Slam: The Next Jam #1
Written by Pamela Ribon
Art by Marina Julia and Marissa Louise
Lettering by Jim Campbell
Published by BOOM! Box
Review by C.K. Stewart
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Knockout and Can-Can are back for another round, but injuries and derby drama have swept them off their skates. Does their mended friendship mean Knockout’s derby days are over?
Pamela Ribon’s exploration of sports and sisterhood returns on Wednesday, an immediate follow-up to the events of the first four-issue run of Slam earlier this year. Slam: The Next Jam #1 opens with an injured Can-Can and Knockout on probation and facing potential expulsion from the Pushy Riots for ditching her teammates in a bout to take Can-Can to the hospital. Ribon’s personal experience shines through in the complicated exploration of interpersonal relationships in derby - the Pushy Riots’ harsh reaction to Knockout’s actions is harsh, and maybe a little exaggerated for narrative effect, but there is an incredibly strong sense of team and camaraderie in the derby community that can almost overwhelm your non-derby life.
Slam: The Next Jam #1 transitions returning readers effortlessly from fresh meat to rostered skater. There will be some context missing for folks checking the series out for the first time, though, particularly the amount of panel time spent with fresh meat skater Kristen. The shift in focus to new characters is excellent, and it’s fantastic to find out more about her, but she seems a little out of place if you aren’t familiar with the first miniseries (though it is already available in stores, if you need to catch up). It’s not a downside by any stretch, just something to know for anyone looking to check the series out for the first time - as the title implies, Slam: The Next Jam is a sequel rather than a stand-alone.
Also new to the series are illustrator Marina Julia and colorist Marissa Louise, whose distinct styles bring a fresh new vibe to the series. Both of their work seems softer and more muted, almost appropriately to the stark shift in the nature of Can-Can and Knockout’s relationship to each other and the team. Julia’s work lacks some of the urgency of the original series, particularly in the action scenes, but they bring a warmth to the more intimate, non-derby teams that highlights the often stark distinction between the raucousness of the derby scene and skaters’ often quieter but no less complicated “civilian” lives.
Marissa Louise maintains the vibrant palette of the original series, but brings a distinctly different coloring style that almost gives Slam a DIY vibe in the best way, particularly in the way she fills and highlights hair and clothing. Slam: The Next Jam seems more disheveled - Maisie/Can-Can’s hair is drawn a little messier, and Louise’s colors look as if they’ve been done by hand, lacking some of the glossy highlights of the first series. Julia and Louise do an excellent job keeping the issue visually consistent while refreshing it with their own unique styles, tied together by a returning Jim Campbell’s consistently excellent lettering.
It’s unfortunate that Slam wound up taking such a long absence, but Slam: The Next Jam #1 is a welcome return that doesn’t miss a beat, narratively or in terms of quality. There are few comics like Slam: The Next Jam #1 on the market, and much like the original series, this week’s debut might leave you itching to try out some skates of your own. (Or even officiate - shoutout to Wrathko!) Ribon’s passion for derby is evident, and Julia and Louise perfectly capture the vibrant, home-grown vibe that’s made roller derby of all varieties such a fast-growing sport across the world.
Written by Dan Watters
Art by Piotr Kowalski, Ronilson Freire, Brad Simpson and Greg Menzie
Lettering by Jonathan Stevenson
Published by Titan Comics
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
The politics of the Wolfenstein franchise have always been fairly unambiguous. William "B.J." Blazkowicz has served as a one-man army against the Nazis throughout much of the video game series, rarely pausing to ponder anything beyond where to do the most damage to the fascist forces. So it’s interesting that this new series rarely name-checks the goose-stepping menace, with the monolithic Regime representing all that is bad in this alternative history.
There’s a brief worry when the first two pages of a comic book are taken up with reams of text explaining the backstory, eliciting fears that this may not be a tale for the uninitiated. Such fears prove to be unsubstantiated as veteran video game adapter Dan Watters (Assassins Creed: Uprising, Dark Souls: Tales of Ember) makes a decent stab at world-building in the opening pages of this book.
Watters hits the ground running by introducing us to one of the last settlements of “genetic degenerates and dissidents.” This thread alone, and their subsequent attack by regime forces, would have been enough to keep an audience engaged. However, never one to rest on his laurels, Watters adds an underwater hunt for a castle you might recall, a strand of genetic testing, and a completely trippy mindscape that somehow relates to "Hyperion’s Song of Destiny."
Through it all, Kowalski and Freire’s art is a staple of excellence. From the opening page, a swirl of smoke creates a borderless montage that immerses us in this world. Far from being a monotonous series of shoot ‘em up pages, the environments range from the idyllic sanctuary to glorious subterranean caverns that look like woodblock sketches, something that Gustav Dore may have dreamed up for Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Of particular note are the hypercolor dream sequences of Herr Hartmann, a swirling morass of tentacles and insect creatures that segue into Lovecraftian territory. The fine shadow details, and the eclectic mix of tech and myth, go a long way towards giving us a visual reason to be hooked into this environment.
There’s no chance of claiming that you don’t get some bang for your extra bucks, with this 56-page story packing a lot in between its $5.99 cover price. There’s almost too much going on, pulling on the gaming mythology, that bit of Lovecraft and plenty of Easter eggs to keep the story afloat. It almost makes one wonder whether or not this does work as an introduction, or if we’re so deep behind enemy lines that we just have to keep moving or we’ll lose the plot entirely. Maybe we should take another look at those two pages of backstory.
Sheena: Queen of the Jungle #1
Written by Marguerite Bennett and Christina Trujillo
Art by Moritat, Dimi Macheras and Casey Silver
Lettering by Thomas Napolitano
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Review by Richard Gray
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
The character of Sheena Queen of the Jungle has a surprisingly long and illustrious career. Beating out Wonder Woman by a few years, she became the first female character to headline her own comic book title in 1937. Despite this, Jerry Iger and Will Eisner’s character is often seen as sexist and objectified due to her unique brand of clothing and various media appearances. In Dynamite’s new series, writers Marguerite Bennett and Christina Trujillo aim to update this. Well, at least some of it.
The narrative is simplicity itself, wasting little time in reintroducing the character to new and old readers alike. Somewhere deep in the Amazon, outside military forces have arrived intent on finding something of value to them. As the guardian and protector of the jungle, Sheena sees this as a threat to the natural balance of her home and seeks to put a stop to the invaders before it is too late.
Even with the rapid set-up, capably showing us that this Sheena is both calculating and athletic, a fair bit of time is spent establishing exactly why the soldiers are in the jungle, and who they are looking for. On the one hand, it’s nice to see a version of the character who is just as capable of diplomatic repartee as she is at hand-to-hand fighting. However, for a debut issue it occasionally feels like a long walk-up to a short payoff.
While Sheena’s attitude and demeanour may have received a much-needed upgrade, one glance at the J. Scott Campbell cheesecake cover is enough to know that the costuming has not. If anything, Sheena’s skimpy leopard skin outfit is even more impractical than ever and leaves little to the imagination. It’s difficult to justify it in 2017, 80 years after the character debuted, although it does fit with the rest of the Dynamite line.
The rest of Moritat, Macheras, and Silver’s art retains an earthiness to it, bathed in the browns and greens of the jungle and acting as a showcase for Sheena’s prowess as a warrior. There’s always a sense of motion to the panels, especially as the hero contorts herself into impossible angles as she swings her way through the Amazon.
Yet it is hard to quibble too much when the writing and art teams have delivered exactly what one would expect from a Sheena comic. It’s a no-frills enterprise with no alarms or surprises, but also incredibly fun in the process. It may not get you rethinking everything you ever knew about Sheena Queen of the Jungle, but it may just get you reading her again.