BOOM! Studios July 2017 cover
Credit: BOOM! Studios
Credit: Marvel Comics

Secret Empire #7
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Andrea Sorrentino, Rod Reis, Joshua Cassara and Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettering by Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
‘Rama Rating: 5 out of 10

“...I don’t see a killer.”

With Comic-Con International: San DIego in the rear view, Secret Empire rages on and as we draw nearer to the end the narrative does down a familiar path. Nick Spencer has reached that moment from Civil War II - Miles Morales holding a beaten and bloodied, presumably dead Captain America on the steps of the Capitol. The issue as a whole is a mixed bag - due mostly to the failure of the art team to deliver the script’s earnest character moments on his pages. For better or worse, Spencer packs those in, shedding light on Frank Castle’s role and Natasha’s motivations. While he definitely hits on a few expected tropes of this kind of story, it’s hard not to be at least partially enthralled by an event that has no clear cut outcome.

I’ll start this one out by beating the same old drum: three main artists per issue with one rotating out just doesn’t work. It really lends itself to the idea that what we’re seeing is somewhat untethered to anything we know about the Marvel Universe because everything is in such flux. But I don’t think it’s always working. Rod Reis’ work on the “dream world” scenes runs the gamut. From panel to panel, he’ll either deliver a strong illustration or his characters come across kinda wonky and awkward. Andrea Sorrentino is the kind of artist that puts style far above substance - and, unfortunately, readability. He’s not able to deliver on a big character moment for Carol Danvers because he draws his character’s faces like he’s a scattershot police sketch artist only hearing every third word of the description. You can’t try to sell readers on the emotional stakes of a story when the characters that they are supposed to be following look unrecognizable. While you’d think that fight scenes are where Sorrentino should be able to flex some muscle, too many panels are cropped in awkward ways and take a lot of the bite out of the fight scenes. You really have to dissect what’s going on in each panel to follow the action, but that runs counter to the fact that more panels usually means that they’re supposed to be read quickly. So instead of zippy, stylish fight scenes, you end up with clunky, plodding ones that hurt the overall pacing of the book.

For his part though, Joshua Cassara turns in some heart-wrenching stuff. I don’t love his character renderings throughout the his scenes but he absolutely nails the pacing. As it becomes clear what Black Widow’s plans are for Miles Morales and she looks straight ahead saying “I don’t see a killer,” Cassara really delivers the sadness and resolve of Black Widow’s decision. That one pages helps make a later moment feel a lot more real to readers but it also underlines the problem with Sorrentino’s art - tasked with the same scene, Sorentino’s lumpy figures wouldn’t be able to reach that level of emotional resonance.

Spencer’s circling the end of the story now, and as bad as it got for the Underground, we’re starting to see Caps’ Secret Empire barely holding it together as well. Spencer’s been trying to sell us on the idea of hope while only making things worse for our heroes and things are starting to turn the corner. I think a lot of the problem with this story so far is that stretching it out over 10 issues, it’s hard not to feel like you see the end coming. On some level, we do. We know a little bit about "Legacy" and Generations and what that might mean for the publishing line. But given the events of this issue? It’s a little hard to see how we’ll get there, and that’s exciting at least. Spencer’s character work with Black Widow and Miles Morales is especially good considering what both characters have been through. But I find it a little lacking elsewhere. Carol Danvers shouting Monica Rambeau down rang hollow because the art couldn’t sell it. And Frank Castle’s justification for joining up with Cap is the most basic examination of what motivates Frank as a character and kind of just chops him down to the same level as any hired goon. The highlight of Secret Empire is still the work Spencer did with Pym/Ultron is #4. It shows that there is room for deeper examination of these characters, but the absence of that examination can be glaring.

If Secret Empire can deliver on bringing its separate narrative threads together, it might end up being a satisfactory event. Multiple artists are really bringing down the flow of these issues but it’s really Sorrentino that’s the worst fit. Even the big moment at the end is a swing and a miss because Sorrentino doesn’t thrive with those big iconic splashes. But credit to Nick Spencer for at least removing some of the inevitability that was creeping in. Events are fun when you don’t feel like you know the ending! The last three issues looks to be a sprint to the finish but it’s unclear what path they’ll take and that’s promising.

Credit: DC Comics

Doom Patrol #7
Written by Gerard Way
Art by Michael Allred, Laura Allred and Nick Derington
Lettered by Todd Klein
Published by DC Comics
Review by Matthew Sibley
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

After a brief hiatus, Doom Patrol is recharged and back to simultaneously astound and boggle your mind, just like any issue entitled “Into the Scantoverse or Emotional Robots and Psychic Werewolves: A Doom Patrol Adventure” should. The sensibilities of Gerard Way’s first act were clearly indebted to Grant Morrison’s time on the series, and this single-issue story goes one step further, bringing Niles Caulder back in contact with the Doom Patrol, with a proposition in mind, curious if they’d like him to be their leader just like old times.

Way opens with an idea that’s become recurrent to his run, using a page of clear visual storytelling to illustrate what Niles has been up to - this time spying on the Doom Patrol at the mall. While previously a vignette, or an interlude, to the main story, here it becomes the inciting incident, furthering how the book has become more cohesive as it has progressed. As mentioned, he’s looking to run the team again, but this a different iteration to the one found within the pages of Morrison’s run, now a more tight-knit group comprised of Larry Trainor, Cliff Steele and newcomer Casey Brinke, not to mention how there’s now an entire place called Dannyland while he also manifests himself as an ambulance. Niles’ desire keeps the story moving and eventually reaches the point where the team heads to the Scantoverse - the dimension filled with creatures that come from the brain thinking bad ideas are good ones.

The core of this concept is explained within a panel while the characters walk and talk. This is the essence of Doom Patrol: “Here’s an oddball idea, got it? If yes then great, but if not do your best with it and everything else that gets thrown at you over the remainder of the issue.” This approach means that this issue feels like a weighty single unit of a comic book, bursting at the seams with ideas and ready to burst. The previous issues have felt like this as well, but the notion is amplified in this single-issue story.

Way presents a lot of ideas in 24 pages, and while the occasional explanation of his threatens to slow the momentum, his accomplices, Michael and Laura Allred as well as Todd Klein keep it moving at a brisk pace by keeping the layout of each page clean. Klein’s lettering seems as if it’s striving to fit into the negative space of each panel, obscuring as little detail as possible and the fact he does so while maintaining a flow from panel to panel, page to page is deservedly commendable. The Allreds are no strangers to the Young Animal imprint, currently working on Bug! The Adventures of Forager and they bring the same delightful Silver Age-esque vibe and aesthetic that can be found in that book to this. Even if this is your first encounter with the pair’s work, by the end of the issue, it’s fair to say that the pair can draw and color anything thrown at them and make it feel fully realised even with the brevity of the concept’s introduction. For how well their style works on Bug!, a more Jack Kirby-influenced tale, it might work even better here. The final couple of pages are drawn by regular artist Nick Derington and his work is just as alive as usual, giving the mundane a sense of vibrancy.

This issue isn’t wholly disconnected from the previous ones, continuing developments from that first arc, but it also serves as a perfect jumping-on point in terms of getting a feel for the tone of the series and the recently released trade will you allow newcomers to catch up should they like what they see here. As the flagship of Young Animal, it never forgets to demonstrate the core ethos of the imprint, wildly inventive throughout. There isn’t a corner of a panel that doesn’t feel like it’s got as much stuffed into it as possible. While other comes fall into repetitive narrative patterns or don’t do enough to distance themselves from the rest of the market, Doom Patrol laughs in the face of these potential stumbling blocks, outright gleeful with the sheer magnitude of ideas it chucks out each and every issue.

Credit: BOOM! Studios

Go Go Power Rangers #1
Written by Ryan Parrott
Art by Dan Mora and Raul Angulo
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by Kat Calamia
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Go Go Power Rangers focuses on the early days of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as the group must find a balance between being teenagers and superheroes. Go Go Power Rangers #1 is a great set up issue that establishes the team’s friendship while also portraying the characters as individuals.

The issue opens up with the team saving the world, something we’ve seen on screen many times in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers television show. But Go Go Power Rangers finds its unique identity by shifting to a plot point that was rarely seen on the TV show - what happens after the Power Rangers win the battle?

So of course the city is going to be in shambles after a giant Megazord and alien monster tango through the city’s streets, but after every episode of the Power Rangers TV show Angel Grove is magically fixed. This comic shows that there are consequences to these battles – not just for the city but also for the Rangers themselves.

Writer Ryan Parrott does a great job at capturing all of the voices of the Power Ranger team by giving them an equal amount of panel time. He shows that all their lives are being affected by their super heroics. This is shown from Trini and Billy’s parents being overprotective to Jason not having a social life.

Parrott also adds a new voice to the mix - Kimberly’s boyfriend, Matthew Cook. His involvement is the most interesting plot point of the issue because he’s a wild card. He’s a new character created for this comic series, and Matthew brings some great internal conflict for Kimberly’s character. Kimberly wants to be a normal teenage girl and make out with her boyfriend, but her responsibility as a hero creates some distance between the two. This plot showed the true consequences of living a double life as a Power Ranger that the TV program never had a chance to touch upon.

As the issue builds upon the Rangers’ civilian life, Parrott also shows Rita creating a new devious plan. The transitions from the Power Rangers lives to this storyline is jarring at times, but her storyline makes for a creative cliffhanger that weaves in perfectly with the Power Rangers not just as heroes, but as people.

This cliffhanger shows that the Power Rangers aren’t great at keeping their identities a secret. They don’t call each other the Red Ranger, the Pink Ranger, for example - they communicate with each other by using their actual names when in costume. This is a thread that was ignored by the original TV show that I’m thankful that Go Go Power Rangers is finally exploring.

Dan Mora’s artwork is a great fit for this more laid-back Power Rangers series. The script and art has a nice balance between Ranger action and character work, and Mora aces both of these realms through his pencils. Mora’s work is cartoony and expressive, but doesn’t lack the necessary detail through the variety of settings Parrott uses within this issue. Raul Angulo on colors is the perfect collaborator for Mora’s art style. The colors are bright during the civilian scenes, but moody during Rita’s villainous space monologues, which creates for a nice visual balance for the comic.

Go Go Power Rangers is a breath of fresh air for fans looking for a more lighthearted, but still serious Power Rangers series. BOOM!’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers story centers on building the mythology of the original team, whereas this new title is more about building the characters - proving that there is room for two Power Rangers ongoing series.

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