Edge of Spider-Verse #5
Written by Gerard Way
Art by Jake Wyatt and Ian Herring
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
"We've got a situation! Vitals Zero: brain-death. One thing's for certain: SP//dr is still intact!"
After a 10-month absence from comics following The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, rock star Gerard Way makes his triumphant return with Edge of Spider-Verse #5, a fast-paced sci-fi actioner that borrows less from Peter Parker and more from Neon Genesis Evangelion. The broad nods to the anime, combined with Jake Wyatt's spectacular artwork, provides an electric new spin on an already rich mythology.
The double-page splash at the beginning of the issue says it all - the pilot of supermech SP//dr is dead, but the spider that pilots it is still alive. Cut to Peni Parker, a girl who's less like Peter Parker and more like the enigmatic Rei from Neon Genesis Evangelion - she's quiet, competent, and intensely driven to live up to her father's heroic example. Way provides an eerie, sterile introduction to Peni, one that meshes genetic machine tech with the rawness of an irradiated spider bite. Not only is Way's introduction superb, but his central villain is interesting, as well, putting his own lyrical spin on Mysterio. "Your lives are boring -- my art is panic."
What throws this comic for a loop a bit is that it really feels like two different SP//dr stories slammed together - the high-octane fight against Mysterio then gives way to a much more sedate encounter with this universe's Daredevil. It's here, however, that Way really provides us the reason the care for Peni - she doesn't crack jokes like Peter, so she's not as instantly endearing, but it's hard not to love her when she asks Daredevil about her dad: "Do you think he would have liked me?" Oh, sweetie. You're wonderful.
Jake Wyatt does some superb work in this comic, as well. That double-page splash featuring the death of the original SP//dr is poster-worthy, especially the way that letterer Clayton Cowles experiments with different fonts, colors and sizes to draw your eyes across every gorgeous line. It's Wyatt's sense of design that really sells this comic, as he invokes Neon Genesis unapologetically, but adds in that same sort of Spider-Man body language, particularly when Peni is swinging or webbing up opponents. He also happens to sell the hell out of the emotional beats, playing up the horror in Peni's eyes as she reels from Mysterio's hallucinogens, or the way her head is thrown back when she's first bitten by the spider.
If there's a downside to this comic, it's the final few pages, as Way suddenly has to rein himself in to bring Peni into the rest of the Spider-Verse crossover. It's a complete tonal shift, and you feel like Way is suddenly shoehorning in Spider-Ham and Old Man Spidey. There's one page of this sequence that ties together all the themes Way was building - I just wish that there had been a touch more consideration to the whiplash-inducing pacing.
Part of the thrill of Edge of Spider-Verse was to provide readers snapshot stories with unique spins on our favorite friendly neighborhood web-slinger. In that regard, Gerard Way and Jake Wyatt absolutely deliver. There's a ton of heart underneath all this energy, and it's got the kind of voice you won't find anywhere else on the stands. While it's unlikely Peni Parker could sustain an ongoing series - largely due to the immense debt it owes to its anime influences - this is an entertaining riff on a time-tested property.
Batman and Robin #35
Written by Peter Tomasi
Art by Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray and John Kalisz
Lettering by Carlos M. Mangual
Published by DC Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
The Batman has come to Apokolips - and he's bringing destruction in his wake. Dropping Bruce Wayne out of his street-level milieu is proving to be a shrewd tactic for Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, as they're able to tear out with as much over-the-top action as possible in what could be Batman's boldest adventure yet.
For those readers who turn up their noses at the Bat-God, well, this book is definitely not for you - while Peter Tomasi smartly gives Bruce a time limit on his power-up, the Hellbat suit makes the Dark Knight about as powerful as we've ever seen him. Casting an ominous shadow over the planet's core, Bruce just tears through Parademons like, well, a bat out of hell.
Much of this book's success comes from Tomasi simply getting out of Gleason's way. He makes Batman seem larger-than-life and all-powerful, particularly the way he towers over a Parademon and lifts him in the air, his sharp talons spread ominously. There's a great panel in here where Batman hits a Parademon so hard its lenses shatter, a visual that just feels really visceral. Every Batman page just explodes with badass action, with Gleason almost channeling a bit of a Venom vibe with Bruce's all-black, shape-shifting costume. There's a great sci-fi infusion to Batman's mythic terrors, and Gleason just absolutely nails it.
While Tomasi fires up this book's engines with Bruce's single-handed invasion of Apokolips, he sells the book even further with an engaging B-story. With Bruce off-planet, what's a worried team of sidekicks to do? Batgirl, Red Hood and Red Robin have a great subplot featuring Cyborg in which they try their best to join their mentor, and it's a great example of Tomasi knowing his shared universe and how to play with it. What's more, the adoration of the sidekicks actually makes Batman seem more of an endearing figure - because these people care about him, we do, too.
If there's any one downside to this book, it's in the pacing - namely, because Tomasi has to introduce certain members of Darkseid's family, this story cuts out just a little abruptly, with the last page in particular feeling a big anticlimactic. But even with the ending sputtering out a bit, it doesn't hamper 18 pages of solid storytelling beforehand. If you're looking for hardcore Batman action, Batman and Robin #35 is the place to find it.
Death of Wolverine #4
Written by Charles Soule
Art by Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten and Justin Ponsor
Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 3 out of 10
Well, I can't say I didn't give it the old college try.
I've been keeping track of Wolverine ever since Marvel announced his impending demise - first with Paul Cornell's ill-fated "Three Months to Die" storyline, and now with Charles Soule and Steve McNiven's gorgeous but structurally unsound Death of Wolverine. For every step this event has taken forward, it often takes three steps back, and this anticlimax is no exception. While there's a spark of strong story logic in this issue, it doesn't make up for a sendoff that strangely lacks any punch.
Part of it might be endemic to the modern superhero event book, particularly when it comes to a superhero with such a varied, colorful past as Wolverine. It makes sense that superhero work-for-hire comics will have certain parameters built in - you want to mention that Bruce Wayne's parents died, or that Spider-Man is thinking about the death of Gwen Stacy. But when it comes to Wolverine, Soule has had to shove in tons of disparate threads that look even more incongruous when you smash them all together: We've seen Logan fight in the woods, battle fellow Weapon Plus survivor Nuke, go to Madripoor to fight Lady Deathstroke, team up with Kitty Pryde in Japan, samurai sword-fight with Lord Ogun... and now, at the end of the line, Logan goes back to where it all began: The Weapon X project.
Deep in the heart of the matter, Charles Soule has the right idea - it's fitting for Wolverine to finally die in the place he was truly born, as he struggles to stop Dr. Cornelius from subjecting others to his fate. Soule even writes in a convenient escape hatch that could bring Wolverine back at any time. But his story is flat-tired by a number of problems. The first is that there was zero set-up to this issue - the episodic nature of each of these scripts means that you could just plug and play any major Wolverine villain to be the end baddie, and it would still have felt as earned. Additionally, having Dr. Cornelius simply drop the ball on Wolverine's healing factor winds up making the villain seem ineffectual rather than a legitimate threat. Indeed, Cornelius's henchman, Major Sharp, feels about a nondescript as it gets, particularly after the waves of known villains we've seen the past few issues.
The script also doesn't give Steve McNiven a ton to work with. There's a two-page fight sequence that feels a little bit bloodless, largely because Soule and McNiven don't really open up Wolverine to a world of hurt until later. McNiven's widescreen layouts also wind up hurting him a bit during the end of the book's big fight, as it's unclear if he crushes Sharp's head or just his facemask. (It's also a little disappointing that this alleged "perfect" killing machine gets K.O.'d in one punch.) Still, McNiven's actual rendering of characters looks superb as ever, and Justin Ponsor's coloring is actually a really nice cut against the grain - even though this is a somewhat horrifying premise, there's a sense of almost sunny relief to his colors. For an immortal like Wolverine, this death can be a kind of freedom.
And I think that's the real problem that Death of Wolverine faced all along - it didn't know what kind of story it wanted to be. Wolverine himself, for all his lost memories and wildly clashing histories, had one throughline in common - he was an animal trying to overcome his baser instincts and become a better man. This storyline, however, bounced from Wolverine accepting his fate, to welcoming death as a respite, to trying to keep others from sharing his own cursed existence. Any of those three themes would have made for a powerful sendoff, but the lack of commitment to any of them harmed the final product far more than a lack of a central villain ever did. Here's hoping that while this sendoff lacked Wolverine's trademark intensity, it'll give Marvel a chance to rest one of their most iconic heroes before he makes his inevitable return.
Written by Marc Andreyko
Art by Georges Jeanty, Karl Story, Scott Hanna, Dexter Vines and Guy Major
Lettering by Todd Klein
Published by DC Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
'Rama Rating: 2 out of 10
Some characters just don’t work as well in certain settings, and Batwoman doesn’t work very well in space. But that’s where Marc Andreyko puts her and the team that was teased in Batwoman’s Futures End tie-in. Geroges Jeanty requires three different inkers to get this one to the presses, and the lack of continuity hurts the book even further. Andreyko and the editorial team have cannibalized everything that made this title resonate with readers and replaced it with mindless superheroing - something the DC publishing line definitely doesn’t need any more of.
Giving Batwoman a team of vaguely supernatural characters seems like a great idea on paper. I love the name, too. “The Unknowns” sounds like a team that should be able to hang with the Doom Patrol or Justice League Dark. But Andreyko gives us a mish-mash of a space battle against Morgan Le Fay. There is no clarity in this script. A ton of stuff happens, but we’re given nary a reason for it. It’s just a generic fight comic. Emphasis on generic. (And Andreyko’s solution for surviving a spaceship crash is one straight out of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Come on, man. The movie is still in some theaters. Who’d you think you were fooling?) We’re given little reason for the team to be together. We’re not exactly sure how they got to space. I don’t mind being thrown into the middle of a story but I usually hope for a bit of context.
Georges Jeanty work buckles under the weight of multiple inkers. Karl Story, Dexter Vines and Scott Hanna all ink different pages in this one and the quality ranges from mildly acceptable to pedestrian from page to page. Most of Jeanty’s expression work is fine but I’m not sure that he really decided on a way to render Clayface. As we’ve seen in the past, the character has a ton of design potential and his power set can really give artists a ton of room to play. But either Andreyko wasn’t imaginative enough in his script or Jeanty just didn’t flex his muscles enough, because Clayface mostly just looks like an awkward blob of brown whenever he’s on the page.
Hopefully, DC will put this book out of its misery soon. We’ve already seen how Kate dies. I don’t think that the character needs to be dragged through the mud any further. When Andreyko was announced on the book, I was hoping he’d be able to provide a unique perspective as one of the few openly gay writers in comics. Instead, he’s stripped the book of everything that’s made the book unique and traded bigger emotional stories for cheap thrills that, unfortunately, aren’t all that thrilling.
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Adam Kubert, Laura Martin, and Matt Milla
Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Justin Partridge, III
‘Rama Rating: 4 out of 10
There's nothing that gets the comics fanbase going like an event book. Even when readers say they don't, the numbers don't lie - people love the high, almost hysterical drama, the big sprawling casts, the insurmountable enemies challenging the greater good. What we don’t like, however, is an forgettable event. Axis so far, has been exactly that - forgettable. Event comics are the big stage of the comic market, and after a promotion push as big as Axis’, you would think that the end result would chock-full of huge moments that would stick with readers long after reading. Sadly, that isn’t the case with Axis #2, which continues the debut issue’s propensity for slap-dash characterization and herky-jerky plotting. If you like your event comics to be big and loud and starring A-listers with nothing else to offer, than Axis #2 is right up your alley - but fans looking for a bit more steak with their sizzle may need to look elsewhere.
Axis #2 throws readers directly into the fray of our collection of protagonists storming the beaches of Genosha, but meeting heavy resistance from Stark designed Sentinels and Red Onslaught himself. Rick Remender, a writer with a seemingly endless talent for throwing superheroes into war like situations, goes through the motions as heroes are picked off one by one by Red Onslaught’s particle beams, but none of it feels like it carries any weight. While the opening cast page touts that certain fan favorite characters are leaping into battle along side the A-listers, most are barely seen on panel, and when they are, they are getting ghosted out of the story by Red Onslaught’s weapons which, let’s face it, haven’t killed anyone. Remender obviously just wants Axis #2 to be an Iron Man book, which it is in every sense of the word, right down to him getting most of the caption boxes dedicated to his self-pitying narration. So why tease us with all these promises of seeing She-Hulk punching mutant Nazis in the face? Simple, he needs meat for the grinder and Tony needs to feel bad about himself.
This may sound harsh, but after reading Axis #2 three times, if I was asked to describe it to someone cold, I would probably just talk about Red Onslaught’s tentacles and the final page cliffhanger the entire time. Nothing really of importance happens in Axis #2 other than Tony Stark hammering readers over the head with his self-effacing personality and heroes getting taken out almost instantly. As one of the people that still enjoys Rick Remender’s Uncanny Avengers, I was exciting at the prospect of that title getting a big, crazy event to tie up some of the loose and very interesting narrative threads that the book introduced in its first arc, but so far, even the Unity Squad has been side-lined in order to give Tony more room to mope and for the cast to be thinned out to the point that Magneto has to introduce a whole new cast at the very end.
All of this would actually have a bit of weight if Remender’s script kept its own plots and characterization’s straight. In these first two issues, Remender just seems concerned with showing this heroes being routed on the beaches of Genosha over and over again, instead of selling the enormity of the conflict through character moments, which he has done beautifully in other books. Instead, Axis #2 ends up just being two big, dumb fight scenes with an exposition dump sandwiched in the middle. During both fights, certain heroes are dispatched as afterthoughts, while Tony jokes and hates himself in his head. Remender’s Magneto is the only character that really comes across as honest as he pragmatically holds his own in the field and calls Tony out at every turn. Like the shirt says, Magneto Was Right, and Axis #2 is a big example of just how useful Erik could be in a struggle like this. I don’t even want to get started about how everyone in the Marvel universe is suddenly now okay with Scott Summers being around now that everything has gone to hell. If I did, we would be here all day, but in short, overarching narrative threads that have defined your comics for the better part of a year and half probably shouldn’t just be jettisoned because your script needs more bodies or because the big bad suddenly has a new costume.
As for the artwork, I am bit more impressed with Adam Kubert’s pencils than some of my colleagues, mainly because I like that his rough-hewn pencils capture the chaos of battle more than the script is at this point. Kubert’s wide panels and constant kineticism give Axis #2 an energy it sorely needed. Kubert’s style also gives this event the defined cinematic quality that readers have come to expect from Marvel event comics. In one particularly standout sequence, Iron Man attempts to hold up a leg of the Sentinel that is trying to crush him and Kubert employs five panels of repeating, but closing in, angles to give the scene a sense of impending doom for Tony and the readers. If the comic was more of that, using character moments to highlight the overall story, Axis #2 would be a true blockbuster. Laura Martin and Matt Milla’s colors also give Axis #2 an artistic edge over its lackluster script with heavy, muted colors in the place of the hero’s usual garishly bright costume colors along with bold browns, greys, and purples to fill in the surrounding setting of Genosha. While Axis #2 might be a forgettable read, at least you have more than a few well put-together pages to look at.
Call it event fatigue or maybe just an early issue of an event that hasn’t found its feet yet; call it whatever you want, but Axis #2 isn’t as great as it should be. We all want events to be these larger-than-life stories starring giant personalities and tied together with rousing set pieces, but Axis doesn’t have any of these yet. Axis #2 is the worst possible thing that an event comic could be this early; its boring and completely lacking in the energy that makes certain events must reads issue after issue. I have faith that Rick Remender and his rotating stable of artists could turn Axis into a rollicking yarn that closes out Marvel’s year with a bang, but as it stands right now, with Issue #2, Axis is a bit of a dud.
Ms. Marvel #9 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Forrest C. Helvie; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): This issue picks up in the midst of the Inventor's attack on Kamala's high school while she attempts to the stop the robotic behemoth with the assistance of Lockjaw. Wilson's continued insistence that superheroes don't just show up and win from the get-go is refreshing and feels realistic …at least as realistic as a world with superheroes can be. It's also an important issue for Kamala as she learns of her Inhuman heritage, which affirms her passion for comic book superheroes and yet also underscores her familial connections. Alphona's art continues to impress me as always; however, what struck me this issue is the time he takes to create three-dimensional, non-cookie-cutter characters even if they are only in the background, not to mention those who more dominant. We get people of all backgrounds, shapes and sizes, as well as those with beautiful and common features; like the plot elements, it strives for a sort of pluralistic sense of realism in its superheroic world.
Justice League #35 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): Can Lex Luthor really be a force for good? It’s the question that Geoff Johns has been playing with since the end of Forever Evil, and even with the revelation of some of his plans, the compelling part of this arc is that it convinces you to constantly shift your allegiances. Unlike the usual Superman/Lex dichotomy, here we get a comparison with fellow billionaire Bruce Wayne, and a compelling entry in the nature-versus-nurture debate. Dough Mahnke and Ivan Reis keep the art cold and clean this time around, reflecting the corporatization of Lex’s approach to the world. Yet it’s Aquaman that gets the badass heroic moment, swooping in from the top of a skyscraper of all places. The final revelation of the issue will kick off the next chapter in Justice League history, and it looks set to change more than a few members.
Edge of Spider-Verse #5 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Spider-Verse has given us a ton of different looks, but maybe none so unique as Gerard Way and Jake Wyatt’s. This time, Spider-Man is a little girl in a spider-mech suit called SP//dr. The sci-fi, Neon Genesis Evangelion-style concept fits well with Wyatt’s art, but Way’s dialogue is not his strongest. Peni Parker is likable enough but her exchange with Daredevil is full of clucky lines and awkward phrasings. Some of it reads like fill shoved in to keep the art from being silent. Wyatt’s work, however, is outstanding. This is a character and a world that I’d love to see more of because of his design sense and keen attention to detail. (Kudos on the Kaneda cameo, Jake.) The ending of the issue is a little abrupt, but overall, this one is a winner.
Twilight Zone Lost Tales One-Shot (Published by Dynamite Entertainment; Review by Rob McMonigal; 'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10): Three not-quite-current-event stories are given an unsubtle Serling treatment in a one-writer anthology that tries too hard to imitate the television show. In crafting twist endings, writer Mark Rahner makes it so obvious what's going to happen you don't need to turn the page, especially in the case of a group of humans who need to superheat a planet only to realize the planet's inhabitants are doing it already. Tin-eared political dialogue mars that story, but it's even worse when a victim of US torture confronts a stand-in for Dick Cheney, only to curse them both. Three artists do a good job providing above-average visuals that heighten the drama, but you don't need the soul-glasses of the third story to see this one's lifeless.
Death of Wolverine #4 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): This final chapter blows by at such a quick pace, it feels like it ends before it barely started. Logan faces his final foe with only memories and conviction to fuel him - no Kitty, no Kurt, no friends. It fits Logan's character to fight solo, but feels unsettling that he should die alone. Charles Soule impressively skirted readers' guesses by choosing someone obscure from Wolverine's early canon to be the end game villain. McNiven, Leisten, and Ponsor capture the dank setting of this secret facility with its purplish concrete walls and eerie lighting. McNiven draws memorable close-ups of Logan's smirk and hands when he faces his villain. This is an engrossing but too brief conclusion to Soule's story, and a poetic, lonely farewell to Logan.
Batman and Robin #35 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): The sidekicks are banding together. Batman is on Apokolips. What more could anyone want from this series? Patrick Gleason’s art continues to be a solid foundation for Peter J. Tomasi to build this story on. The artist is an absolute force in this one, incorporating his usual deep blacks with an infusion of Kirby that at times looks positively Mignola-esque. Tomasi keeps going bigger and bigger with this story, never shying away from using his characters to their full potential. (You’ll see what I mean during the Cyborg scenes.) That might be why Batman and Robin is the most consistently entertaining Batman book on the stands.
Uncanny X-Men #27 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Brian Michael Bendis takes a slightly more lighthearted spin on his recently grave arc: Have we ever seen a student greet Cyclops with "Yo, Teach?" We also get the debut of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents' hamster ball-like force fields. Bendis is taking the bold step to deepen the schism between Cyclops and the Jean Grey School's X-Men, a move which will alienate some readers and excite others. Chris Bachalo and this artistic team highlight Rachel Grey wondrously, making her resolute emotions and spiked, layered outfit pop in every panel. I like where Bendis is going with Cyclops' further polarization, but the younger characters of Cyclops' camp still need more of their own action scenes and storylines.
Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Three #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): This is almost as much of a game-changer as any of the other major issues thus far in the entire Injustice: Gods Among Us series. Adding in some major mystical players to the mix including Klarion the Witch Boy, Jason Blood and Etrigan, and now the Spectre, writer Tom Taylor is making it clear that there’s no more room for games. We’re now in the big leagues, as more and more heroes fall around us, and we start to understand exactly how futile and hopeless Batman’s fight really is. While this issue is fairly short and sparse in terms of what actually happens, with very little advancement to the story as several pages are wasted on an out-of-place interaction between Harley and the Flash, there’s a lot of bang for your buck in the final pages.
Doctor Who: The 12th Doctor #1 (Published by Titan Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Given that we audiences are still working out who the 12th Doctor is - and whether or not we can trust him - the timing of this release is a little odd. To that end, it kicks off on an alien planet, already a sharp departure from the Earth-bound (and now “retro”) stories of Titan’s 10th and 11th comics, and writer Robbie Morrison takes a leaf out of the classic Doctor Who adventures of the 1970s in particular, placing the Doctor and Clara in a world that doesn’t seem quite right. Mostly nailing the relationship between the main duo, picking up Clara’s cadences in particular, artist Dave Taylor knows that the power of the 12th Doctor lies in his distinctive eyes (and particularly the eyebrows). A colorful and fun opening, it’s just that it’s difficult to reconcile with the ongoing BBC TV production.
Green Lantern: New Guardians #35 (Published by DC Comics; Review by David Pepose; 'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10): There's something about DC's new "Godhead" arc that is just bringing out the best in the Green Lantern titles. New Guardians is no exception, as Justin Jordan and Brad Walker spin a tale of action and betrayal. Jordan's plotting is his strong suit here, as he shakes up Kyle Rayner's status quo - we've seen this sort of zig-zag before when it comes to Oans, but it's a good enough excuse to let Brad Walker strut his stuff, creating a fight sequence that feels both disorienting and out-of-control. Kyle Rayner's had a history of instability before, and it's great to have the New Gods not be front and center this issue, but just the cause of the White Lantern's latest freak-out. This overlooked book is firing on all cylinders.
Daredevil #9 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Richard Gray; 'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10): Mark Waid’s superb Daredevil run has felt a little strange in San Francisco, as Matt Murdock and New York City have always gone hand-in-billy-clubbed-hand. The return of an old villain last issue gave DD his City by the Bay mojo, and the incredibly creepy Village of Damned purple children make for a set of classic horror foes. Smaller touches, like Matt’s ongoing relationship with the impeccably characterized Kirsten McDuffie, or a tight summary of the Man Without Fear’s tragic past, remind us why Waid is one of the finest writers to ever take on the character. Yet it is the art team of Chris Samnee and colorist Matthew Wilson who are the standout heroes of the issue, transitioning seamlessly from the brighter opening (both tonally and graphically), to a mind-splitting 10-panel grid that shows each of the children testing the limits of Murdock’s psyche. A magnificent piece of visual storytelling.
Batman Eternal #28 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Pierce Lydon; 'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): I always finds myself talking about the art of Eternal before anything else because in most cases, that’s what’s been making or breaking this series. Meghan Hetrick’s art is strong in this one. (Considerably stronger than her Joker’s Daughter issue.) Her expression work is emotive and perfectly on point but her action sequences could use improvement. Tim Seeley gets a chance to provide one of the more emotional moments in the series thus far, but his final page reveal fails to stick the landing because it’s information that most readers probably already know. This is another solid entry in this series, but I’m hoping that as we get closer to the end it starts to break through the glass ceiling it’s constructed for itself.
Amby Verce & the Ascenders #1 (Published by Comixology; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): An all-ages, female-led, fantasy, steampunk adventure? This sounds exactly like something many people have been asking for. Despite the text-heavy first page, which may turn off some readers because of too much backstory, writer Adron Buske does a fine job after to get right to the beginning of the story. We don’t know too much about the sibling duo, Amby and Edmund, which makes it hard to get behind them because we don’t know why they want what they want. Regardless, the world feels rich and artist Yashera Ames does well to bring this world to live visually. From the anthropomorphic animals to the two kids and the monsters, Ames has captured that fantasy and steampunk atmosphere. What will determine the future success of this series is whether or not more focus will be shifted on the characters instead of the plot.
Teen Titans #3 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Mocico; ‘Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): At least Beast Boy is green, right? The most frustrating thing about Teen Titans is that it feels like an older family member that’s desperately trying to be hip and cool to fit in with the times. The effort is there, but the execution just falls short. The issue kicks off with Raven at a concert — it just so happens that the band that’s playing was inspired by her. Writer Will Pfeifer doesn’t earn the coincidence and doesn’t use it to say anything particularly meaningful about Raven and the impact the Teen Titans have on the world. Though the visuals are dynamic in terms of character design and colors, they ultimately feel static and unmoving, like statues, which isn’t conducive to the story they’re trying to tell. It’s still unclear as to what defines this iteration of the Teen Titans and what’s driving the title at its core. Hopefully these villains introduced will be able to shed some light on that front.
Magneto #11 (Published by Marvel Comics; Review by Draven Katayama; 'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10): It is unfortunate that Cullen Bunn's excellent, isolated story must pause for Rick Remender's Axis event. Bunn starts with an unfamiliarly self-pitying Erik, who looks to Briar Raleigh to play priest in hearing his confessions. The underdeveloped Briar could have been more than the confidence boosting cheerleader to Erik's quarterback, but alas. An artistic highlight is when Jordie Bellaire colors Gabriel Hernandez Walta's video screens surrounding Erik with vibrant, blazing orange. Walta applies his signature shading to Erik's conference room, giving furnishings a tactile feel. Magneto #11 reads like we skipped over the end of Act 1 of Bunn's play, and into Remender's script. Axis' formulaic elements push Bunn, and Erik, out of his own story.
All Hallows Eve #1 (Published by Comixology; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10): Halloween is right around the corner, and the Devil and his servants are out for vengeance. All Hallows Eve #1 tells the story of one such servant seeking retribution for a young woman assaulted and killed by one of the wealthiest men in town. This self-contained story does well to turn us against the criminal and tie the supernatural aspects of the story to Halloween. The artwork by Dave Mims is one of the most compelling aspects of the issue: the hexagonal style of the art makes the feel of the piece seems edgier and sharper, which amplifies the dull tones of the colors and creates an eerie atmosphere throughout. Some people might be put off by the off-proportionality of the bodies and features, but it works, especially with the unique, almost scribble-like inks. Overall, this was a solid Halloween story that anyone looking for related material should give a look.
Futures End #24 (Published by DC Comics; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating: 2 out of 10): The real challenge for the weeklies is to balance the separate storylines and make sure we’re still given a full reading experience. This issue of Futures End is one the worst offenders in terms of not being able to appropriately balance between the storylines, because at the end of the issue you’ll feel unsatisfied with where each left off. What feels more like set-up for the next issue should have built tension and momentum only fell flat. It didn’t help that the art, done by Jesus Merino and Dan Green, felt too cartoonish compared to previous issues. This made it stand out, particularly in space, as campy and out of tone within the rest of Futures End. Despite this, we’re promised an explosive fight next issue, in most of the storylines; let’s hope, however, that the story doesn’t get lost in those fights.
Dumbing of Age, Vol. 3: Your Stupid Overconfidence is Nostalgic (Published by Comixology; Review by Michael Moccio; ‘Rama Rating 10 out of 10): This is hands-down one of the best comics available to read. Originally a webcomic — and still updated as one — Dumbing of Age is about a large, diverse cast of college students as they try to work their way through hormones, class and a mysterious vigilante on campus. Writer and artist David Willis masterfully handles this wide cast, making everyone visually and personally distinct. While there may not be anything innovative in terms of panel layout or perspective, the art makes the characters’ bodies look diverse — not everyone is skinny and muscular — and allows the story to flow smoothly. Volume 3 brings Family Weekend to the college, which Willis uses to show how much these characters have grown and how much people can change for the better during college. This is one of those comics that tries to be something more and succeeds, delivering powerful messages through incredibly accessible content.