Best Shots Reviews: MIGHTY THOR #706, BATMAN & THE SIGNAL #3, HUNT FOR WOLVERINE #1

"Mighty Thor #706" preview
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

The Mighty Thor #706
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson
Lettering by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Joey Edsall
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

The twilight of Jane Foster’s tenure as The Mighty Thor has been an interesting inverse of a Christ narrative, with Jane instead being a mortal dying for the sake of the gods of Asgard, specifically because Jane’s last stand only came as a result of Odin’s sins. But the monstrous Mangog is not the subject of The Mighty Thor #706, as the final issue of Jane Foster’s run with Mjolnir is far more concerned with Jane’s death, resurrection, and impact than it is with the usual Marvel superheroics. While Jason Aaron’s script plays things a bit safe, and the art team of artist Russell Dauterman and colorist Matthew Wilson are sometimes maximalistic to the point of overload, the comic has a sense of finality and of an era ending that harkens back Jonathan Hickman’s conclusion to Secret Wars, and one which feels worthy of the six years spent leading up to it.

One of the opening scenes of the comic is Odinson and company standing over Jane’s emaciated and lifeless frame as Heimdall mutters: “She is gone. The Goddess of Thunder is dead.” The dialogue hits like a blow from a hammer when paired with one of Dauterman’s best panels. Just like the previous issue, which ended with a panel referencing Michelangelo’s Pieta, Jane’s first appearance in The Mighty Thor #706 shows her in the cloth-like hospital gown, arms slightly to the side of her body and her palms facing the reader. The placement of her body and the detail to her bones and muscles make it impossible to not see the panel as a similar reference to religious art of the Renaissance. The comic then cuts to a full-health, thick-haired Jane at the gates of Valhalla, where she is confronted by Odin. As the Allfather confronts her with all of her actions and his anger subsides to gratitude, Dauterman’s skill in drawing faces operates in tandem with Wilson’s color work, which adds a greater sense of texture to the art and gives it a dynamic sense of lighting. These scenes also see the panel layout at some of their most straightforward, which undeniably works to the scene’s benefit. There is a serenity in crossing over that Thor deserves.

This is in stark contrast to the wildly chaotic layout of the scenes in which Odinson attempts to harness the raging Mother Storm to resurrect the fallen Thor. The storm, readers learn, is the heart of Mjolnir, furiously unleashed on the world since the hammer was thrust into the sun. The Christ allegory is laid on a little heavy here, as the human who died in self-sacrifice is brought back to life by the source of the godly power that she wielded previously, but Aaron is a great storyteller, making something that might be a by-the-books conclusion feel special with Odinson’s shouting of “She has thunder in her veins!” as he attempts to channel the storm into her. There is a visual cacophony during this climax, as the straightforward land of the dead panels swirl with the jagged and abstract layouts of Asgard. It’s visually impressive but also feels like an overload of visual stimulation. There’s just so much going on that it becomes a little difficult to process the art with the dialogue.

Is it a playing safe to revive Jane and have her personally grant Odinson worthiness? A little, but the former plays into the mythlike structure of Jane’s arc, and the latter is the only logical outcome when playing that story as straight as Aaron chooses to do. Still, there’s a sincerity to the storytelling and a grandiose feel to everything that the book feels important and the events feel like they have lasting consequence, thanks in no small part to the foreshadowing of Aaron’s plans for Thor’s return in July, one which promises “very many hammers,” and one which invokes readers’ memories of the ominous dwarven blacksmith openings of Infinity Countdown. It’s a tightly written script for both Jane and Odinson, and since the title corresponds to a mantle and not an individual, it seems appropriate for this transitional issue.

The comic as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and while those part can sometimes include a straightforward story with disorienting art, those parts also include several moments that are genuinely brilliant and create a sense of a story being told in a uniquely comic book sort of way. When the dust settles and the storms subside, it’s hard to not feel misty-eyed at a comic that shows Jane Foster’s body broken in its opening moments, only to show a final splash of a superimposed image of Thor in her mighty glory over a cosmic spacescape, with the resurrected but still cancer-ridden Jane looking up — herself standing somewhere between those two images. As Thor, Jane Foster was mighty and worthy. As she relinquishes the power of a god at the conclusion of an impressively consistent run of a writer and an art team, she still is.

Credit: DC Comics

Batman and the Signal #3
Written by Tony Patrick with Scott Snyder
Art by Cully Hamner and Laura Martin
Lettering by Deron Bennett
Published by DC Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

One of the more welcome developments of Dark Nights: Metal has been Duke Thomas getting a codename and a more defined role in the DC Universe. His power set is interesting enough to give writers something new to play with and he adds a new dynamic to the Bat-Family. The story that Tony Patrick and Scott Snyder give us with Batman and the Signal is a bit rote, but it works as a foundational element for the character and that’s really what this miniseries is: a base. Cully Hamner’s art works in tandem with that tone, delivering a sensibility that will stand the test of time.

Patrick and Snyder do a good job of wrapping up this miniseries pretty succinctly while still leaving a lot of threads for continuing Duke’s story. Admittedly, though, some of the dialogue is a little overwrought. Batman lays out exactly who Duke is in one line: “You’re a metahuman hero forged in shadows who can crack the codes of daytime.” It works on some level, but that doesn’t mean it’s not cheesy, and that’s a lot of the book. While it plays with some of the themes and ideas from Metal, there’s a certain superhero familiarity to it all. Duke has a lot in common with Bruce Wayne, and Gnomon is essentially revealed as Duke’s Darth Vader, but the book really isn’t trying to do more than ground the character in something a bit less fleeting than his various appearances since 2015. Because of the connection to Batman, it feels more effective than some of the rest of DC’s New Age of Heroes. But on some level, I think what works for it is also what holds it back. This is a bit of a boilerplate superhero story when there was the chance to take a swing and do something new.

Cully Hamner’s art works very well for this tone of this title, this creative team and these characters. Hamner’s not afraid to back up his blacks and the inks work so well to provide contrast against the yellows that are all over this book. Meanwhile, Laura Martin’s coloring is outstanding. In the same way that the story provides a foundation for Duke, the art here provides a base look and body language for him that should be the guide for future artists. The character work gives his supporting cast more depth and the acting that Hamner has his characters do really supports the script. There are some minor slip-ups when it comes to choice of angle within a panel but they aren’t enough to really detract from the flow of the story. This is a very strong outing by Hamner and Martin.

Batman and the Signal isn’t going to set the world on fire, but it’s a solid superhero story. It’s the kind of book you might give someone who needs a little bit of a palate cleanser from capes with too many overarching plots or characters to keep track of it. Patrick’s script leans in a little bit on superhero tropes to find the footing for Duke Thomas, but that’s not the worst thing considering his powers allow Duke to do some detective work that Batman can’t as easily. Hamner and Martin do their best to backup Patrick’s script, making it clear that though Batman is in the title, this is the Signal’s book, and you can tell just by looking at it.

Credit: Marvel Comics

The Hunt for Wolverine #1
Written by Charles Soule
Art by David Marquez, Paolo Siquiera, Walden Wong, Rachelle Rosenberg and Ruth Redmond
Lettering by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

He was the man of adamantium. He had a warrior’s ferocity, with a healing factor that once brought him back from a single drop of blood. But can even Wolverine claw his way back from death itself? That’s the question that continues to be teased in The Hunt for Wolverine #1, which follows Logan’s colleagues in the X-Men as they soon discover that reports of the ol’ Canucklehead’s demise might have been exaggerated.

In a lot of ways, The Hunt for Wolverine feels like particularly strong X-Men boilerplate, as Charles Soule pits the Children of the Atom against the cyborg killers known as the Reavers. The plot is simple — the Reavers are after Wolverine’s corpse — but the action feels straight out of classic Claremont, with Soule giving Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler a fun team-up, while Colossus looms large as the X-Man to beat on the battlefield.

That said, the series can’t help but make some fairly smart characters look a little bit foolish — there’s a reason why Logan’s body isn’t in its adamantium statue anymore that feels like a total no-brainer, but the fact that both the X-Men and the Reavers wind up losing Logan’s body just makes both teams seem incompetent. It’s understandable, given that Soule is teeing up the mystery of Logan’s disappearance for a whole set of miniseries — a gambit which will likely result in diminishing returns soon enough — but once you get past the action, the actual substance of the book already feels a little thin.

The Hunt for Wolverine also proves to be a strange outing for artist David Marquez. Marquez is still dynamite when it comes to close-ups — he’s got such a clean line that his characters always look classic and fresh — but this issue feels primarily composed at a distance. While that makes sense for big team shots, that also means that few of the characters get an effective introduction, particularly the Reavers, whose designs might not be recognizable for many readers (with even Bonebreaker’s eclectic design often getting cut off in panels). There’s also something about his inking, combined with colorist Rachelle Rosenberg — at times there’s a hint of a Gerry Alanquinlan inking style here that makes Marquez look just a little bit off. That said, Marquez still delivers some eye-catching panels, particularly a threatening one of Colossus looming amongst some flaming rubble.

Soule’s backup story, featuring Kitty going to other corners of the Marvel Universe for assistance, is also somewhat of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it makes sense from a corporate synergistic perspective to make the return of Wolverine a line-wide event, especially since Logan has spent his latter years as both an X-Man and an Avenger — but it can’t help but diminish the X-Men a bit to not consider this a family matter of the highest importance, to instead immediately reach out to characters like Tony Stark and Daredevil for assistance. There are some cute beats here, however — Soule positioning Kitty Pryde as the X-Man most dangerous to the technology-loving Stark is an inspired move — and Paolo Siquiera’s artwork looks solid, but it feels less like its own story and more of a tease to the other spinoff titles coming out of this event.

In certain ways, The Hunt for Wolverine feels a lot like Soule’s work in The Death of Wolverine — we already know the end is coming, and after months of “post-credit” scenes in the comics, we already know Logan has been walking around, sporting an Infinity Stone no less. But while Soule is certainly leaning into the fan-service with his action sequences, he still hasn’t quite cracked that spark, that new twist that would make this series a surprise, let alone a must-read. Thanks to his high concepts and working with artists like Marquez and Siquiera, The Hunt for Wolverine will likely appeal to readers just on sheer execution, even if we’re only clawing at the surface how far this concept could truly go.

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