Justice League #21
Credit: Jae Lee (DC)
Credit: IDW Publishing

Marvel Action: Black Panther #1
Written by Kyle Baker
Art by Juan Samu and David Garcia Cruz
Lettering by Tom B. Long
Published by IDW Publishing
Review by C.K. Stewart
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

If you’re a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and itching to get into the comic books, look no farther than IDW Publishing. As strange as it sounds, IDW’s recent forays into the Marvel universe have been solid introductions to some of Marvel’s most popular characters, and this week’s Marvel Action: Black Panther #1 is no different. The series drops you right into a Black Panther story that feels comfortably similar to the vibe of the Black Panther film, no prior Marvel knowledge of the character required. It’s a fun, light read for new-to-comics readers of all ages.

The Wakanda of Marvel Action: Black Panther #1 is a city on the move, in its own way - as ever a technological marvel, Wakanda is celebrating new advances in vibranium mining that have allowed the country to produce more than ever before. Unfortunately for King T’Challa, the nation isn’t given much time to reap the benefits of its latest advances: it’s facing unprecedented and bizarre natural disasters with devastating consequences that even the Black Panther may not be able to prevent.

While plot feels a little predictable going in, but it’s writer Kyle Baker’s excellent grasp of the dynamic between T’Challa and Shuri that makes this book something special. Their conversations, particularly the urgency of T’Challa and Shuri discussing deadly phenomena that even Shuri may not be able to stop, heightens everything about the script. It’s more dramatic, more fun, more heartfelt; if you loved watching Chadwick Boseman and Letitia Wright’s back-and-forth on the big screen, you’ll love what Baker does here, with an assist from some excellent Shuri faces from artist Juan Samu. There’s such a specific vibe to the joy of dunking on your older sibling, and they capture it perfectly.

The art feels a little inconsistent overall - there are some times when the palette gets too busy, with red overlays that seem to be added for dramatic effect instead making the transition from moment to moment oddly jarring. In general Samu does a stellar job with nail-biter action scenes, though, and there are pages at the end where Samu and colorist David Garcia Cruz nail an absolutely gorgeous and almost menacing sort of tech noir vibe that feels perfectly suited to the mystery Baker has begun to weave in this debut issue.

It’s still a little weird to see Marvel characters under the IDW label, but the strength of the previous titles and of Marvel Action: Black Panther #1 prove it was a great decision. For all the excellent Black Panther titles on the stands, this stand-alone title is easily one of the most new-reader friendly, and Baker, Samu, and Cruz offer an intriguing and thrilling introduction to the world of Black Panther comic books that any reader is sure to enjoy.

Credit: Jorge Jimenez (DC)

Justice League #21
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Jorge Jimenez and Alejandro Sanchez
Lettering by Tom Napolitano
Published by DC Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

“We’re losing. We have to face it. The stakes... They’re just too high. But we keep clinging to what...?”

The most frustrating superhero comic books from a fan perspective (not necessarily from a craft one) are the ones that present seemingly new ideas before playing it safe and falling back on familiar tropes in order to return everything to a recognizable status quo. If you’re saying to yourself, “Well, doesn’t that just describe all superhero comic books?” then you’re not wrong. But superhero comic books aren’t just about saving the day - we’re usually pretty certain that the good guys are going to win - and it’s not necessarily always even about how they turn the tables on the villains. Good superhero comic bookss challenge their heroes with meaningful character moments that can shift an audience’s perspective of that character and even their outlook. Thankfully, Scott Snyder and Jorge Jimenez’ third installation of “The Sixth Dimension” is firmly in the 'Good Superhero Comics' camp, as this is quickly shaping up to be one of Snyder’s best arcs.

What can be said about Jorge Jimenez’s art that hasn’t been said already? It’s getting to the point where it’s getting hard to keep heaping praise on the man, but I’ll try. This is a truly inspired issue all around. Desperation oozes from the opening sequence between Superman and his future counterpart as our hero will do just about anything to put down his opponent. But the older Superman’s nonchalance comes through as well, and Jimenez moves us through those three pages with ease despite some non-traditional paneling. As the story opens up, colorist Alejandro Sanchez leans into the details of each scene with some really sublime light decisions. My personal favorite: the subtle shadows on Bruce and Dick’s faces and bodies as they sit underneath a tree and light peeks through the foliage. The art needs to sell us on this utopia, and Jimenez and Sanchez are able to sync up with that idea easily. But as the tone shifts, Jimenez proves that his expression work is his greatest strength, lending a lot of energy to what might be a much more dull exposition sequence in the hands of another artist. DC and Scott Snyder are lucky to have this guy.

But Snyder isn’t content to rest on his laurels, either. He builds up the threat of the World Forger and shows how it’s connected to the Source Wall breaking. Meanwhile, he gets his meta on as Mr. Mxyzptlk begins to unimagine reality elsewhere in the multiverse. But what I said about good superhero comic books rings especially true in this issue. After a conversation with Dick Grayson about how Gotham has changed for the better, Batman finds himself at odds with the rest of the League. If losing Superman means that this utopia comes to pass, who are they to stop the World Forger? At first, it feels like it runs counter to who Batman is - I mean, would Batman be content with losing? - but upon further inspection, it’s clear that Batman isn’t making this decision, Bruce Wayne is. The man who is father figure to so many has gotten to finally see the fruits of his labor. He’s been told by his son that everything works out okay. And when faced with the chance to end the suffering of so many, he wants to take that. Because Bruce Wayne isn’t a superhero. He’s human. And that’s what Snyder nails in this issue.

It’s easy for superhero comic books to rehash the same plotlines and villains and churn out entertaining but somewhat empty stories. The best creators can do that with ease. But to be able to touch on something relatably human in a story filled with gods and monsters is a special skill. With a hearty assist from Jimenez’s art, Snyder gets to that place, and I can’t wait to see where “The Sixth Dimension” goes next.

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