Happy Monday, 'Rama readers! Recovering from New York Comic Con? Best Shots doesn't sleep, as we've been burning the midnight oil to bring you the latest reviews from across the industry! So let's kick off today's column with Dancin' Draven Katayama, as he takes a look at the latest issue of Batgirl...
Written by Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher
Art by Babs Tarr, Maris Wicks, and Cameron Stewart
Lettering by Jared K. Fletcher
Published by DC Comics
Review by Draven Katayama
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
One oversight of many comics is that few college-age characters inhabit the social world and educational environment that would look familiar to real people in their age demographic. For example, in X-Men titles, characters like Armor and Karma are mostly holed up in the Jean Grey School campus, and ventures out into Salem Center are treated like occasional excursions. Selina Kyle recently got a cubicle job in a phone bank, but not much attention was given to her interactions with coworkers. We see much better depictions of post-teen characters on TV.
Batgirl comes like a breath of fresh air. Barbara Gordon has just moved in with a new roommate, Frankie, into an apartment in Burnside. Burnside could be an exact stand-in for Bushwick, with its hipster vibe - Alysia Yeoh even makes a fixed-gear bike reference. A central plot point is the dating/trolling app Hooq, DC's Tinder clone. Babs uses the app to track down a mysterious thief. You get the sense that Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher understand this demographic, and actively try to immerse Babs in it.
One of my favorite scenes is when Babs walks across the street, reading emails on her phone. In quick succession, she gets a disappointing email from the advisor of her graduate school program, an overdraft notice from her bank, and a concerned email from Alysia. Stewart and Fletcher use these emails to identify Babs' life stage in a nutshell, and it's a scene that is readily relatable. Babs Tarr perfectly captures Babs' reaction to these everyday, mundane slices of life. Another scene that really shows off Tarr's inventive eye for page layouts is when Babs walks through her photographic recollection of the previous night's party. We see an overhead view of the apartment, with friends huddled over their phones on the couch, conversing over red cups while seated on the carpet, and bantering in the kitchen. Tarr, Stewart and Fletcher show they know what a party like this would look like, and the execution is impressive.
Another effective artistic and narrative device is when Babs questions two people who were duped by a charmer they met on Hooq. The panels cut back and forth between the two forlorn individuals mid-sentence, creating a humorous account of the sketchy character's past. We've seen this kind of interview cutting before - TV shows like Modern Family use it frequently - but Tarr, Stewart and Fletcher do it in a way that really seals our empathy for the interviewees. Tarr and colorist Maris Wicks draw body language and facial expressions in this scene that communicate the level of hurt these characters feel. I especially like the character Sevin's crossed-arm lean against his desk, and how it reflects his guarded, resentful state.
With the extensive task of introducing us to Babs' new status quo - new student, new neighborhood, new supporting characters - Stewart and Fletcher handle the pacing with aplomb. Frankie is an energetic, outgoing character who presents the perfect foil to Babs' more low-key side. Stewart and Fletcher write a number of scenes where Babs and Frankie interact in the apartment, trying to solve a mystery, discussing Hooq, and updating Babs' style. Frankie receives the development that supporting characters in many titles lack. Also, unlike some characters (the brainy Alice Tesla in Catwoman comes to mind), Frankie isn't identified by only one of her traits. This writing team is clearly committed to developing well-rounded characters, not just pushing the plot from crisis to crisis.
One of Tarr and Wicks' best pages is when Babs is fashioning her new costume. We see Babs painstakingly working with fabric paint and sewing supplies. The creative team has given a practical and completely understandable origin story to her new look. Her yellow Doc Martens boots are an especially appealing, signature element of her costume. Another highlight of Wicks' work is in a fight scene in a dark park, panels are filled with bright orange, sunburned red, and electric pink backgrounds. The contrasts look fantastic, and heighten the energy of the conflict in that moment.
Batgirl #35 is like the start of fall semester at a new school: a new life chapter for Babs, and a clean entryway for readers to discover an enjoyable new story. This creative team recognizes what daily life is like for Babs and her roommates with an authenticity unparalleled in current comics.
Captain Marvel #8
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art by Marcio Takara and Lee Loughridge
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Lilith Wood
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Whether you love cats or find them unsettling, you’ll appreciate how Kelly Sue DeConnick turns a running gag into its own clever storyline in Captain Marvel #8. The action heats up and the visuals get more bodacious in this issue, which is the second-half of a set piece show-casing guest artist Marcio Takara. DeConnick and Takara release the quirky-cute, along with some risky space business, some beautifully gross anatomy, and a few tugs on the heart strings. This fun but poignant issue advances the character development of Carol Danvers and friends, and positions the story to go anywhere from here.
In Captain Marvel #8, the word count falls and the visuals get more bodacious after the previous issue’s quieter, more conversational introduction to Takara’s art. The two-issue arc began with DeConnick taking Carol down a peg or two with nightmares, the inconveniences of transit on a borrowed ship, and three insubordinate companions (including her cat, Chewie). Things start to get wild when Rocket turns out to be right about Chewie actually being a rare animal called a flerken. At the beginning of Issue #8, Chewie has lain eggs, and some unsavory parties are descending on Carol’s ship looking for a good deal on flerken.
DeConnick has the confidence to make playful storytelling decisions, but she keeps things smooth and continuous for readers. This flerken set-piece accommodates a guest artist well, and reaffirms my impression of DeConnick as the curator of the Captain Marvel experience. Regular artists need to take a break, but sometimes it feels like editorial teams don’t respect the destructive power of the guest artist issue. DeConnick provides an illuminating little detour that is its own discrete unit and sets David Lopez up well to come back in for a fresh arc.
Takara was a good choice to fill in for David Lopez. His art is distinct enough to give readers a taste of something new, but they won’t have the jarring feeling that they’ve become part of a social science experiment. Like DeConnick, Takara seems to understand how to support whimsy with structure. His lines are loose but economical, spontaneous-feeling but intentional-looking. His clean, intuitive art leaves a lot of the definition work to colorist Lee Loughridge, and lets DeConnick’s writing round out the emotional tone. In Captain Marvel #7, Takara showed he can make a subdued issue beautiful. In Captain Marvel #8, he gets to go crazy on some floaty space goo, Chewie’s freaky auto-evisceration abilities, and of course some Captain Marvel pyrotechnics.
DeConnick and Takara make this issue funny and rambunctious enough to provide cover for the sweet, heartfelt parts. Carol tries to make wise decisions, but circumstances force her to learn from the young Tic, the obnoxious Rocket, and even her own stubborn cat. The isolation of Carol in space with a small assemblage of other oddballs has given us a chance to know her better. The fact that she alternately grows and is humbled is a large part of why this Captain Marvel continues to be so beloved. New readers jumping on here will be just in time to get excited for whatever’s next.
Written by Ann Nocenti
Art by Trevor McCarthy and Guy Major
Letters by Pat Brosseau
Published by DC Comics
Review by Justin Partridge, III
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
I have a soft spot for DC’s roster of magic characters. Unlike the nebulous nature of the magic users of Marvel, the DC magic stable seemed to have more rules and a more defined role within the larger DCU. You had your Lords of Order, like Dr. Fate and the Phantom Stranger, and you had your Lords of Chaos, like Etrigan the Demon and Felix Faust. But it was the in-between characters that fascinated me so much; the characters who traveled the fringes of dark and light magic, doing as they willed, the larger conflicts be damned. Characters like John Constantine, Tim Hunter, and the subject of today’s review, Klarion the Witch-Boy. Klarion has gone through several incarnations since his creation by Jack Kirby, but Ann Nocenti and Trevor McCarthy may have finally hit a sweet spot for the character that displays all of his defining traits in one slick, and sometimes overwhelming package. Klarion #1 shakes off the Puritan character traits that has defined the character for so long and finally casts the witch-boy in the role he was born to play; a magical punk rock kid who just wants to see the multiverse.
Right from page one, Nocenti and McCarthy present the reader with psychedelic imagery that looks wholly unlike anything that DC is putting out right now. Klarion #1 overwhelms with its densely packed splash pages, as Trevor McCarthy and colorist Guy Major pack each page with visual dynamite. In addition to the go-for-broke attitude of the splash pages, McCarthy and Major seem to be doing everything they can to distinguish Klarion part from the rest of DC's offerings. Each panel wafts across the page, enclosed with hazy, dreamlike lines, and Major’s colors lean toward the ethereal and otherworldly, further setting Klarion apart from the other books that surround it on shelves. Usually, for a book like this, you would have to look toward an indie publisher, but Klarion #1 is the bold-as-brass blast of weirdness that DC needed in a major title.
While dense splash pages are exciting on their own, McCarthy also tempers these splashes with inventive, J.H. Williams-like panel layouts that act almost as set pieces themselves. Each page of Klarion is set up in such a way that the panels are set into some sort of background that has something to do with the narrative unfolding on them. For example as Klarion gets his first tour of the Moody Museum, his home away from home, each action is slotted into a larger picture of the arcane decorations that adorn the walls around him. I know this isn’t exactly a new concept, nor does Klarion do it so well that the practice will be hack after this, but it wonderfully refreshing to see a book with this sort of artistic ambition from DC, after almost two full years of interchangeable superhero artwork. Klarion #1 is a great read for a lot of reasons, but the biggest two reasons have to be Trevor McCarthy and Guy Major.
While the artwork excites throughout, Ann Nocenti’s script also provides a solidly weird backbone to go right along with McCarthy and Major’s freak out artwork. Nocenti smartly jettisons what little we may have already known about Klarion to provide readers with a fresh take on a character that they may have never heard of until this issue. When we first meet Klarion, he is already on the road of the multiverse, hungry for adventure, along with his mummified cat companion, Teekl. Gone are the buckles and boots of his old Puritan costume and their place is a pair of skinny jeans, a simple runed t-shirt, and a Goth like coat/cloak that would make Kieron Gillen reach for his wallet. After hitching a ride with someone who may be the Devil himself, Klarion finds himself in New York and stuck right in the middle of a budding war between two magic halfway houses: one aligned with natural magic and the other opting to meld technology with the arcane. Nocenti throws a lot of bizarre things at the reader with this first issue, and most of it goes largely unexplained as the weirdness of magic is just accepted by her characters, but the hook is still there as well as a cast of colorful characters. The idea of Klarion being forced to choose a side between old magics and tech-wizards is too good for me not to come back next month; this coupled with Nocenti’s sheer disregard to telling a middling story with this great character could make for a new breakout hit for DC.
I love DC’s roster of magic characters, and while Klarion the Witch-Boy may have been the last one I thought would get a solo ongoing, I am happy to report that it is more than worthy of your attention as a reader. Ann Nocenti, Trevor McCarthy and Guy Major present Klarion #1 as a from-the-ground-up reboot for a lesser-known character that could very well become a fan-favorite. Klarion #1 shows that you don’t have to be a slave to earlier adaptations of a character to tell a compelling story. You can keep the sense of history that the character carries with it, but still manage to make it your own in order to present the audience with something fresh. Klarion #1 is that something fresh, in the strangest way, in a market that sorely needs it.
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Adam Kubert, Laura Martin and Matt Milla
Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 4 out of 10
After months of lurking in the pages of Uncanny Avengers, the Red Skull has taken his plans worldwide in Axis #1. Yet even with 32 pages to stuff as many heroes from the Marvel Universe as he can, Rick Remender's opening chapter for this event feels stretched out and thin. Even with a diverse cast and a refreshing sense of humor, the meandering plot and jarring transitions makes it hard to muster up much support for Marvel's latest event.
On paper, this book should be A-list quality - you've got character-driven action aficionado Rick Remender writing, along with superstar artist Adam Kubert, teamed up with colorists supreme Laura Martin and Matt Milla. And not only that, but Remender gets to have his pick of the Marvel litter, writing Iron Man, the new Captain America, Thor and the Hulk as well as his usual Uncanny Avengers stalwarts, and he gets to redeem an oft-maligned '90s concept by grafting the malevolence of the Red Skull on Onslaught. In certain cases, Remender gets his character moments right, particularly Iron Man's snarky attitude, as well as a wonderful sequence where Rogue has a final heart-to-heart with Professor X. Yet maybe this is a case of having too many toys than one can reasonably play with - Remender never really gets to spend too much time with any of these characters, leaving big names like the Hulk and Thor feeling like cameo appearances rather than important players in the story.
That lack of focus keeps Axis from really hitting its stride. Remender has to go from character to character, but the cost feels too great - none of the character reveals feel particularly earned, with the Avengers, the X-Men and even random guests like Iron Fist and the Invisible Woman being more like obligatory appearances rather than crucial to the story (let alone adding to it). It's not that having the Red Skull piloting an omega-level telepathic brain isn't a threat that could assemble all of Marvel's superheroes, but because Remender has to keep introducing characters, he doesn't have the time to build up the Skull's upgraded threat. Besides a few panels of in-fighting - which Remender is forced to lampshade with dialogue, because Kubert isn't given enough space to expand upon it - the result is the Red Onslaught just feels like the regular Red Skull, only taller and with tentacles. "Hate waves" making the Avengers not fall into line doesn't quite cut it.
The artwork by Adam Kubert doesn't help. Going into the trenches without an inker, Kubert's linework looks scratchy, and his page layouts are often bewildering - big action sequences feel completely distant, and moments that require big visual impact wind up getting shoved into the smallest panels possible. (A four-panel sequence where Magneto is thrown through a building by Havok, for example, barely registers, it's so tiny.) Kubert's detail work also suffers, particularly when it comes to the Skull, who occasionally sprouts horns and fangs on a panel-to-panel basis. Still, Kubert does sell his splash pages well, even if he goes from two-page sequences and abruptly cuts them down to single pages halfway through the issue.
There are some great moments in this comic, but they're often fleeting, stomped down by the unrelenting march of event storytelling. The X-Men, for example, look to be turning a corner beyond the infighting of Schism and Avengers vs. X-Men, and the Scarlet Witch and Rogue continue to be Remender's clear favorites. But for every great moment, there are plenty of eye-rollers, including Ahab stabbing his umpteenth mutant or the Red Skull pulling a secret plan out of Tony Stark's head from out of nowhere. Comics can be goofy, can be crazy, but they need some sort of internal logic in order to be believed - and Axis lacks that consistency to ground it. Without that, even with its plethora of characters, this crossover feels less than the sum of its parts.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1
Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Art by Robert Hack
Published by Archie Comics
Review by Brian Bannen
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Based on the original Archie Comics series, and right in time for Halloween, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa brings us a retelling of Sabrina: The Teenage Witch, but with a much darker tone than the original 1970’s series. Yet the comic straddles a fine line between horror and humor, enough so that that it’s tonally inconsistent. The darker parts of the comic are chilling and spooky, but when offset by the more lighthearted moments, the comic is an oily mixture of eerie and jovial.
Robert Aguirre-Sacasa immediately brands this book as horror. The opening - where Sabrina is taken from her mother and given to a coven of witches - feels pulled from Rosemary’s Baby, and you can tell Aguirre-Sacasa was attempting to make his own mark on the character, and to move it away from its Bewitched roots so that it fits with the new Archie horror line of comics.
The story has many more horror elements, including the eating of corpses, people being fused with trees, women turning into giant spiders, and banished witches returning from hell - after eating doe fetuses. These elements were the most unique in the comic as they pushed beyond what people know about Sabrina whose likeness has graced comics, animated shows, and most notably a sitcom starring Melissa Joan Hart. This is a redefinition of the character, and one that I could get behind.
But much more of the comic is origin as Aguirre-Sacasa brings readers through Sabrina’s early years, from her adoption by her aunts Hilda and Zelda, to her forming years where she tests her powers, to high school where the book finally lands and gives the majority of its attention. Here, the book is a usual high school drama story. The comic is so heavily steeped in tropes about teenagers that what was unique about The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina becomes nothing more than a nostalgic trip about the most common stereotypes of high school: drama and relationships. Not that these issues are handled with carelessly, but Aguirre-Sacasa’s paint-by-numbers take on high school is counter to the originality he displayed earlier in the book.
The art of the comic is also steered more in the horror direction. Robert Hack’s rough-around-the-edges designs work best in the darker moments of the comic. When I opened the comic, I immediately thought of Jock, an artist whose rough-hewn designs are perfect for darker comics, most recently Scott Snyder’s Wytches. Similarly, Hack uses an edgy style that relies heavily on shade and shadow to set the mood. A few character designs can occasionally become muddled through excessive hatching, and in other parts of the comic the outlines are so faint that the characters seems to fade into the background. But when Hack is on - like in the opening and closing of the book - he nudges The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina over the horror line so that the comic becomes more than a retelling of an older series.
The close of the comic - where Madame Satan returns from the capitol city of Hell - is what makes The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina a comic to read. When Aguirre-Sacasa puts his own stamp on the comic, the story is supernatural and creepy and worth reading. When it strays back into the high school drama motif, it’s nothing we haven’t read before. Hopefully, the comic will keep moving in the horror direction because when it crosses the line, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina lives up to its new name and genre.
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo, Danny Miki and FCO Plascencia
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
Review by Michael Moccio
‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10
Get ready to rumble! If you read that in a WWE announcer’s voice, you’re on the right track for how this entire issue plays out. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo obliterate the “go big or go home” saying and immediately delve right into the action for Endgame as Batman faces the gods of the DC Universe: the Justice League. They put the Bat-God theory to the test, as one of the most explosive fights of the New 52 plays out right before our eyes.
One of the reasons why Snyder has been so successful in the Batman universe is that he’s able to execute great character-driven stories. Despite these grand plots and unbelievable events, we’re still able to stay engaged with the story because Snyder invites us into the world to get to know and understand these characters. While we might not always know what’s going on or what the rules of the world are, Snyder has been on point in making sure we knew enough so that we could try to anticipate what comes next and find overall meaning in the story. That’s why so much of Snyder’s run has been enjoyable; that’s why it’s been an absolute joy to read his own take on the origins of Batman; that’s why it’s so utterly frustrating that Endgame falls so flat right out of the gate.
Without a doubt, Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, and FCO Plascencia are the real stars of this issue. If you ever doubted that Batman could look, feel and operate like Batman in broad daylight, look no further than Batman #35 for proof. Even though the story is set in daytime, the art team still manages to create that imposing and powerful dark imagery Batman has when fighting seriously. Just as Snyder masterfully makes an arena out of Gotham City for this fight, the art team masterfully visualizes it — it feels like we’re right in the middle of the action ourselves. It’s almost forgivable that the entire issue is mostly one giant fight scene when it looks absolutely breathtaking. It helps that the transitions are smooth and the team knows how to keep the pace of the narrative moving quickly, so that we stay enthralled with what’s happening.
Despite how awesome it looked and despite how amazing it was to see Batman take out all the members of the Justice League that came at him, at the end of the issue, it feels more like fan-service than anything else. There’s no start to a story here — at least, no start to a meaningful, character-driven one. An entire story can’t be carried by fighting — there needs to be something more there and there needs to be something to ground the reader. Snyder places more emphasis on the plot and on the fight than anything else, which makes it feel like he was going for the shock value than anything else. With an overemphasis on the plot and the specific events that are happening, Snyder loses any opportunity to say something meaningful. It’ll be interesting to see how the story evolves beyond this fight, but only time will tell if it’ll be effective.
The beginning is entirely disjointed. In the first several pages, we jump around from text heavy symbolism, to the present, to the future, then thirty minutes before the present. This doesn’t do anything to ground us in the story, especially since the look at the future is so esoteric it’ll only make sense to those who are in the know of where this story is heading. From the get go, we’re already confused as to what’s really going on, why what’s going on is important - besides it looking really cool, that is. Those who miss the editorial note on the title page will also be wondering how this fits into the rest of the DC Universe, especially when Alfred is up and about seemingly unharmed - go back and read it if you missed it like I did: this happens after Batman Eternal.
At the end of the issue, we still have absolutely no idea why everything that’s happening is happening. Sure, we understand that the Joker got to the Justice League, but the fact that we’re just as in the dark as Batman is frustrating. It’s fine if Batman, Alfred and Julia are completely clueless, but we should have some inkling as to what’s going on. By the end of the issue, you don’t feel inspired to read on and figure out the rest of this mystery - you just want to toss the book aside and wait to get some answers. The awe of seeing Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, and Aquaman will wear off; that fantastic imagery of Superman descending down from the heavens, tying back to the deep and thoughtful metaphor at the beginning, becomes second-thought. While there were absolutely successes in this issue where Snyder, Capullo, and the rest of the team were on point, the overall core of the story isn’t strong enough to carry an idea of this magnitude.
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Jock and Matt Hollingsworth
Letters by Clem Robins
Published by Image Comics
Review by Justin Partridge, III
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
Wytches #1 is very, very scary, but just not in the way that you might expect.
Of course, Scott Snyder, a writer who made his name in the horror genre before moving on to mainstream superhero work, plants many seeds for potentially gory and shocking moments in future issues, but that isn’t what makes this first issue so harrowing to read. What makes Wytches #1 so scary is the sense of palatable dread that Snyder, Jock, and Matt Hollingsworth create throughout. Nothing really outright terrifying happens in this issue, barring a few jolts, but the feeling that at any time something could be waiting for you behind the next page gives Wytches a nervous energy that is largely absent in recent horror comics. Scott Snyder details in the first issue essay that makes up the back matter that the idea that the wytches have always been in the woods, waiting for him to return to them, is much scarier than the thought that they may be following him. I wholeheartedly agree and Wytches #1 captures this feeling with gusto.
Wytches #1 opens with a gristly cold open set in 1919, as a young boy comes across his mother trapped in a tree, screaming to be let out. She has been pledged to the titular monsters, and Snyder quickly and brutally establishes that “pledged is pledged,” and there isn’t anything that anyone can do about that. We are quickly upshifted into the present day as Sailor Rooks, our protagonist, is being comforted by her father as she waits for the bus to attend her first day in a new school. Snyder has long since been a master at these cold opens that quickly shift focus from the macabre to the mundane, but here in Wytches from this scene on, the mundane gets the lion’s share of the focus, much to the issue’s strength. Snyder cares about Sailor and the Rooks family as a whole so he spends the time in the issue to make us care about them all. If we don’t, what’s the point of reading the comic, right? This may sounds like hyperbole, and feel free to disagree in the comments below, but Wytches seems like Snyder is channeling his American Vampire colleague, the legendary Stephen King.
Think about the themes that King explores in his books; struggling with your own violent past, forgotten ancient evils, family units forced into new surroundings by tragedy, the horrors of bullying, young people witnessing horrors that they cannot process, a father and mother’s fight for normalcy. You can find examples of each of these in Wytches #1 through Snyder's grounded, fleshed-out characters who conduct themselves like living, breathing humans instead of meat for the grinder to come. Sailor is a girl who just wants to be whole again after her brush with unknown terrors, while her parents just want to keep everything together through her recovery. I was already fully invested in the Rooks family after Sail’s father’s attempt to cheer her up by detailing how to kill hippogriffs by shoving dynamite in their butts. The best horror stories make you care and fear for the protagonists and in that regard Wytches #1 is already a success. But still, even throughout this great character work, Snyder keeps the shroud of dread hanging over these characters while never fully revealing the terror to come. The only real scares come from the cold open, a quick and bloody flashback about Sail's past, and the final cliffhanger, but they never take away from the pervasive feeling of fear that readers will experience as they flip through the pages. Snyder is a writer that isn't afraid to put his audience in uncomfortable places and I think we can expect that and more from Wytches.
Reunited with his Black Mirror collaborator Jock and colorist wunderkind Matt Hollingsworth, Snyder also has an art team that is working in tandem with his heavily portended script. Jock’s scratchy and nebulous renderings are perfect for a book like Wytches and the horror genre as a whole. The way he packs the negative spaces in the cold open in the forest shows just how well he can work jolts into static images, using a simple grid of repeated angles and a knot hole in a tree to deliver a genuinely claustrophobic experience. Matt Hollingsworth also makes the transition from noir and superhero work to horror seamlessly, with heavy blacks, watercolor like splashes of purple, and shocking streaks of red. Wytches looks just as scary as it reads, and in a market that is saturated with exploitative and garish horror artwork, it is amazing to see a book take the restrained route and deliver a book that looks great while still being scary.
As a horror fan, Wytches was a book that I was hotly anticipating from a creative team that I knew could handle the genre very well. This debut issue did not disappoint. Scott Snyder, Jock, and Matt Hollingsworth have tapped into something primal with Wytches; the idea that evil lurks in the dark corners of our lives forever and will be there long after we are gone. This evil could be family tragedy or constant torture by a bully, but it is still there, no matter the form. The only thing we can do to combat it to face it and come out of the other side of it changed, hopefully for the better. Image Comics recently has been responsible for some of the most personal and ambitious comics of recent memory, and Wytches looks to be another solid entry into that canon using the oldest and strongest emotion known to mankind: fear.
Superman/Wonder Woman #12
Written by Charles Soule
Art by Jack Herbert, Walden Wong, Cliff Richards and Tomeu Morey
Lettering by Carlos M. Mangual
Published by DC Comics
Review by Brian Bannen
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Charles Soule closes out his Superman/Wonder Woman by returning to his title characters, focusing on a smaller story about their relationship, and the bond that ties them together. Considering the epic nature of “Doomed,” this issue is a quieter, more thoughtful issue that balances its action with its narrative, giving Soule a clever way to end a very successful run.
Superman/Wonder Woman returns to its beginnings as a flower given by Clark on his and Diana’s first date plays a vital role in the story. Soule’s whole point seems to be reminding readers that his characters, while not exactly normal, are human after all. They make mistakes. They bicker about menial things, like forgetting to feed a Kryptonian flower that turns into a tentacled monster, escapes, and begins attacking oil rigs because the crude being pumped out is actually a food source.
The wackiness of the concept is what makes the comic so fun to read. Given the dour nature of “Doomed,” this is a welcome change as it’s more amusing a story than a serious, multi-series spanning tale. At no point do you feel like you’re reading a story about Superman and Wonder Woman. This is more a story about Clark and Diana, both of whom argue about a very mundane issue to which anyone in a relationship can attest.
This is also where Soule displays his strongest abilities as a writer. I fully bought into Clark and Diana’s argument as their dialogue, save for a few comments about black holes, Brainiac, Zod and Doomsday, is something you would hear in your own relationship. The big things are easily managed by these two; they’re superheroes. It’s the little things, the more terrestrial issues that really tax them. The back and forth of the conversation, the pacing of their statements, and the simplicity of the argument all make for very relatable characters.
For a final issue, Superman/Wonder Woman also has a gamut of artistic talent, but not all of it meshes well. The inconsistency of the art is enough to detract from an otherwise well constructed comic. Every artist has a similar style, but parts of the comic are sharper than others. The last third of the comic, in particular, lacks the same glossy realism seen in earlier sections, and this distinct change of style is off-putting, if only slightly. Tomeu Morey colors the entire books, so the vividness of the book never changes; it’s the design of the characters that morphs.
I’ve enjoyed Charles Soule’s run on the comic, even though I feel a bit cheated as “Doomed” took up seven issues of the series’ run. I know Soule was a creative player of “Doomed”, but he crafted a series where two of DC’s heaviest hitters had to share the space and do more than be super. Clearly, Soule succeeded. The final page of the comic is one we’ve seen before - where the heroes are looking out at the sunset while holding hands - but the promise of a new beginning is bittersweet. Luckily, Soule left an indelible mark and hopefully Peter Tomasi and Doug Mahnke can continue to make the series great when they take over next month.