Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: alex ross, Brainiac, Convergence, Dan Jurgens, Ethan Van Sciver, George Perez, Jeff King, Kingdom Come, Marcelo Maiolo, superman, Travis Lanham
Written by Dan Jurgens & Jeff King
Art by Ethan Van Sciver
Colours by Marcelo Maiolo
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Van Sciver with Maiolo
Captured by Brainiac, Superman discovers the horrifying truth about just where he’s been held captive and what lies in store for the Multiverse.
Spring has sprung, actual sunshine is a thing that happens again and crossover season is upon us. We get two universe frappe-ing stories this year, with Marvel’s Secret Wars definitely doing…something…to the Marvel continuity and Convergence pitting numerous DC time periods and pocket continuities against one another. Those of you interested in the industry side of things may already know this story is happening to give DC staff the two month break they need to move the offices to Burbank from New York. As a result, there’s an inescapable air of this feeling like almost as much of a bottle story as one of Brainiac’s cities. It’s not that this story actually matters, it’s that it’s a thing that’s happened to the universe and the characters and we just have to wait for it to pass.
Those of you who were reading the Batman family of titles during the early 21st Century’s ‘One crossover a month’-athon will already be familiar with that sesnation.
You know me by now, you know I’m Captain Positive. Books I don’t find anything worthy in I don’t talk about and, in the creative Golden age we’re currently in (Don’t believe me? Look at very nearly everything Image put out right now) most of us neither have the time or money to follow books that, like melons, are just kind of there.
Convergence Issue 0 is just kind of there.
This story does almost nothing. The entire issue is Superman shouting at various versions of Brainiac as they explain the plot (The plot that’s ‘And then they’ll fight’ by the way) to him. Occasionally he punches Brainiac. Then he escapes in an ending that’s an early frontrunner for the most contrived element in a story that exists to do nothing but embrace and attempt to make a virtue of its own inherently contrived nature. There’s no character progression, no nuance, no emotional involvement. Stuff just happens and then the comic is over.
But, against all odds, the script’s failings as a story are matched by its success as a piece of narrative architecture. Panels are skewed, perspective shifts constantly and the ‘camera’ is often in interesting places. If you’re starting out writing comics, then there’s some good lessons to be learned from the restless perspective here and the way it uses size and scale to key into what there is of the story’s central themes. Van Sciver’s precise, detail heavy work is a good fit too and there’s a very definite air of George Perez to a lot of this stuff that, I suspect, is deliberate. Maiolo’s colour work helps too and the flashback sequence here is a legitimately atmospheric, haunting piece of storytelling. It’s the only thing that works but it does work, hitting a scale and gut punch visceral response that no other story beat comes close to.
However, the unsung hero of the hour is Travis Lanham. The lettering in this book is truly impressive, constantly shifting between thought process, narration and different time periods and dimensions. Again, the technical aspect of the work is really impressive and there’s a lot to unpack from it.
That’s really all there is to say. This is technically impressive and emotionally empty. The good news is it’s setting the bar low for Convergence to improve on. The bad news is the bar really shouldn’t be this low at all.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Alex Braith, Amber Braith, Andy Belanger, Becky Cloonan, Image, Lee Loughridge, Serge LaPointe, Southern Cross, Titan
Written by Becky Cloonan
Art by Andy Belanger
Colours by Lee Loughridge
Letters by Serge LaPointe
Published by Image
Alex Braith is going to Titan to bring what’s left of her sister home. Amber died in a mining accident and now Alex is going out to bring back her remains and belongings. Or at least that’s what she’s telling people. Hitching a ride on the tanker Southern Cross, Alex’s suspicions about her sister’s death are about to be both confirmed and made far more complicated.
I’m a sucker for a good science fiction story. This is an excellent one, Cloonan’s scripting is as deft and adept as her art, walking us through the world, and Alex’s past, in a single page. This is a story that’s defined by close quarters and the panels are crammed with information in a way that subtly drives that point home. This is a book defined not just by what people say but how they say it and what they don’t say and Cloonan lays that all out for us. It’s as though we, and Alex, have stepped into the middle of a season long drama set on the Southern Cross and have to work out what’s going on to get up to speed. It’s confident, subtle storytelling and it works on every single page.
A bit part of that is Belanger on art. Big on character and expression, he excels at the close in work that the panel designed demands. There’s one particular scene where the characters walk through the reading trajectory you have on the page, leading the eye and simultaneously showing us the layout of the massive, but still cramped, ship. It’s brilliant, clever stuff that, like Alex, doesn’t have time to showboat so just gets the job done and trusts you’ll be impressed. And you will be, believe me.
Loughridge’s colours do a great job of showing the washed out, cold lighting of these artificial worlds and walk us through the external scenes with hallucinatory grace. LaPointe’s letters cram a lot of information into a small space and never let any of it get lost. Each word earns it’s keep on the Southern Cross, just like the characters. No one here slacks, everyone brings their best work and the entire book hums with energy, purpose and tension. Another
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Ben Grimm, Bodega Bandit, Gwen Stacy, Jason Latour, Marvel, Murder Face, Officer Dibble, Pizza Dog, rico renzi, Robbi Rodriguez, VC's Clayton Cowles
Written by Jason Latour
Art by Robbi Rodriguez
Colour art by Rico Renzi
Letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover art by Robbi Rodriguez
Published by Marvel
After the Spider-Verse war, Gwen Stacy is back in her own dimension. Which means she’s back at war with the Vulture. And her band mates sort of aren’t speaking to her. And she still has to hide her identity. It’s not easy being a Spider, but Gwen has a plan on how to make things better. Or at least have a good, solid fight.
One of the breakout stars of Spider-Verse gets her own book and with it her own unique version of the Marvel universe. Latour does a great job here, throwing new characters (Bodega Bandit is great! And also awful!) in with some surprising new takes on old characters. Ben Grimm reimagined as the Gwenverse’s Officer Dibble is especially great and it’s really nice to see the gruff but kind characters carried over to a different narrative path. Plus, this universe’s version of the Vulture is legitimately creepy, and feels like a worthy nemesis for Gwen by the end of the issue. I’m not saying Bodega Bandit’s time won’t come but, let’s just say it isn’t here yet.
It’s the new details where the book really shines though. Gwen’s band are one of the most interesting new elements of a Marvel book in years and there’s some really fun stuff set up with them here. The clash of egos between Mary Jane and Gwen is both a nice echo of their roles in the core Marvel universe and feels fresh and interesting. They ground the series and lie at the heart of what makes it interesting and I can’t wait to see what happens with them. Plus we need a Murder-Face the cat and Pizza Dog multiversal crossover. Basically now.
Rodriguez’s loose, fluid style is a great fit for this world and the band scenes are again a stand out, popping with character and subtle emotion. But the fights are where Rodriguez excels, throwing Gwen and her opponents around the page with kinetic abandon. Intricately choreographed and with real muscle behind every blow landed they’re some of the best laid out action scenes in comics right now. Cowles’ lettering is great too, especially in the band scene and on the graffiti sequences but it’s Renzi who’s the star of the show here. This is a book that feels stylized but also realistic and a big part of that is due to the skewed, flamboyant colour scheme Renzi uses. It’s a very different feel to everything else on the market but also one that absolutely works. An impressive start for an impressive new member of the Spider-family, Spider-Gwen issue 1 is out now.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Alan Davis, Doctor Strange, Joe Caramagna, Mark Farmer, Mark Waid, Matthew Wilson, Pavel P Rasputin, Phil Coulson, Spider-Man, VCs Joe Caramagna
Written by Mark Waid
Pencils by Alan Davis
Inks by Mark Farmer
Colours by Matthew Wilson
Letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel
Three issues in and the done-in-one style of the title is really starting to pay off. This time round, Phil deputises Spider-Man to help break into Doctor Strange’s house which has mysteriously sealed itself off. Spidey’s there as a canary, Pavel P Rasputin is there on work release as magical muscle. Phil’s there because he never asks his people to do something he wouldn’t.
This is one of the best artistic fits for the series so far. Davis draws Spider-Man like no one else, combining very real physical presence with inhuman grace to make him bound around the pages with effortless grace. His Coulson is good too, but it’s the supernatural where Davis, Farmer and Wilson really shine. The journey through the house is a riotously colour parade of horrors as magic is unleashed, Pavel decides he probably wants no part of this and Phil does the difficult stuff while Spidey does the hero stuff. It’s a loose, kinetic style, both in script and art, and it works beautifully, playing like an old Avengers (Steed and Peel, not Stark, Rogers, Odinson and Associates) with its cheerfully mutable take on reality. Plus Caramagna has great fun with some nice meaty sound effects, all of which combines to make this feel like a road trip to classic Marvel horror as much as a search for something mystical and dangerous.
Plus, once again, we get some welcome insights into both Phil and the way the series is unfolding. Coulson is a fiercely dedicated leader, a man who is willing to sacrifice himself but no one else and as we see here, that’s possibly a weakness. Plus, it’s now pretty clear that someone, or something, is moving against the Marvel universe as a whole and Coulson is the only one who has spotted it so far. What he does about that remains to be seen. What’s no longer in doubt is that SHIELD, and this series, are both in very safe hands.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Bad Machinery, Boom, Daisy, Diesel Sweeties, Esther, Jim Campbell, John Allison, Lissa Tremain, McGraw, Seriously this is the best comedy I've seen since Spaced, Susan, Whitney Cogar
Created & written by John Allison
Illustrated by Lissa Treiman
Coours by Whitney Cogar
Letters by Jim Campbell
Cover by Lissa Treiman
Published by Boom!
This issue, everyone takes drugs!
Well, sort of.
There are two things everyone who goes to University in the UK accepts; drinking is going to happen, whether to you, near you or all over you and you’re going to get ill.
Because inside the first four weeks, just as you arrive, so will every regional variation of the flu and they will get much, much luckier than you.
Oh and it’s all Esther’s fault, obviously. All she does is boast about how she never gets ill and then?
The second issue of this magnificent series is just as good as the first, and does a couple of very smart things. The second we’ll get to, but the first is the way Allison uses the different ways the three leads deal with getting sick to illuminate their characters. Daisy gets some ‘cold meds’, Esther tries to sleep the cold to death and ends up going full goth and Susan? Susan can’t smoke. Which means Susan can’t relax.
She can however yell at people with both style and creativity.
Through the three different takes on illness, we learn a lot. Daisy is immensely good hearted and open and as a result runs headlong at the pep pills she’s given and hugs them. Violently. She has some of the best jokes this issue, especially in the pigeon scene but also comes out looking best of the three. Daisy’s innocent but she’s not stupid and the script never forgets that.
Esther in contrast, has kind of a bad time. We find out just how rock and roll she is (Very) and also that she’s kind of a hypochondriac. The end result is very, very funny and it also gives the uber-competent boxing Goth an endearing vulnerable edge. Esther doesn’t like being sick, she’s bad at it because it doesn’t happen often. For once, she’s a victim of her own success and that makes an already likable character outright sweet. Not that you should ever tell her that…
And then there’s Susan, whose nicotine rage gives her an excuse to yell at Daisy, McGraw and we suspect passing clouds. She drives the plot this issue in a way that’s so subtle you almost miss it. And so does she. Again, the cold brings out some new sides to her character and, again, it’s hugely likeable.
Oh and this issue features the best pigeon jokes ever written. Seriously.
Then there’s the really clever bit. Cogar’s colours are an integral part of the plot in a way that’s impossible to not comment on and easy to spoil. Keep an eye out for the gag because it’s one of the best, and cleverest I’ve seen and, like everything else here, is note-perfect. Seriously, this book may be the most entertaining thing anyone is putting out right now. Allison’s script is glorious, Cogar’s warm, friendly colours fit Treiman’s expressive and witty artwork perfectly and Campbell’s letters help every joke land dead on. It’s funny, sweet, familiar and vastly inventive. My book of the year so far, and everything else will have to go some to beat it. Brilliant stuff.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers, Chewie, David Lopez, Faster, Further, Harrison, Higher, Joe Caramagna, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Lee Loughridge, Marvel, More, Stay Fly, Tic, Warren Ellis
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Warren Ellis
Art by David Lopez
Colour art by Lee Loughridge
Letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover by David Lopez
After one of the best Christmas stories in years, Captain Marvel returned to the stars to find…someone had stolen her ship, cat and friends. Not the sort of person to take this lying down, Carol Danvers set off to go and kick a lot of ass. Unfortunately, space had other ideas…
This second part of the story does something really extraordinary. It does it in plain sight too, with no fanfare (Carol’s not really a fanfare kind of lady) so it’s easy to miss. But it’s one of the most impressive things I’ve seen a comic do so far this year;
The lead character learns something.
Not in that South Park ‘I learned something today’ way but rather something about themselves. Carol is a blunt instrument; a fighter extremely used to hurtling in on full burners and punching people until they’re all unconscious or surrender. It’s a good system for her, but not a perfect one and this issue, she realizes that. She tries something new and, in a moment of personal growth, not only saves the day but makes herself a better person as a result.
Plus there’s a great mustache gag.
That level of subtlety in the writing is Kelly Sue DeConnick to a tee and this is one of the best issues of a magnificent run. It’s also one of the funniest, and it’s difficult not to assume that comes from her co-pilot, Warren Ellis. The interaction between Carol and her deadpan, laconic AI, Harrison, is joyous and shot through with Ellis’ gleefully absurd sense of humour.
It works though, because that’s not all there is. This is both a very funny, and very sweet, issue as Carol says goodbye to some of her supporting cast. There’s no emotional manipulation, no big moment, just someone realizing that they need to go their own way. That’s what Carol Danvers does; inspires people to be better, to touch the stars of their own sky, and it’s delightful to see it here. Especially as Lopez and Loughridge continue to knock it out of the park with the art. Called on to do everything from space battles to physical comedy they excel every time and bring a lightness of touch and precision to the book that lifts it effortlessly. Caramagma’s letters nail it too, especially in the Carol/Harrison scenes.
Another great issue in DeConnick’s run, this remains one of the best books Marvel put out. Grab the Higher, Further, Faster, More and Stay Fly collections and get up to speed. It’s okay, the Captain will wait.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews
Written and drawn by Rachael Smith
£9.99 from https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/flimsykitten and comic shops
Michelle, Siobhan, and Neil used to be rock stars. A writer, an artist and a stand-up comic, hey had the world at their feet at Uni. Then, well, the world started to need rent. And bills paying. And stuff just got away from them. But it can change! They’ve still got it! Even though they’re not sure what ‘it’ is!
They’ll throw a party.
It’ll be EPIC.
More epic than they know…
No one tells you about the two ramps you jump off at the end of adolescence. The first is when you leave school and that one’s scary but okay. You either aim for a job or University, hopefully land it and even if you don’t, and it’s awful, it’s a fairly manageable kind of awful. You’re not exactly landing on those awesome foam rubber chunks you get at gymnastics training centres but you don’t normally land on concrete either.
Then there’s University. That was the big thing for me. I grew up on the Isle of Man (Ever seen a UK weather forecast? We’re the bit the weather person is always standing in front of) and as a result I both love the place and was whittling my escape boat by the time I was about 14. When that didn’t work, and believe me wicker is NOT a good boat building material, I went to University instead. I got a Bachelors, loved pretty much every minute of it and felt, at last, like I’d finally settled in. This was my ending montage, this was my new home, this…was a place that was going to kick me out in three years.
I didn’t panic.
I did stay on to do a Masters, firstly to see if I could and secondly because that gave me another couple of years to put off making those Important Life Decisions that you can hear the capital letters on when people say them. After that? I was off into the world and, for the first couple of years, had absolutely no idea what I was going to do. The second ramp was far, far behind me and I was sailing off into completely unknown territory on a bike that I was getting pretty certain was heading ground wards.
That’s where Michelle, Siobhan and Neil live and the desperate need to either move past that time or cling desperately to the glory days is what powers the entire book. Rachael has an utterly clear, unflinching eye not just for character but for how we interact at that time in our lives and a lot of the stuff on the page here will be painfully familiar. Not a single character is dumb, none of them are evil but all of them are flawed, uncertain. They’re all making it up as they go on and, with no idea what to do, fleeing back to the safety of a house part seems to be the way to go. And it is, but not in the way they expect or hope. The end result is a mix of comedy, drama and maturity. You can go home again, but as the end shows, sometimes you find you maybe don’t need to stay there anymore.
That subtlety and nuance is carried across into the art. Rachael’s art style is a great combination of expressive and relaxed. The characters all pop, everyone’s personality is clearly defined and the comedy, and poignant moments, are all given room to breathe. There’s huge confidence in how the book’s laid out as well as written and that makes it an immensely satisfying read. We’ve all been one, or more, of the three leads here and we’ve all felt lost. But, as House Party shows, being lost just means you get to decide exactly the direction to go on. Funny, sweet, brilliant and one of the best graphic novels I’ve read this year.