Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin’s weekly review roundup.
Ninjak #20 (Valiant Entertainment)
(W) Matt Kindt, (A) Khari Evans with Eric Nguyen and Andres Guinaldo, (C) Ulises Arreola and Chris Sotomayor
Whether it’s in Japan or the Deadside, Matt Kindt’s Ninjak continues to be an entertaining ride. The dialogue it top notch, specifically the banter between Ninjak and Gilad, the Eternal Warrior. Or between Ninjak and Punk Mambo. Or between Ninjak and Doctor Silk. Essentially, if dialogue is coming from Ninjak, it’s because he’s bickering with someone else. Outside of the dialogue, however, Kindt’s script is nowhere near as tightly paced as the series’ previous 19 issues. On several occasions, Kindt’s script makes one twist too many that it loses the reader.
The backup story, which to this point has tied nicely into the main narrative, is a copy/paste job from an earlier sequence in the book. The only difference is that the backup art by Andres Guinaldo outclasses Khari Evans’ efforts on the main narrative. Guinaldo’s backup art presents its characters in a much cleaner and consistent basis than Evans, who on several occasions renders characters in a manner that is simply… odd. Conversely, both artists demonstrate the ability to depict the issue’s various settings in a manner that is effective from a tonal and narrative perspective.
Ninjak continues to entertain, but the creative team seems to be have bitten off more than they can chew, at least for this issue. The structure of the issue makes for a confusing and at times repetitive experience, while the art lacks the crispness of this arc’s previous chapters. Hopefully this dip in quality from “great” to merely “okay” is an aberration and the series rebounds in the concluding chapter to “The Fist and The Steel.”
— Daniel Gehen
The Electric Sublime #1 (IDW Publishing)
(W) W. Maxwell Prince, (A) Martin Morazzo, (C) Mat Lopes
The world of art is fertile ground for storytelling. Being a subjective medium, it presents creators with limitless narrative possibilities, and can ultimately give something readers a rarity in today’s comic industry: something truly unique. To that end, W. Maxwell Prince, Martin Morazzo, and Mat Lopes succeed, as The Electric Sublime #1 is an inventive but flawed comic.
For most of this premiere issue, Prince dedicates most of his time building and establishing this world, which in turn allows Morazzo and Lopes to shine. As established, art is subjective, and so I recognize that Morazzo’s rendering of characters may turn some people off, but as a whole this issue is beautiful to look at. Much of the credit is due to Lopes’ color work. Much of the issue’s settings are rather mundane, and Lopes provides the appropriate, corresponding palette while injecting splashes of eye-catching vibrancy. And the moments when he can go crazy with the colors is visually stunning.
Unfortunately, with the creators so focused on world-building, there is little to be found in terms of establishing the characters. Considering this is only the first issue, this is not a major concern. However, the lack of any major character for readers to latch onto prevents this from becoming a fully immersive experience. Instead, readers are left with an intriguing and attractive-looking premise.
— Daniel Gehen
Doctor Strange #13 (Marvel Comics)
(W) Jason Aaron, (A) Chris Bachalo, (C) Antonio Fabela
Have you ever tossed and turned in the middle of the night dreaming of the worst terrible things; strangely personal dreams that can linger long after? For Stephen Strange, Nightmare is a palpable force he must confront and overcome, a very real metaphysical being who feeds off the nightmares of humanity. After many trials and tribulations our hero, Doctor Strange, must confront his worst fears to survive.
Doctor Strange has always been a solitary, insular hero in the vast Marvel pantheon. Hiding his faults and origins from those around him. Which is why seeing those laid out in this issue is delicious. Jason Aaron starts us off with a Grey’s Anatomy style narration about the nature of surgery, which places us firmly in Strange’s past for his nightmarish dreamscape. He used to be an expert at the top of the world, presumably the best surgeon in the world, and though he has tried to reject this arrogance in his present life, Nightmare wants Doctor Strange back in the life he had left behind. It’s a painful examination into what makes the doctor tick.
He is placed back into his old life and immediately wants a way out, even going so far as to destroy the hands that Nightmare has made whole again. Aaron is cutting deep here into the character of Stephen Strange and how much the ruin of his hands has changed him on a fundamental level. For Strange to accept this reality would be to reject all of the changes he has made for decades. This, like no other moment in Jason Aaron’s run on Doctor Strange, convinces me the story is in good hands.
— Lukas Schmitt
Demonic #3 (Image Comics)
(W) Christopher Sebela (A) Niko Walter (C) Dan Brown (L) Sal Cipriano
Heckling demon, Aeshma, continues to use a masked Scott Graves in a seemingly endless hunt for souls. If he refuses, she destroys his family. As he continues, the police draw nearer to cracking down his identity, but Graves also gets closer to uncovering the secret to take down the secret society, Novo, that linked him and many others to boundless demons.
Stories of conspiracy and anti-heroes are often redundant. Christopher Sebela gives this story a sense of uniqueness as Grave’s extortion is overseen by a demon allegedly tied to him forever. Mask on, he is reminiscent of a reluctant Spawn who was tied to a hellish being and decided to execute dangerous criminals. Mask off, there’s a hint of Rob Thomas’ iZombie character Major: A guy being blackmailed to kill, but unrealistically wants to live a normal life.
Dialogue and panel pacing in each issue are still at times spotty, but the story progression has moved along in issue #3. Most of the grisly details of the Novo cult are finally revealed, and one character has proven to be more of a threat than anticipated. Between Graves finally finding time to spend with his family and the inner monologue of Novo’s history, there is a generous amount of dialogue to be read. While serving a purpose, it does get tedious.
Even with lots of speech and thought bubbles, this issue does not let up on the gore. Graves tortures his victims for information on Novo, and he does not take useless victims lightly. It came as a surprise at first, even considering the moral ambivalence of many anti-heroes. He needs souls to collect for Aeshma, so bad luck for the dude that claimed didn’t know anything. He puts the victims into Freddy-style, no mercy nightmares where the hope of coming out unscathed from his razor-sharp finger knives is pointless.
Walter’s loose drawing style with Brown’s use of blues and browns are adequate for the rugged, big city crime/horror genre. Their cover work on the series thus far will absolutely catch your eye. The beautifully seductive, yet eerie body morphing Aeshma is definitely a visual highlight. Along with each anticlimactic ending, pacing seems to be a recurring concern. Everything storytelling-wise is there, but the execution alternates with interesting and flat delivery.
— Kristopher Grey