Best Shots Comic Reviews: WOLVERINE, GREEN LANTERN, More

Exclusive Marvel Preview: WOLVERINE #300

Enjoying the day off, 'Rama readers? Best Shots takes no holiday, as we celebrate MLK Day with your weekly helping of reviews! So let's kick off with a big anniversary for the Ol' Canucklehead, as we take a peek at Wolverine #300...

 

Wolverine #300

Written by Jason Aaron

Art by Adam Kubert, Ron Garney, Steve Sanders, Paul Mounts, Jason Keith and Sotocolors

Lettering by Cory Petit

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Click here for preview

In a lot of ways, this has been the Week of Wolverine. It started off with Wolverine and the X-Men, branched off into X-Men: Legacy and X-Factor, and anyone who's a fan of this brighter, breezier side of the X-Men universe is going to feel right at home with Wolverine #300. Don't get me wrong, there's still plenty of violence in this oversized anniversary issue, but it's nice to see Jason Aaron really hitting that balance between the funny and the downright furious.

If there's one word I'd use to describe this story, it'd probably be this: entertaining. If I wanted to use a few more, I'd say this: over-the-top. Considering his expanded role in the Marvel Universe as schoolteacher, ninja, superhero, immortal weapon, Japanese pseudo-national, Jason Aaron seems to be having a blast blending all these disparate sides together. When Wolverine goes on a plane, it's not just an in-flight movie — nope, it's getting nerve-gassed in the men's lavatory and being attacked by a flight full of ninja businessmen. Seeing him walk off the ramp covered in blood and tattered clothing, you know you're in for a freaking treat. Going back to Japan with Logan hasn't been this fun since the first trip with Claremont and Miller, and this vacation takes itself way less seriously.

The chapter-based approach to this issue also works wonderfully with the trio of art teams on this book. "Same Old Snikt"? Not hardly — Adam Kubert is a freaking beast, and he is the perfect artist to open the story. There's a smoothness to Logan in Kubert's hands that's both raw and glamorous, particularly the way the rain falls across Logan's ever-present cowboy hat. With Kubert as the foundation, the other two art teams have a strong start: Ron Garney in particular is a stylistic fit, albeit with a rougher inking style than Kubert's smooth lines. Steve Sanders, who is somewhat the odd man out with his loose, almost McKelvie-an cartoony style, is placed in the best spot possible, introducing Wolverine's adopted daughter Amiko and the all-new Silver Samurai.

To be honest, sometimes pacing in comics can be too frenetic, with the ideas being tossed at such a manic rate that none of them get a chance to develop. Yet Wolverine #300 is a comic that is both light and satisfying, a fight book that embraces the lunacy inherent in a 180-year-old clawed mutant who happens to fight shapeshifters and be a Japanese culture enthusiast. As far as celebrations go, you're going to be hard-pressed to find something more fun than this.

 

Green Lantern #5

Written by Geoff Johns

Art by Doug Mahnke, Mark Irwin, Keith Champagne, Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen, Alex Sinclair and Tony Avina

Lettering by Sal Cipriano

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Click here for preview

Nothing paints a bigger target on your back than success. And sometime over the last few years, with the mega-selling Blackest Night and his promotion to Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment, nobody's been a bigger target than Geoff Johns. It's become fashionable to rag on Geoff, as his storylines became bigger and bigger and his contributions to the DC Universe became even more prevalent.

But you know something? Green Lantern #5 is Geoff Johns done right.

Now, don't get me wrong, this still isn't the "old" Geoff, the Geoff Johns whose characterization made JSA a must-read, or the Geoff Johns who could breathe new life into a destroyed character like Hal Jordan. But in many other ways, this is a more restrained Geoff Johns, a guy who doesn't let his imagination become overindulgence, a writer who lets rules define his playground rather than limit them. And if you're able to handle Hal Jordan not being the center of this story, you'll find that there's a lot to like about this newer, more streamlined Green Lantern story.

Following the return of the renegade Green Lantern Sinestro and his acquisition of a green power ring, it's been a little bit touch-and-go as far as this first storyline is concerned. Was it a good place to learn about the Green Lantern franchise? Perhaps not. But now that we've followed Sinestro and Hal Jordan to the alien world Korugar for a planetary prison-break, we're really treated to a blockbuster style action sequence. Whether its Geoff Johns illustrating a new lethal use for a Green Lantern power battery or watching one of Sinestro's former prisoners lash out at him, you appreciate this story more because it works within the rules of the world Johns has set. Not only that, but there's actual emotional content here — you can feel the rage and hurt in Arsona's voice as she raises a hand to Sinestro, and you can see the sick pride in Sinestro's eyes as he tells his begrudging army "remember — no fear."

It also doesn't hurt that this sort of action-heavy story puts artist Doug Mahnke right in his element. His character designs are really slick, and his army of inkers do a great job laying down the shadow and setting up weight and tension. The credits page has to be one of the best examples I've seen in a very long time, as you see Sinestro loom over his enemies, a horde of angry Lanterns at his back. His Lantern constructs are also nice to look at, particularly when Sinestro and Hal are moving an enemy Lantern through space. That said, there are some hiccups here, particularly with the last half of the fight scene, which comes off as a little distant, and the final scene — a fairly emotional one coming from Hal — lacks some of that expressiveness which could have really driven the "acting" home.

That said, while this isn't a flawless read, it's certainly one that gives me hope. As much as I liked Geoff Johns' imaginativeness with the multicolored Lantern corps, I think that sort of worldbuilding and mythmaking has made his true talent — characterization — become a bit of an afterthought. Green Lantern #5 seems to show the pendulum swinging back, with some bold action getting some more weight because we care about the characters underneath. While this story doesn't quite have the focus on Hal Jordan that it ultimately should, this is a strong read featuring an intriguing supporting character.

 

Captain America #7

Written by Ed Brubaker

Art by Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, Laura Martin and Larry Molinar

Lettering by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Jennifer Margret Smith

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Click here for preview

Captain America #7 is a lot of things: the second issue of an arc, the second issue of Alan Davis on art, and, somewhat inexplicably, the third issue of the exact same title to come out within 30 days. But perhaps most significantly, Captain America #7 is a true indication that, after years on the title, Ed Brubaker is finally writing a story about Steve Rogers.

This isn't to say that Brubaker hasn't done great work over the course of the last eight years on a title called Captain America. But since day one, Brubaker's run on the book has centered around the subject of Bucky Barnes: his death, his resurrection, his impact on Steve, and his attempt, in the wake of Steve's death, to become Captain America himself. The work has been wonderful, and full of callbacks to the history of the title, brimming as it was with familiar villains, supporting cast members, and World War II flashbacks. But for long-time Steve Rogers fans, the title has sometimes felt a bit lacking. The past eight years have been great for Bucky fans, but they have been relatively light on Steve.

Since the launch of this renumbered Captain America, Brubaker has charted a new course. The first arc, drawn by Steve McNiven, took the focus back onto Steve Rogers, allowing him for the first time in Brubaker's run to live in a world in which Bucky is neither dead nor in need of saving. That first story, however, largely depended on new material – newly-introduced World War II-era characters come back to haunt Steve and supporting cast members Sharon Carter, Sam Wilson, Nick Fury, and Dum Dum Dugan. The themes and ensemble of that first arc gave a glimmer of a new kind of story, but it is this second arc, and particularly this second issue, that have solidified this story as Ed Brubaker's proving ground for his vast knowledge of Captain America history.

In this issue alone, we encounter the Serpent Squad and a Madbomb, threats with which Steve is intimately familiar. We see Steve coming to grips with the twin fears that have haunted him for decades: a loss of faith in the American Dream, and the loss of the super-soldier serum in his blood. We see him interacting with Sharon Carter, with Sam Wilson, with Clint Barton, with Hank McCoy. We even see him practicing his gymnastic abilities in an Avengers training room. We see, in short, a comic that could easily have come from the 1970s or 1980s, from the pen of Steve Englehart or Jack Kirby or Mark Gruenwald. But this is not done in the gimmicky, deliberately throwback-y style of some modern nostalgia comics. Ed Brubaker is taking the comics of his own youth and deploying their themes and plot elements to craft a story that is wholly new, told in a modern style and a modern world but paying tribute to all that has come before. The main villains are still Codename Bravo and his wife the Hydra Queen, characters Brubaker invented in the previous arc. But they are attacking Steve Rogers in a way they know will hurt him most, using his past against him, and that method is one that hits close to the heart of fans who have been following Steve's adventures all along.

For this kind of story, veteran penciller Alan Davis is an inspired choice. His style – however modernized by the passage of time and by the inks of Mark Farmer and the colors of Laura Martin and Larry Molinar – remains much the same as it was in his early Marvel days in the late 1980s on books like Excalibur. He's a classic penciller whose strong lines and command of anatomy in motion fit right at home in this story, and he's abundantly talented to boot. While the faces of his Madbomb-stricken civilians sometimes verge uncomfortably close to problematic caricatures, he is, for the most part, a perfect fit for the story, able to draw two white blond men in the same scene (Steve and Clint) with distinctively different faces and designing a rather fetching version of notoriously hard-to-draw feline Beast.

As the second issue of an arc, and the middle part of an extended storyline, Captain America #7 is difficult to judge on its individual merits. The actual forward momentum of the story is somewhat slight, preventing a 10 rating. But for a diehard Steve Rogers fan like myself, this book is everything I could ever want from a title called Captain America, and despite getting three issues in the past month, I find myself waiting with bated breath for the next to hit shelves.

 

Batwoman #5 


Written by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman 


Art by J.H. Williams III and Dave Stewart


Lettering by Todd Klein 


Published by DC Comics 


Review by Jake Baumgart 


'Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Click here for preview

I love that all publishers are taking steps to go digital and I use the service frequently. However, one has to really hold Batwoman in their hands to appreciate the stellar work on this book. It’s really just that good. From top to bottom, Batwoman #5 is remarkable and truly worth the $2.99 cover price. Don’t wait for the trade; don’t wait to borrow it from a friend. Go. Get. This. Book. Issue #5 finds the conclusion to the first story arc, Hydrology. Kate Kane, a.k.a. Batwoman, in the story arc has been tracking down the mystical disappearance of children in Gotham. Although the ghostly apparition and Kane have their showdown, the stakes are even higher when the D.E.A. closes in on her identity. Kate must make a decision as to where her loyalties lie and this puts Kate in the unique place of being loosely connected to the Bat-family while being at odds with them.

This issue, although the end of the arc, really had me forgetting that a story line had ended. The story builds naturally and leaves the readers ready for issue #6. One of my favorite aspects of Batwoman is the characters around Kate Kane. Instead of everyone being a facsimile of Batman characters, the supporting cast a varied and different. Instead of Kate having an arch nemesis, she struggles with her lost sister and the results of that. It’s the variation here that excited me as a reader when this team first started on Batwoman but they are also what kept me around. Their relationships, ever changing, to Kate are the perfect second layer to the Batwoman mythos.

William’s pencils are truly something else. The angles and proportions of shots are done masterfully and the details of Batwoman’s environment are stellar. One of my favorite aspects of his work in this issue (along with the others) is how he uses different styles to dictate different environments. Kate Kane’s word is stark and done with a clean style. However, as Batwoman, the pencil work is more photorealistic and, therefore, more powerful for the story. The panels are inventive as Williams uses the Batwoman logo and striking red details of her costume to create some of the best page layouts and panels in any book being published right now. We even get a another style in the photograph she keeps of her and her sister which harks back to a third style used in Batwoman’s origin issues. The flow between these changes is organic and never feels forced; perfectly chosen and executed to enhance the story and bring the reader in further.

The colors, done by Dave Stewart, are spectacular, and a highlight of an already remarkable book. The colors actually matter to the story more than just filling in the black lines because the rendering of Batwoman’s world dictates what is going on to the character and the space around her. Average tones are used in her world as Kate Kane around her house and Gotham City. However, when Kate Kane slips into Batwoman without the costume, the coloring and shading switches back to that rich, photogenic style with a fiery red catching the eye. Director Bones looks like he is straight out of a Brian Ewing print and adds a thick, sinister, smoke to everyone page he appears. It isn’t that the reader can tell the cigar-smoking, skull-headed guy is a antagonist, it’s the variations of grey coloring against a star-spangled tie that’s causing him to stick out from the page, catching the reader’s eye so subtly that something isn’t right. One of my favorite aspects of this arc, is the blue/grey water and mist that surrounds Batwoman on her missions. The art team is really doing some amazing stuff layering different details on top of each other (just look at that cover!).

Although I strongly the move towards digital for use tech-savvy, fast-paced fans, I cannot recommend enough to you to go pick up Batwoman #5 and enjoy each page. I have a feeling that after being captivated by the artwork and story, you will be just as excited about next month’s issue.

 

Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand #1

Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi

Art by Tonci Zonjic and Dave Stewart

Lettering by Clem Robins

Published by Dark Horse Comics

Review by Aaron Duran

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

You could probably argue that the pulp noir sub-genre of fiction is one of the easiest to tackle. Even more so in comics, since that's where most popular series look back upon as their foundation. Perhaps that is true. However, to claim that it makes this form of storytelling any easier would be false. In fact, it's that very foundation that makes a good slice of noir pulp all the more difficult to pull off. We, as readers, have seen everything. We know what the bad guys are supposed to look like. We know all about the spunky dame, the two-fisted hero, and the dark forces striking from the shadows. So if you're going to play in that world, you better know just what the heck you're doing. Otherwise we're kicking your little book back to the spinner rack and ain't coming back. With that in mind, it shouldn't be shocking that Mike Mignola and John Arcudi know exactly what they're doing with Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand #1.

It's Prohibition era America and bootlegging gangsters rule the streets. A young couple takes a wrong turn down a dimly lit street and they find a horror waiting for them. A man scalped, dropped without a care under a streetlight; from the shadows, glowing Indians charge out to make sure no lives to tell the tale. All hope is lost as the tomahawks rise. Suddenly, a cry for justice and our masked hero saves the day. Only to disappear into the night from whence he came. From there, a story of fear, corruption, and the one thing that makes Lex Luthor come out of retirement in every Superman movie. Land! Okay, so maybe I was a little ham-fisted in my recap, but sometimes you just have to let the moment play out, and that's exactly how this new Lobster Johnson story gets the ball rolling. However, proving once again that Mignola and Arcudi know their stuff, from there on everything just slows down.

It would have been easier to toss our spunky reporter into the fray as she explores the neighborhood thugs dressed as ghostly Indians. Instead, Mignola and Arcudi let the scene play out. They allow the reader a chance to build an investment in every character we come upon. This isn't going to be a simple Scooby-Doo style land grab where the hero unmasks the bad guy at the end of 22 pages. The writers also take there time and allow the reader an opportunity to get a real feel for this world. We understand the embarrassment from a cop that doesn't want to admit that the lady reporter knows more about the case than they do. I'm pleasantly struck at the attitude of Harry McTell, a one-time prizefighter turned car mechanic. He's not from the neighborhood, and his past suggests that looking forward is really his only option. And one way or another, he wants to make sure he's still standing when we get there. I really can't wait to see how his story plays out.

Lately, a lot of the books that were merely entertaining we pushed just over the line into great by the art. Lobster Johnson is no exception with artist Tonci Zonjic. Readers will know I became obsessed with his gorgeous use of negative space in Who is Jake Ellis. Well, most of that art style is gone in this book and I'm still digging the heck out of Zonjic. He lays his character line on mighty thick, and it's this line work that gives these characters a very strong presence in the world. There is an early advertising agency quality to his work. Everyone moves in grand sweeping gestures, but never once sway into comedic movement. The opening issue is rather lacking in big action moments, so Zonjic lets subtle facial ticks and personal quirks convey emotion and tension. Zooming in tight on a single eye, wide with fear, does far more than simply springing the danger on us. The artist isn't playing completely out of his comfort zone, but he is clearly expanding his style. With more physical detail that his previous work, I have no doubt that Zonjic will grow into one of the industries greats. While not necessarily the flashiest book to hit the shelves this week, colors by the always-brilliant Dave Stewart ensure it's one of the most consistent and balanced.

Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand #1 isn't quite what you'd expect from a pulp noir story set within the Hellboy universe. No big supernatural villain, yet. No death-defying stunts, yet. Shoot, the title character barely makes an appearance. But, this isn't a comic that tells you to hold onto to your hat, because it's going to be a bumpy ride. Nope, this is a book that asks you to take that hat off. Sit down. Pour a nice drink. It's got a story to tell and you don't want to miss a word of it.

 

X-Men Legacy #260.1

Written by Christos Gage

Art by David Baldeon, Jordi Tarragona and Sonia Oback

Lettering by Cory Petit

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by Jennifer Margret Smith

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Click here for preview

At a time when Christos Gage is thrilling readers month-in and month-out with his stunningly original, self-created Avengers Academy, it's easy to forget that one of his strongest talents as a comic book writer is his position as Marvel's greatest clean-up hitter. From 2006's Iron Man/Captain America: Casualties of War, a Civil War tie-in, through his work on Avengers: The Initiative, Gage has excelled at picking up the pieces left behind by other writers and crafting them into brilliant stories full of deep character insights and logical explanations for nagging loose ends. It's no wonder, then, that Marvel chose him to replace the departing Mike Carey, writer of X-Men Legacy since well before the current renaming. If someone had to pick up the pieces and move forward from Mike Carey's sometimes brilliant but often uneven run, I can think of no better writer than Christos Gage.

Gage jumps right into the deep end with X-Men Legacy #260.1, setting up a new status quo for the characters (Rogue, Gambit, Frenzy, and Rachel Grey) who have returned from outer space and chosen to align in the post-Schism world with Wolverine's new Westchester school. Joined by Cannonball and his sister Husk and the suddenly omnipresent Iceman, the characters quickly establish themselves in their new terrain, proving themselves capable of switching gears from galactic adventurers to mutant schoolteachers. Gage takes his mission statement as a new series writer crafting a Point One issue quite seriously, creating a one-and-done story that functions as a perfect jumping-on point for new readers.

The plot itself is simple: Rogue and her team must dismantle an alien threat to the school quickly and efficiently so that it doesn't disrupt the school day. But within that plot lie a series of scenes that demonstrate just how good Gage is at getting to the heart of characters and what makes them tick. In a brilliant stroke of show-don't-tell, Gage demonstrates just why Cyclops made the right decision when he put Rogue in charge of the teen mutants earlier in Carey's run. At the start of the issue she works hard to push the kids to use their powers to the best of their abilities, incorporating those lessons into a safe and fun academic environment. Then, when the aliens appear, she proves herself dedicated to fighting threats so that these children won't have to experience the kind of horrors her generation has known.  All of her actions in this issue (including a brilliant demonstration of her own mutant abilities, combining tiny bits of power from various other mutants to deploy at just the right time) prove her to be the competent and dedicated leader that Carey had been building up for years, and allow Gage to show off his Avengers Academy-honed talent for writing convincing teachers.

Gambit and Frenzy also get moments to shine, delivering brief but natural exposition about their current predicaments (specifically their unrequited feelings for Rogue and for Cyclops, respectively) and bantering with each other in a lead-up to a final page kiss. Cannonball and Husk, meanwhile, engage in an argument that provides insight into their conflicted and troubled minds and the damage that years of being teenage superheroes (and losing another family member in the process) has done to their psyches. Gage at this point has abundant experience with writing large ensembles, and I have no doubt that future issues will feature even more poignant character moments that explore the impact of the superheroic lifestyle on otherwise ordinary humans.

While Gage deserves much of the credit for the brilliance of this issue, artist David Baldeon also more than holds his own. Baldeon's cartoony art at times creates a sense of whiplash from previous issues of the title, which have largely featured the more photorealistic styles of artists like Steve Kurth and Clay Mann, and some pages – the kiss between Gambit and Frenzy in particular – are not particularly well-suited for his slightly awkward, exaggerated faces. Still, Baldeon proves himself a competent penciller whose art has continuously improved throughout his work on titles like Young Allies and Zombie Christmas Carol. His action scenes are particularly effective, popping off the page with dynamism and style, and he draws fantastic versions of the N'Garai demons and of Rockslide, a teenage character whose body is made up of jagged pieces of stone. Sonia Oback's shiny, saturated colors fit the art well, looking especially stunning on Rogue's green-and-white costume, and Jordi Tarragona's inks are sharp and clean.

All in all, Christos Gage's X-Men Legacy 260.1 is an excellent start, an indicator of a bold and satisfying new direction for a sometimes floundering title. With his flair for character study and unmatched ability to use the stories and characters of writers past and present to create shining new narratives, his run on this title is sure to be a grand slam.

 

Demon Knights #5

Written by Paul Cornell

Art by Diogenes Neves, Oclair Albert and Marcelo Maiolo

Lettering by Jared K. Fletcher

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10

Click here for preview

Sometimes, the big challenge out of reviewing books is finding something you don't like, and tackling it head-on. Case in point: Demon Knights. I've been a fan of Paul Cornell's previous team books, so it's been really surprising to me that this book hasn't worked for me — surprising and, well, surprisingly hard to articulate. It's not so much one glaring flaw that hobbles this book, but instead several cracks in this comic's narrative armor.

In many ways, Demon Knights really is the medieval version of DC's Seven Soldiers of Victory, bringing together an eclectic mix of fighters ranging from Vandal Savage to the wild card Shining Knight to the chaotic neutral Etrigan the Demon. But one of the big problems that Paul Cornell faces is that he's juggling so many characters that the story feels jerky, that just when we're warming up to one person, we have to move onto the next. We get just a hint of their motivations, as the insidious forces of the Horde try to co-opt each of the knights psychologically, but when all's said and done, it feels like a surprisingly inefficient means of juggling a relatively small number of characters. Not only that, but because Cornell is pushing the exposition so forcefully, the characterization feels really flat for these characters — not a good sign when you're five issues in, and really not a good sign when many of these characters are either completely original or so obscure no one knows about them. It's hard to root for someone when the deepest characters — Etrigan, Vandal and the Shining Knight — rely more on our memories from pre-reboot history than on anything in the book.

Yet part of me wonders if I'd be more forgiving of this book if there was a different art team on board. Diogenes Neves, in terms of actual mechanics, reminds me a little bit of that old Mark Bagley school, with a hint of that Olivier Coipel sharpness to the inking by Oclair Albert. So far, so good, right? Here's the problem — on a conceptual level, the Demon Knights fall really flat. One would think that "medieval superheroes" would offer a lot of room to maneuver on a design basis, but it's really disappointing that none of these characters really have anything memorable visually, instead falling back on some pretty generic medieval armor. That may not be Neves' fault, but what does end up being an issue is his layouts and his expressiveness — the first page, for example, opens up with a too-small panel of a character being shot with an arrow, following by a wild-eyed shot meant to convey anger, and concludes with an establishing shot that feels almost self-consciously posed. In other words, Cornell's script has some powerful moments here, but Neves ends up having trouble prioritizing what needs to take precedence.

The thing about Demon Knights that gets me the most is that this is a smart concept, but the execution feels less exciting and more run-of-the-mill. There are a few moments of greatness to this book — particularly when the roguish Al-Jabr gets the better out of one of the Horde's emissaries, or a nice-looking panel of Jason Blood muttering to himself in his tent — but there's a breakdown in core concept that's keeping this book from where is deserves to be. Make no mistake, this could be a good book… I want to like this book. But with too many characters being shoehorned in too early without a core tenet to bind them — not to mention artwork that compounds the cluttered nature of this story — it's hard to put a finger on what could be done to fix this book. Lesser demons, indeed.

 

Snarked #4

Written by Roger Langridge

Art by Roger Langridge and Rachelle Rosenberg

Lettering by Roger Langridge

Published by BOOM! Studios

Review by Scott Cederlund

‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

Trapped in town with at least a day before their ship will be ready to sail, Wilburforce J. Walrus, Clyde McDunk, Queen Scarlett and Prince Rusty hide out in the shack of Bill, one of W.J.’s associates. Actually, Walrus forced his quartet into Bill’s house and forces him to help them out when the necessary subterfuge is certainly not one of Bill’s main character traits. What follows is a comedy of errors as Roger Langridge’s subversive Snarked #4 shows us characters that survive more on luck than on cunning or brainpower.

Langridge’s Snarked owes much to Lewis Carroll and Jim Henson, combining the different but unique whimsy of both men into a story that doesn’t try to be sweet or charming but finds itself being funny and unapologetic. This issue, particularly with its lack of stuff for the children to do, is full of very slapstick humor. Langridge’s humor is simple as W.J. and McDunk try to escape the palace guards as they make their way to see. Langridge’s lively and expressive art creates characters that have a very physical presence in his books. The sly sidelong glances of W.J, the nervousness of the lizard Bill and the simple foolishness of McDunk give these characters a real life on the page. Langridge casts have always taken on a life of their own because his few simple lines for each of them clearly defines who each of these characters are.

Even as the character have a life their own on the page, this story is missing some of the manic energy of Langridge’s earlier work like Fred the Clown or even The Muppets. Because those comics were made up of short bursts of stories, sometimes even in one page, Langridge gave those books a real forceful energy that enveloped the reader as well as the characters. Snarked #4 is sadly missing some of that driving energy because it gets diluted as Langridge is working on a larger story. The lively characters are still there as is the humor but this book could use some of the propulsive power that kept his Muppets comics a lively read on every page. His previous work had a bang on nearly every page while Snarked is much more quieter and deliberate. It’s like his Thor: The Mighty Avenger work that way. The story builds up over the span of pages where his earlier humor work built up energy over the span of panels.

Snarked #4 almost feels like a comic book that we should know all too well. It features ne’er-do-well heroes that have to help out cute kids because there may be a reward for doing so. And the heroes may end up learning valuable lessons in the end that there’s more to life than trying to make a buck on any given day. The ne’er-do-wells may even end up liking the kids in the end. Imagine that! It’s a simple formula but the charm to Snarked is in Langridge’s storytelling. The charm is in these characters that look like they could be Muppets trapped in these situations where humor is often found with a dash of true adventure and danger. Snarked #4 is a kid’s comic book wrapped up in an adults' subversive and humorous point of view.

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