By Molly Jane Kremer and Jarrod Jones. Our 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.

wicdiv7The Wicked + The Divine #7

Image Comics/$3.50

Written by Kieron Gillen. 

Art by Jamie McKelvie; colors by Matthew Wilson.

JJ: I approach Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s The Wicked + The Divine like I would a stranger at a bar: warily. The best part of diving into each successive issue is that exhilarating feeling of uncertainty, of not knowing whether my evening will end with my hair tussled after a taxi-driven make-out sesh, or if I’ll be left to stare sullenly into yet another glass of Bulleit bourbon, contemplating why I still do this when I’m in my thirties. Either way, the journey is always worth it.

The Wicked + The Divine #7 is precisely what I’ve come to expect from Messrs. Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson, which is to say that The Wicked + The Divine #7 is – simply put – a gorgeous thing to behold. It’s a book that could almost vibrate in your hands with its insane, almost unforgivable audacity (the maddening hordes depicted within a god convention are undefined, faceless nobodies that only serve to annoy those for which they’ve come to admire, which, hmm). It’s a book that challenges the limits of the comic book medium in a way that is fresh, and engaging (Laura and Baphomet’s decent into karaoke is a dizzying stunner). It’s also a book that doesn’t have time to fuck around.

Gillen’s narrative continues to churn along at a rapid clip, taking almost everything for granted in a manner not too dissimilar to Woden, the issue’s marquee god: because he (like every other god in the book) only has two years to live, Woden eschews the commonalities found in humanity – chiefly those of tact and respectability – in the name of living life to its absolute fullest. (Up to and including his assemblage of several very tall, very Asian groupies he likes to call his “valkyries”.) Gillen’s trademark snark is given a new life under Woden’s does-not-compute techno-speak (meted through Clayton Cowles spot-on lettering), while McKelvie’s unnerving facial tics emote far more than what is available through the writers “holier-than-thou” elocution. (Nobody crafts a sneer – in life or on page – like Jamie McKelvie.)

By issue’s end, there is still a giant question mark left behind for the reader to chew on, with little to go on other than the emotional state of our protagonist Laura (who has mastered the underhanded approach to dragging on a cigarette). But she too is something of a cypher; paradoxically, as Gillen and McKelvie allow the world of #WicDiv to grow, their main character’s own maturation is stifled. Which means that The Wicked + The Divine retains that crazy feeling of uncertainty, just like fishing for some strange: if you intend to stick around for the long haul, you better learn how to hang.

 7 out of 10

wonderwoman38-varWonder Woman #38

DC Comics/$2.99

Written by Meredith Finch.

Art by David Finch; inks by Sonia Oback, Batt, and Danny Miki; colors by Oback.

MJ: The creative team of David and Meredith Finch have completed the third issue of their new Wonder Woman run, but they are are sadly no closer to crafting a story worthy of the iconic Amazon, nor anywhere near to putting out what passes for a compelling comic book.

At the very least, there are slight improvements in how David Finch draws Diana: she no longer looks like a bobble-headed Bratz doll (as much), her facial features now take on those of an actual adult woman’s. Her expressions still vary only between near-tears sadness and near-tearing-your-throat-out rage. David Finch does draw some gorgeous-looking dragons in the action sequence at the start of the issue, and Sonia Oback’s colors compliment his pencils particularly well. Oback is also one of the three inkers on this book (Batt and Danny Miki complete the trip), and while they seem to have helped improve upon the almost laughable anatomy in the first issue of the Finch’s run, the many hands the art passed through doesn’t help how difficult everything is to follow.

The writing is to blame in befuddling the reader. The entire first half of the issue is a dream sequence, from which Diana awakes covered in blood (the gore is never explained; and oh how I wish it was Wonder Woman having started her period visibly within the pages of her comic. I’d forgive this book for so much if that were the case). The second half concerns Diana acting like a dismissive brat to all she comes into contact with. And speaking of characterization: within one two-page conversation, thirty-five issues-worth of character-building for the God of War (who is rarely referred to as Ares) feels erased – here he is spoken of as if Brian Azzarello didn’t forge enough depth for the character. (He did.) Again, we have a scene with Wonder Woman – one of the Justice League members most famous for flying a jet – sitting in the passenger seat of a League plane, throwing petulance at a male coworker. And last but not least, we are introduced (yet again) to the New52 Donna Troy, who could be a mannequin for all we know: she doesn’t seem to either move or talk, and just stands with a glassy-eyed stare painted all over her face.

I feel for Donna though, because I’m pretty sure I shared that blank look when I finished this issue. I also felt throughout my reading that Diana’s two perceived emotions (sad! and mad!) were only too fitting for the comic’s overall execution. Perhaps if this creative team could start effectively communicating a fully-realized character that does more than pout and glower (and occasionally punch), I might actually end up sympathizing with the Finch’s Wonder Woman; instead I only feel sympathy for her legacy, and how this series continues to tarnish it.

2.5 out of 10

Groo-Friends-and-Foes-1-21-15Groo: Friends and Foes #1

Dark Horse Comics/$3.99

Written by Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evanier.

Art by Sergio Aragonés; colors by Tom Luth.

JJ: Whenever I think of Groo, I think of thirteen year-old me not doing my homework and reading Mad magazine. (That delightfully absurd rag informed my dad-joke sense of humor, and I revere that magazine to this very day.) There were three more years to trudge through before I would discover Robert Crumb, and three years hence since I’d read my first Archie comic book, so the works of Sergio Aragonés came to me at a very crucial stage in my life. Strangely enough, Groo was a book that always eluded me.

Luckily Dark Horse Comics saw fit to reunite the team who made the Prince of Chichester so popular: in a fully-realized, mightily hilarious comic book, Aragonés has once again partnered up with longtime collaborator Mark Evanier (of whom I first discovered in 1996 with his DC Comics’ one-shot, Sergio Aragonés Destroys DC, fittingly enough), colorist Tom Luth, and letterer Stan Sakai (which – for the record? – contributes greatly  to the book’s off-kilter hilarity, and it’s such a joy to see letters on a book done by hand, as opposed to being done by mouse). That reunion compliments the 32 year-old nimrod astoundingly well, and with Groo: Friends and Foes, the lampooning barbarian has never been more refreshing. (Or more hysterical. One word: Rufferto.)

If you’re looking for pure, unadulterated comics – right here. Aragonés may be a man of swift craftsmanship, but there is nothing harried or harassed about Friends and Foes. For a Groo newb like myself, hopping onto issue #1 is an enjoyable romp, one that serves as a refreshing palate-clenser from the ceaseless onslaught of superhero books that too often fail to entertain on a level that Friends and Foes accomplishes so effortlessly. Its strength is found in the skill of its creators, whose collusion works so magnificently that the final product is nothing less than beautiful. When a trifle feels like a masterpiece, that’s where you’ll find Sergio Aragonés. Here’s a three-word review: buy this book.

10 out of 10

Loki_Agent_of_Asgard_Vol_1_10Loki: Agent of Asgard #10

Written by Al Ewing.

Art by Lee Garbett, colors by Nolan Woodard.

MJ: The series Loki: Agent of Asgard, the direct sequel to Kieron Gillen’s excellent Journey Into Mystery, has been just as consistently good as its predecessor, and continues to be a notable example of how a character can successfully change and grow, even when it takes time to muse on the minutiae of that growth. Loki: Agent of Asgard is just as intimate, just as entertaining, and sometimes, just as affecting as the book that came before it.

This issue is definitely an example of that awesomeness, as Loki finally faces the repercussions of “The Crime That Will Not Be Forgiven“, otherwise known as the murder of his younger (less evil) version of himself, a story which capped off Journey into Mystery. It’s brought about by Loki’s current inability to lie, and before that particular bombshell, he and Thor (suffering from a current inability to lift Mjolnir) have an interesting discussion about whether those things – Thor’s hammer, Loki’s “liar’s tongue” – make them who they are, and what those things might entail. That conversation is masterfully constructed, and the dialogue is well-worded but not too wordy. (The content and characterization? Spotless.) Ewing even manages to use that dialogue to explain in-story why Loki has been written slightly differently by different writers lately. (Honestly, after muddling through another certain comic – mentioned further up on this page – reading this sequence was an absolute delight.)

Lee Garbett’s art and Nolan Woodard’s colors are impressive as usual, with an emphasis on Garbett’s expressive faces and quick-paced action. For the Odinson’s “costume”, he follows Russell Dauterman’s recently beefy example from Thor and draws a mostly-topless, metal armed former-thunder god rather well. Loki: Agent of Asgard successfully toes the oft-difficult lines between canny and funny. For a comic featuring a god of trickery and lies, it never plays fast and loose with its truths, and it is never not poignant with its pathos and sincerity.

8 out of 10

Agree? Disagree? Which books are YOU reading this week? Let us know in the comments below.