Greetings, ‘Rama readers! Pierce Lydon here! Best Shots captain David Pepose is flying high over purple mountain majesties and amber waves so I’m filling in. We’ve got two books in the column today and we’ll kick things off with my look at the inevitable hero of this week’s Avengers: Endgame in Thanos #1.
Written by Tini Howard
Art by Ariel Olivetti and Antonio Fabela
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Despite Thanos’ ubiquity over the last few years, he’s a still a character who is shrouded in a lot of mystery. We’ve seen bits of his early life. We’ve seen him wreak havoc on the Marvel Universe. And we’ve even seen him die. But what secrets does the Mad Titan keep? On some level, that’s what Tini Howard and Ariel Olivetti are setting out to explore with their new Thanos limited series. Told from Gamora’s point of view, readers get some unique insight into Thanos’ more vulnerable moments or at least that’s the plan. The book stumbles a little bit out of the gate due to Howard’s decompressed storytelling more than anything else but provides a solid hook for readers who want to explore more of Thanos’ mythology.
Despite Gamora telling this story, she’s not much of the focus in this opening issue. Instead, Howard takes the time to set up the events that will lead to Thanos finding his adopted daughter and explains part of the reason why a character so obsessed with death doesn’t just kill her outright. But it takes a while to get there and the thrust of the story really loses steam. We almost watch the same exact events play out twice after being told that these events have played out before and feels like the story spins its wheels to meet the larger page count rather than move forward with the elements of the story. Howard is skilled with dialogue though and even characters that aren’t long for the book get a couple of fun lines in before meeting their end. The most amorphous thing about the book is really Thanos’ motivations and goals. While he obsession with Death is obviously a major motivator, we’ve yet to go deeper. The final page reveal gives us a little more and helps understand why we’re hearing this story. But it’s fair to say that Howard hasn’t yet found told us yet what is unique about her take on Thanos.
Ariel Olivetti turns in an interesting issue. He’s always been a skilled artist who I’ve had a soft spot for since his work on Cable. The overly rendered 3-D look of that book has been gone for a few years though but he’s not lost his effectiveness at turning in well-proportioned characters. The more natural approach to his linework and inking gives the book’s expression a lot more weight. Though (and maybe this is a function of Gamora’s memory in retelling this story) the Mad Titan himself doesn’t seem to be quite the imposing figure that we know him to be, especially considering some of Olivetti’s clothing choices for him, including a white deep V-neck t-shirt with a kind of cowl neck scarf collar. It’s a weird choice. But I like Olivetti's visual storytelling choices and I like how his linework plays down some of the brutality on display here. Since Gamora’s the one telling the story, violence would seem to be a pretty normal occurence to her. Olivetti never lingers on these moments and almost makes them seem drab in comparison to the revelations we get about the characters. That’s a bold choice.
Thanos #1 suffers from taking a bit too much time setting things up and repeating story beats in order to drive them home rather than pushing forward with the narrative but it’s not a bad comic by any stretch. I like Olivetti’s work here and I look forward to seeing how this father-daughter relationship is explored visually in comparison to his work on Cable. Obviously, Marvel must feel they really have something here to release this a day before Avengers: Endgame hits theaters so if that’s not a vote of confidence in Howard’s, I don’t know what is. And I’m willing to give a solid if somewhat imperfect book another shot considering that’s the case.
Star Trek: Year Five #1
Written by Jackson Lanzing & Colin Kelly
Art by Stephen Thompson and Charlie Kirchoff
Lettering by Neil Uyetake
Published by IDW Publishing
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Captain Kirk and his crew experience a tense “final” mission in the debut of IDW’s Star Trek: Year Five. Shepherded by a full writer’s room, one that includes the team handling this debut, as well as Jody Houser, Jim McCann, and Brandon Easton, this new series looks to tell the “untold tales” that took place during the final year of the U.S.S. Enterprise’s famous five-year mission. Starting with a tense exploration into Tholian space provided by Jackson Lanzing and Colin Kelly. Though I worry that the pair’s canny references to previous “missions” from the original series might be a bit too inside baseball for casual readers, this first issue is an objectively solid opening Trek story. Couple that solidity with the screen accurate art and emboldened colors of Stephen Thompson and Charlie Kirchoff respectively and you have a boldly entertaining “season opener".
It has been four years since the U.S.S. Enterprise left drydock to seek out new life and new civilizations. And while the ship and her crew are still experiencing the marvels of the universe, some among them don’t wish for their mission to end. Mainly one James T. Kirk. “I don’t want to go home.” he plaintively tells Bones, after having just been told by Starfleet Command to return to Earth after their mission to receive an Admiral’s commission.
The struggle of Kirk’s wanderlust vs. his life back on Earth is nothing new to the world of Star Trek. But Lanzing and Kelly’s exploration of this theme in the context of the ship still being on their five-year mission adds a wonderful melancholy to the action. It also adds some hefty drive toward Kirk once again going off mission, ordering to the ship to leave their post monitoring a collapsing supergiant to respond to a distress signal in Tholian space. A decision based on the issue’s dire cold open that might have doomed the Enterprise and their crew.
Star Trek: Year Five #1 however, does fall into the trap of the recent decompression problem that is plaguing recent TV adaptations. Meaning it starts with a major “cliffhanger” with the cold open, adding a sense of looming dread, only to cut to “before” when that story is still in the far future. I worry about how this will affect the readability of the future issues , but as a start, Year Five is a pretty fun one. Even if casual comic shop browsers might miss some of Kelly and Lanzing’s shout outs to other episodes and stories.
And while the writing team brings the heart of Star Trek, artists Stephen Thompson and Charlie Kirchoff provide stellarly accurate cinematic pages. Though some readers might be turned off by the lack of ship-to-ship action and phaser battles, Thompson completely nails the look and expressiveness of each of the original series' actors. His Spock is appropriately stoic, yet charming, especially when pitted against his rakish, smirking take on William Shatner’s James T. Kirk. Most of this issue’s action is contained to expository scenes and a few alien landscapes, but Thompson and Kirchoff prove adroit at the theatricality of the original series, especially in the scenes were the crew is interacting with one another.
A special “Fleet Commendation” should also be given to colorist Charlie Kirchoff. It isn’t an easy task to make the primary-color-focused pallette of the original series pop on a page. But somehow, Kirchoff makes it look easy, taking the muted scheme of the bridge and uniforms and adding a engaging vibrancy to it. It is almost like he has found a neat middle ground between the old school tones of syndicated television and the metallic sheen of the recent films. But this combination really makes Star Trek: Year Five’s artwork pop on the page to great effect.
Boldly going with the writer’s room approach and “television season” model Star Trek: Year Five #1 starts off in the right direction. Armed with bright, cinematic artwork and a beating heart armored in great characterization, this opening issue delivers all the fun, thrills, and science fiction intrigue of Star Trek. All promising an even larger story just by the second star to the right and straight on till morning.