Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin’s weekly review roundup. Week sees a continuation of DC’s “The Button” crossover while BOOM! Studios’ WWE comic delivers a powerful finishing move to its first arc.
There’s Nothing There #1 (Black Mask Studios)
(W) Patrick Kindlon (A) Maria Llovet (L) Jim Campbell
Famous socialite Reno and her soon-to-be-curved associate go to an upper-class shindig that turns out to be an orgy and, more importantly, a supernatural ritual. Reno wakes up as she commonly does after her usual nights of drugs, sex, and partying. The difference this time is she’s seeing ghosts and having nightmares; Not the kind of publicity you want when you’re constantly being followed by paparazzi and camera phones. The story has been fair for an introductory first issue. The sex is prominent; Anyone skimming the first few pages in a comic book store will know what to expect. The beginning gives us enough dramatic irony for the readers to assume what is going on while the main character pays absolutely no attention.
With the story that Kindlon is trying to tell, the artwork by Maria Llovet is a good fit. Llovet has background in drawing sexual situations concerning both nudity and BDSM. She is also enthusiastic about fashion, so I imagine dressing a famous 20-something female and her friend was amusing. Even though most of them were naked for some time, she made the posh decision of making some of the middleground characters fashionable. Llovet uses a unique drawing style where details are more loose and slack, but still noticeable with her choices of both thin and heavy, dark lines. The heavy lines also work with the horror genre to add a sense of dread, as seen in Reno’s nightmare.
Even though Reno is a celebrity, her character still feels like any other privileged, problematic human. Humans reacting to supernatural situations they don’t understand can be as exciting as a superhero story, and maybe even more relatable. Readers were given an ending that was somewhat stimulating, but still left enough anticipation to pick up the second issue.
— Kristopher Grey
WWE #4 (BOOM! Studios)
(W) Dennis Hopeless (A) Serg Acuña and Doug Garbark (L) Jim Campbell
The Seth Rollins arc wraps up as he is finally cleared to compete on the day of the Extreme Rules PPV. The entire issue is him literally jumping over obstacles devised by Triple H to keep him from “ruining” the show. It’s basically a “Beat the Clock” story, but with wrestlers in total kayfabe.
Hopeless does an excellent job setting up the pacing expectation with Seth’s inner monologue on the first page. It addresses both the past conflict that lead him to this point, and present conflict so readers know what to expect this issue. He has kept the characters consistent since the one-shot before the first issue.The character types are way too perfect for Hopeless not to have been watching WWE for the past 2 years. Every character’s dialogue is presented as they would be on the live shows.
Now that Triple H’s manipulative antics and Seth’s determination have come to a head, the issue feels over-the-top, but it works!! Triple H uses outrageous tactics to keep Seth away from the arena. To keep up, Seth’s pursuit has to be even more ridiculous just to get to his goal. This type of action and comedy wouldn’t work on a big screen (or at least be taken seriously). It’s excessive enough to work for visual storytelling.
Character progression isn’t always necessary, but it adds more depth to a goal-driven narrative. Seth’s intentions have changed since issue #1. He betrayed his brotherhood for a boss who was self-centered and doubted him. Seth went through a metamorphosis during his time away, and came up with a plan of his own: Redesign, Rebuild, and Reclaim.
Serg Acuña’s art is, as always, amazing. Visually seeing Seth’s determination and reactions to the setbacks helps us feel for his character. We see his journey through a series of closeups of his face: The highs, the lows, the anger, and the anguish. By the end, readers want him to succeed. I am also a fan of Acuña’s choice of background colors. On one page, a different color for each panel background is represented by a fading color of an evening sky: Blue, purple, orange, and pink. It’s a creative way to show that time has gone by besides just showing a sky, or a bubble with the time in a caption box.
By the end of next month, we’ll be formally introduced to Dean Ambrose’s character. It can now be assumed that all 3 former members of The Shield will get their own arc, and eventually have their stories blend together. With exhilarating art and sensational storytelling, the WWE comic series is one all fans would enjoy, and issue #4 does not disappoint. Kayfabe for everyone!
— Kristopher Grey
The Flash #21 (DC Comics)
(W) Joshua Williamson, (A) Howard Porter, (C) Hi-Fi
Part two of “The Button” hits The Flash, with Joshua Williamson and Howard Porter picking up where Tom King and Ivan Reis’ left of to deliver a [marginally] stronger issue by virtue of stuff actually happening. As I discussed in my review of Batman #21, the use of the 9-panel structure was a cool way to homage Watchmen while also giving the issue a natural pacing, but at the end of the day the issue is just Reverse Flash beating the piss out of Batman. With Flash #21, we get to see some real detective work undertaken not by “the world’s greatest detective,” but by perhaps the world’s fastest – Barry Allen.
Throughout DC Rebirth, Joshua Williamson has quietly delivered the best run of Barry Allen stories since the character was resurrected in the late 2000s. Geoff Johns forcibly told readers how great Barry is while trying to steer the entire DC Universe. Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato put so much energy into making a pretty book that the story seemed like an afterthought. But Williamson, who has penned fascinating, creator-owned stories at Image, has spent a good part of his run getting to who Barry Allen is as a person. Throughout the series’ previous 20 issues, Williamson has developed a version of the character that reconciles the unassuming and mild-mannered incarnation of the Silver and Bronze Ages with modern sensibilities.
Unfortunately, Williamson has also fallen into a trap throughout his Flash run of being over-reliant on narrative boxes. The heavy use of exposition causes the writing to feel repetitive over the course of the series. For those jumping on The Flash solely for “The Button,” this may not be as noticeable, but the issue is still text heavy in comparison to Part One, which disrupts the overall flow of the story.
The artwork by Howard Porter is just as much a strength to the issue as it is a weakness. While Porter just as a capable and well-regarded artist as Ivan Reis, no one is ever going to confuse the two. His artwork is busier, with added (and at times, unnecessary) lines throughout the issue. His characters also suffer from sharing the same faces, making them difficult to differentiate outside of the costume. However, what Porter does well is action, and there’s several great examples throughout.
One of the best things Porter does here is draw the Flash in motion. Having drawn The Flash for several years when Wally West was DC’s main speedster, Porter knows a thing or two about making characters appear fast. However, in the time since it has become popular to use trails of lightning to visualize The Flash’s speed. But Porter gives The Flash #21 an amalgam of new school and old school, with a red blur interwoven with lightning. We see this several times throughout the issue, and each time it looks great.
Another moment of note is when Flash and Batman hop on the Cosmic Treadmill for some wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey investigating. Yes, even as liberally bent as laws of physics in the DC Universe are, it’s still tough to fathom Batman being able to run alongside Flash. However, their journey throughout time and space is a revisiting of DC’s past publications, such as the formation of the Justice League back in the 1950s, or the events of 2004’s Identity Crisis. While it is a cool moment, it once again brings up more questions than it answers.
The Flash #21 is another solid entry into the larger saga of DC Rebirth. While the entire premise may be an ethical quandary from a creator-rights perspective, the story as crafted by DC’s current writers and artists has not failed to be, at the very least, entertaining. Hopefully Williamson and the art team can iron out the remaining wrinkles in the second half of “The Button.”
— Daniel Gehen