Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin’s weekly review roundup.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #62 (IDW Publishing)
(W) Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow, & Tom Waltz, (A) Dave Wachter, (C) Ronda Pattison, (L) Shawn Lee
The story whipped up by Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz, and Bobby Curnow in this installment of the TMNT saga sets the reader on an emotional journey full of highs, lows, and everything in between. The cover by artist Dave Wachter alludes to an issue focused on Casey Jones, which usually implies a good amount of action. And while the trio’s story holds true to that promise, the issue’s script, executed by Waltz, carries an emotional weight that catches readers off guard.
After much stage-setting in TMNT #61, Splinter’s master plan begins to take shape, beginning with Casey reintroducing himself to his father’s old crew: the Purple Dragons. What transpires is a raw and brutal action sequence courtesy of Wachter. Rhonda Pattison employs a muted color palette which reflects the brutal, emotionless actions Casey undertakes, incapacitating the entire crew with relative ease.
That same cold color palette is used to great effect later in the issue, when it is revealed that Splinter had set in motion some of the series’ more recent events for a tactical advantage. This is a great tie into Michelangelo’s speech in the previous issue where he calls Splinter out for acting more and more like the Shredder than their father-figure. The issue’s closing image of Splinter against a cement-gray backdrop overseeing the Foot train in their all-black uniforms is a chilling sight. Each issue since the conclusion of the “Vengeance” arc has alluded to Splinter’s moral corruption, but this might be the first evidence of its existence. Moreover, his actions (or at least his confession to certain actions) may be the tipping point that sees himself and the Turtles fully divided.
If you’re worried that this issue is all doom and gloom, do not fret. Waltz, Wachter, and Pattison collaborate to deliver one of the most heartwarming sequences in the entire series as Raphael tries convincing Michelangelo to rejoin the team. Each word feels specifically chosen to emotionally lure the reader further and further into the scene so that by the end, they are reduced to tears. Wachter and Pattison’s art works perfectly in tandem with the script. The desperation Raphael feels to reunite his family is on full display, as is Michelangelo’s skepticism to the whole idea. In all, this is a masterfully executed sequence.
Anyone planning to pick up Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #62 should prepare for an emotional roller-coaster ride. Waltz takes the story he has crafted alongside Kevin Eastman and Bobby Curnow and molds it into a tightly paced and emotionally taxing issue. Add to it the great artwork by Dave Wachter and Ronda Pattison, and the result is another installment in the best ongoing superhero comic available being published today. This is without a doubt a must-buy.
— Daniel Gehen
Revolution #1 (IDW Publishing)
(W) John Barber & Cullen Bunn, (A) Fico Ossio, (C) Sebastian Cheng, (L) Tom B. Long
With Revolution #1, it appears that IDW is getting in on the shared-universe, crossover event game that has been a mainstay for the Big Two. In one issue, the worlds of Transformers, G.I. Joe, Action Man, and ROM collide in an issue that exploits traditional superhero tropes and real-world issues.
There are a lot of great ideas and character motivations that are thrown around, and for the most part they are executed well. Or at the very least, the execution is much better than expected. With immigration and racial tensions acting as a hot-button issue in the current political climate, the conflict that arises as humanity tries to cohabit the planet with the Autobots is authentic. Perspective plays a big role in the escalation of the conflict. The pressure and anger of humanity (channeled via the members of G.I. Joe) appears justified after Optimus Prime essentially takes control of Earth. Conversely, the Autobots feel that humanity is ungrateful for the protection that they provide the planet, and that they are being attacked unprovoked.
Because of their limited usage, the inclusion of Action Man and ROM comes across as needlessly tacked on at this stage. Though Action Man initially serves as the reader’s gateway into this world, ROM’s only reason for existing appears to be “let’s fuck this shit up.” As the Autobots and GI Joe begin to resolve their conflict, this silver space knight appears, vaporizes some human soldiers, and takes off. At this point, Jazz says basically what everything else is thinking – “you’ve got to be kidding me…” (This may be slightly paraphrased).
Despite the wonkiness of the narrative, Revolution #1 looks good. Fico Ossio is able to juggle the issue’s many moving parts to give the reader clarity and direction while still managing to squeeze in the occasional money-shot. Aiding the cause is colorist Sebastian Cheng and his dynamic palette. For an issue that takes place in either military bunkers, snowy mountain tops, or a rainy urban setting, he manages to inject the book with bright, vibrant colors.
For an event comic from a publisher that doesn’t do event comics, Revolution #1 was a solid, if unspectacular debut. In all, it tries to do too much in the span of 20-plus pages. Now that the conflict has been set up and the major players are established, hopefully the creative team can focus on telling a compelling story that just happens to be a crossover featuring some major pop-culture franchises. If not, it’ll just be another underwhelming event to throw on the pile.
— Daniel Gehen
Karnak #5 (Marvel Comics)
(W) Warren Ellis, (A) Roland Boschi, (CA) David Aja
What is the measure of a man who has given up everything in pursuit of becoming an empty flawless void? Karnak opens with our title character staring into a perfect cube in the citadel he invaded with effortless brutality. Artist Roland Boschi renders this gigantic imposing space beautifully. There is a telling penitence here in the shadow of the incredible violence Karnak has committed in the very same space.
Karnak has been a balancing act between incredibly lush action and Warren Ellis’ meditations on reality through the the voice of the ascetic warrior monk, Karnak. For a man who can see the flaw in all things he refuses to see his own. His shaky grip on the world is falling apart around him, and we get to watch.
Warren Ellis drops his patience with pages and panels empty of dialogue, and takes over the page. Awful things have continued to disturb Karnak’s world ever since he has claimed that he is nothing and no more important and special than any other human. Clearly this is not true.
Karnak loses his cool, and it is an explosion of color and violence. Superhero comics are full of spectacular displays, but Karnak has been a slow build to a man coming apart before our eyes.
— Lukas Schmitt
Britannia #1 (Valiant Entertainment)
(W) Peter Milligan, (A) Juan Jose Ryp, (C) Jordie Bellaire
Britannia #1 is unlike anything Valiant has produced thus far, taking more cues from works like Game of Thrones than the pseudo-realistic cape fare the publisher is known for. In this first issue, writer Peter Milligan is joined by artists Juan Jose Ryp and Jordie Bellaire to create a swords-and-sandals epic that is infused with elements of the supernatural.
Milligan himself is no stranger to the supernatural, having written extended runs on Hellblazer and Shade: The Changing Man at Vertigo, Also, having written Punk Mambo #0 and a few issues of Shadowman, he’s familiar with the spooky-side of Valiant. That experience is evident throughout Britannia #1 as he deftly crafts a narrative that weaves in and out of historical events.
The narrative centers on a manipulative Vestal Virgin, Rubria, who uses her status as religious icons to bend Emperor Nero to their needs. Also at the center of the narrative is centurion-turned-detective Antonious Axia. Milligan’s use of these two as focal points, along with the inclusion of Nero, paint a picture of the Roman Empire that is much darker and seedier than its more familiar, romanticized versions. The power of religion, or rather its perceived power, is a central theme throughout the issue. In an increasingly secular world, the questions raised have a relevancy and authenticity which would not be possible even 10 years ago. And while Milligan does not provide us answers quite yet, their presence is enough to keep readers’ interest over the course of the issue.
This unsavory depiction of Rome is further enhanced by Juan Jose Ryp’s art. His rough linework and intricately detailed images may not be suitable for traditional superhero comics, but they are perfect for this world. Aiding the cause is colorist Jordie Bellaire, who continues to demonstrate why, regardless of the series, she is one of the premier colorists in the industry. Britannia #1 sees a potpourri of colors from start to finish, with varied, specific palettes to match the mood of each scene. Whether it’s dark cold of night, the warm glow of a fire, or the misty haze of the British countryside, Bellaire infuses each page with a dynamism that was previously missing.
Every week, readers are inundated with a slew of new titles vying for their hard-earned cash, and Britannia #1 is the one most deserving of it. The combination of historical fiction and supernatural thriller stands out from the sea of spandex that take up shelf-space in most comic shops. From Milligan’s solid scripting to the fantastic art by Ryp and Bellaire, the creative team has crafted a promising opening chapter to this anticipated miniseries. Gripping and visceral, Britannia is evidence that Valiant is the superhero publisher that dares to be different.
— Daniel Gehen
Batman #7 (DC Comics)
(W) Tom King and Steve Orlando, (A) Riley Rossmo, (C) Ivan Plascencia, (L) Deron Bennett
As much as I enjoyed Scott Snyder’s time on Batman, the “Zero Year” storyline was bogged down early by a hurricane that blows through Gotham City which causes a blackout. The issue wasn’t so much that there was a hurricane so much as Snyder didn’t really flesh out the actual intensity of the storm in the pages of Batman. The wholly unnecessary line of tie-ins from across the DC universe help to fill in some gaps, but they were shoehorned at best, silly at worst.
The first part of “Night of the Monster Men” by Tom King and Steve Orlando is a far superior take on the storm trope that spends the time seeding the fear and uncertainty a massive storm entails. By the time the eponymous Monster Men begin to show up, I was already heavily invested in how the Bat Family was handling the state of emergency protocols. In the midst of a storm that “…could be worse than the Zero Year flood.” according to Dick Grayson, the pressure to maintain evacuation procedures and save those still deep in the city is exacerbated by the appearance of the Monster Men.
Orlando’s script helps the Bat Family feel authentic for the first time in a long time — since the start of the ‘New 52’, Batman, Nightwing, and Batwoman feel like they actually have a real repertoire and working relationship, and that’s just refreshing. Artist Riley Rossmo is a perfect fit for Batman #7 after his run on the supernatural thriller Constantine: The Hellblazer, and his stylized aesthetic helps lend emotion to the Bat Family while exaggerating the grotesque features of the monsters.
Batman #7 is a fantastic first chapter in “Night of the Monster Men” that pulls plot strings Tom King planted in his first arc, “I Am Gotham”, pays homage to a classic Batman story, and finds two of DC’s most talented writers producing a clear and distinct crossover than actually benefits the titles involved instead of taking away from their narrative flow.
- Jay Mattson