Welcome back once again for the reviews of select books from my pull list for this unbearably hot week in August. Before we begin, I will need to go into some spoilers for the last title I talk about so be warned!
Star Trek/Green Lantern: The Spectrum War #2
The intergalactic comic crossover event of the year continues as many of the Enterprise crew now find themselves with some powerful new jewelry. Star Sapphire Uhura, Blue Lantern Chekov, and Indigo Lantern McCoy certainly are starting to feel the powers in their rings, but more so Chekov who puts his powers to great use in protecting the Enterprise from new Yellow Lantern General Chang.
While I found the first issue of this miniseries an exciting introduction that was more Trek heavy, the Lantern heavy issue here feels lesser. It’s still good and there is some exciting stuff. The battle between Chang and Hal and Kirk’s crew made for some great action that was brought across perfectly by artist Angel Hernandez who shines in designs for the new Lanterns.
Writing wise Mike Johnson still seems to really understand characters here, but the pacing is stilted, but for good reason as we gotta get some exposition out there to help make the story complete and move along, that’s understandable, but it does kinda upend the book a bit into not being as exciting as the debut issue was. Johnson has a love and understanding for both properties that comes across nicely here in how true the characters feel to what we love about them and their own selves. Now that all introductions are made and we know what threats they’re going to come up against, I feel like next month this story is going to start taking off. 3.5/5
A-Force #3 is strictly a big old fight between She-Hulk and the ladies of the Thor Corps and it’s entertaining. The Secret wars tie-in has gotten lots of notice and for good reason, Marvel’s lady Avengers spin-off got lots of attention and done a lot for the industry in bringing more young female readers in and the very first all-female Avengers team.
G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite Bennett’s book has been exciting and I’m thrilled it will remain around after the events of Secret Wars. Their ability to have each character keep their own unique voice that we’ve come to know and love them for is great given the huge number of members on this. Now as mentioned, She-Hulk is doing battle for the most part of the issue with Sif, Gamora, and Brunnhilde. Artist Jorge Molina does a great job at drawing the brawl and makes the hits brutal considering even though its three-on-one, She-Hulk always will put up a fight.
The fight is a majority of the issue, but what happens after makes this the best issue of the series yet. Its discovered there is a traitor among the A-Force, which sets the stage now for the rest of the book. This new added mystery I think will add more excitement and make it a fun mystery now, but learning there is a traitor comes at a great sacrifice for the team. This issue will give plenty of readers feels for what happens and its sad feels. The book continues to balance its fun and serious side well and we even learn something more about this mysterious Singularity, nothing major, but it’s a detail of this unknown character that should make them happy.
The addition of the Thor Corps definitely does more to give the book a feeling of belonging in Battleworld. So far this continues to be the best tie-in the to mega event.
Also She-Hulk kicking ass is always a great thing to read. 5/5
Howard the Duck #5
Bad news: This is the last issue of Howard the Duck. Good news: Its gonna have a new ongoing with the same creative team in the All-New All-Different Marvel!
Sex Criminals artist Chip Zdarsky brought the same sort of weird, out-there, self-aware humor that makes Sex Criminals stand out and it fits the character like a glove. Aside from be a wonderful artist, Zdarsky is a capable writer. Howard the Duck has been the funniest comic book on the shelves since its first couple of pages and it stayed consistent. For every joke that wouldn’t quite work, there was three more after to make you laugh so hard you have to put your copy down and just let it out.
This issue wraps up the arc that went all over the place and worked. Howard has caused a mess by allowing Talos the Tamed to get the Abundance Gauntlet which was just one of the craziest ideas possibly and it’s just funny, genuinely laugh out loud funny how this came about and how it’s executed. Zdarsky just makes this work and gives each hero that shows up here for the battle their own unique voice in his own humorous ways. Zdarsky really makes the funny work here, but he also gets to have a surprisingly moving moment for Howard and also new sidekick Tara, whose backstory is instantly interesting and their great chemistry continues to shine through. Zdarsky really came into his own with this book even further as a great talent in the comics industry and is a threat on both sides.
Another reason the book is so good is the amazingly talented artist of Joe Quinones, whose talents I am a big fan of for his nicely done detailed work in people, perspective, and props. His work on Howard the Duck is no different as he still shines and clearly shares the same great sense of humor that Zdarsky does and it makes the book shine because of their creative chemistry.
Howard the Duck is a book that just revels in its weird sense of humor and carves out its own little weird corner in the Marvel Universe. Though I was this was made a miniseries before it just gets launched again as an ongoing, but hey I got a great book out of it, so can’t complain. 4.5/5
The first arc of Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen’s creator owned sci-fi story came to a rousing, exciting, and shocking ending. This book has been gripping from the start and a great example of science fiction storytelling.
The issue picks up with the cliffhanger revelation of the previous issue and this issue dives right into that and providing back story for one of the most central figures of the story and even that back story might have bigger implications for the future of the book. The whole issue doesn’t take place in flashback as we do transition back to the present of the end of the issue and even then it gets crazier with its own cliffhanger ending that sets the stage for the second arc of the Image comic.
Lemire’s sense of understanding his characters and grasp of story structure is as on point here as it has been in his past works. He’s crafted a wholly unique world here and brought its readers along for an exceptional journey and that wouldn’t be possible without the help of Dustin Nguyen. Nguyen’s beautifully done and wonderfully detailed watercolor painting art style for the book here gives it a unique look and feel to the story. The book is pretty and you can’t stop looking at it since Nguyen is also the cover artist and utilizes the same style so when you look around the shop, it catches your eyes immediately. Lemire crafts the world, Nguyen brings it to life!
Descender is a book any sci-fi and/or comic book reader should be aware of. This book is too good to miss right now. I can’t recommend it highly enough. 5/5
Gotham Academy #9
Of the new crop of Batman books from last fall, Gotham Academy just right away clicked. The teenage drama set within the confines of a prestigious Gotham school just started running and hasn’t let up. Standalone Damian Wayne guest appearance issue withstanding.
Brenden Fletcher and Becky Cloonan’s mixture of adventure, fun, drama, mystery, and horror work perfectly to bring across a uniquely different book among the Batman line, superhero comics, and really just comics. This is a DC book that while integrated into arguably its most popular line of books, feels like a creator owned indie book that breaks the mold. It knows when to be light; it knows when to be dark. Artist Karl Kerschl even helps in creating the atmosphere for this book to take place in and just quickly envelops us into the proceedings.
This book follows up on and adds more mystery to the circumstances of main protagonist Olive Silverlock and her recently deceased mother, Calamity, for whom the issue is named after, and the supposed powers that they share. Ever since the book debuted there was a mystery surrounding Olive and her mother, which includes Killer Croc, who might have revealed all that he knew to Olive. Here we get the story of the gang hunting down a werewolf, which gets Maps too excited, and we still ties into the overarching story which ends on a great cliffhanger.
Fletcher and Cloonan jeep their characters consistent and make their individual beats land perfectly within the pacing of the story and still craft an engaging mystery that has you guessing and wondering from issue to issue. Kerschl keeps the art vividly engaging and vibrant, again knowing when to go light and when to go dark. The coloring of this book deserves some props for adding more flare to the book on the part of Serge LaPointe and Msassyk, who make the fire in this book look so engaging.
Gotham Academy is a much better book than some might hear it is. It’s a breath of fresh air among the Batman line in DC and is just one of the absolute best reads out there today. 5/5
Ever since their relaunch in 2011, Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo has been not just the most consistent book in terms of having the same exact people working on the book, also its high quality. Snyder has given the Dark Knight a new spin and is rarely below average for about 40+ issues and now with current mech-suit Batman James Gordon confronting Bruce Wayne, we finally get answers from the end of the Endgame story.
As said above, I’ll need to get into some spoilers, but I will keep them as small as possible. The revelation as to what exactly happened to Bruce so that he survived the events of Endgame are intriguing in how Batman died that night, but Bruce Wayne is born. Quite literally thanks to the Dionesum that seemed to restructure his brain and that was one of the problems in how the explanation kind of seemed to overcomplicate Bruce’s survival. I mean let’s be real, the way he presumably died, there was going to possibly be no good way to bring him back, you just go with an idea and hope for the best in execution, such as Jason Todd’s return from the dead and that is the case here. Even though Superman seemed to know more than us readers do, even he looked to be slightly confused by all of went down exactly. What’s introduced and how it’s working feels a bit like a big MacGuffin that will reset the status quo once its time to reset that. There’s really another way I think Snyder could have played with this idea while tying into one his biggest strengths, characterization.
Scott Snyder has become an absolute favorite of mine ever since his Detective Comics run and part of that is his understanding of characters. This issue is more Bruce heavy than Gordon, but everyone is perfectly understood. Bruce, Alfred, Clark, Gordon, everybody is greatly characterized, fleshed out, and understood. You know how the minds of each character here, even the new threat Mr. Bloom, who only bookends the issue itself, but he becomes a presence in the final pages of the issue that leads into a more Bloom focused issue next month and the final panel seems to already indicate who it might be under the flower mask if you’ve read Snyder Zero Year arc. Snyder also struggles in some structure as far as transitioning, but the seeds he plants for what might come of the story is intriguing. Even how it ties back into his story from last year’s Detective Comics #27.
While Snyder’s writing for this issue at least feels a bit off in a couple of spots, the art team of Greg Capullo’s pencils, FCO Pascencia’s colors, and Danny Miki’s inks. Capullo has remained dynamic on this book and his sense of visual storytelling in designs and perspective, how he frames things is outstanding. He gives the book a great cinematic feel and the dark and well placed inks and vibrant color palate that suits whatever situation is going out just works. The whole creative team just gels together and when they click, the book clicks.
The action sequence towards the end does provide for some great thrills and excitement as to how the stick situation Gordon finds himself in will be resolved next month.
Batman #43 is a bit of an off issue of Snyder’s Batman, but is by no means a terrible issue. Great art and fully realized characters help hold this book up in spite of its faults and continues to be DC’s best book. 3.5/5
That’s been all this week, see you again while I’ll be flipping through the pages.