Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Comic Book Reviews - March 21, 2018

This week, Ninjak has to say farewell to a friend (?) while Superman and Spider-Gwen say hello, and I have no idea what to say about Ice Cream Man. There are just some things in life that happen and we move on from, dear readers, and I guess this is going to be one of those.

Ice Cream Man #3

Writer: W. Maxwell Prince / Artist: Martin Morazzo / Colors: Chris O'Halloran / Letters: Good Old Neon

This issue was weird. Like...weird. And unfortunately it's not the good kind of weird wherein it all builds to this big reveal or character moment. It's just strange, and has a very steep difference in tone compared to the first few issues. I was totally on board with the comic until we reach the halfway point and the bulk of what the story is.

I'll say this: Morazzo's art fits well here. It's fit well for the majority of the comic, sure, but he's always had this way of giving everything unsettling undertones. Maybe it's his simplistic character designs and linework matched with insane concepts or ideas. Well, this time we get that in spades, and while I don't think the comic suffers from oversaturation of strange design, it does suffer from a bad case of jumping the shark.

The problem, really, is that it decides to go this insane direction but doesn't fully commit to the idea. It decides to play things safe and go with the ending you'd be expecting. I was starting to get some theories going in my head for what's really going on  here but, unfortunately, it doesn't feel like there's gonna be any real payoff to what happens. It has an ending that makes you think that this issue actually had some importance to the mythos of the world at large here, but, I highly doubt it.

I decided to give this the three-issue test and while the first issue was solid and there were parts of the second that intrigued me, I'm afraid it's now time to jump off the Ice Cream Man train. It was...a ride. 

Ninja-K #5

Writer: Christos Gage / Artist: Tomas Giorello / Colors: Diego Rodriguez / Letters: A LargerWorld Studios

The first arc of Ninja-K is at an end and you know what? This feels like one of the first Valiant arcs in a while where I'm more than okay with where we end at. The stuff with X-O Manowar has felt a bit strange in terms of how stiff the divide between arcs is. Here? Nah, we reach a natural conclusion to the Ninja vs. Ninja story we've been getting and it's an arc that really highlights how Colin King compares to the one of the best Ninjas of the Ninja Programme in Ninja-C.

This issue also highlights, quite well, how easy it could be for Colin to slip into the shoes of Ninja-C if it weren't for his storied history with Unity or the various other supers he's fought alongside, like Punk Mambo or Shadowman. As action-packed as it is, it's also quite introspective. Much like the opening arc of Ninjak from 2015, this is a five-issue story that anyone can pick up and almost immediately understand the backstory and motivations for Colin King, and have a pretty decent peak into the simpler politics of the Valiant Universe.

We get a really heartwarming moment at the end that needed a bit of work in the writing and lettering department, so I didn't really get what was going on, but when I got the message it hit home very quick. As someone that doesn't really have all that much time to sit and just talk with someone about nothing in particular, I really found myself relating to Colin's worries and concerns by the end, and it really highlights his development over the arc and how bad he doesn't want to become just another Ninja.

Giorello's art was at it's finest here and he goes out so well for this book. I really look forward to what he brings to Harbinger Wars 2 in May and I'm so excite that we're getting Juan Jose Ryp on this book; he was in part of an issue earlier in the run and I've always enjoyed his stuff in the Britannia series that Valiant produces.

Also this issue, more than previous ones, has really good coloring work. There are lots of great shading and coloring choices scattered throughout the book that match the tone or help give certain moments impact. I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've called out the colors for Ninja-K and Diego Rodriguez deserves some props. 

Spider-Gwen #30

Writer: Jason Latour / Artist: Robbi Rodriguez / Colors: Rico Renzi / Letters: VC's Clayton Cowles

Hey, the ongoing adventures of a good Spider-Gwen comic are still headed in the right direction! I'm so about what story Latour and Rodriguez are deciding to tell. I think it's a great way to involve some of the more popular elements of the series and add a new twist on the classic "black suit" storyline. There's a ton going on in this issue but it all feels and reads naturally and fluidly. Nobody feels out of place or out of character, and it's great to see certain iterations of old faces again.

We're definitely seeing Gwen at her most conflicted, and at one of the most emotionally vulnerable places in her life, so the creators' decision to have her confront an alternate-reality version of herself where it seems that she has it all together only to find out that she's struggling just as much lays the groundwork for a really moving and powerful story down the road, one that will hopefully see Gwen return to Earth-65 stronger than ever before. I did think the reveal of where they are in the multiverse was a little weird, because I'm not sure if this version of the world is much different beyond whatever stuff apparently happened with the Hulk (had to research this alternate reality, because I'd never heard of it).

Robbi Rodriguez takes a bit of a different style to this issue, and I kind of hope he sticks with this for the remainder of the arc. It's not as sporadic as normal, it's more contained. It definitely gives the vibes of being on a different world. I also think it was an interesting decision to flip-flop between visual styles as the two Watchers from Earth-8 and Earth-65 struggle with the temporal ramifications of Uncle Ben telling Gwen to kill a man and then her jumping through time and then seeing the goings-on of the new Earth. This change of style and pace breathed a new life into the book that gets me excited to see more from the remainder of the arc. 

Superman #43

Writer: Patrick Gleaon  & Peter J. Tomasi / Artist: Patrick Gleaon / Inks: Joe Prado / Colors: Stephen Downer / Letters: Rob Leigh

I'm not sure I could like this arc more. It's so endearing and is capturing the heart, soul, and very essence that this "Rebirth" Superman title has been about. It even has some good call-backs and shout-outs to other relevant moments or stories going on at the time. I do want to talk about one character that makes an appearance in this issue but it's such a funny, quirky reveal and moment that I really think anyone curious would just need to see. It comes right out of nowhere and just makes you chuckle, but it's a nice, refreshing laugh you expect out of a Superman comic.

Gleason and Tomasi just know how to tell a good family story with the Kents and whoever is involved with them. They give Superman, Lois, and Jon such great, unique voices, and all of the side characters are incredible supplements to their family dynamic. This issue alone also has so many classic, good Superman moments. While it doesn't quite have the heart of that amazing Superman #39, it does carry some of that with it, and makes it more about Boyzarro and the dynamic with his family.

This is a story for all the people that think Superman is a boring person. This issue highlights his struggles as a parent, his worries and concerns for his son, as well as sometimes stepping over a boundary or two. Jon also has some struggles he needs to go through, and it's great to see the two working them out together.

Boyzarro also gets a lot of development this issue. He's the true heart of the issue, and it allows Jon and Superman to grow because of that. I'm surprised with what Gleason and Tomasi have been able to pull off with this issue alone and it gets me even more excited to see this arc, and this entire book, through to the end.

Gleason's art is just awesome as ever. His designs are awesome and unique, and you feel the weight behind every bit of action in the comic. He's capable of drawing the somber, quieter moments just as well as the big action sequences. He brings a great sense of life to some of the minor characters that lets them stick in your head well after the issue is done.

And, wow, the coloring at play here by Stephen Downer is simply awesome. You want characters popping off the page? They're springing to life here! I was enamored by his visual take on some of the brighter heroes and it complemented Tomasi's art and Prado's inks very well.

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