Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin’s weekly single issue review roundup.
Bebop and Rocksteady Destroy Everything #5 (IDW)
(W) Ben Bates and Dustin Weaver, (A) Ryan Browne, Sophie Campbell, Dustin Weaver, and Ben Bates, (C) Bill Crabtree (L) Shawn Lee
Bebop and Rocksteady are among the most beloved baddies in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles universe for one simple reason: they’re a couple of idiots that do idiotic things. To many fans, they’re clumsy henchman that always seem to be screwing up. And throughout Bebop and Rocksteady Destroy Everything, the ability to time-travel has elevated their ability to make a mess to a new level.
Multiple artists are almost always a cause for concern, especially in a limited series. However, the use of time travel in Bebop and Rocksteady Destroy Everything has allowed the creative team to use different artists to depict different time periods, giving each a unique appearance. Unfortunately, that is lost when the multiple Bebops and Rocksteadys are congregated together. What works under one artist’s pen does not translate when another picks it up, despite Bill Crabtree’s unifying (and wonderfully vibrant) colors.
Ben Bates and Dustin Weaver have managed to strike a tone that has made this miniseries a very fun read. There are laughs (or at the very least, chuckles) for most of the issue, even if it is a little juvenile at times. Though the tone doesn’t match anything else in the current Ninja Turtles canon, the focus on the mutated rhino and warthog does alleviate the tonal whiplash. As has been the case throughout the series, the rules of time travel are not very clear. The multiple iterations of the titular characters certainly don’t help in giving the narrative a semblance of clarity. Those elements which are clear bring the series full circle to the beginning, hurriedly tying up the major plot threads into a nice little bow. Bebop and Rocksteady #5 is 20-plus pages of dumb, stupid fun.
– Daniel Gehen
Hillbilly #1 (Albatross)
(W/A) Eric Powell
Eric Powell is self-publishing a new series and fans of the creator’s blend of Americana, rural folklore, and black humor will not be disappointed. Hillbilly #1 is a very Powell comic tackling the same set of visual and thematic concerns as the rest of his work. It is a bleak tale of a beset upon boy who grows into a powerful loner of a man (almost exactly like another goonish character). Hillbilly #1 is delivered like an origin story, leaving some holes and plenty of road to travel, but covering all of the significant starting points and key components of the titular man. Despite its dark tone, it is very much like something from the superhero genre, stocked with tragedy and fantastical gifts that come with a price. In this regard, Hillbilly, reads like a backwoods Amazing Fantasy #15.
That is somewhat undercut by Powell’s own familiar obsessions. There is no light at the end of the tales he tells. Hillbilly #1 reinforces a philosophy that the world is a terrible place filled with terrible people who will commit accidental and purposeful injustices on the rare good ones. Old men are made out to be just as evil as the demonic witches in these Southern hills. If this were a debut that perspective might seem more interesting, but it is an uncomplicated point of view that Powell has been working through for more than a decade. At this point in his career, Hillbilly #1 reads like a new Dropkick Murphys album sounds, more of the same with some different words and possibly a bit louder.
That is not to say Hillbilly #1 is without merit. While the story is one Powell continues to repeat, he repeats it with deft visual sensibilities. The use of sepia tones in this comic and blurring of watercolors and inks into a dreamlike (or should I say nightmarish?) state create a perfect tone for the folklore Powell is emulating. His woods quickly layer trees to present a consuming darkness that looms in every panel. The linework here is of particular note. Powell utilizes big, looping lines in the curl of a cleaver blade, the fingers of a witch, and twisting vines of a dark forest, all of which represent evil. These big, loping lines encircle the “hillbilly” and his world, presenting an all-consuming and inescapable vision of darkness.
The only out of place element in Hillbilly #1 is the zaniness of a tomboy character and her over-sized bow. It reads in a humorous fashion without delivering any laughs. Hillbilly #1 never creates the tone of being a funny book, like The Goon, and here that particular element of Powell’s repertoire falls flat. Overall, Hillbilly #1 marks a continuing evolution of a talented cartoonist. Changes to style and media present an intriguing read, but one that is shackled to a story and themes that have grown stale.
– Chase Magnett
Amelia Cole #30 (Monkeybrain)
(W) D.J. Kirkbride & Adam P. Knave (A/C) Nick Brokenshire (L) Rachel Deering
Four years and 30 issues from this team have culminated in a quiet series finale that serves as celebration without feeling like a self-satisfied victory lap. Even without taking the effort that goes into a consistent team producing a creator-owned book for that long into consideration, it feels earned as it avoids falling into the nostalgia trap. This may be an ending but the characters’ eyes (and hopefully those of this creative team) are set on the future.
Brokenshire’s growth over the last four years can’t be stated enough. The more laid back nature of this issue allows him to show off how assured he’s becoming with the performance of his figures. Several wordles panels at the end bring Amelia from melancholy to bright as she flies off and there’s a notable panel earlier in which she blushes in the most endearing way. The big fantasy also looks damn fine in a large panel filled with three large dragons and their majestic posturing.
Wrapping up all of the major plot threads in the previous issue allows the characters room to breath and emphasize the relationships that the book can credit for its longevity. The absence of Amelia’s golem and buddy Lemmy is felt after so many issues of him appearing silently beside her. It’s a testament to how human Brokenshire made the character feel and how deftly Kirkbride & Knave were able to build his bond with Amelia. His “reappearance” at the end serves as a fine punctuation mark for the series.
– Mark Stack
X-O Manowar #47 (Valiant)
(W) Robert Venditti, (A) Joe Bennett, Marcio Loerzer, Roberto De La Torre, and Dean White, (C) Ulises Arreola, (L) Dave Sharpe
Robert Venditti’s X-O Manowar served as a great launching point for the current Valiant Universe. And since 2012, it has remained a constant; an anchor that set the tone by combining real-world social and political issues with the bombastic concepts of superheroes. While other series, like Archer & Armstrong and Harbinger came and went, X-O Manowar trudged onward. But over the course of 46 issues, the series has become stale and formulaic, a trend which continues in X-O Manowar #47.
The visuals provided by Joe Bennett and Roberto De La Torre, along with inkers Marcio Loerzer and Dean White, is the issue’s greatest strength. The opening pages by De La Torre and White, which provide a recap on the history of the Vine and the X-O Manowar armor, have a stunning, painterly quality. Meanwhile, Bennett and Loerzer’s work on the core narrative offers clean linework and simple, stylish layouts. Ulises Arreola’s colors offer a diverse mix of vibrant primaries and muted earth tones which complement both art styles, allowing action sequences to pop while giving dramatic scenes their required weight.
If you’ve read an arc of X-O Manowar, you should know what you’re getting into in terms of plot. There’s Aric (X-O Manowar) and his new kingdom of Visgoths and Vine refugees having to survive a new, extraterrestrial threat. Only this time, their the apparent gods from the Vine’s former homeworld, Loam. I could be wrong, and the arc’s end could be a massive payoff for longtime readers. But as it stands right now, the issue is retread of previous plot points. On the other hand, new readers, or those looking for a their superhero fix during an off-week for the Big Two, should find this to be satisfying.
– Daniel Gehen
Cryptocracy #1 (Dark Horse)
(W) Van Jensen (A/CA) Pete Woods
Indulging in conspiracy theories is just another way for a normal soul to understand this chaos we call life. Some could be real, and some just pure imagination. What if these theorists were onto something? What if these bizarre events of the world were all controlled by the same people? Nine groups of people, to be exact.
This narrative of the way the world is run puts the Illuminati to shame. Van Jensen gives his readers the inside look of the world’s most hidden secrets. Grahame, our “protagonist,” is a big deal in his Family and he’s got a lot on his plate: trying to keep the mysterious Nine Families classified while plans get compromised, figuring out what to do with a podcaster who is always on their trail, and keeping an enemy, foretold by prophecy, from destroying the Families, one head after another.
The blend of the bold, visual palette of Pete Woods along with Jensen’s social commentary with a new point of view helps this comic stand out among others of its kind. We’ve heard the stories of the good guy trying to breach the corrupt system and take down the authority. Even in our daily lives we have dealt with unfair jurisdiction, so why would someone care to read about the lives of Jensen’s equivalent to the one percent? Try the fact that with power comes a great chance of losing your freaking mind, constant competition and potential backstabbing, and a cool Sci-Fi element. Imagine if the creatures and mystery of The X-Files crossed paths with the wild, societal mockery of Capcom’s DmC: Devil May Cry and John Carpenter’s They Live. Yeah, there’s more than just humans involved. These powerful families have access to aliens, a giant and crude “Bugbear,” and who else knows.
We, as the readers, get an interesting perspective. We have the knowledge of what’s going on with both sides as if we were the inside man. Oh, by the way, Jensen was a crime reporter. He was a journalist with a job that was all about research. I think we can trust that he and Woods have spent a long, studious time collaborating on a subject that is nothing but research, especially since real life events are claimed by the Families in this comic.
What will become of the Nine Families, and those that try to eradicate their secrecy? One thing is for sure: this will either be a conspiracy theorist’s dream come true or their worst nightmare.
– Kristopher Grey
The Accelerators #12 (Blue Juice Comics)
(W) R.F.I. Porto, (A) Gavin P. Smith, (C) Tim Yates, (L) Crank!
Time travel. It can yield narratives which capture the imagination of readers, or instill complete and utter frustration. When it is the focus of the plot, a story can completely unravel – see Bebop and Rocksteady Destroy Everything as proof. However, R.F.I. Porto, Gavin P. Smith, and Tim Yates’ The Accelerators has successfully crafted a headache-free time travel narrative over the course of its publication. Rather than irritate, each new wrinkle tickles the reader’s sense of intrigue.
Despite the heavy science fiction, The Accelerators is flush with mystery and thriller elements. This places a heavy burden on the art team to provide atmosphere and uncertainty to the reader, a task which Smith and Yate rise to on a repeated basis. The book’s clean and well-paced layouts allows Smith to provide stunning, page-turning revelations. Moreover, he is careful not to render any character’s faces as “heroic” or “villainous”, giving the book an ambiguous morality that keeps readers guessing.
R.F.I. Porto has done a stellar job throughout the series in crafting a cohesive narrative by keeping the rule to time-travel simple. As a result, the wrinkle added in this latest arc, multiple versions of Spatz (the series’ protagonist), appears to betray those rules. However, as this is the only instance, it appears to be a plot thread that Porto, Smith, and Yates will be pulling on throughout the art. Unfortunately, with this issue’s heavy focus on Spatz, Spatz, and Spatz, it offers little room for the title’s other characters to have any significant impact. Regardless, with multiple options from various publishers, The Accelerators remains THE time travel book to read.
– Daniel Gehen