I’m going to try a review column! Heidi sent me a message (tied to the leg of her errand boy, Piotr) asking if I’d give it a go, so here we all are. Whether you agree with the reviews or think I should take a nice warm handful of gravel and chew on it; please leave your thoughts of agreement or fury in the comments section! What did you read this week? What do you recommend for people?
This week sees releases for Captain Marvel #7, Judge Dredd #1, Hawkeye #4, Wonder Woman #14 and Journey Into Mystery #646.
I reviewed Captain Marvel #1 a few months back, finding it to be a little dull, and a little slow. Issue #7 looks to fix that as we head into a second arc, with the creative team (it should be noted that co-writer Christopher Sebela comes in for this issue) sending Carol Danvers underwater, exploring a mystery at the depths of the ocean. Sadly the problem with dull plotting does again show up, with this simply not being a particularly interesting way to spend the character’s time. It plays nicely into Dexter Soy’s art style – toned down here from the first arc, especially in the sequences out of the water – however, with the artist becoming more attuned to the style of the book. His model for Captain Marvel seems more on-point here as well, although his best work here is done with Monica Rambeau.
Introducing the former Captain Marvel is at once a smart and tricky move to make, as the character is inherently more charismatic and interesting that Carol Danvers. Kelly Sue DeConnick has a good handle on the character, and the interaction and dialogue between the two female leads is easily the highlight of the issue. In the first arc, there wasn’t enough to distract readers from the fairly thin plot – here though, the dialogue starts to sing, the art has improved, the characters are more realised and the tone is more entertaining. The exposition is out the way, and DeConnick has found her voice for the book. It’s a little disappointing we had to struggle through a 6-issue arc in order to get to this point, but it looks like Captain Marvel may now have found its feet.
Judge Dredd #1 is the first issue from IDW’s new ongoing series, with Duane Swierczynski teaming up with Nelson Daniel and Paul Gulacy for two stories introducing new readers to the concept of the character and the world he lives in. I’ll do that too. Judge Dredd lives in Megacity One, a futuristic hellhole town where everybody is ten seconds away from being tempted into committing murder or robbing their best friend. Dredd is one of a number of ‘enforcers’ allowed to use lethal force to stop them from doing so. Swierczynski does a decent job with this opening issue, getting the exposition out the way upfront and allowing the character to speak for himself. The writing catches 2000AD’s character smartly, making good use of the farcical elements of the original series whilst pulling away in a new direction at the same time.
I’d say that the central problem so far is that the book isn’t yet as exciting and fast-paced as it could be, with the necessary exposition-dump of the first few pages slowing things down before Dredd himself makes an appearance. The ideas and execution are sound, with an entertaining sense of cruelty displayed in both the main and back-up stories, but this is a book which will have to speed up in issue #2.
Hawkeye #4 is more of the same inspired lunacy from Matt Fraction, this time teamed with Javier Pulido. Pulido’s style matches the aesthetic Aja brought to the first arc nicely, with the pared-down colours from Matt Hollingsworth providing a feeling of continuation and continuity. Bizarrely, Fraction seems to be pitching the book as a Marvel Universe version of Inspector Gadget – and it’s working well so far.
Wonder Woman #14 reveals a book which is just managing to dance away from becoming repetitive, with an issue which gives us a little more focus on Wondy herself. Albeit, a focus intermingled with the myriad other plots writer Brian Azzarello has managed to introduce over the past year. There have been complaints that Wonder Woman sometimes comes off as her own guest star in this series, and it’s true that the decision to have a ‘God of the Month’ format has reduced the character’s panel-time. Wonder Woman has struggled in the past to have a notable voice – evidenced by the way each relaunch tends to completely rewrites her – but Azzarello’s voice seems like something which might stick, to the character’s benefit. In this issue, he displays her again as the eternal optimist, fighting in the hopes that things will one day be better, and she won’t have to fight anymore.
Tony Akins provides art for the issue, and brings a solid sense of storytelling to the book. His art is clean and crisp, although he does seem to have a tendency to leave the backgrounds completely blank. This puts a burden on colourist Matthew Wilson, which fortunately Wilson is more than capable of handling. His work on the series has been exceptionally throughout, giving the different strands of story here each their own distinct colour scheme. While Wonder Woman’s altercation with Siracca is coloured to be windrushed, lifeless and tense; the scenes of Apollo plotting on the roof of his skyscraper are drawn with a warm, inviting tone.
Given that the book seems to be leading up to an Apollo/Wonder Woman altercation, the decision to use comforting colours in the Apollo sequences offer a clever opportunity to make it look like the character is having far too easy a time, while Wonder Woman struggles in a series of horrific locations. It’s just a fun touch from Wilson, which also plays into the long-term plans Azzarello seems to have for the characters. Another strong issue.
Journey Into Mystery #646 sees the end of Kieron Gillen’s Kid Loki storyline, and the start of a Sif story from Kathryn Immonen. The immediate impression here is that the creative team know they’re in an impossible situation – they’re coming in on a critically acclaimed book with low sales, there’s been no marketing push for the reshifting series, and they don’t get to relaunch with an issue #1. But despite the likelihood that the book may not be long for the world, it’s also immediately clear that Immonen and editor Lauren Sankovitch are determined to have as much fun possible with the series. This is a madcap, hectic opening issue, which fits neat character development with a complete refusal to provide a simple narrative.
Kathryn Immonen, as a writer, is essentially bonkers. Her writing style has always been to take exceptionally well-realised characters into a bizarre situation, run around throwing nonsense at them for 20-odd pages, and then take stock at the end. She does complete nonsense better than anyone else, however, and giving her full run of Marvel’s Norse mythology really pays off as a result. Sif’s journey in the issue takes her across a variety of locales – coloured winningly by Jordie Bellaire, again showing herself to be one of the best in the business – and into the path of some really weird characters.
The book does have an issue with pacing, something true of everything Immonen writes, but the knack for dialogue is so entertaining and fast that this actually becomes something of a benefit to the book. Thankfully artist Valerio Schiti proves to be rather gifted at matching Immonen’s sense of humour, meaning the visual jokes spark off the page – both the explicit jokes, and the jokes hidden away. The writing is fast, and letterer Clayton Cowles just about manages to keep on top of the exchanges. Some of the word baloons seem to be out of sync, but that could be an intentional move from the creative team. It’s hard to tell. Regardless, this is a mad, rad opening issue, and it’s refreshingly difficult to know where it’s heading from here. Wherever it leads, I’ll be following.