Occupy Avengers #9
Written by David Walker
Art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Jordie Bellaire
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
Published by DC Comics
Review by Matthew Sibley
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
While it may have seemed unusual to name Occupy Avengers years after protests utilizing that name had subsided, David Walker’s focus on showing superheroes standing up for the little guy has resulted in a fitting story that has managed to outweigh the sense of being outdated. That focus on feeling inherently political has served this series well during Secret Empire, leaning heavily into politics in an unflinching manner, showcasing Hydra for who they truly are. In just two issues of tie-ins, it has managed to say more than many other books have attempted to, showcasing how it is possible to make something great from a less-than-stellar context.
While the book started as Hawkeye setting out for middle America, trying to make sense of everything that led to him killing the Hulk in Civil War II, it grew to encompass a greater array of heroes. Over time, the Fireheart Cousins, Red Wolf, Wheels Wolinski, and Tilda Johnson - a friend of Nighthawk - joined the cause and now, in the wake of Steve Rogers’ takeover of the country, it has fallen to them to make a cross-country journey to one of Nick Fury’s old bunkers, where they hope to find munitions to retake control of the food supply that the citizens of the Marvel Universe desperately need. It’s a dangerous job, but a highly necessary one to help the people living under an oppressive rule where the regime doesn’t particularly care whether they live or die.
They were already in the heart of the country and this issue picks up with them in the thick of it, with these Avengers fighting for not only their lives, but the lives of others. Artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta opts for using two-page spreads to kick off this action scene and a later one. His use of them is necessary in showing how big these conflicts are. These aren’t fights between a lone hero and a mugger in an alleyway, but about a group of people fighting for their survival against a swathe of Hydra, whose red and black uniforms create the effect of a wall closing in. And there’s a lot of people in this book. Walta might not draw panels where every character in them has an intently detailed design, but the sheer depth of the panels produced by him and colorist Jordie Bellaire succeed in providing enough detail to show these people as the opposite of a homogenous mass, instead representing an array of men and women, of different races, hair styles and body types.
Walker’s script shines in conveying how fraught the situation is, but still allowing for humor in the moments where the danger has briefly eased. This is a team that has gradually grown together, and that bond is both evident and strong on the surface, resulting in a certain fist-pumping quality that comes from seeing them claim the smaller victories, even when there’s no end to the larger fight in sight - kicking one fascist into the ground might not be enough to bring this all to a close, but at the same time, seeing it happen feels pretty good. Again, this feeling is partially due to Walta and Bellaire, an art team who escalated an already good book into something great.
Comic books are static, panels work as single moments, but there’s a sense of motion in their work. It’s clear how characters moved to reach the position in the current panel and where they’re heading next. This dynamic art in combination with Walker’s kinetic and resonant script does enough to ensure that the comic flows even as characters travel a great distance in a scene transition, but you’ll also realise once you come to the final page, that they’ve done enough to ensure that even if Occupy Avengers comes to a close in that moment, it’s not the end. The fight goes on and there’s a good chance we can win. Together.
Batman Beyond #10
Written by Dan Jurgens
Art by Bernard Chang and Marcelo Maiolo
Lettering by Travis Lanham
Published by DC Comics
Review by Joey Edsall
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Batman Beyond #10 is a strange one. In most other comic books, the title is intrinsic to the character. When an issue of Spider-Man or Superman deviates from its central hero protagonist, even if it is essential for the story being told, the issue feels like an outlier. Those are titles that are irrevocably linked to the character’s they represent. Batman Beyond always has existed in a different narrative environment. While Terry McGinnis is no doubt the main protagonist of the title and is, in fact, Batman, the title isn’t as linked to the character as other Big Two titles are to their characters. Instead, Batman Beyond has always been synonymous with setting and themes. Because of this, when Batman Beyond #10 puts Terry on the backburner and focuses almost exclusively on not just Bruce and Damian Wayne, but both of those men's’ relationships to one another and the title of ‘Batman’, nothing seems out of place. This is a Batman Beyond issue doing what this series is uniquely capable of among DC’s line-up.
The issue picks up where the previous one left off, but where the previous issue was heavy on both action and tension related to that action, this issue milks its tension from the characters simply being themselves, with one exception. A suitless Damian has bested Terry as the former reveals his al Ghul legacy to Bruce Wayne. Despite Bruce knowing for years that his estranged son has been on a certain path following some debatable influence from the prototype batsuit, Bruce is convinced that he can reason with Damian. What makes their dialogue most interesting is how sympathetic Damian comes across while also being completely in the wrong. Damian’s actions are awful, but his motivation is arguably forgivable. Damian is responsible for his own actions, but Bruce Wayne was never a good father to him, and certainly not in the way that he seems to be with Terry, possibly seeking to make things up.
The exception to this is, surprisingly, Terry. While Damian’s role in Earth-12 is adequately defined and Bruce’s relationship to both his biological and proxy son are thoroughly examined, Terry’s feeling towards the two is largely left to, at best, implication. This could be a result of the prototype suit, which Bruce’s dialogue makes feel like the real antagonist of the arc, but the way that the suit overrides and eventually overwrites its hosts personality and tendencies is left vague and incomplete, which is disappointing considering the potential that that particular narrative thread has. As it stands, the few parts of the comic involving Terry feel tacked on and weaker in relation to the impressive strength of the Bruce and Damian dynamic.
Bernard Chang’s art is dynamic and equally adept at portraying action and slower segments. The artwork of the characters in particular is strong in this issue. This isn’t surprising given the quality of his work since joining the title in 2015. In the action scenes that are in this issue, Chang is effective at showing the acrobatics of the characters involved. Marcelo Maiolo’s coloring throughout the arc has also been noteworthy, as leaving Gotham has given him more opportunity to play with natural lighting in the panels, and combining that lighting with the artificial, technology driven lighting leaves readers with compelling images.
It’s hard to not hope that Damian somehow escapes following the conclusion of this arc next month. Writer Dan Jurgens has done such an impressive job not only characterizing him, but of making his relationship with Bruce and Terry have one of the more interesting dynamics between any characters this summer. There seems to be a lot on the table and a lot left unsaid that won’t be easily wrapped up in the next issue. This has been one of the strongest arcs of Batman Beyond and this dialogue-heavy issue makes it easy to see why, just as the art team makes it easy and pleasing to pour through the panels.
Written by Katie Schenkel
Art by Cal Moray
Lettering by Tom Napolitano
Published by Space Goat Publishing
Review by C.K. Stewart
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Dog washing, entrance exams, were-corgis: Moonlighters #3 has it all. Out last week from Space Goat Publishing, Moonlighters is a charming young adult title that blends a healthy serving of comedy with a dash of mystery to create a spell-binding supernatural tale that’s sure to bewitch you. The titular Moonlighters are a pack of young college students - Felipe, Meg, Sue - who pay their way through school as a supernatural pack of all trades. Your familiar up a tree? Call the Moonlighters. Cerberus need a bath? Call the Moonlighters. Get bitten by a werewolf? Call the Moonlighters.
That’s exactly how newcomer Renee found herself as a part of the pack, and writer Katie Schenkel does an excellent job weaving the mystery of the werewolf who turned Renee through the light-hearted comedy of the Moonlighters’ odd jobs. In Moonlighters, Schenkel turns the monster-of-the-week trope on its head, introducing witches, gnomes, trolls, and in this issue, a grimy, grungy Cerberus not just as monsters to be defeated, but as clients. The good humor of the writing and the playfulness of Cal Moray’s artwork make this a fantastic choice for young readers; the book is just fun to read from start to finish, with just enough surprises and emotional levels to keep the book engaging.
Moray’s artwork is perfectly suited to the playful premise - you can’t help but smile at a sweater-wearing werecorgi sprinting after a grinning cerberus, and the way Moray colors the were transformation sequences has a glittering magical girl vibe that adds a touch of flair without going overboard. The Sailor Corgi page sequence in particular in this issue is one of the cutest pages of the series, and shows off Moray’s strong eye for page layouts. As sweet as most of the art is, Moray has an eye for the truly spooky too; when Renee loses control of her transformation Moray portrays her as a more traditional and genuinely intimidating werewolf against a deep purple gradient that evokes a more familiar horror film vibe. Letterer Tom Napolitano does solid work throughout, with clever little sound effects scattered throughout and dialogue laid out in a way that will make it easy for young readers to follow along.
If you’re in the market for a sweet read that will make you smile, Moonlighters is the book for you. Moonlighters #3 introduces a new twist in the mystery of Renee’s werewolf transformation and the supernatural realm the Moonlighters inhabit. There’s enough going on to keep you curious about the world Schenkel and Moray have created, and Schenkel does a solid job expanding the magical universe through casual details without each issue getting too deeply bogged down in expository world-building. If you enjoyed Power Up! or Zodiac Starforce, Moonlighters #3 is right up your alley, and worth checking out on Comixology today.
The Wendy Project
Written by Melissa Jane Osborne
Art by Veronica Fish
Published by Emet Comics, Super Genius
Review by C.K. Stewart
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
Veronica Fish is an artistic revelation in The Wendy Project, out last week from Papercutz imprint Super Genius. Writer Melissa Jane Osborne has created a compelling and profound exploration of grief and trauma in this curious interpretation of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, but it’s Fish who turns the graphic novel into a can’t miss work of art.
Osborne’s graphic novel debut follows Wendy Davies, a young high school student who loses one of her younger brothers in a tragic car accident where she was behind the wheel. Osborne frames The Wendy Project as a diary, both written and illustrated by Wendy herself in the course of her parent-mandated therapy, and Osborne perfectly captures both the gut-wrenching misery of losing a family member and the added layer of turmoil that comes from being forced to work through profound tragedy during one of the most emotionally tumultuous times of our lives: high school.
Osborne and Fish make The Wendy Project hauntingly, heart-breakingly melancholy from start to finish. Lettered beautifully by Fish and rendered largely in black and white with stunning spot colors, Fish does an impeccable job making sure each page feels taken straight from Wendy’s diary. Fish’s spot colors are done in gloomy, eerie water colors that drip across the page or in thick strokes of crayon that evoke images of a young girl desperate to work through her grief with whatever tools she finds at hand. The rare flashes of color, the ghostly depiction of Wendy’s lost brother Michael in soft reds and blues, capture the surreal and strange twists Wendy takes from the very real world of her struggling family to the visions she has of her brother, lost but alive, waiting for Wendy to find him and bring him home.
Osborne gives no clear indication about whether or not Wendy’s story is real, or wholly a product of her trauma, and handles Wendy’s experiences with a care and thoughtfulness that give full weight to the fragile emotional state of a traumatized young woman. It could be a dream, or real; the events that give Wendy the closure she needs at the end of her diary could be coincidence, or caused by her actions. Osborne never casts Wendy as simply “troubled” or worse yet, “crazy,” someone broken who just needs a simple and straightforward fix: instead, Osborne and Fish tackle the grim reality of working through a tragedy you may have had a hand and acknowledge both the need to grieve on your own terms and the harm your refusal to allow yourself to go through the process of grieving can take on those around you, whether or not they are grieving as well.
The Wendy Project is a strange and beautiful read with an emotional weight some might find surprising from an all-ages publisher like Papercutz, but Osborne and Fish handle the material in a way that allows Wendy to feel authentically youthful and trusts that young adult readers are fully capable of reading and processing profoundly difficult emotional material, through their capacity for empathy or direct personal experiences with similar tragedy. Osborne and Fish’s interpretation of Peter Pan evokes the original inspiration for J.M. Barrie’s iconic work - the loss of a sibling - and fully capitalizes on some of the more unsettling elements of Neverland in a way that makes it a perfect vehicle to explore such gripping material.
The fleeting moments where Fish, channeling Wendy, illustrates Wendy and those around her as figures from Peter Pan add to the novel’s mystery and the uncertainty of Wendy’s emotional state. The moments Wendy gets to spend with her brother Michael are as heart-warming as they are tragic; as Wendy comes to realize there’s no turning back from the events that tore her family apart, she is forced to realize that regardless of what’s “real,” it’s ultimately better for both her and both of her brothers that she let go and accept what’s come to pass in Neverland.
There are few other comics on the market today as visually stunning as The Wendy Project. Fish is an incredible illustrator, and Osborne has provided her with compelling, rich material with which to create a gorgeously illustrated world that manages to be deeply emotional in even the simplest panels. It would be a gift to see Osborne and Fish reunite for similarly innovative and moving interpretations of other classic tales - there are a number of creators whose work modernizes well-known archetypes and tropes with success, but of this genre, The Wendy Project is truly one of a kind.