Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin’s weekly review roundup.
Catwoman Election Special #1 (DC Comics)
(W) Meredith Finch, Mark Russell (A) Shane Davis, Igor Vitorino, Ben Caldwell, (I) Michelle Delecki, Mark Morales, (C) Gabe Eltaeb, Jeremy Lawson
If this election special was a 40+ page last hurrah for Mark Russell and Ben Caldwell’s Prez, this would easily be a 4-star rated issue. Maybe even a 5. Unfortunately, that is relegated to a back-up feature, with a subpar Catwoman story as the lead. As great as it is to get one last tale of Beth Ross, readers must first slog through the Meredith Finch-penned tale featuring art from both Shane Davis and Igor Vitorino.
Finch’s tale sees Catwoman intervene in Gotham’s mayoral election due to a very unlikable candidate: The Penguin. Here, Oswald Cobblepot is clearly meant as a stand-in for a certain presidential nominee that has proposed building a wall, runs casinos, and spews vitriol from the podium. It’s very heavy handed, and distracts from what could have been a very compelling murder-mystery. Aside from the “election” mandate of this “election special,” Finch shows a solid grasp of the Catwoman character – something DC might want to explore in the future.
Shane Davis and Igor Vitorino share art duties on this story. For a one-shot issue, it’s a shame that neither artist was able to provide their talents from start-to-finish. Instead, the shared duties result in an inconsistent and, at times, unflattering look. For the most part, Davis does some great work, but he is plagued by the occasional slip in quality. However, that does not compare to Vitorino’s work, which is just bad by comparison. It doesn’t help that the inking by Michelle Delecki, while providing depth and quality to Davis’ pages, makes Vitorino’s stuff look flat by comparison. The same critiques can be applied to Gabe Eltaeb’s coloring.
On the plus side, this issue finishes strong with a too short, somewhat rushed conclusion to Mark Russell and Ben Caldwell’s Prez. Given just a few pages to work with, the creative duo tackles a number of politically and culturally relevant topics, including women’s health and gun control. It’s sharp. It’s biting. Prez stands right alongside Omega Men as the top titles DC has published in recent memory. Unfortunately, the price tag for this one-shot ($4.99) and the subpar quality of the featured story means that the conclusion to Prez will likely be missed by many.
— Daniel Gehen
Shade the Changing Girl #2 (DC Comics – Young Animal)
(W) Cecil Castellucci (A) Marley Zarcone (CA) Becky Cloonan (C) Kelly Fitzpatrick
On the distant planet Meta, Loma is bored with her life and a unique opportunity is hers to seize by using the Madness Vest. It sends her consciousness spiraling through the cosmos to earth and into the body of the nearly dead Megan. Cecil Castellucci pushes the plot through at breakneck speed. His words and the nimble art of Marley Zarcone knit together into a gorgeous comic. Of course it would all fall flat without Kelly Fitzpatrick’s colors, which effortlessly blend Loma’s madness with the madness of high school.
Shade the Changing Girl and most of Gerard Way’s new Young Animal imprint are outside of what I usually read, but it’s been a very enjoyable break from capes and tights comics. I have almost no idea where these plot lines are headed and it’s a blast. In Shade the Changing Girl in particular, the inner narration of Loma is often presented side by side with the madness free verse which makes for an experience as confusing as Loma’s.
There are pieces missing from our and Loma’s understanding of Megan’s world, at times it can be rocky but we’re right next to her in this madness infused redo on high school. The story centers around a restart for Megan who wasn’t always the nicest person and Loma who wants to be a whole different person. These are big themes, but they fit well in the scope of high school drama. Everyone is just trying to find their way and some of them are aliens from another galaxy using a cloak of madness to escape their boredom. If there’s one thing Shade the Changing Girl isn’t, it’s boring.
— Lukas Schmitt
Faith #5 (Valiant Entertainment)
(W) Jody Houser, Louise Simonson, Rafer Roberts (A) Meghan Hetrick, Marguerite Sauvage, Pere Perez, Colleen Doran
Here it is. The book that has ruffled a lot of feathers in the lead up to its release is finally upon us. Faith and Hillary Clinton together. I’ve seen many arguments that comic books should stay out of politics, despite a long history that points to the contrary. After all, Captain America isn’t punching nameless thug on the cover of Captain America Comics #1. Having taken the time to read this, those that lean more towards the conservative side of the political spectrum have nothing to worry about, as Faith #5 wonderfully kicks off its latest arc, while also taking the time to have an intelligent discourse on American politics as a whole.
The main story by Jody Houser, Meghan Hetrick, and Marguerite Sauvage is a fantastic Faith story, featuring all of the hallmarks which have propelled her to Valiant’s A-list. There are pop references, homages to other geek-culture icons, and a charming wit that, when combined with a quality story, make for an enticing read. The issue’s closing story by Rafer Roberts and Colleen Doran is a fun addition that looks to play into Roberts’ upcoming series Harbinger: Renegade.
Despite the quality of those tales, everyone is here for what comes in the middle: Faith’s face-to-face meeting with presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Yes, the former First Lady/Senator/Secretary of State does have a fair amount of space allotted to her, it is not spent spewing policy positions that would alienate a good percentage of the readership. Instead, the issue’s main focus is the tribalistic divide between Americans due to political alignment. Given the nature of the actual presidential race, the amount of civility on display by Simonson’s script is a breath of fresh air. Perhaps the most important message of this story comes in its closing panels: no matter what, it’s important to get out there and vote.
— Daniel Gehen
The Flintstones #5 (DC Comics)
(w) Mark Russell, (a) Steve Pugh, (c) Chris Chuckry
Two books by Mark Russell in the same week? What a time to be alive! Though the Prez feature in the Catwoman one-shot is a nice taste of the author’s flair for satire, The Flintstones has provided Russell with an accessible and recognizable canvas to fully flesh out his ideas. This time, he and artists Steve Pugh and Chris Chuckry take on (to the surprise of nobody) the U.S. Election.
Like the Catwoman Election Special, Russell’s The Flintstones takes direct shots at a certain Republican nominee. However, the critiques by Russell are not targeted solely at the man on stage, the people that are inclined to vote for him. While Russell does not expose the xenophobia or sheep-like following of the masses, he puts just enough of a twist on the matter to make the potential impacts of their decision more highly pronounced.
As entertaining as it is to see Russell poke fun at the American political system, it is the flashbacks involving Fred, Barney, and an “origin story” for Bam Bam. This side-story is short on wit, but high on heart instead. This is where Pugh and Chuckry shine, with each image containing emotional weight. Pugh has settled in to provide the inhabitants of Bedrock with a look that is neither iconic nor definitive. However, it is a perfect fit for Russell’s absurdist storytelling, and ultimately it makes for a memorable experience. Hopefully more people discover how fantastic this book is before it suffers the same fate as Prez.
— Daniel Gehen