Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin’s weekly review roundup.
Rocket Raccoon & Groot #7
(W) Nick Kocher (A) Michael Walsh (C) Cris Peter (L) Jeff Eckleberry
Rocket Raccoon & Groot has been the standout title from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy lineup, and the new creative team of writer Nick Kocher and artist Michael Walsh are not here to slow its momentum. They capture the madcap sensibilities and playful tone of the series so far, while playing to their own strengths in this debut. It’s a one-shot that should please current readers and invite new ones to jump on board.
Walsh’s work is as on point as ever and the driving reason to read this issue. His sense of comedic timing is as on point as ever doling out jokes on every page with an almost clairvoyant sense of how to guide the reader’s eye and where to place a punchline. He is given a greater ability to experiment here, inventing a wide range of alien races and settings to simply occupy the backgrounds. The result is a colorful jaunt through space. Cris Peter’s colors are a better fit than those in Worst X-Men ever. They use flatted colors well and help define figures and depth. There is a lack of rendering in some pages, such as the very first, that leaves them feeling unfinished though.
Nick Kocher is a newcomer to comics and shows off a great sense of pacing, one that is greatly enhanced by Walsh’s layouts. The story of Rocket Raccoon & Groot #7 is done in 20 pages and doesn’t need one more panel than it receives. It’s a familiar comedic premise that allows for a variety of visual gags. Where Kocher stumbles is with that sense of familiarity and in written jokes. The repetition of a central twist is utilized to the point that the ending is clear at the story’s climax and Kocher has no plan to surprise readers killing the issue’s final punchline. His use of narrative captions is uneven and undermines jokes that ought to work based purely in dialogue.
Considering this is Kocher’s first work at Marvel and Walsh’s involvement, it’s fair to expect this series to only improve from this point. It is not off to a bad start though. Rocket Raccoon & Groot #7 is a merry jaunt with plenty of visual delights and funny moments, even if it rests on a premise that gets old before the comic is half over. It’s good fun and delivered well.
– Chase Magnett
Civil War II #3
(W) Brian Michael Bendis (A) David Marquez & Olivier Coipel (C) Justin Ponsor (L) Clayton Cowles
Civil War II #3 is a story that exists entirely to deliver a single twist and Marvel Comics announced that news the night before its release, which begs the question, “Why does this comic exist?” Despite being a summer event comic stuffed with all of Marvel’s most popular characters, not much happens in these pages and it results in one of the most surprisingly boring comics of 2016.
A court scene is used to frame the retelling of the central plot of Civil War II #3, but only adds panels and removes any nuance from characters who state their thoughts and feelings for the jury. The actual plot of the issue can be summarized in two bullet points, but is drug across pages leading to a moment that feels unsurprising (even without Marvel spoiling it). The dialogue and pacing feels more like a spin-off comic discussing the big moment than a story with a big moment within it. Top all of this off with some half-hearted evocations of police violence that the script is not truly interested in exploring, and you have a boring comic that would be offensive if it could only muster the energy.
Artists David Marquez and Olivier Coipel are confronted by the challenge of discovering how to make long, essentially non-confrontational sequences visually compelling. Marquez uses a variety of figures and positioning to change perspective during long shouting matches without confusing readers. Whenever there is an ounce of movement in the story, he seizes upon it. Coipel essentially repeats the same set of faces in a bar, which is what is asked for, but is no less lackluster for it. The effort in Marquez’s sequences only make the lack of story momentum more clear though. Each brief feeling of excitement is a reminder that very little is actually occurring on the page.
Civil War II #3 puts 5 pages of story in a 24 page comic, which leaves this “turning point” feeling just as weightless and inconsequential as you might expect. It’s fine to look at, presenting the standard “superhero style” of the day with plenty of character dramatically posing. However, start to ponder on what you’re actually looking at and you’ll find it’s a lot of refined filler covering a singular plot point. Try not to think about how much it cost after that realization.
– Chase Magnett
Space Battle Lunchtime #3
(W/A/C) Natalie Riess (D) Hilary Thompson
It’s a rare occasion when a comic book can erase all of a day’s ills. But Natalie Riess has created a story of unbridled joy with deft sequential skill and an aesthetic teeming with boundless potential. It’s happiness on the page and it should be prescribed.
Space Battle Lunchtime’s first two issues introduced the main players and set the stage for conflict in rudimentary fashion, but the end result is anything but simple. The basic tenets of the hero’s journey are instantly recognizable but are applied in a way that supplements the narrative rather than take away. And in the third issue we start to see hints that abducted-pastry chef Peony’s journey might not stay the path.
Riess’ cartooning is strongest during a sequence in which the contestants have finished preparing their meals and the judging begins. The layout and the gutters lead the eye down the page—transitioning from the poor judge about to meet his fate, to the nervous contestant who knows he’s on the precipice of certain doom.
The page turn is hilarious while slightly arresting, mimicking the beautiful train wreck that most reality television producers froth at the mouth over. Riess knows how to tell a story well. This comic is a demonstration. It’d do you well to pay attention.
– Joseph Kyle Schmidt
Ninjak #17 (Valiant Entertainment)
(w) Matt Kindt, (a) Diego Bernard with Alisson Rodriguez, Andres Guinaldo with Marc Deering and Mark Pennington, (c) Ulises Arreola with Andrew Dalhouse, Chris Sotomayor, (l) David Sharpe
Though the arc is titled “The Siege of King’s Castle”, a more apt title is “Ninjak is Fucked” (though the marketing team might have a bit more trouble working with that). In three issues, Colin King has seen his cover blown, his home destroyed, and his fortune evaporated. Then there’s also the little matter of Roku and her deadly locks looking to finish him off once and for all.
In an issue full of reveals, Matt Kindt confirms the suspicion of readers. Yes, Roku who you predicted she was. Yes, the disappearance of King’s parents from his childhood is as expected. And yes, Alain isn’t a total bastard. These reveals have little to no shock value to the reader, largely due to them being heavily telegraphed throughout the series. However, their value lies in their impact on Ninjak himself. After the physical, career, and financial turmoil he has endured, these latest developments bring him to an emotional breaking point.
Given his typically calm and cool demeanor, it is a refreshing sight to see King brought to the edge. Unfortunately, Kindt does not push Ninjak past it. Rather, he walks it back to a tamer, cleaner conclusion. I don’t know if it was Kindt himself or Valiant’s editorial team that lacked the conviction to take Ninjak that far, but it feels like a wasted opportunity.
If there is an area where Ninjak has always excelled, it’s the art. Whether it’s the main narrative piece by Diego Bernard and Alisson Rodriguez, or the backup feature by Andres Guinaldo, the crisp linework and well-designed layouts keep this action-heavy issue moving at a steady pace. The book’s coloring trio (Arreola, Dalhouse, and Sotomayor) seamlessly work in tandem to create a united and consistent aesthetic. Often times, the work of a single colorist can unite the work of multiple artists in a single issue, making their feat in retrospect quite impressive. As a result, Ninjak continues to be a sleek and stylish actioner.
Ninjak #17 effectively brings “The Siege of King’s Castle” to a close while tying up the few remaining threads that have been left dangling since the series’ debut issue. Moreover, it wipes the titular character’s slate clean for the future of the series – an exciting proposition for a character with a nonexistent cultural footprint. Though Valiant continues to build its “superhero” universe, it is not tethered to the “illusion of change” that readers demand of their Big Two titles. While the publisher’s output – including this issue – is of consistently high quality, hopefully they find the courage to push themselves beyond what their competitors are willing to do.
– Daniel Gehen