It's Wednesday, and that means it's time for Best Shots weekly look at some of the week's top books. This week we dive right into Thor #7, but take note -- take SPOILERS Note -- that we make some speculation as to the identity of Thor that might spoil the issue.
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Russell Dauterman and Matt Wilson
Lettering by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
"Whoever holds this hammer... if he be worthy... shall possess the power of Thor."
Well, move over, Odinson. Because Roz Solomon may prove to be more than worthy of taking your title.
After months of speculation, writer Jason Aaron has heightened the mystery behind the new Goddess of Thunder, and if the implications of this issue bear fruit, it seems that he's been seeding this story for quite some time. Solomon, an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. with an environmentalist bent, had been a fun supporting character and possible love interest for Thor, but with a scene heavy on portentousness, it seems as though Aaron may have given her an impressive promotion - and if so, it's a promotion that suits her admirably. Gone would be the internal politicking that has defined Thor for so long - instead, Roz is clear-minded, singularly focused, and unwilling to give up her pursuit of justice. Combine this driven heroine with the spectacular artwork of Russell Dauterman, and you've got yourself one flawless book.
Similar to Rick Remender's action-packed introduction to Sam Wilson as the new Captain America, Aaron brings back Roz with a bang, as she continues her one-woman vendetta against the hordes of Roxxon. In many ways, Aaron has out-Lois'd Lois Lane here, as not only is Roz dedicated to ferretting out any injustice going on underneath society's collective nose, but she's more than capable of dodging bullets, leaping out of underground lairs, and giving a henchman a well-deserved kick into some toxic waste. She's charming and likable as she gets business done, but underneath it all, she's an idealist. "It's still beautiful, isn't it?" Roz thinks to herself, as she finds herself staring at an uru hammer on the surface of the moon. "And it's all still worth fighting for."
It's an epitaph that would definitely be a great fit for a wielder of Mjolnir.
Of course, Aaron teases us, never showing Roz put hand to hammer, and thus he preserves just a hint of maddening mystery as he catapults us into a superb fight sequence, pitting the new Thor against one of her predecessor's greatest adversaries - the Destroyer. This feels like a coming of age, in many ways, as we've seen the Destroyer pop up again and again in runs ranging from J. Michael Straczynski's to Kieron Gillen's, and now this new Thor gets to strut her stuff. Aaron has some great moments as he leverages the new "smart missile" qualities of Mjolnir, and I absolutely love how much grit Thor shows, bloody but never broken. "You have never met a Thor like me," she says. You're damn right.
Artwise, what can I say about Russell Dauterman and Matt Wilson that hasn't been said before? They're putting together one of the best-looking books Marvel has to offer, as Wilson's hot greens, pinks and yellows add a streak of hyperrealism to Dauterman's fluid compositions. Dauterman is an artist who is defined by his clarity, reminding me of a cross between Frank Quitely and Steve McNiven as he has Roz run, leap and shoot across a glorious two-page sequence. (I also love how even the gun effects are drawn so that they read "Blam!") Even the pages that don't necessarily relate to the ongoing narrative, like Malekith and Agger slaughtering a realm full of light elves, looks absolutely sublime as Dauterman composes some gleeful and almost relaxed decimation. It's also pretty incredible how much toughness they give the Goddess of Thunder, with her armor meticulously cracked and torn.
In a week of great showings from Marvel across the board, there's still no contest as to what their strongest release is - it's absolutely Thor. This is a book filled with conflict and tension and just a hint of potentially lingering mystery, as well as a likable character and some truly sublime artwork. Add that in with some well-utilized guest stars, and this is absolutely the comic to beat. If Thor is Roz Solomon, it's a great decision on the creative team's part - and if she's not, well, there is going to be one heck of a twist coming up. But I have fingers crossed that Aaron has already revealed the Odinson's successor. Either way, if Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman and Matt Wilson never leave this book, I would be perfectly happy with that. As it stands, no matter who is behind the mask, the penultimate issue of this arc is an absolute highlight for an arc that already was charting new heights for the Asgardian Avenger.
Written by Jeff King
Art by Carlos Pagulayan, Jason Paz, John Starr and Peter Steigerwald
Lettering by Travis Lanham
Published by DC Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10
Convergence is a massive undertaking, but the size and scope of the project doesn’t make it “too big to fail.” Unfortunately, it’s quite the opposite. It’s so big that it fails. Convergence essentially acts as a mini-reboot for the DC publishing line, allowing them to get their ducks in a row in two months time when they can shed the “New 52” moniker and usher in a new era. But if the plan was to shuffle the deck and then reallocate characters, continuities and creative teams in the aftermath, then it’s already gone horribly awry, with the main book and various tie-ins amounting to something closer to a game of 52 card pickup than anything else. Jeff King tries to inject a lot of emotion into the script but without a sense of setting, a lack of clear motivation for the villain and an absence of tangible stakes, the effort is lost. Carlos Pagulayan’s artwork, while fairly strong, isn’t enough to hold this one up either.
I can’t divine the reasons that Convergence would play out the way it has thus far. The plot is entirely fractured across a tediously long list of tie-ins that ebb and flow violently in terms of quality. The characters in the main title are Earth-2 regulars that a casual reader might have little to no connection to. Telos is a little more than a villainous cliche, subjecting the heroes (and readers) to the same artless rhetoric about the cities and getting the heroes to fight each other. When King takes the focus away from Telos, the book becomes a bit more bearable, but the moments of pathos are awkwardly inserted and don’t feel earned. Instead of using Convergence to celebrate the differences in the Multiverse, King goes out of his way to show how similar they are especially with his usage of Thomas and Bruce Wayne. There’s so little context for why any of this is happening that nothing about the story feels natural.
Convergence really falls apart on a concept level. DC spends so much time explaining small aspects (like how each of the domes has sustainable food) that they’ve lost sight of the larger narrative. Telos is bland and laughably one-note. The inclusion of the cities/domes still doesn’t seem more effective than just teleporting the necessary heroes to another planet where they need to battle it out. It’s still totally unclear where many of the New 52 iterations of the DC heroes are. The tie-ins have done little to enhance the main storyline. For a series called Convergence, the narrative sure is disjointed.
For his part, Carlos Pagulayan puts together a solid artistic outing. Telos’ planet is a terribly boring locale but Pagulayan does his best to add some dynamism to the overwhelming amount of dust clouds. His character work is fairly strong, but he doesn’t provide strong enough layouts and expressions to really sell some of the slightly more nuanced aspects of King’s script. Part of that isn’t really his fault. The script he’s working from is unbalanced and the smaller moments are very forced, not really lending themselves to opportunities for Pagulayan to deliver with his pencils.
Convergence’s premise is deceptive in that it seems very simple, but the creative teams at work on it have made it something of a logistical nightmare. There’s no main character for readers to rally around. There is very little forward motion in the main narrative. The threat is amorphous at best. There are literally no stakes. Even if you squint, it’s hard to make out any positives coming from Convergence. Right now, it’s the definition of placeholder event, and it’s one that isn’t worth your time or money.
The Fox: Fox Hunt #1
Written by Dean Haspiel and Mark Waid
Art by Dean Haspiel and Allen Passalaqua
Lettering by John Workman
Published by Dark Circle Comics
Review by Justin Partridge, III
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
A super-villain with the power to control fungus, a city choked by a long-standing drought, and a million-dollar bounty placed on the head of the Fox; all in a day’s work for Paul Patton, Jr. otherwise known as the Fox! Dark Circle Comics’ resident freak magnet returns to shelves this week with Fox Hunt, the first installment of the Fox’s new ongoing series. Back under the steady hands of Dean Haspiel and Mark Waid The Fox #1 is a fast-paced and witty slice of nostalgia for those that like their superheroes grounded in a stylish reality instead of soaring above it all. Though it starts off slowly, The Fox: Fox Hunt #1 builds a nice head of steam and delivers a satisfying first entry into Patton’s adventures with the promise that things are going to get even weirder.
The Fox: Fox Hunt #1 opens with Patton and his son Shinji tasked with photographing Patton’s childhood home of Beaver Kill, which is on track to become Impact City’s new watershed thanks to a proposal by Bright Industries. As Patton walks his son down memory lane, a mysterious woman shows up in Paul’s photographs which, of course, leads to a hefty bit of daring do as the Fox investigates and ends up biting off more than he can chew. Right from the jump, Haspiel and Waid carefully reintroduce the audience into the world of The Fox with a concise four-panel flashback that spreads itself along the bottom of a gorgeous two page splash from Haspiel and colorist Allen Passalaqua. Haspiel and Waid realize that its been some time since the Fox was on shelves, and even more readers might have not even read that first arc so they take the appropriate steps to being their readers up to speed quickly without sacrificing their page count. As soon as the introductions are over, they quickly move on to the real meat of the story and this is where business starts to pick up.
After Paul and Shinji split up in order to cover more ground, Paul is called into action after being slugged by the aforementioned mysterious woman and gives chase, ending up underneath the local fortune teller’s shop, face to face with a figure from his past who has developed arcane powers that allow her to control fungus. Her plan being to poison the water that will soon flood the town in order to ruin Bright Industries’ plan to sink Beaver Kill. Haspiel and Waid inject The Fox #1 with very personal stakes for Paul, beyond the standard heroic motivation. The writers really go above and beyond to make Paul a man with convictions, but also one who understands the importance of the past and its bearing on the future. The Fox #1's resolution offers more than just a telegraphed superhero battle. It strives to hit more emotional notes than visceral ones and, largely, it succeeds, thanks to Haspiel and Waid’s attention to the characters and their emotional intelligence.
It also doesn’t hurt the The Fox #1 looks fantastic. Dean Haspiel and Allen Passalaqua go for the vintage gusto throughout this debut issue, rendering each setting and character as if they will inhabited the bygone era that Paul Patton, Jr. so desperately wants to return to. Haspiel’s heavily inked character designs coupled with Passalaqua’s naturalistic color palette give The Fox #1 the look of a old-school newspaper strip expanded across twenty-four pages. Though he doesn’t spend much time in costume, the Fox’s outfit also pops every time it is in frame, thanks in large part to Haspiel’s amazing masked expressions. The Fox’s costume has long since been a visual high point of this series and despite it not making too many appearances this time around, Haspiel and Passalaqua make the most of when we see it. Striking superhero costume design is few and far between nowadays, but The Fox has still got it, on top of a vintage comic look and feel.
And so, after an emotional first issue culminating in a declaration that will reverberate through the rest of the series, The Fox is back in shops in a big way this week. Dean Haspiel, Mark Waid, and Allen Passalaqua keep it simple for this return issue and the results are as effective as they are narratively satisfying. For too long as superhero’s family has been an object of derision or, even worse, a narrative excuse for torture, but The Fox takes a higher road and allows its main character’s family to function as an extension of him, giving The Fox #1 a layer of emotion that is often neglected in superhero comics. Paul Patton, Jr. is a family man first and a superhero second, and that is worth a thousand superpowers any day.