By Molly Jane KremerScott Southard, and Jarrod Jones. Our 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.

4996037-02Scarlet Witch #2

Marvel Comics/$3.99

Written by James Robinson

Art by Marco Rudy.

Letters by VC’s Cory Petit.

MJ: James Robinson has always had the innate ability to take older, often marginalized superheroes and make them relevant again without doing much at all to change their already established personas. He delves further into the interesting nooks and crannies of a compelling personality. And he’s doing exactly that with Wanda Maximoff in Scarlet Witch, writing what is definitely (and yes, surprisingly) one of the best and most readable series of Marvel’s All-New, All-Different line.

Though the writing is, as stated above, incredibly good, Marco Rudy’s glorious artwork is a huge and mightily persuasive reason to read this comic. Each page is a singular work of art; his beautiful, painterly style can easily be compared to that of masters of the form (like J.H. Williams, III, who looks to be an influence). Rudy creates striking, gorgeous pages that, despite their lack of typical format, communicate an incredible sense of storytelling, and read just as easily as a standard paneled page. The art ranges from an intricate seaside panorama of Santorini—framed in the startlingly greens and blues of the Mediterranean—with panels full of expressive faces spiraling outward; to melty hallucinations recounting the issue’s antagonist, the Minotaur, dripping with visual references to Picasso’s Guernica.

In similar fashion to the first issue, Scarlet Witch #2 has a self-contained plot with overarching ramifications fit for a multi-issue storyline. It still has a slight similarity to Marvel’s other big mystical title, Aaron and Bachalo’s Doctor Strange (which is getting more of a push thanks to the character’s feature film debut this year), but the two series are more like the two sides of one coin: sister-comics, both ridiculously gripping and equally enjoyable. The done-in-one nature of Scarlet Witch’s issues gives us the added treat of a new and amazing artist stepping in each month, and with Rudy’s visuals just as transcendent as their sorcerous subject, if you’ll pardon the pun, the results are simply magic. You need to be reading Scarlet Witch.

9.5 out of 10

cover_v3Black Powder \\ Red Earth #3

Written by Jon Chang and Kane Smith.

Art by Jon Chang and Josh Taylor.

Letters by Jon Chang.

SS: The way we view modern war is heavily painted by media portrayals of good guys, bad guys, and the grey area in between. Thusly, anyone creating war fiction has a serious obligation to fair and conscious representation of everyone involved and the situation as a whole. Failure to adhere to this duty is morally iffy at best and aggressively hurtful to the public consciousness at its worst.

Black Powder \\ Red Earth explores the military-industrial complex in a clever way that’s believable and compelling. It has built a world that seems directly compatible with our own, providing a periscopic view into the wheelings and dealings of governments and corporations that few people actually get to see. But the tone of these dealings is surprisingly cavalier, and the care necessary for dealing with such a fragile set of complex relationships isn’t as apparent as one would hope.

Aesthetically, BPRE is loaded with amazing spreads that continue for pages, documenting the very real violence of a military operation. It doesn’t shy away from realistically portraying the regular brutality of gunfights and explosions. Really, throughout the entire book, the art style is sharp as hell and conveys a dynamism rarely seen in static images. Peppered with hints of Illuminati overwatch and punctuated with hyper-militarized black on black imagery, Black Powder has a consistent, engaging look that’s all it’s own.

Continuing with its aesthetics, I love the nontraditional long format of each issue. It adds to the sense of weight and importance to the concepts that swirl around BPRE. The graphic novel approach lends itself well to the serious tone and content being captained by Jon Chang.

But I’m having trouble understanding what the book as actually working towards. At times, it seems like it may be a sly critique of American military sociopathy, but at others, it seems to simply be some artful kneejerk aggression toward a dangerously simplified vision of terrorists and the Middle East in general. There aren’t any likeable characters, and the closest thing to a protagonist is a pretty despicable person, championing indiscriminate violence in the name of money and a vague idea of winning a war (against whom or what is pretty unclear).

It’s presented as a very informative documentational artifact. It’s purporting itself as a factual beginner’s guide to Western influence in Middle Eastern politics, and the hidden politicking within these relationships. There’s almost a Wire-esque slice of life to it, without any likable (if flawed) characters to root for.

While the ground covered in Black Powder \\ Red Earth are topically relevant, carefully treading those grounds is crucial to the mentality and prosperity of a healthy world future. This means that thoughtful concern and universal sympathy must be put into every aspect of coverage. With so many forces out there providing polarized views, racial bias, and oversimplified versions of truth, it is paramount that the critical art of the time be conscious of the weight of its words. Black Powder \\ Red Earth isn’t an actively negative force, I’m just not sure what it’s trying to say. What’s more, I’m not sure if it knows itself. 

6.5 out of 10

1487835_xlAll-New All-Different Avengers #1

Marvel Comics/$3.99

Written by Mark Waid.

Art by Adam Kubert.

Colors by Sonia Oback.

Letters by VC’s Cory Petit.

JJ: Well, it took three issues to get there, but Mark Waid and Adam Kubert finally got all these crazy kids to work together as a team. Seems a bit odd at first, especially when you consider that at least half of them (Sam Wilson’s Cap, Tony Stark’s Shellhead, the androidical Vision, and, at the very least, the Asgardian within Dr. Jane Foster) are seasoned heroes who have in some capacity worked in a team setting a dozen times before. Never mind one of them works in a ding-dang hospital in their off-hours.

There are the new kids to consider, absolutely, and while it’s an absolute delight to see Kamala Khan, Miles Morales, and Sam Alexander stepping up to be the A-Listers we’ve always known them to be, All-New, All-Different Avengers still has quite a ways to go before this starts to feel like, well, an Avengers book.

That’s probably the point. Mark Waid is the type of writer who relishes the opportunity to square big personalities against each other (just check out his Twitters sometime; the man does not suffer fools lightly), and All-New appears to be a book where Waid can establish some ground rules as far as inter-team politics are concerned. That would be great stuff, especially for this reader (who thinks his JLA run was way, way too brief), but in 2016 we find Waid using the light, breezy voice he employs in his successful Archie reboot. And while The Avengers are decidedly more youthful these days, All-New is going to need a heavier hand if it’s going to be the premiere Avengers title Marvel hopes it to be. In these three fleet-footed introductory issues, Waid has assembled this Avengers because the name hasn’t been taken yet. As a team? These people get along so tenuously, you’d swear there was a banner of the cover that read “The New 52!”

The team Marvel has thoughtfully put together is a vibrant, exciting display of how diverse the Marvel U has always been, and it’s readily apparent that this a book that’s to be treated with the same reverence as Grant Morrison and Howard Porter’s JLA was nearly twenty years ago. (What? You couldn’t tell by Alex Ross’ cheeky cover to issue #1?) Thing is, the manner in which Waid has set up this book, it’s going to take that much longer to get everyone on the same page. Which is to say, it’s gonna be a minute before All-New, All-Different Avengers becomes the team Marvel deserves. Good thing we know Waid’s an expert on the long game.

5.5 out of 10

STK694317The Legend of Wonder Woman #1 (of 9)

DC Comics/$3.99

Written by Renae De Liz.

Art by Renae De Liz with Ray Dillon.

Letters by Ray Dillon.

MJ: As a comics retailer, I see something that happens a whole heckuva lot: customers asking for kid-friendly Wonder Woman comics. And sadly, there really isn’t much of an in-print selection to offer little kids (it’s mostly little girls, as you’d expect). Now maybe it’s the fact that Wonder Woman is going to be a featured guest star in the upcoming Batman v. Superman flick in a couple months, or that she’ll be getting her own massive movie next year, but DC decided to have talented writer/artist Renae De Liz create the perfect introductory comic for these readers, both young and not-so-young: The Legend of Wonder Woman.

For over a year, the main Wonder Woman title has been languishing in the wrong hands, and while the Legend of Wonder Woman is intended for a different audience (it’s not even in continuity) it gets everything right that the ongoing series gets wrong. The art is incredibly femme-friendly, the story is steadily-paced and easy to follow, and Diana (though a child in this issue) is written as a strong, interesting character provided with her own agency. It’s an origin story—the entire series is touted as such—and Wonder Woman is one of the few superheroes who hasn’t beaten the comic-reading (and movie-going) public to death with such. Diana could actually use “The One True Origin” now that so many casual fans will be motivated to learn more about her. This comic book looks to fit that bill.

Though De Liz doesn’t have a huge amount of experience writing or drawing for either Marvel or DC, this reads just like the mythology from which it originally lept—perfect for its intended audience. Visually, the comic toes a similar line: De Liz’s art (with Ray Dillon’s colors and inks) is just cartoony enough to be appealing to the younger set, but artful enough to satisfy those of us with our weekly Wednesday paper-and-staples habit. The art has a quiet, composed quality that lends itself well to the almost storybook-like narrative style, and Dillon’s colors give the art a depth that really makes the pages sing.

This series returns her to her classic origin, born of clay to Queen Hippolyta of the Amazons, and goes into as much detail about the origins of the Amazons as it does about Diana herself. The comic is a  substantial read—it’s far less decompressed than much of DC’s other quick-paced output—and at thirty story pages, is more interested in establishing a compelling narrative than in furthering the story with needless double-page splash action sequences. This is exactly the Wonder Woman comic I’ve spent years hoping for, both as a reader and as a retailer. Thank Hera that it’s the eager, young female readership who get to reap this reward.

9 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.