Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Comic Book Review - April 25, 2018

This week, the art is all over the place, there's Power Rangers all over the place, and I still can't believe Avengers: Infinity War is premiering so soon. HYPE. Also major storylines are setup. MORE HYPE.

Detective Comics #979

Writer: James Tynion IV / Artist: Philippe Briones / Colors: John Kalisz / Letters: Sal Cipriano

The fall of the Gotham Knights continues as Tim Drake succumbs to being an OMAC and experiences heavy psychological torture from Ulyssess, now fancying himself with the name "The General." I'll have a lot more to say about The General and the villains of this series overall in the coming weeks, but needless to say the only reason this threat is at all credible is due to the presence of Brother Eye. It would have been probably pretty simple and would have made just as much sense to have Brother Eye just go manic in the wake of Future Tim Drake being away and him not having anyone to necessarily control him. The OMACs would still be a threat, and maybe he would try to convert present-day Tim Drake into his master.

Tim Drake still shines in this story, and Tynion writes the conflict he's struggling with quite well. There isn't necessarily an internal conflict so much as it is showing that Tim desperately wants to break free and be with his friends, and that harsh reality that he'll never make it is done well here. The action throughout the issue is also pretty solid, though that's mostly due to the incredible art done by Philippe Briones.

Now, I'm not sure who does the breakdowns per page (like, what the process between Tynion and Briones was) but the layouts in this comic are spectacular. Big, dramatic moments are given their major panels to shine but are also naturally fed into from the previous panels. There's a rather unique spread where the comic needs to be turned to a certain angle to get the proper perspective, and it creates this neat descending effect as we watch Tim slowly succumb to his trap.

I hope that Briones gets to either finish out the arc or get one more issue because this was simply spectacular. It was similar enough to Eddy Barrows, but also had a bit of simplicity to it that allowed for heavy drama as well as dynamic character expressions. Kalisz's art was also on-point; certain designs that would be otherwise mundane sung in this comic because of the way he gave them life in color. 

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers 2018 Annual #1

Writers: Kyle Higgins, Caleb Goellner, Anthony Burch, Adam Cesare, Becca Barnes & Alwyn Dale / Artists: Marcus To, Patrick Mulholland, Dylan Burnett, Hyeonjin Kim, Simone di Meo / Colors: Matt Herms, Raul Angulo, Jeremy Lawson, Joana Lafuente / Letters: Ed Dukeshire

As you can tell by the massive credits byline, this is an anthology annual, one that shows a pretty vast spread of Ranger teams as Lord Drakkon seeks a strategy of fully taking over the multiverse and crushing every Ranger team he can. We get to see Zeo, SPD, RPM, In Space, and the latest team Ninja Steel all collide with Drakkon as he comes to grips with what each Ranger team has to offer as well as how he can defeat them, or at least use their powers.

If this book has anything going for it, it's that it feels like it was written for longtime fans by longtime fans. The fact that SPD and RPM are included in this alone speak volumes to that, since those are two teams that, while they're not necessarily ignored, aren't as popular as, say, Time Force or even something like Samurai, who have already been prominently highlighted.

Each Ranger team is, for the most part, given their big moments to shine. We get to see the best of the SPD and RPM teams here, while mostly focusing on character drama with Zeo and the In Space crew. For what it's worth I feel that the SPD part of the anthology is, overall, the best. The art may have been better for the In Space segment and the Zeo stuffed touched on interesting character beats, but SPD had phenomenal art for the big action scenes and showed the strengths of the SPD team, highlighting that, indeed, they're technically the B-Team of this police squadron, but they can still hold their own against massive threats.

Sadly, though, the book is bogged down pretty hard by lackluster art in the RPM segment, a pretty boring story for the In Space team, and just a downright dull Ninja Steel segment. That last one may come down to personal bias since I find the Ninja Steel team and series quite boring in its own right, but they had an opportunity here to make me want to see more about them and instead they basically just recapped the season one finale and had an okay fight sequence. Plus, character designs were off. Brody and Levi did not at all look like their show counterparts; if anything, both just looked like Aiden and it was tough to tell them apart.

Still, it gets me excited for more of the event. Drakkon is still the baddest villain the series has to offer (the comic, not all of Power Rangers) and he's cemented himself as a threat to probably every Ranger team out there, really stacking the odds against the team that's coalescing in the main book. 

Moon Knight #194

Writer: Max Bemis / Artist: Ty Templeton / Colors: Keiren Smith / Letters: VC's Cory Petit

Here I was hoping for a fresh start for this book but instead we got something that was pretty boring once again. It was a very intense book with the villain reveal at the end, and touches on some pretty sensitive subjects. I think this is more of a case of "just not for me" than it is anything else. I like it when Moon Knight is being a detective of the supernatural, trying to figure out things that shouldn't belong in the world and making it so they do, or at least understanding the nature of it.

This issue is titled "Moon Knight Origin" and yet it has nothing to do with his origin story and really should've been titled "Moon Knight Retcon" because it undoes a lot of his history, like having a psychotic brother and a very abrasive father. They did retain the fact that he was Jewish, but not that he and Alec were problem children. I don't mind it because it's comic books and this can be undone by any other writer.

The art by Ty Templeton, as I hoped, was a step up from normal, and kept me engaged throughout the book. It's nothing extraordinary, but it's a style that could really work in a book like this.

I think I'm going to give this one more issue, since it seems like some iteration of the original Moon Knight villain, the Collective, is returning, and then I'll probably drop the title. After all, I do really wanna read the new Avengers book coming up. 

Spider-Gwen #31

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

This issue feels like a lot of table-setting for the final confrontation coming up soon (since the book is getting the can in July with Issue 34). As such, it wasn't all that exciting. We learn a little more about old Gwen that appeared at the end of the last issue and we get to see some goings-on back in Earth-65 with Captain America and Matt Murdock, and get some interesting character development with the two Gwens.

The book also makes sure to subvert some level of expectations regarding one of its major plot points, and actually uses a critical part of Gwen Stacy's history as a reason for why things are so messed up in the multiverse. It's actually quite meta, and I really appreciated that aspect of it. I just have an issue with the fact that Gwen is STILL using the Venom suit, and I really don't have any idea how she's going to get rid of it or how this plot is going to wrap in a meaningful way.

The art this week also felt a little lazy. Rodriguez's art didn't have the flare that it often has, and maybe that's because this was a more subdued issue, or maybe he changed styles up a bit since our Gwen was on an alternate Earth. Still, I liked his designs for Earth-617 Hank Pym and Tony Stark. It was good to see more alternate characters hanging about. 

The Flash #45

Writer: Joshua Williamson / Artist: Chrisian Duce / Colors: Luis Guerrero / Letters: Steve Wands

My goodness, if I chose my book of the week based on art alone this might've taken it, I absolutely adore what Duce did in this comic. Characters were so well drawn and designed, and while sometimes the attention to detail was to his detriment, the entire back-half of the book is just a treasure. It's phenomenal stuff that really helps paint the mood for the scene, and there are some gorgeous shots of Barry and Iris that will probably stick with me for a good while after reading this. I really hope this guy gets another shot on either this book or another for the Big 2 because I would love that. Maybe not on an issue with a lot of action, but one that focuses on the characters.

Luis Guerrero's colors also complement this art quite well to give the scenes that extra bit of tone and the characters that extra bit of style that isn't necessary but is more than welcomed. This isn't the best-colored issue of The Flash but this is one where the colors are a serious help to the story.

And the story is pretty much a bunch of wrap of for the previous arc and stopping in with other characters to hint at things to come. It's a fairly decent issue in that arc that finally has two characters meet after two years of waiting on the part of the fans. It also has a pretty solid cliffhanger that's sure to set up the events of "Flash War" in a month in a major way.

The star of the show was the artists on this one, though, and boy was it a show. 

X-O Manowar #14

Writer: Matt Kindt / Artist: Ariel Olivetti / Letters: Dave Sharpe

When I opened up X-O Manowar #14 I audibly gasped and stared at the page for a solid minute. The art in this comic is some of the best that Valiant, or any company I've read from, has ever produced. Ariel Olivetti....just....


The comic is mostly a personal struggle and story for Aric of Dacia as he finally makes his way back home and as good as the build-up is, his journey through the cosmos is drawn just as well. I loved this comic, and every time I think of it again it gets even better. This may be one of the best issues of the entire series, which still remains the best that Valiant is producing at the moment (which is saying something given how great Ninja-K has been).

We haven't been given much time to explore Aric recently as he's been mostly in combat against the Bounty Hunters and some of his former allies, so to see him in this self-reflective state, one that has him questioning God and the nature of the universe, is so refreshing. It's such an interesting twist on his character, too, since he's supposed to be this barbaric Visigoth-type man, but his trials since finding Shanahara have been so immense and profound upon him that he finds himself flying into a Sun just to see if even that would kill him.

The issue also does a pretty good job of showing everything that CAN'T kill Aric, and yet making it so he's afraid, more than anything, of just seeing a person. It kind of speaks to the nature of humans and the nature of falling out of love, too, and so when the end of the comic comes, it is a genuinely impactful moment.

And, again, Olivetti's art throughout this is simply phenomenal. The comic is a slow-burn, never moving too fast through things, which allows for a couple of pages of Olivetti getting to show Aric in his armor swimming at high speeds through the Atlantic ocean, or flying through space, or resting upon a dwarf star.

Oh and we get the final bit of setup for Harbinger Wars 2. So, you know, that's a thing. 

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