Terry and Rachel Dodson; colors by Jordie Bellaire.

JJ: Carving out narrative space in-between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back seems to be the editorial mandate of Marvel Comics’ new Star Wars initiative. And that’s totally fine: From Star Wars to Darth Vader and now with Princess Leia, the cataclysmic events of A New Hope are the impetus to this new cosmic world order, one that is both familiar and entirely new to fans of the galaxy far, far away. (Even battle-hardened nuts like me.) All of this means that a narrative opportunity has arrived, one that has never been explored, not even by George Lucas himself.

The Death Star has been thoroughly destroyed, but so has the planet Alderaan. Home to Princess Leia Organa, the loss of an entire planet was always undercut by A New Hope‘s dramatic shortcomings, and since Empire hit the spaceways running in a galactic chase involving the Galactic Empire and the Rebellion, there was never any time to see the toll this alarming turn of events had on our princess. With Star Wars: Princess Leia #1, writer Mark Waid explores the Rebellion’s Pyrrhic victory, but there’s no time to spare, not even for grief; the Empire is actively hunting down all living citizens of Alderaan, and have placed a 10,000,000-credit bounty on our heroine’s hairbun-flanked noggin. The time for action is now. All that needs doing is for Leia to find her footing in a galaxy where she no longer has a home.

Mark Waid is a writer that can wring intriguing pathos from even the most myopic of characters, and here he’s tasked with turning Princess Leia – a character historically informed by Carrie Fisher’s otherwise chilly performance – into a person that is not only relatable, but sympathetic. And while there is the long game to consider with Star Wars: Princess Leia, Waid makes strides in this premiere issue to give Leia an internal focus, an identifiable emphasis on her priorities that would make her icy demeanor reasonable. However, the story he has to tell to do so isn’t in keeping with what Star Wars and Star Wars: Darth Vader have laid out. Because of this temporal dischord, Princess Leia #1 doesn’t mesh with the visual – or even the narrative – flow the prior two Marvel comics have achieved.

A lot of this dissonance stems from Jordie Bellaire’s bright, phosphorescent colors, which lie in stark contrast to the lush visual harmony colorists Laura Martin and Edgar Delgado have achieved in their own books (in Star Wars and Star Wars: Darth Vader, respectively). Coupled with the more cartoony artwork from Terry and Rachel Dodson – who have a tricky time themselves keeping the world of Star Wars on spec – Princess Leia comes out of the gate hamstrung by its innate desire to stand out on its own. The Marvel Universe may be able to dance across an eclectic visual spectrum – it’s been around long enough to get that comfortable – but their Star Wars program has a long way to go (and a Christmastime movie to avoid betraying) before it can begin to kick itself into innovative hyperdrive.

7 out of 10

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