Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin’s weekly single issue review roundup.
All-New Hawkeye #1
(Jeff Lemire/ Ramon Perez/ Ian Herring; Marvel Entertainment)
I purposefully wanted to write about All-New Hawkeye #1 in short-form this week to avoid focusing on the odd-timed release to the much praised and celebrated run by Matt Fraction, David Aja and Annie Wu which is on its way to concluding. While accurate and deserving of high praise, I want to talk about the new Hawkeye.
Jeff Lemire, Ramon Perez and Ian Herring have taken what the previous runs team has done and has made it their own. The relationship between Kate and Clint, the day-in-the-life approach, the whole bit is shining through in this first issue.
The issue begins in Iowa, at one of the foster homes that Clint and Barney Barton are currently living in. They’re putting off chores and instead go searching for frogs. The artwork stands out from the get go, painting in watercolor. This decision by Perez to work in watercolor for Clint’s memories is fitting. The artwork is clear, but loose. The watercolor medium gives to the nature and elusiveness of memories. The color palette for these scenes contains mostly whites and purples – an iconic start to an iconic character.
The memories fade in and out as Clint and Kate infiltrate a Hydra base in search of weapons on S.H.I.E.L.D’s command. Lemire writes quick, playful banter between Clint and Kate. It’s an aspect of the previous run that was well to continue. Lemire does so with a solid grasp of their relationship to where it doesn’t feel forced, the emotion is real everything Hawkeye fans will want to see.
Perez’s panel layouts contain lots of larger or longer panels that are conducive to the Hawkeye’s weapon of choice – their bows. The long panels establish a distance and give room for the characters to act and react without feeling claustrophobic. Herring uses lots of solid colors to ground the action. The fight scenes are drawn fluidly and when paired with Herring’s careful color choices are clear and easy to follow. The issue ends with a unique panel that blends the past and the present, Kate discovering the weapons Hydra was hiding, and the Barton brother’s discovering their way out of a foster home.
This story is about beginnings and discoveries, childhood and growing up. I like to think of it as passing the baton. This new team has able hands and will run carefully and swiftly with this story. If you were fans of the previous run of Hawkeye, you’ll enjoy the new take that this team has to offer.
Green Lantern #40
(Robert Venditti / Billy Tan / Tony Avina; DC Comics)
As I pondered my critique of this issue I constantly found myself considering the role of this arc in the life of the Green Lantern title rather than critiquing this issue on its own merits. Before we dive into that can of worms I want to give this issue the standalone critique that every comic deserves.
The tone of the story jumps around quite a bit, going from Hal’s rather heavy-handed staged betrayal of the Corps to some closer sentimental moments of brotherhood between Hal and Kilowog. Speaking of Kilowog, there’s definitely much to be said about the fun moments that Venditti have given him, proving that he can be a simultaneously tough-as-nails character as well as bringing some much-needed moments of levity to the series. Unfortunately, the tonal shifts in this issue felt rather haphazard to me, and left me wishing there was a bit more emotional clarity in what seems to be an ending of Hal’s time as a member of the Corps (at least for a while). Although that lack of emotional clarity was unavoidable in the way the plot was structured for Hal’s departure.
Billy Tan does excellent work handling the pencils for both the high action beats and the emotional moments, but I can’t help but feel the urge to mimic previous Green Lantern artists and not being able to clearly define his own style (hopefully something that the new “reboot” can help rectify).
The colors, provided by Tony Avina, do an excellent job in the action moments, and continue to trend of lantern powers looking absolutely explosive in the best way possible, but they fall a bit flat during a well-lit dining hall scene.
This story leaves me wondering about the future of the Green Lantern title. Hal’s departure from the Corps could mean that we will be looking at his solo adventures in space, or potentially the story could shift to focus on a different Green Lantern. Personally, I’d cast my vote for the latter. Even during the height of Geoff Johns’ run on Green Lantern it wasn’t Hal as a character that made it especially appealing to me, it was the world-building that surrounded him. You can describe Hal as an arrogant, cocky, wise-cracking, incorrigible flirt, but he still strikes me as predominantly being an everyman character. We were introduced to the world of the Green Lantern corps through his eyes, and that worked wonderfully, but to move the title forward I really hope the idea is to set Hal aside (letting Geoff tell more stories with him in the Justice League) and focus the main Green Lantern title on another character that might have a bit more going on.
Venditti and Tan have done an admirable job stepping into a title that had a massive creative departure, and they deserve to be commended for it, but hopefully we see the title truly enter a new chapter of storytelling with issue 41 rather than following a fairly predictable status quo.
– Steven Cain
Big Man Plans #1
(Tim Wiesch / Eric Powell; Image Comics)
“It’s dirty, dark, and frankly kind of fucked up,” says writer Tim Wiesch of his and Eric Powell’s latest Image Comics salvo, Big Man Plans, a four issue series focused on the hatchet-wielding revenge fantasy of a ex-special ops dwarf whose number of fucks to give has reached zero. This first issue is all set-up told in sepia-toned flashback panels that race to be over with and, if nothing else, tug on the tear-filled teats of characterization by showing our Big Man being shit on by his genetics, his mother, his country, and life itself. If you are familiar with Powell’s work, you’ve got this one already.
Yea, it’s the outsider writ small in this case. Sometimes it takes a little man to do the big things. Yadda yadda.
Still, in the current climate of social awareness, Wiesch and Powell take a big risk with their Big Man Plans. This is a comic, after all, that features lines like, “Getting drug into the street with your cock flapping in the wind tends to sour your temperament” and “If you don’t like who I fuck, I’m happy to stab fuck holes in you bitches.” I guess if you have an angry dwarf mouthing the words, it’s contextually soothing and therefore given a pass? We allow those among us who live with limitations to cross boundaries that polite society holds dear. We forgive because we “understand” – achingly so.
Wiesch and Powell are determined to push the boundaries of the good old fashion 1974 Charles Bronson mustache revenge drama by casting the hero as the smallest among us, the one whom nobody would suspect to be an angel of death, a man whose very existence should dictate certain impediments to such a cause. Remember that band The Hives? They sang: “But if you do it, do it good, Brutus. Real good! Like a little man should!” This little man has big man plans, and if the ending of issue 1 is any indication, he’s gunna do them real good.
Powell is the perfect artist for this type of series. His character design thrives in that place between realistic representation and boffo cartooning and hits that sweet spot in terms of emotional engagement and fat dick slapstick comedy. In Big Man Plans, it seems like not only is Powell at the top of his game, but is having all kinds of fun illustrating this story.
Issue one of Big Man Plans is all necessary set-up. It’s good for what it is. It’s the comic you have to get through in order to enjoy the sticky sickly blood sweetness that is bound to start flowing in the following issues. Set us as it is with this book, Big Man Plans #2 is poised to be the issue people start talking about.
– Daniel Elkin
Guardians Team-Up 001
(Brian M. Bendis / Arthur Adams / Paul Mounts; Marvel Comics)
The debut issue of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Team-Up truly felt like an old-school throw back to the Marvel team-ups of yesteryear, which is a good thing. You can argue the fact that since their motion picture debut and the resulting plastering of them everywhere but particularly in the comics that they are being totally overexposed–and you would be right. However, the fact is that this was a really fun and action packed read.
Writer Brian Bendis makes this feel more like the actual Guardians than the stand alone Guardians book, which is coincidentally scribed by Bendis as well. The atmosphere and characters are a blend between the comic characters and their cinematic equivalents and the plot is just overall fun. Couple that with an appearance by the Avengers and you can almost guarantee a book that is well worth the cover price.
Art Adams does a splendid job of penciling this adventure. Let’s face it, the man is a legend whose work is always a sight to behold. Every page is wonderfully crafted and consists of fun, action, humor and emotion. Thankfully, there isn’t hardly any static in the panels which is a welcome addition to the title. All too often you see other artists taking the easy route and choosing to just draw the basic figure of the character without bothering to add detail. Adams however instills as much energy and detail to the panel as possible which should be appreciated. It helps when you have the ever steady Paul Mounts adding the ambiance with his choice of colors that serve the Adams art exquisitely.
There were also some great comedic moments to be enjoyed as well. Two in particular stood out to me with one being the defeated look of Hawkeye as he realizes the two ships passing by and the other involves Rocket Raccoon calling out Spider-Woman for having a costume that points to her hoo-ha! Classic! Guardians of the Galaxy Team-Up #1 was a super fun comic. Great story, art and humor all came together perfectly here. The only thing that has me concerned is that the format will become stagnant after a few issues, but I will give this a shot for the first arc since the debut was so fun.
– Robert Tacopina
Rat Queens #9
(Kurtis J Wiebe / Stjepan Sejic; Image Comics)
They’re baaaack; this time with brand new pencils! Stjepan Stejic debuts as the new artist of Rat Queens and his style makes a perfect match with Kurtis Wiebe’s writing. Stejic’s style is textured and expressive and he has a history of drawing detailed female characters, such as in his series Sunstone. Stejic also has quite a sense of humor (as one can find on his DeviantArt account) and this shows well on Wiebe’s more humorous beats.
Despite Jenny Frison’s Dee-based cover, Rat Queens #9 gives readers a glimpse into Hannah’s backstory and psyche, which is great news for Hannah fans. The last few issues have visited some background into the team, so this issue finally returns to the main plot, which is Palisade’s founder currently trying to destroy his own town. Surprisingly, although the series has been mired at the same point in the story due to several months of delay, this issue lingers enough to allow itself and readers to gain its bearings and without damaging the overall story’s pace. Meanwhile, its trademark humor and gore remain intact.
Rat Queens #9 may not have all the answers about its characters that readers have been awaiting since this arc began, but it can’t be said that the issue didn’t include any progress. With Stejic now on the creative team, loyal readers are now in good hands.
(Dennis Hopeless / Javier Rodriguez / Alvaro Lopez / VC’s Travis Lanham; Marvel Comics)
After dealing with the Spider-Verse event for the first four issues of this new Spider-Woman series, it was refreshing to see a brand new arc and coat of paint on the latest volume. Even the cover of this issue touts “New Costume and New Status Quo”, and for good reason because this issue feels like it should be a number one issue to the series. With no Avengers or S.H.I.E.L.D. to contend with, the lovely Ms. Drew sets her sights on trying to live a more grounded and normal life. However, in fitting fashion it seems like Jess can’t seem to catch a break as her attempt to thwart a street crime actually turns out to be her interrupting a police SWAT Team exercise. This begins a string of bad luck that follows her through the crux of the issue.
Writer Dennis Hopeless, free from the constraints of dealing with event-crossover syndrome, turns in a magnificent script that takes Jess back to her origins as a more street-level hero. This issue features much more snappier dialogue, more clever humor and more believable characterization than the first four issues combined. The reader is treated to some truly funny quips from Spider-Woman — some she blames on merely spending too much time with Spider-Man. However at one point she makes a comment that she spent one week googling “Spider-Woman butt”! Was that a crack at the overblown Milo Manara variant debacle of 2014? If so, well done Mr. Hopeless, well done!
It wasn’t just the humor that hooked me to the issue but also the fact that we are shown a different side of the titular hero. By bringing Jess back to her street origins it allows her to become a much more relatable character, as is shown in the ultimate premise of the issue, which revolves around Z-level villains significant others disappearing. After meeting with Ben Urich she learns that things are not always what they appear to be.
Javier Rodriguez takes over from Greg Land as series artist and the change pays off immediately. Rodriguez’s style is much more kinetic than Land’s. There are plenty of action scenes for Rodriguez to take advantage of and he does so at every chance. The colors pop off the page and added a much-needed vibrant tone to the book. There were some very clever uses of body language and motion that were used as descriptors as well and felt like an homage to the Hawkeye and recently completed She-Hulk title.
Yet the most obvious thing that will be taken away from the art is the new costume design for Spider-Woman. Gone is the classic body suit in favor of a much more street-level costume. I could actually see this new costume fitting wonderfully in the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of Spider-Woman. I enjoy the new look and the new direction of the book — then again I also happen to be somewhat in love with Spider-Woman so you may have to judge for yourself.
– Robert Tacopina
Detective Comics #40
(Francis Manapul / Brian Buccellato; DC Comics)
Manapul & Buccellato deliver another knockout issue of Detective Comics, this time bringing a conclusion to their second story arc which has featured the villains Anarky and The Mad Hatter. They continue to deliver mind-blowing art, highlighted by the wide color palette that isn’t always so prevalent in Batman stories (though not quite as flamboyant as the parade that we saw in the latest issue of Batman). They also have some interesting things to say about the nature of political revolutions and if the people of Gotham really would be on the verge of one, given the corrupt nature of the city.
Again in this issue the art is the stand-out aspect, featuring some fresh new page layouts and explosive action. It’s enough to make me easily forgive some of the more heavy-handed bits of dialogue. Speaking of which, at what point can we stop blatantly pointing out the moral ambiguity of vigilante justice? Guess what…we understand that what Batman does isn’t the most ethical thing in the world. Unless one of the villains’ comments about this actually hits close enough to home to prompt Batman to step back and reanalyze his own actions there’s nothing new being presented.
The very last few moments of the Anarky storyline felt a bit glossed-over, regarding how the mind control was overcome and how people ended up where they did, but again, it was enough to be an understandable story and the artwork made everything pop.
– Steven Cain
(Josh Tierney / Afu Chan; BOOM!/Archaia)
Welcome to CityshipQ everyone, a double-sided disc with sister cities on either side, floating in the middle of outer space. Writer Josh Tierney (The Spira Series) gives us a decent introduction to what appears to be the beginning of a Tomb Raider-in-space type of series, only big corporations are afoot whose exact purposes remain a mystery.
We meet Rell, our bad-ass heroine, who has the ability to create realistic holograms using the help of a “holosuit.” Her ability is beyond that of most people’s, and because of this she is being studied by a company called HaloGen to help further these abilities. Then, she is tasked with a mission to find the body of Det’houva, an ancient god who died shortly after creation.
This first book is a little slow, but seems to be setting up some good action to come. The characters are fun and original. Afu Chan’s (The Spera Series) art is child-like, but somehow seems to fit the story perfectly. I think Tierney gives us a great introduction to a new series that will be fun, campy, and exciting without being overtly sexual and derogatory. Not to mention there is a kick-ass robot assassin who is cryptic as all Hell, and I’m certain we will see more of her. So I’ll keep reading it for sure.
– Jimmy Cupp
Black Science #12
(Rick Remender / Matteo Scalera / Moreno Dinisio; Image Comics)
Okay, so my big fear is coming to life: that I’m the guy who doesn’t like anything. The old curmudgeon who doesn’t understand what the kids are up to these days.
This book – neigh, this ISSUE – it’s pretty good. And I think what I like about it is the thing I never thought I’d like about contemporary comics. It takes itself SERIOUS. Like, real serious. We live in an age – of TV, of film, of literature – that somehow thinks it’s earned the right to laugh at itself; at its own form. But some of my favorite shit ever in the world is the shit that took itself SO seriously, that we as audience members might be tempted to laugh at it.
Written by Rick Remender (Uncanny X-Force, Captain America), the drawback for me here was simply too much back story. Now, I don’t mind getting thrown into to a long-away world, both in terms of time and space; an epic story chronicling the survival of alien races, of power shifts; an arc of dynamic characters desperate trying to harness technology that doesn’t abide by rules. No, I don’t mind having a SENSE of story, you understand? But I think, ultimately, this series here might hinge on its details.
Take my recommendation, and buy the issue for the dense prologue and quick ignition. To delight in the specificity of really responsible sci-fi world-building. Or for Matteo Scalera (Deadpool, Valen the Outcast) and Moreno Dinisio‘s (Dead Body Road, Resurrectionists) splashy, almost whimsical, messy and frenetic panels. But if you’re going to GET INTO it, I’d say buy the farm. Go back. Re-read. Get into it. Eat it up.
– Joe Tower
(Jeff Lemire / Dustin Nguyen; Image Comics)
Descender #1 is a little bit Firefly. It’s a little bit A.I. It’s a little bit Battlestar Galactica. Here’s what you need to know: nine core planets, racial tensions, giant robot attack, subsequent “genocide.”
Jeff Lemire‘s (Justice League United, All-New Hawkeye) story obviously borrows from a lot. None of the plot and setting is new, so far. The story follows a boy named Tim, who wakes up after 10 years on a mining colony in which all the people have died from a gas leak. Meanwhile, back on Niyata, the former capital planet, a former advanced roboticist is being questioned about his artificial intelligence work in the wake of a devastating attack on the core worlds.
The pacing of the story is a bit off. There’s a reveal that comes too soon, in my opinion in the first issue, which makes the splash page fall flat. Dustin Nguyen’s (Wildcats, Streets of Gotham) illusions are rough pencils with watercolor-style highlights (Lemire’s All-New Hawkeye #1 also used watercolors to great effect.) The style here makes the panels come alive. People look soft and warm. The metal looks cold and hard. The reader’s focus is drawn immediately to the color. The story is not original enough to demand waiting for it monthly, but picking it up as a trade paperback would be worth it.
– Matthew McGrath
The Woods #11
(James Tynion IV / Michael Dialynas / Josan Gonzalez; Image Comics)
This issue marks the penultimate installment of the first year of The Woods, which makes ‘The Woods #11’ an interesting issue to reflect on. This series contains many components that could have potentially made it great. The story wouldn’t seem as fantastic without Michael Dialynas’ pencils, which are elevated by Josan Gonzalez’s gorgeous colors (by far, the best part of the series). James Tynion IV is familiar with the landscape of fear in fiction and has milked this as well as he could.
However, after almost a year of The Woods, one can’t help but feel that something is missing.
One of the disadvantages this series has faced is that it is dealing with an unusually large cast of characters. The series could have moved forward with focusing on the school’s survival in this strange world, matching metaphors to its struggles, but instead the story branched off into two lines. One is exactly that survival story, except readers rarely see what is happening there at this point, and one includes now an entire village’s worth of 19th century Englishmen (why Englishmen and why from the 19th century? There doesn’t seem to be a thematic reason).
Even though the protagonists are cut down to 7, they still lack distinguishing features. Adrian is by far the most interesting, but little page space is given to develop his character. Calder is pitiable via his backstory. Isaac is perpetually upset about something, his supposed growth unconvincing in between his frequent emotional crises. Ben’s existence is completely contingent on Isaac in his comforting of and pining after him. The girls, Sanami, Karen, and Maria? Little is memorable of them as individual personalities because although Tynion tries hard, there’s not much that seems pertinent about them other than their roles in the plot.
Tynion is used to relying on invoking fear in his readers in order to keep them entertained in spite of his other projects’ flaws, but Dialynas’ style is not scary. Not only does The Woods not have solid characters, but it also doesn’t present any symbolism or themes in order to give its story depth. What is it that the readers of this series are supposed to be reading for? Any series should have a clear answer for that question by the end of a third issue, not still stumbling around trying to find a point after almost a year.