It’s been a while, but we’re back. Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin’s weekly review roundup, and we’re excited to dive into this week’s releases. Also, it’s a leap year, meaning your regularly scheduled March 1st will be delayed until next week. What does that have to do with comics? Absolutely nothing, so let’s move on to some reviews!
Hidden Society #1 (Dark Horse)
(w) Rafael Scavone (w/a) Rafael Albuquerque (c) Marcelo Costa
This new series from a pair of Rafaels brings readers into yet another new world of magic. Creators Scavone and Albuquerque spend most of this debut issue assembling the cast of characters that will drive the narrative. While the team does a good job introducing readers to Mercy, an archetypical tough outcast, and Jadoo, a young stage magician, there is little else to the plot. There is also the odd couple pair of Laura and Orcus. She’s a blind mage, and he’s a small, blue, cigar-smoking, winged and horned demon. Together, they’re completely forgettable. Because of how different each character is, the issue suffers from significant tonal inconsistencies that makes reading it an unappealing ordeal.
On the plus side, Rafael Albuquerque and colorist Marcelo Costa join forces to make an astonishingly gorgeous book. Readers may not care about what’s happening on the page, but at least they’ll come way admiring the artwork.
— Daniel Gehen
Justice League Dark #20 (DC Comics)
(w) James Tynion IV, Ram V (a) Kyle Holtz (c) FCO Plascencia
Who actually worked on this issue? It’s a bit of a mystery. There were reports that James Tynion IV wasn’t working on this and that Ram V would be taking over solo writing duties, but the cover only credits Tynion and this inside credits both. Regardless of who actually wrote the issue, it’s a fun ride. Body horror is a significant part of this issue, between the mushroom-possessed people, the Floronic Man, and the Rot. It is a style of horror that lives and dies by the quality of its visuals. Kyle Holtz and FCO Plascencia manage to create genuinely disturbing visuals.
The issue’s ambiguous writer manages to bring together both the recent “Witching Hour” crossover as well as the elemental powers seen in previous Animal Man and Swamp Thing series. There are a lot of moving parts, from the elementals to the more traditional magic users, not to mention John Constantine’s wildcard antics. However, they are successfully managed, resulting in an engaging, evenly paced issue. Justice League #20 lays the groundwork for an ambitious and genuinely horrific story.
— Daniel Gehen
(w) Simon Roy & Daniel Benson (a) Artyom Trakhanov (c) Jason Wordie (l) Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Although a fun read, Protector #1 felt a bit unfocused with barely any breathing room while trying to be too many things. Nonetheless, in Protector #2 Roy & Benson remedy this by giving the story moments to breathe. These moments mixed with a more focused story structure will make you want to explore the world even more.
Trakhanov’s art continues to set Protector apart from other post-apocalypse stories going into the second issue. This is due to how uniquely different it is. Usually, you’ll see a post-apocalypse story taking place in a boring empty land or America, instead, Protector takes place in North America. Trakhanov’s designs live and breathe this Aztec art with heavy inks and work amazingly well with the story.
Working in perfect conjunction with the art is Wordie’s colors. When objects/characters need to be the focus he drops the background for a solid that emphasis the moment while looking gorgeous. During the action-heavy moments (which are visually attractive) Wordie’s colors add a brilliant extra layer that makes them hit harder. If you’ve paid any attention to lettering (you should be) you know Otsmane-Elhaou. He always brings his best lettering hand forward and Protector #2 is no different. Otsmane-Elhaou is able to match the art and vibe of Protector perfectly.
At times it feels like Protector feels like it’s going for too many genres at once. But, once it focuses on one specifically it works out amazingly. Plus I really like Dark Lord’s (The Robot) attitude. Hopefully, we have more moments of him talking.
— Jason Jeffords Jr.
Dark Horse | Berger Books
(w) Peter Milligan (a) Jesus Hervas (c) James Devlin
Arguably the most terrifying stories are those that reflect reality. With the global spread and fears of the Coronavirus, a comic about a fast-spreading global pandemic is scarier than any boogeyman that can be whipped up. While clearly coincidental, the timing of Tomorrow #1’s release is uncanny. While the story does borrow elements from other notable works such as Y: The Last Man, The Lord of the Flies, and even the recent DCeased, Peter Milligan’s script immediately transports readers into this world.
Milligan quickly establishes his main characters and ratchets up the tension through Jesus Hervas and James Devlin’s stark visuals. Hervas’ emotive visuals does a great job in conveying the sense of horror that the characters are facing, while Devlin’s colors add vibrancy and liveliness to this world. Yes, that is an interesting description for a book that deals with a global mortality event, but it speaks to the artists’ abilities to develop this comic. In all, Tomorrow is off to a promising start.
— Daniel Gehen
(w) Jonathan Hickman (a) Leinil Francis Yu
Rarely do Big Two comics – specifically those that are core to their respective superhero universes – rise above anything other than entertaining or escapist fare. This is especially true for Marvel. While DC has evergreen titles like Watchmen and We3 to hang their hats on, it’s a struggle to think of anything with such prestige at Marvel. X-Men #7 makes the case that this series by Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu’s run may very well be deserving of similar recognition.
X-Men #7 addresses the cult-like nature of life on Krakoa, and the perception Mutants have for humanity, themselves, and past events. Scarlett Witch and the infamous “No more mutants” from 2005’s House of M are directly addressed, and the means to rectify that action is unveiled. That solution, called “The Crucible” leads to a crisis of conscience for Cyclops, who spends most of the issue seeking council from others. Ultimately, it is Nightcrawler who becomes his confidant, as the two discuss the morality and merits of Krakoa culture. These muddy waters are expertly navigated by Hickman’s very poignant and focused writing, while Yu brings it to life with stunning visuals.
— Daniel Gehen
X-Men/Fantastic Four #2
(w) Chip Zdarsky (a) Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson
This has been a fascinating week for Cyclops. In X-Men #7, he is spent questioning the culture of Krakoa, and that bleeds over into this crossover with the Fantastic Four. While X-Men deals with high-concept ideas, Chip Zdarsky has made this series one of personal conflict. Franklin and Valeria Richards find themselves stuck between two fighting superteams. In one corner there’s the X-Men, who are trying to get Franklin to leave his family for life with other mutants on Krakoa. In the other corner is the Fantastic Four, who’s patriarch may or may not have suppressed Franklin’s powers, but who love him very much (naturally, their his family).
In all honesty, it isn’t two difficult to choose a side to root for, as Zdarsky and the Dodsons portray the X-Men as complete dicks. It’s justified, especially given there new disposition in the pages of the main X-Men title. Zdarsky complicates things further by throwing a Doctor Doom-sized wrench into the works, but for the most part he keeps the story focused on the core conflict. Terry and Rachael Dodson do a wonderful job, especially when it comes to giving the characters expressive and emotive features. In a series where tempers are running hot, this is a crucial element, and the artistic duo nails it.
— Daniel Gehen