Young Avengers #4

Written by Kieron Gillen

Art by Jamie McKelvie, Mike Norton, and Matt Wilson

Letters by Clayton Cowles

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by George Marston

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

It's been a while since Kieron Gillen's Young Avengers really lived up to the amazing potential of its first issue, but with issue #4, Gillen and co. have once again knocked one out of the park. Closing in on the conclusion of the opening arc, Young Avengers #4 marks the first time that the team are fully assembled, with Kate Bishop and Noh-Varr intersecting with the rest of the kids in a timely and spectacular way. There's a perfect balance of teen drama and superhero madness in Young Avengers #4, fully solidifying its place among the new wave of Marvel titles seemingly dedicated to pushing boundaries and appealing to a hipper crowd.

Gillen's biggest strength with Young Avengers is his ability not only to grasp contemporary ideas of youth, but to express those ideas in a way that seems natural and exciting without being hackneyed or pandering. His dialogue is swift and spot on, and the mannerisms of the team, especially his pet character Loki, are consistent and endearing even when they're a little bit petty and manipulative. There's an energy to Young Avengers that feels like someone creating without the rigid strictures of expectation. That's not to say that the book is avant garde, but rather that it seems unconcerned with the usual conventions of teen superheroes, and more concerned with the actual whims of young adults.

Gillen's other strength is his willingness to step back and let artists Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton take the reins, allowing for some really terrific scenes and set pieces. The biggest moment of the book is, undoubtedly, the incredible splash page of Noh-Varr's path of destruction as he rescues his teammates from the entities that are pursuing them. There are other gems as well, like the page of Thor and Captain America, under the influence of Billy's accidentally far-reaching spell, obliviously ignoring the chaos unfolding out their window. But the most consistent jewel in the art team's crown is their ability to accurately and interestingly portray teenagers and young adults. Everything from their haircuts, to the fashion, to the body language and facial expressions of the characters rings true, really selling the concept of the team and the book.

Young Avengers looks to be part of the movement at Marvel spearheaded by books like FF, Savage Wolverine, Daredevil, and Hawkeye to create books that poke holes in the expectations of readers with unconventional but gorgeous art, witty, rapid fire writing and storytelling, and a connection to, but a freedom from the larger Marvel Universe. It's more than refreshing, it's the shot in the arm Marvel has needed, and a formula more books should follow. Young Avengers has had some issues maintaining its energy early on, but if issue #4 is an indicator of the book's trajectory, Young Avengers will start living up to its great potential.


Batman Incorporated #10

Written by Grant Morrison

Art by Chris Burnham, Jason Masters, Andrei Bressan and Nathan Fairbairn

Lettering by Taylor Esposito

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10

Grant Morrison has always been a man of big ideas. Yet this might be the straw that breaks the Batman's back. While it makes sense in the narrative structure for us to witness Batman preparing to strike back against Leviathan, Batman Incorporated #10 stacks on a little too much spectacle, yielding some unintentionally goofy results.

Morrison has always been a fan on continuity, and from the very beginning of this chapter — bringing in Michael Lane, the third ersatz Batman from Morrison's first arcs — you can see how far back he's going. Yet the plot points here are apparent immediately, with a lack of subtlety I haven't seen since Jeph Loeb's composite Batman/Superman robot. On the one hand, you have to give Morrison credit for using all the pieces at his disposal, that all these items have been set up previously for this Rube Goldberg machine of revenge. It shows a largeness of scale, a high degree of resourcefulness, a prime example of narrative "waste not, want not."

But at the same time, well... it's also kind of weird. Kind of goofy. Kind of ridiculous. Anyone who has seen the gatefold cover knows the cliffhanger of this book, but Morrison doesn't really set up Bruce would subject himself to something like this. Bruce's secret weapon would be weird enough, except for the fact that he winds up stacking two other weapons on top of it. It's not overkill, it just feels unnecessary, an entire issue's worth of setup to introduce a Turducken of Bat-weaponry (with questionable tactical use, I might add). The other problem is that Bruce is undeniably the A-story here — Morrison may check in with Nightwing and Jim Gordon and the rest, but it's purely perfunctory, with no real increase in tension. They're there because they have to be, not because it adds anything to the story.

The artwork by Chris Burnham has its high points, however. A page that would seem largely wasted from a story standpoint winds up becoming one of the best pages of the whole issue, as we watch Batman dive from a high-rise, bullets whizzing towards us. Burnham's style is basically the spiritual successor to Frank Quitely's, with expressive eyes and a real fluidity of movement. That said, even he can't sell the goofy cliffhanger, and while Jason Masters masked himself well enough to fill in last issue, he and Andrei Bressan stick out like sore thumbs with their sketchy inks.

Structurally, this comic makes plenty of sense, and I give Morrison a lot of praise for tying together so many forgotten threads for his final crescendo. Yet seeing this in practice winds up falling flat — think of a chef telling you how great a peanut butter-and-pickle sandwich might be, because that's what he had in the fridge. Batman Incorporated #10 is that same sort of weird-tasting combination, only years in the making. There may be some good constants here — Chris Burnham's art, Morrison's sense of deliberateness and scale — but that doesn't make this weird comic any easier to swallow.


Witch Doctor – Mal Practice #6

Written by Brandon Seifert

Art by Lukas Ketner and Andy Troy

Lettering by Brandon Seifert

Published by Image Comics

Review by Aaron Duran

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Just as teased at the end of Issue #5, Witch Doctor – Mal Practice #6 is the big one. It's time for team Morrow to bring the fight against Nostrum and his less-than-trustworthy demonic ladies. Honestly, I was really worried Brandon Seifert would fall back on the trusted (and understandable) Doctor Morrow and his keen intellect to save the day. It would have made for a believable if slightly less interesting ending. Except he and Ketner don't do that. Not even close. We readers were promised a drag out supernatural brawl and thank the powers above and below, that's exactly what we got.

Although there is still much to like in Seifert's writing in this issue, dialog most certainly takes a backseat to the action contained within. That doesn't mean characters don't get off some great lines, far from it. What it does show is Seifert's continual growth as a comic storyteller. For as much as I enjoy these characters and the world they inhabit, there are times when Seifert used them to delivery just a little too much exposition. That all goes away in Issue #6. Lines are delivered with direct intention to support and enhance the action on the page.

Sure, there are one or two snarky lines peppered within, but this is Witch Doctor. I'd be disappointed if Morrow didn't deliver. There are some that might cry foul with the ending, but it fits in perfect line with the tone and theme of this book. Since the beginning, Witch Doctor has danced ever-so-carefully with horror and comedy tropes. Is it an "easy" ending? Maybe, but there is something to be said when a character (and writer) that simply thinks "@&%$ it, let's end the story like this!" It works, and it works well.

Ketner is really stretched as an artist in this issue. We've come to expect a certain level of demented beauty with his art. But, with a panel or two exception in previous issues, he's never really had to cut loose with intense character on character battle. He most certainly does not disappoint. Indeed, it's a little disconcerting to see a mix of twisted horrors engaging in almost, well, superhero style combat. It's as if an issue of Wolverine had a really messed up tryst with Tales from the Crypt. Yeah, let that image stick in your brain for a while.

There are a few times where Ketner's style can't quite keep up with story demands, but those are rare moments and you never lose the chaotic tone of the issue. Andy Troy on colors continues to enhance Ketner's pencils. Witch Doctor is a book that could easily fall into dark and bland tones. Tones that wouldn't necessarily distract from the line work, but would definitely harm the overall narrative. Such is not the case with Troy's colors. He has a keen eye for the content on the page and lays down colors that bring out the best in both Ketner's pencils and Seifert's story.

Witch Doctor - Mal Practice has been an incredibly enjoyable arc. Although it had one or two bumps along the way, the series brings itself to a wholly satisfying ending. An ending that in no way cheapens the reader with a tease, yet still makes darn sure you want more from these characters. While their debut arc was strong, there is no doubt, Mal Practice solidifies both Seifert and Ketner as some of comics' fastest-rising stars. 

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