Oof. Rough week. From worst to best of it.
Another dud for my “Image #1s” policy. The most immediately obvious problem is an art style that seems to be traced from 3D rendering software, giving all the characters a frustrating woodenness. Two big sci-fi concepts in “a world that’s been invaded by lizard people” and “a world with intelligent robots” are both undersold. The only female character gets fridged. The premise isn’t clear by the end. Generally a trainwreck.
An undercooked “the hero tours Asia” concept that’s high on western stereotypes, and that sets up “next month a new location” instead of trying to build on any of the ideas it sets up. Of course the Burnside supporting cast is immediately jettisoned in favor of a bespoke childhood friend of Barbara’s. And you’ve got to raise an eyebrow at the choice of the artist of the Batgirl “Joker variat” cover for the book – not that I particularly blame him for taking a commission DC never should have given, but man, exact wrong book to put him on. Generally speaking this isn’t particularly grating in its badness, but it’s not interesting enough to hook me on a second issue.
Wonder Woman #3
The new take on the Wonder Woman/Cheetah relationship is decently interesting, but this storyline is still longer on mood than event in a way that isn’t giving me much to sink my teeth into and invest in. It’s fine – perfectly competent Wonder Woman. But it feels directionless – after four issues of Rucka on the character, I don’t have a feel for what his take is and it doesn’t feel like anything has happened. Which feels like wasted momentum. Think I may be done with this.
Spider Gwen #10
An utterly unremarkable issue of this often frustrating book. Actually, I kind of like the alternate universe take on Kraven, and there’s a lovely May Parker moment, so as lackluster issues of it go this is better than most, but again, I’m looking at a week of nine comics the bulk of which I was underwhelmed by, and a book that has two mediocre issues for every good one is another obvious candidate to be done with.
Black Panther #4
Individual moments of this – particularly any scenes with T’Challa’s mother – are subtle, intelligent stuff of the sort one wants from this book. But the overall structure is still a mess. I couldn’t actually tell you what happened over the first arc of this book, or who most of the supporting cast is. I don’t think that’s specifically Coates’s fault or Stelfreeze’s so much as a combination, but this just doesn’t have the basic tightness that monthly serialization needs to succeed. I’ll stick with it, but more out of hope than judgment.
The New Avengers #14
In most regards an unremarkable fight book, but man, there’s a really solid demonstration of the difference between a skilled comics writer and an unskilled one here. Any character who’s introduced gets a big moment to either shine or demonstrate what their deal is. Plot points are explained without it feeling like an exposition dump. Effective beats, whether dramatic or comedic, occur every couple of pages. It’s tight, entertaining superhero writing of the sort that doesn’t go out of style. Less ambitious than, say, Black Panther or Mechanism, but wildly more effective. (Very much a red skies Civil War II crossover, but frankly that’s a virtue.)
Ms. Marvel #9
Once again the “nothing is even pretending that Captain Marvel is on the right side of this” problem rears its head in what is not even remotely a subtle comic. But Wilson makes something solidly decent out of the mess, filling it with good character moments even as she writes a tail of crashing didacticism. Chalk up another comic largely ruined by Civil War II, in other words.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #10
The “Mole Man as Nice Guy” plot reolves with typical humor. I think the book may let Mole Man off the hook more than is entirely justifiable – he doesn’t really deserve the happy ending it gives him, and there were better resolutions to the story, but its heart is firmly in the right place, and it’s hard not to love a comic with footnotes about star-nosed moles.
Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #8
Not out this week, but an honest-to-god brilliant Civil War II crossover that reveals a maturity and depth that it wasn’t entirely clear this book had (and I loved the previous issues; I read 7 as well, and it was good, but with eleven things to review this week, I’ll pass on the detail). It works, of course, because it does a thing this book has to do in the wake of Civil War II and deals with Patsy’s reactions to what happens to She-Hulk, and it does it with intelligeence and grace. So there you go. A book that isn’t harmed by Civil War II in the least.
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #9
This book knows exactly what it wants to do, and is doing it joyfully. It’s not a surprise, really, to see these four Marvel books cluster in the same spot in the ranking, because all four are ones with clear perspectives and styles that know what their basic pleasure is and deliver it with gusto. (And really, you can say that about Ewing as well.) This is just particularly fun, though – Kid Kree’s a hilarious villain, and the classroom scenes are a genuine hoot. Plus next month we get Ms. Marvel guest-starring. Lovely stuff.
Normal Part Three
Shocker of shockers, Ellis wins a week where the next highest is above average superheroes. The bits and ideas I’m most interested in aren’t really the ones that get paid off, and I’m not sure the swing into drones is quite my cup of tea, but it’s still Ellis having fun in a very Ellis playground, and over its short length made me laugh and introduced cool and serious ideas. Definitely one to check out, especially if you like my more Neoreaction a Basilisky stuff.
Just Trees and Normal, I believe.