Best Shots Reviews: ALL-NEW ALL-DIFFERENT AVENGERS #10, HELLBOY IN HELL #10, More

"Hellboy in Hell #10" cover by Mike Mignola
Credit: Mike Mignola (Dark Horse Comics)
Credit: Marvel Comics

All-New All-Different Avengers #10
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Mahmud Asrar and Dave McCaig
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Hot off the heels of Avengers Standoff and untouched by the opening salvo of Civil War II, All-New All-Different Avengers #10 heads to the stars! Divided into separate concurrent plots, yet tied firmly together by the theme of familial discovery, Mark Waid sends our team into deep space in search of Nova’s real father. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Jarvis and Nadia seek out Janet Van Dyne, Nadia’s stepmother, in an attempt to ingratiate the new Wasp to her estranged namesake. Rendered in vibrant pages by artist Mahmud Asrar and colorist Dave McCaig, and unencumbered by outside narratives, All-New All-Different Avengers, now ten issues into its run, finally gets to tells big stories starring big personalities while displaying a big heart at its core.

After raiding a defunct warehouse of Reed Richards, procuring a cheap spaceship, and retrofitting it to run on Mjolnir, Tony Stark makes good on his promise to young Nova to venture into space and find his father. Of course, this being the Avengers, nothing goes according to plan and the team soon finds themselves marooned on an alien world after being suckered in by a false distress signal. To make matters worse, the world and its legions of refugees are menaced by an alien version of the smoke monster from Lost who takes one of them each day to slake its unexplained hunger.

Hampered in the early going by exposition and sluggish team-building, Mark Waid has shaken off those cobwebs and finally gotten to true blue big Avengers stories, beyond obligated crossover episodes. On a base level, the idea of the Avengers cruising around space and squaring off against a formless alien creature, which leads to the final page return of a classic Marvel baddie that I cannot wait to see more of is fun enough and while the plot spins its wheels in a table setting installment kind of way, getting the characters where they need to be in order to propel the plot forward considerably next month, Waid tempers the static science fiction search and rescue plot with humor, Kamala and Miles’ wildly different reactions to being in space being this issue’s standout comedy moment, as well as genuine heart; something I’ve come to expect and admire about his superhero titles. Also, his shifting between the Avengers’ mission and Jarvis and Nadia back on Earth allows both plots, though divergent in tone and action, to feel similar thanks to the heavy themes of family at their center given form by the unlikely connection of Nova and Nadia’s arcs.

Though not implicitly stated, #10 finds both characters tangibly linked, throwing themselves blindly into situations in order to reconnect with their lost parental figures. While Sam attempts to rescue his father and build himself up as his own person outside of the heavy shadow of the original Nova, Nadia hopes to step into the role of the Wasp, showing that she can live up to her legendary stepmother and biological father and their extensive legacies. This all-too-human connection gives the issue an unexpected jolt of pathos made even more unexpected since the two characters have barely shared the page together.

Aiding once again in selling Waid’s emotion, humor, and action beats are penciler Mahmud Asrar and colorist Dave McCaig. By now Asrar and McCaig’s handle on the set pieces of All-New All-Different is common knowledge and while #10 displays their knack for action-blocking that highlight each hero, keeping the action clear, all while not appearing too busy on the page; Thor’s quick-thinking rescue of Ms. Marvel by hurling her hammer at her only for her to catch it and zoom her out of harm’s way being a prime example of that focused energy. While that certainly hasn’t left the title, it is their penchant for body language and visual jokes that prove to be their biggest strength this month.

For example, as I mentioned above, Miles and Kamala have differing reactions to their first time in space, voiced by Kamala’s excited exclamations and Miles’ nervously forced and whispered repeated chuckle. But Asrar and McCaig take the joke a level further with their blocking, showing Spider-Man staring deeply into the starry expanse, rendered in a long vertical panel to sell his terror amidst the hugeness of space. Asrar also gives strong visual clues for what’s running through Sam and Nadia’s heads — Sam is all upturned noses, strong standing hero poses, and bored slouching as they make their way through space, but as soon as his helmet’s signal starts to ping, Asrar kicks his movements into overdrive with a constant state of alertness on the planet’s surface. Back on Earth, Nadia is all fist-pumping confidence on the road with Jarvis, but once they get to Janet’s house, Asrar draws her into herself and renders her as off-balance as Janet quite literally throws open the door into her life. Though the action and rich colors are always welcome in a team title, this tenth issue finds power in little moments.

By keeping All-New All-Different away from the looming Civil War II, at least for the time being, Mark Waid, Mahmud Asrar, and Dave McCaig are allowed to focus purely on character, striking a nice balance between team heroics and intimate emotional arcs. Armed with colors that pop off the page, funny in-character banter that allows the team to come across as genuinely caring for one another, and finally a nice bit of trippy transitioning to send us into this month’s cliffhanger, All-New All-Different Avengers #10 is an example of what can come of putting strong themes and resonating personal arcs first.

Credit: Mike Mignola (Dark Horse Comics)

Hellboy in Hell #10
Written by Mike Mignola
Art by Mike Mignola and Dave Stewart
Lettering by Clem Robins
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

After nearly 22 years of spooky and iconic adventures, Mike Mignola hangs up his horns with Hellboy in Hell #10, which gives his titular hero a potent and poetic sendoff. In many ways, this finale feels so appropriate to the way Mignola has always done business, adhering less to traditional narrative structures and instead following his muse, trusting that his moody, angular artwork and sparse but haunting dialogue will suffice to draw readers in.

And wouldn’t you know it — he’s right.

Knowing that Mignola is wrapping up his time doing art on his long-running creator-owned character to pursue his passion for painting, it makes Hellboy in Hell — and much of his other works — make so much sense. There’s such a big segment of the comic book reading population that read these books for the sequential narrative, but Mignola’s Hellboy has always been Art with a capital A. Exposition, the idea that every issue is someone’s first, all these rules that comics cling to — and for the most part, rightfully so — Mignola casts aside, and somehow still sticks the landing, as the creatures of Hell largely stand in awe of the larger-than-life Hellboy, as he battles mythological titans like Leviathan and Behemoth.

Rather than bore us all with extensive recaps or portentous naval-gazing into Hellboy’s sprawling mythology, this issue instead focuses on the sheer spectacle of this conflict, as Mignola uses economic geometry to portray his hero, “a giant striding across the mountains, wrapped in flames.” Aside from one semi-wordy scene involving the hierarchy of Hell, Mignola largely lets his art do the talking for him, and it’s mythic and gorgeous without the need for deep context. Colorist Dave Stewart is Mignola’s true partner-in-crime for this book as well, providing some electrifying contrasts that really shape this book’s style — watching the hot oranges and reds as Hellboy strides from the deep, versus the cool greens, blues and purples of the denizens of Hell, makes for a truly compelling read. Watching Hellboy stand over the ruins of his enemies, awash in purple, only to be lit by one glowing red eye, makes for a quiet but altogether powerful sort of moment.

But while other writers tend to dig deep into their own continuity to inform characterization, Mignola doesn’t play that game. This is not some sort of grand, sweeping statement on Hellboy or his history — this is a big, powerful moment that’s followed up by a quiet goodbye. There will be a subsection of the readership that won’t get it — and to be fair, 22 years of stories is a lot for anybody beyond a certain generation of readership to catch up on, especially those who cling to the gruff B.P.R.D. foot soldier that made him so famous in the first place — but that’s the beauty of Mignola’s work: You don’t need the backstory to appreciate the gorgeous artwork and funereal tone. Look instead at the brief iconic shots, the silent panels that show a horrifying statue, the black maw of a door that swallows you in, the all-business shot of Hellboy staring at us, puffing a cigarette just pages before fading into eternity. Who cares about continuity when you get to see a master at work?

Ultimately, Hellboy in Hell is the kind of work that breaks all the rules — or maybe transcends them. Mignola was one of the forerunners of the modern creator-owned comic book movement, and it’s telling that even 22 years later, his style remains powerful and arresting enough to get readers to embrace it just on the sheer virtues of its execution. There are few creators in this business as tapped into their own inner muse as Mignola, and this title ends the same way as it began — as an artistically striking, yet somehow unapologetically personal work.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Old Man Logan #7
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Andrea Sorrentino and Marcelo Maiolo
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Joey Edsall
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Mark Millar and Brian Michael Bendis’ Old Man Logan arcs were each successful for different ways. While Jeff Lemire had a strong start with his 2016 rendition of the character, the predictability, action-oriented plot, and the uncomfortable addition of Maureen – the Earth-616 child who would grow up to be Logan’s wife in his home universe – made the last few issues of the title start to lose its luster. After realizing that this modern-day Marvel Universe was in fact not connected to his grim, post-apocalyptic future meant Logan’s fixed trajectory was suddenly derailed, open to any and all new interpretations. But then he met the present version of his future wife. While Wolverine has always had fatherly relationships with young women – Kitty Pryde specifically comes to mind – it started to seem like Old Man Logan would go for an end-of-Breaking-Dawn paternalistic/romantic route.

Luckily, Lamire makes it clear that through Logan's interactions and conversations about Maureen that is not the case. After a couple of uninteresting issues, its nice to see the narrative snikt out its claws with some genuinely tense moments and set Logan off on what looks to be a better-guided version of his first arc post-Secret Wars. The two strongest things that Old Man Logan has always had going for it has been Logan's world-weariness and unpredictable bouts of death and violence. That makes moments like his standoff with Lady Deathstrike so powerful. I genuinely believe within the narrative of an Old Man Logan story that Maureen or her mother, Trish, could be viciously murdered right in front of Logan's eyes, and I also believe that Lamire would do something like that to pile more despair onto his main character. In a time dominated by company-mandated crossover events, soft-resets, and temporary deaths, it's exciting to be genuinely concerned for the wellbeing of comic book characters. This issue finds a balance between nihilism and humanity that has really been at this iteration of the characters core since the very beginning.

Andrea Sorrentino's artwork gets better each time I see it, and Old Man Logan #7 is the apex of what he has drawn thus far. The art is of such high quality aesthetically and so overwhelmingly effective at conveying the narrative that you could remove every bit of dialogue and narration and just Sorrentino's and colorist Marcelo Maiolo's contributions and the issue is just as effective, with very little ambiguity. This isn't to say that the art is purely straightforward and narrative-based, however — the opening of this book, featuring Logan being peeled away from superhero to samurai to mourning father and rotting corpse is superb, while a double-page splash of a giant skeletal costume-clad Wolverine spewing the skulls of his various fallen comrades is remarkably powerful. Logan feels like a monster that spews death and chaos. It followed him in his home world, and now it follows him here. The bloom lighting effect on the panel creates an uneasy mixture between the realistic and the fantastic. Sorrentino’s more grounded panels are equally beautifully constructed. Eyes and facial expressions work together to convey both fear and desperation. The actual fight between Logan and Deathstrike fluctuates between graphic and realistic portrayals of violence to a hyperreal stylized rendition of it, washed in bright red and white.

Old Man Logan is ultimately a nexus of several different genres that would initially seem incompatible. It is in equal parts a post-apocalyptic story, western, and samurai story. Even though Logan isn't in his world anymore, the part of this world in which he finds himself is essentially the wastelands. The way that this world operates against him and the way violence is so intrinsically apart of it feels right out of a Sergio Leone samurai-inspired spaghetti western. Wolverine himself is a post-modern samurai, with one of the beautiful opening panels paralleling Logan with a ronin, and with the next issue having an explicitly samurai-themed title. Besides, Wolverine as a character has always been tied to Japan. At the nexus of all of these disparate elements, Old Man Logan thrives, and after getting past a few issues of mindless action it's pretty clear why.

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