Singles Going Steady

Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin’s weekly single issue review roundup. 

Bodies #1

(Si Spencer / Meghan Hetrick / Tula Lotay / Dean Ormston / Phil Winslade; DC Comics/Vertigo)

3.5 stars

Miniseries.

Nowadays that word is usually associated with a short story run in a continuing series and not a series of individual books telling a short story. I think it’s because it gives readers an elated restraint feeling; it’s either a “great a self-contained story” feeling or “crap, how many tie-ins do I have to buy” feeling.

So it’s nice to see Bodies come out as a straight, no-strings-attached miniseries that falls into the first category.

On the surface it’s a murder-mystery involving four detectives. The hook Si Spencer dangles in front of us is, it’s the same body but the detectives, set distinctively in London’s East End, are from different periods in time.

This issue does what most first issues do; it introduces us to the players. In 1890 our inspector literally stumbles over the burned and mutilated body. It’s dismissed as a possible Jack the Ripper victim once it’s learned it’s a male and was found in an area associated with the Gay community. In 1940 during the WWII air raids we come across tough guy and not very law abiding detective with the shortest time spent with our time travelling victim. In 2014 we are presented with an independent Muslim woman in police riot gear kicking ass physically and verbally and in the year 2050 we meet a very mentally disconnected woman with some memory issues.

Each time is given its own artist which lends to the distinction and creates an individual look of each time period. Some might find this disjointing but each period and detective is told and drawn with enough personality to make it singular yet part of the whole. I would caution to some that Si Spencer characters use British slang appropriate to the period and if one is unfamiliar it could be confusing. Just think of it as colorful dialog and not clues.

It is the first issue but the promise of a tale that will give us more confusion before ending with an amazing coherent conclusion is there. If you’re wanting something different to read without worrying about committing to long running series, Bodies #1 has the capacity to be just that.

- David Vieira


Guardians of the Galaxy #17

(Brian Michael Bendis / Nick Bradshaw / Michael Oeming / Walden Wong / Justin Ponsor / Cory Petit; Marvel Comics)

3 stars

The Guardians of the Galaxy are the new “it” thing in the world of comics at the moment. Everywhere you look it is evident that marketing is in full onslaught mode as the Guardians banner is plastered everywhere. Not only has this past week given us two Guardians of the Galaxy comic books, but a mobile game was released as well and one of, if not the best, Marvel Studios cinematic offerings in the aptly titled Guardians of the Galaxy (if you have not seen it yet you are truly missing out) opened up this weekend to all kinds of awesomeness!

In this latest offering from scribe Brian Michael Bendis we see the lovable team of miscreants up to their collective necks, scruff and roots as they are placed in vicarious situations that only the GotG can find themselves in. The crux of this issue mainly focuses on the super cool Star-Lord and his quest to finally give his arch-nemesis (and father) J-Son, King of the Spartax, his much due comeuppance before finding the scattered members of his team. As Peter Quill once again teams up with Captain Marvel, who continues to guest star in the title and plays the perfect Chewbacca to Quill’s Solo, the duo manage to not only depose of dear old dad by showing the people of Spartax what a self absorbed narcissistic ruler who does not give a damn about the welfare of his subjects but they do so with such a wonderful dynamic of flirtatious respect for one another. These are the little self-contained moments where Bendis shines as he shows he gets these characters and is capable of expressing that on the page.

Unfortunately, however, the plotting isn’t to be held in such high regard. While the whole team manages to get their individual moment in the spotlight it is done so at the sake of a cohesive story. Events unravel in such otherworldly places as on Mord, the homeworld of the Brotherhood of the Badoon, where the ever-awesome pairing of Gamora and Angela easily dispatch the threat of the world’s indigenous species; to the Shi’ar Throne World where Drax attempts to fend off a verdict of execution by way of a physical challenge against the Strontian Gladiator. The problem is that there is little to no substance to be found within the allotted pages for those particular events for any real sense of urgency to be felt. This results in the reuniting of the team, which should serve as the emotional high note, to lack any substantial feeling in favor of unspectacular plotting that serves to get the characters from point A to point B.

To make matters worse is the fact that this issue featured an artistic jam which only helped to convolute the story telling. Nick Bradshaw delivers a solid looking first half of the comic only to have Michael Oeming step in at the halfway point which is where the wheels begin to fall off visually. It is not necessarily a knock on Oeming himself but more to the fact that his style clashes drastically with Bradshaw’s which along with the aforementioned weakness in the reunion aspect of the story takes all of the cosmic wind out of the sails of the issue. Oeming’s Rocket looks like he escaped from The Mice Templar series at Image (where Oeming shines) instead of the Kree Supreme Intelligence.

Perhaps the issue would have received a more favorable score if Nick Bradshaw could have had the opportunity to complete the whole issue or if Bendis could have managed to finagle more heart out of the second act. Also, why is Venom out here with the Guardians? Gripes aside this was still an alright issue of Guardians. If you miss this issue of GotG you really aren’t missing out on much.

- Robert Tacopina


Detective Comics Annual #3

(Brian Buccellato / Werther Dell’Edera / Jorge Fornes / Scott Hepburn / Werther Dell’Edera / Jorge Fornes /Scott Hepburn / John Kalisz / Lee Loughridge / Jon Proctor; DC Comics)

I’m rarely a big fan of the Annuals produced by Marvel and DC,…more than not, they kinda suck. But every once in awhile something comes out that’s an exception to that rule. This week’s Detective Comics Annual #3 was that exception, and actually pretty good! I think one reason it is so good is the fact that it actually ties into the book’s ongoing storyline.

Now, I know some people actually prefer the Annuals where the storylines are independent of the book’s regular ongoing story. But, far too often, writers go off on tangents in those Annual storylines, and, more than not, they kinda suck. And, usually, the art in those Annuals is at best barely tolerable to satisfactory, depending on your liking.

However, in this Annual, the storyline — or more accurately, the storylines — are very well thought out, assembled, and delivered. I’d say the three main storylines of this issue are Bruce/Batman addressing a boy named Aden’s struggle with an abusive father, a young man named Dante trying to get his life in order and stay clean (he is the love interest of Annette Aguila prior to her showing up in Detective Comics #30), and finally Bruce/Batman stopping a Gotham gang, called the Bastards of Blackgate, from dispersing the Icarus drug throughout the city.

The characters and their lives intertwine, weaving in and out of all storylines, really bringing this book to life in a very Sin City kinda way. So, kudos to Brian Buccellato, who delivers as usual. Also, the three artists, Werther Dell’Edera, Jorge Fornes, and Scott Hepburn, who I believe each drew their own part of the story, make distinguishing the three separate stories so much easier. The way Batman is drawn and colored in this book (good work John Kalisz, Lee Loughridge and Jon Proctor  — our colorists) is just plain cool!

Again, I’m not a HUGE fan of Annuals, but this one is definitely worth the buy,…especially if you’re a Batman fan and especially if you’re enjoying the storyline going on in Detective right now. Pick it up!

- Norrin Powell


Avengers World #10

(Nick Spencer / Marco Checchetto / Andres Mossa; Marvel Comics)
3 stars
Marvel publishes a lot of comics. Hell, it publishes a lot of Avengers comics.  It’s hard to discern what’s worth your time and what’s superfluous.
Avengers World teeters perilously on that line.  I follow but do not regularly read Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers titles so much of the content in the first bulk of this series were lost on me. The self-contained issues centered on new and auxiliary Avengers like Smasher and Manifold stalled the three-pronged story, and I eventually dropped the title. I’ve recently come back on now that Nick Spencer has taken on solo writing duties and I’ve found it’s a better product overall.
Secret Avengers (v2) set up big ideas that never really bloomed in ways they promised to. In the last couple issues of Avengers World those concept have reentered the Marvel/Avengers arena and appear the payoff is finally coming to fruition. Spencer is transforming this into the SHIELD-based Avengers title he once wrote however now the stakes are higher and the canvas is twice as large.
The books villains, a dragon wearing Madripoor as a hat, an undead Euro army and the newly buff and bureaucratic A.I.M., are all depicted with equal ferocity thanks to Marco Checchetto’s effort.  The book’s visual tone overall is fairly neutral in terms of a superhero title, but also carries a darker look as well with all the various occult and tech noir elements.
Avengers World #10 is a digressive issue that sets the board for what appears to a more cohesive future. It’s nowhere close to a must-read, but if you have an appetite for the Avengers it works well as a side dish.
- Jamil Scalese

The Wake #10

(Scott Snyder / Sean Murphy / Matt Hollingsworth; DC Comics/Vertigo)

We’ve had to wait nearly 2 months for the conclusion to Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy‘s aquatic thriller, The Wake, but what I just read should last me a lifetime.

The conclusion is that damn good.

If you expected a straightforward horror tale, using the tropes of the aquatic life and the depths that come with it, you’d be sadly mistaken. The Wake #10 — and the second-half of #9 — is no less a mind-fuck; not quite to the stature of 52 planets and 52 Batmans, but the maxi-series wades over a wealthy 200-years of Assassin’s Creedish history, drowned with elements that play both to the highest realm and most distant figments of your imagination.

Snyder (Batman) could have easily named this book The Seed, since that’s practically what’s been planted since day one. He transforms and transcends his straight-up thriller tale during the protagonist switch-up halfway through. Or antagonist, from the fish-man-species Mers point of view; although it’s later revealed how both these scaley sea-creatures and humans are eventually linked.

In fact, calling this a sci-fi horror mystery is almost a damn near spoiler– unless you’ve discovered every clue Murphy has so cunningly sketched — from paranoiac ship-deck to monster-amalgamated shipwreck — since The Wake‘s initial inception.

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Thankfully, not all of Snyder & Murphy’s brilliance is shrouded in mystery.

If you read much Snyder (and I really have to check your geek-pulse if you’re not), you know the man is no stranger to exposition. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed the Man of Steel speak as much, especially to his villains, than in the writer’s Superman: Unchained. Thing is, Snyd’s good with words, great with expanding on his own mythologies, and often elucidates with far more mystery than mere telling over showing. You can bet his set design pieces — and the actions taken upon them — will end up epic as a result.

Snyder has also been great at getting his artist to level up the background art so it feels more like a montage or dream sequence, to which in the particular case of The Wake, has our lead gal often battling herself over wondering just that. When all’s said and done, The Wake is and appears far more than a dream; it’s apropos to an at-once history-horror blended with heart-pulsating thriller. And taking the action from the sea to the air is all just a part of Murphy and colorist Matt Hollingsworth‘s mastery.

The title was fine enough as a straight-up underwater thriller, but I came away with so much more when I woke the fuck up and discovered the sea.

- Travis Moody


Supreme: Blue Rose #1

(Warren Ellis / Tula Lotay; Image Comics)

Nodding to the reality of investigative reporting in today’s world by Ms. Diana Dane’s lack of employment, Supreme: Blue Rose #1 — from Planetary scribe Warren Ellis — blends present-day and future days very well. The story begins in a foreboding dream sequence, and much like my own nocturnal “head movies”, makes little immediate sense.

The content progresses with a real-life rationalization session with Dane’s bestie, about an unreal topic of mystery that sets up the future storyline. But honestly, the biggest mystery to me is how anyone would pay an investigative reporter $300k.

And after reading this, I think the staff at CB should seriously get a raise.

Visually, the blending of ink vs. digital art from Tula Lotay (Legends of Red Sonja) in this Image comic is almost seamless. The frames take on very appropriate filters and make you wish the comic book also came with an Instagram filter to use for your own personal use.

Overall, I’d keep reading out of sheer curiosity and the aesthetically pleasing frames. But first, lemme take a selfie.

- Jackie Henley


Low #1

(Rick Remender / Greg Tocchini; Image Comics)

4 stars

Image’s Low #1, new from from Rick Remender (Captain America and recent dumb Twitter controversy) and Greg Tocchini (Star Wars Tales), comes strong out of the gates, a kind of undersea cross between Pacific Rim and Saga.

Set in the far future’s waning days of Earth, the story follows a married pair of explorers, sworn to protect the remnants of humanity via the use of a Helm suit, the deep-sea exploration/battle mech which only they are genetically able to use. On a proverbial 3-hour tour, the couple and their daughters are beset by pirates who abscond with the Helm suit, the father’s eye (needed to operate the suit), and as collateral, their daughters.

Tocchini’s art is consistently beautiful, though occasionally veers toward the abstract; making the staging of crucial scenes tough at-a-glance reads…

Remender’s script, meanwhile, takes its time doling out no small amount of exposition, without sacrificing the warm, lived-in relationship between the hero couple, favorably recalling Saga‘s Marko & Alanna.

(Sidebar: for those keeping track, this is the second consecutive review where I’ve linked the positive aspects of a new comic back to Saga; I feel like that’s not just me, but that the Vaughan/Staples masterpiece has been on the market long enough for its trickle-down influence to be felt.)

So much world-building leaves little time once the story-proper kicks in, forcing shit to get real across only a handful of panels. Now that this world is established and the stakes painstakingly set, I’m hoping for an issue #2 that feels free to get straight to Remender’s vicious, unstinting action drawn in Tocchini’s graceful hand.

- Alex Gradet


Uncanny X-Men #24

(Brian Michael Bendis / Chris Bachalo; Marvel Comics)

3.5 stars

I’m an older guy now, but when I was younger I read A LOT of X-Men. Probably up until the late 90’s, I pretty much read most X-books. However, toward the early to mid-2000s, the only X-book I kinda kept up with was Ultimate X-Men. I started feeling that “X-Men proper” books that I’d known and loved for years just weren’t the same anymore; whereas, in the Ultimate Universe, they didn’t have to be. It was an alternate universe, so could do and go wherever it wanted without any repercussions.

However, on a whim this past week, I decided to pick up Uncanny X-Men #24. I won’t lie,…in all honesty, I picked it up because the cover art for Dazzler’s new look very much resembles a You Tube Videocaster I watch, called Comic Book Girl 19. Oddly enough, Comic Book Girl 19’s favorite X-Men is Dazzler, so…coincidence? You tell me.

For those who keep up with X-Books, you obviously know Charles Xavier is dead. For those that don’t –yeah, Charles Xavier is dead…again. Jen Walters a.k.a. She Hulk shows up, in an official capacity, for the reading of Charles’ will. Yup, apparently, Jen was Chuck’s lawyer. She lets the X-Men at Jean Grey’s School for Gifted Youngster know that Scott Summers (Cyclops) presence is required, before the reading can begin. Everyone gets expectedly uncomfortable, and Hank McCoy (Beast) reveals he knows where Scott and his students have been hiding out.

Hank, Storm, and Bobby (Iceman) show up at Scott’s not-so-secret hideout, the abandoned former Weapon X facility, and let him know he needs to come to the reading of Charles Xavier’s will. Scott decides to go, under protest, and he and Wolverine silently exchange snarls, before leaving.

Everyone gets back to the Jean Grey School for the reading, and Jen Walters commences with it. She begins with, “I Charles Francis Xavier…” etc., etc., and then gets to a part where the will states, “…I declare that I am married as of the date of this will and my wifes name is Raven Darkholme.” RAVEN DARKHOLME!!!! To which She Hulk murmurs, “Raven Darkholme, Raven Darkholme…how do I know that name?” LOL!!!!!!! Which is exactly what Emma Frost did!

This storyline TOTALLY has my attention, and this may be a good jumping on point for those that either were X-Men readers and want to return, or want to become brand-new X-Men readers.

- Norrin Powell