Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Comic Book Reviews - June 13, 2018

During an odd in-between of coming down from E3 hype and ramping up for the FIFA World Cup, we have an excellent week of comics that allow villains-turned-heroes(?) to take the spotlight and for FLASH WAR to be just as hype as ever. Also Mister Miracle is back so we can all be happy and confsued together again.

Marvel 2-in-1 Annual #1

Writer: Chip Zdarsky / Artist: Declan Shalvey / Colors: Jordie Bellaire / Letters: Not Listed

It's a wonder how not every single Marvel fan isn't reading this book that is arguably the best on the shelves right now for Marvel. Month after month it's proven to be one of the best Fantastic Four comics out there, as well as just a really good tale about family and the virtues of being good and maybe being not so good. This story is supposedly focusing on The Thing and Dr. Doom...but it's really just a Dr. Doom story and since Dr. Doom is one of my favorite Marvel villains (probably my most favorite), you know I'm going to get excited about it. 

We get a pretty silly concept in this issue, one that a lot of readers will probably relate back to something that Rick and Morty explored in its first and third seasons, but it works to the benefit of seeing Dr. Doom confront some of his worst enemies and memories, not to mention giving us a bit more backstory on what exactly happened in the wake of the 2015 Secret Wars. There are some major revelations in this book that are very well paced by Chip Zdarsky, and he once again brings his A-game to the table in terms of delivering on the voices of Doom and the Thing, even if one takes a bit of a backseat this issue. 

The art is done by arguably the best duo in comics, Declan Shalvey and my girl Jordie Bellaire. If you put those two on a book, there's like a 97% chance I'll read it, and that other 3% chance is because I simply can't afford to pick up another book that month. Shalvey absolutely crushes Doom's mannerisms, designs, and facial expressions, showing with no dialogue what exactly he is thinking of every situation he comes across. He's also able to ape some of the imagery that Esad Ribic used in Secret Wars. Bellaire's colors are as spot on as ever, allowing for different shading in certain areas to distinguish between some character's uniforms. There are also a few panels where they are bathed in color and while an amateur or bad colorist might have that obscure the art, Bellaire finds a way to accentuate what's already on page with her coloring. It's simply magnificent as always. 

Read this series!  

Mister Miracle #9

Writer: Tom King / Artist: Mitch Gerads / Letters: Clayton Cowles

After a bit of a wait, Mister Miracle is back and still just as good and confusing as ever! Since it looks like we're getting closer and closer to the real climax of the story, you'd think that some things would begin to make sense, and all of the nuiances that the book has brought about would be revealed, but I think we've still got a little bit to go for that. We are left on a major, MAJOR cliffhanger at the end, but it's probably one a few people saw coming since a few issues ago. Does that make it bad? No, not at all. 

There are a few more possible clues left to tickle the fancies of some readers begging for answers. The one that stands out in particular to me is that man at the bottom of the hole in Apokolips that looks an astonishing amount like Scott Free. Is that the real Mr. Miracle, have we just been following a fake around this entire time? Maybe it's something that Darkseid manifested with the Anti-Life Equation and that's what's causing those fizzles in reality every now and then. It's tough to say. There are some more straightforward points to this comic, like all the negotiations with Kalibak, but Tom King has this excellent method of slowly building the tension between Scott and Kalibak up until it reaches a major breaking point. I feel like, too, we get to see a more diplomatic, casual side to the son of Darkseid in this comic. 

Gerads's art is still phenomenal, and getting to see him take on someone like Kalibak, as well as bring back Lightray, is great. It's a bit saddening what we don't get another DC Comics T-shirt here to add to Scott's collection, but oh well. Gerads also brings a real visceral level of detail to the comic; there's a panel where a head explodes and you see everything from blood to brain matter and it looks great but it's also quite horrifying. I also adore the final sequence where we just see so many expressions from Barda and then those four panels that reveal a face within the shadows; it's just so good to an unfair degree. Still the best book DC has out there right now, by far. 

Read this comic! (again)

The Man of Steel #3

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis / Artists: Ryan Sook & Jason Fabok / Inks: Wade Von Grawbadger / Colors: Alex Sinclair / Letters: Josh Reed

Some action at last! Easily the fastest paced of all the books, and maybe the best of the series so far. Brian Michael Bendis is really hitting his stride here. He's already proven that he can capture Superman's voice, and this issue is nothing but the Big Blue Boyscout. We also get to see Supergirl show up, and he's pretty good at writing her as well. She gets in a good amount of the action and it has me excited to see what she and Superman can do together in the coming fight. 

This comic remains at its strongest when it focuses on the heart of the characters, the way they talk and interact with each other and the world around them. This is a surprisingly fluid read that has some good bits of heartfelt emotion, as well as some major shakeups to the world of Superman. This villain, whose name I can never remember, remains pretty boring but he's really bringing a change to Superman's life. I'm also a bit surprised at how well-versed Brian Michael Bendis seems to be with Superman lore, and how well he's flexing it here. I've heard that he had little time to prepare this weekly series so to see him throwing around Kryptonian names for a full page is pretty impressive.

We've got Ryan Sook on art duties this week and boy does he draw some good action. As I said, it's a fast-paced issue and we needed an artist that could keep up, and Ryan Sook was just the guy for it. He draws a very expressive Superman, which was pretty necessary for this comic. Wade Von Grawbadger also brings good ink-work to the page when it's needed, and while it is noticeable, it's quite good. Alex Sinclair also continues to deliver on the coloring front as we get some fairly monotone colors this week, but good work on shading in scenes where there is minimal lighting. 

The Flash #48

Writer: Joshua Williamson / Artist: Howard Porter / Colors: Hi-Fi / Letters: Steve Wands

If the last issue was a bit slow for your taste then get ready for this one. We're going all-in for "Flash War" now and it's very exciting. While it has turned a bit into the moralistic clash between two heroes, it's also very easy to see both sides of the argument. Wally West is a parent that wants to get his children that he loves back, and I don't think anyone can fault him for it; on the other hand, Barry has seen and lived through what exactly this does and doesn't want his surrogate son to go through this. This is a story about family and consequence and, like in real life, there isn't an easy answer. The two haven't resorted to physical violence yet, and are instead trying to figure out the very-convoluted nature of the Speed Force. They're using their believes and morals to fight this war. 

But that doesn't mean we don't get a far bit of action. It's fun to see the Renegades some more, as well as see them interact with Hunter Zolomon. Zoom, in this story, is an incredible wildcard and I'm curious to see what his endgame for all of this is. Maybe he does want to bring back all of the Flash Family that's still missing (Max Mercury, Jesse Quick, Impulse, the two West kids) because he just thrives off of tormenting them, and needs that feeling to exist. I don't think his motivation is as simple as "I want to tear the Flashes apart" because he hasn't really voiced that concern at all; he wants Wally to see a separate viewpoint from Barry but has only cursed his name insofar as Barry's decision that ultimately created Flashpoint. This comic makes you think is what I'm saying, and I'm also saying that I'm loving it like a McDonald's Happy Meal (I actually dislike McDonald's but the joke doesn't work otherwise). 

Howard Porter also just slays it on art this week. It's really insane the degree that this man is able to elevate a Flash storyline, especially one with as much gravitas as this. There are so many great background details in the larger panels that fans of the book can pick apart for days. All the designs are true to themselves and nothing feels stale or stagnant, everything has a definite weight to it, but Porter is also capable of drawing the necessary energy that must come with a Flash comic. Hi-Fi's colors are also some of the best; the two Flash costumes are distinguishable by design, yes, but actually what jumps out to me is their color differential, which can't be easy to pull off. This is a great duo on art for this story and is definitely one of the reasons why it's a standout arc so far. 

If you're a longtime fan of the Flash (Barry or Wally) you HAVE to read this comic. 

Venom #2

Writer: Donny Cates / Pencils: Ryan Stegman / Inks: JP Mayer / Colors: Frank Martin / Letters: Clayton Cowles

Looks like my "I'll read this because why not" reaction to Venom #1 is paying off because so far we're 2-for-2 with solid issues of the new series. It's got just enough of a horror element while also mixing in the necessary heart and character drive that keeps me hooked. There isn't a whole lot of Venom in this comic but we do get some interesting backstory on one new character and get to see what Eddie Brock's life looks like through said character's eyes. Donny Cates does an excellent job of laying out the backstory for this new threat by melding it with what we already know of the Venom symbiote and with some of the history of some shady Marvel characters, like Nick Fury. None of it feels fabricated or made up, because Cates puts it in reference to the rest of the world and makes the case that something like this would obviously never be important until now because S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nicky Fury are terribly secretive about literally everything. 

There's also great visual story-telling being done by Cates and Stegman, as Cates gives us the dialogue and captions for what is going on but Stegman shows us how much the symbiote and Eddie Brock are tied together, and how the symbiote actually cares for Eddie. There's a great panel in the early pages that shows the symbiote with a genuinely worried expression while Eddie lays injured that immediately relays that the symbiote doesn't just want Eddie to live for its own sake, but because there may be some sort of kinship between them. The two also work together so well to give this new threat genuine weight and consequence, as well as portray the sheer awe of the situation. 

Stegman's art may just be the best thing of this entire series, it's incredibly detailed in terms of expression and his designs for some of these creatures and new symbiotes are terrifying and dreadful and METAL AS HELL. It's like this is begging to be sung about by some hardcore 80s band. JP Mayer brings a lot through inking this, though, allowing for heavier lines that add to the dramatic tension of the page, and gives the shadows more room to work with, which is necesssary for a book of this tone. Lastly, I'd be remiss to mention that Frank Martin puts the cherry on top with the work he does for the major flashback as well as the big reveal at the end. 

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