This week’s lead review for Wednesday Comics is Kong – The Great War #1, uses tense pacing to draw readers into an island of monsters. Plus, the Wednesday Comics Team has its usual rundown of the new #1s, finales and other notable issues from non-Big 2 publishers, all of which you can find below … enjoy!
Kong – The Great War #1
Writer: Alex Cox
Artist: Tommaso Bianchi
Colorist: James Develin
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
The original King Kong film (released in 1933) took its time getting to the titular giant ape. It let audiences know that character work is important and that it first needed to make us care for the people that made it to Skull Island before its ape could go about putting a damsel in distress and setting off a perilous adventure with other monsters hiding in the jungle.
Alex Cox and Tommaso Bianchi’s Kong: The Great War #1 takes a similar approach, affording characters with enough screentime to help readers get to know them before they’re forced to walk the path that leads to Kong. It results in a tense read that captures the terrifying sense of wonder that an island full of monsters should elicit, but it does hold back a bit too much for later.
The story follows a group of stranded World War I German soldiers as they land on a mysterious island without much explanation as to the chain of events that got them there. The rising tides of sea water force the soldiers to climb a mountain only to be met with strange screams and sounds that signal something big inhabits the island. The rest is shrouded in questions and mysteries that will hopefully be answered in subsequent issues.
Cox does a great job of keeping the soldiers’ dialogue to a minimum, focused mainly on the immediate need to find shelter. Any attempts at explaining how they got there or who they are come as memory snippets that hint at personal histories and traumas. A few creatures do pop up, but their presence is limited. Cox is certainly more invested in creating an intimate sense of mystery that frames the giant creatures as metaphors for the inner demons the soldiers struggle with.
Bianchi’s art amplifies this sense of mystery by keeping shots close on the soldiers’ faces. Facial expressions do a lot of heavy lifting here, building personalities on the nuances of body language. The island gets similar treatment, kept hidden under heavy shadows and muted colors. This time around, Kong’s home isn’t an exaggerated iteration of a jungle setting. It’s a place that keeps to itself, that is unwelcoming.
Kong: The Great War #1 might leave readers hoping for instant monster action a bit wanting, but the character work on display is enough to carry the story through and to justify a return visit.
Wednesday Comics Reviews
- Clear #3 (Dark Horse Comics): Stop me if you’ve heard this one: starts with an anecdote. Maybe not something someone who means something to the main character said, something that might not make sense as you read it, but something enigmatic and blithe that exists as a macrocosm of what’s to come. Then, writer Scott Snyder brings the anecdote back in the closing moments. Separates the meat of it. To make it more grandiose. More, impactful. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t, but you haven’t stopped reading, so it ends. You can see the totality of what went on, what Snyder and Team Clear were up to, but maybe it doesn’t land, because the formula has run its course, and now lacks connective tissue that made it tick in the first place. In the world of Clear, characters explain motivations and the work put into making it make sense, but in doing so, makes less sense — and for big reveal after big reveal, the whimpers just keep on whimpering. The outline is there for a work deeper than it ends up being: there’s lite commentary on immigration or the homeless population. There’s a conflating of willful ignorance and self delusion that Clear tries to make sacrosanct. What saves the work is 60 pages of artist Francis Manapul flirting between the clean lineart DC house style of his we knew and the loosely, brutally expressive illustrations we’ve come to know as his ligne Clear. On letters, Andworld Design keeps mostly invisible except when they nudge a word balloon flattened at the top against a panel border just one pixel above the art, breaking the immersion of Manapul’s shot-selection in an effort to possibly wrest information flow back to the dialogue. What once was an exciting bastion of the newsletter indie comic scene has become a muddied, overexposed, and very aesthetically-appealing series by end. If that wasn’t enough, SPOILERS: Snyder finds a way to fridge three women in a book with two female characters. Bleh. —Beau Q.
- Ghostlore #1 (BOOM! Studios): If ghosts could speak what stories would they tell? That is the curious concept behind Boom Studio’s new series, ‘Ghostlore’. Harmoney and her father Lucus find themselves facing down the paranormal after a terrible car crash leaves them reeling. The nearby dead reach out to unburden their souls and confess their secrets, though each story may be more horrific than the last. Ghostlore #1 serves as a jumping-off point for what promises to be a collection of excellent spooky stories. No time is wasted as the reader is dropped into the thick of the plot early on alongside Harmoney and Lucas. The main drawback is that we don’t get a chance to really know the Agate family before tragedy strikes. Making the family feel a bit cliché towards the start of the story and creating a distance between the reader and the characters. Strangely enough, it’s that distance that creates a more powerful and jarring effect when crap suddenly hits the fan. Coupled with the art style, I found the horror elements and foreshadowing with Chris to be very successful. I felt myself flinching and cringing along with the twists as the family tried to reconcile their situation. Ultimately Ghostlore promises some very smart storytelling for avid fans of horror that I recommend picking up. —Megan Grace
- Junkyard Joe #6 (Image Comics): Junkyard Joe concludes with the strengths that have made the series so endearing and visually stunning. With the kids’ lives at stake Joe steps in to help because that’s what he does as the creative team delivers a touching story about community and family. Writer Geoff Johns uses this narrative to explore PTSD and what it means to keep fighting, while also exploring the nature of carving out one’s own identity. Artist and frequent collaborator, Gary Frank captures the aesthetics of a small town and crafts a robot with humanity; even through a static expression Joe feels incredibly expressive and plays well off of the cast that Frank has masterfully given life to. Frank’s art is complimented by the colors of Brad Anderson (who gets to have a lot of fun playing with lighting) and the letters of Rob Leigh that feel like a natural extension of the artwork on the pages. It feels and plays a lot like an 80s family adventure, though it begs the question especially within a town where the kids have experienced racist remarks and bullying; if the town can truly be accepting. The children at school aren’t picking that up in a vacuum so, is the town’s engagement with Junkyard Joe the basis for them being able to grow in acceptance? Joe was a life changer for everyone in the story, maybe it stands to reason that he can help people clean up internally as well as externally. —Khalid Johnson
- Something Epic #1 (Image Comics): Tackling both writing and art, Szymon Kudranski invites readers to a wondrous world where imagination is real in the new Image Comics series Something Epic. Kudranski crafts a story full of emotion and awe from the onset. Danny, a young teen, has the ability to see the world of imagination in physical form, running alongside the reality everyone typically sees. Something Epic #1 creates an ethereal, cinematic atmosphere from its opening pages with gorgeous art and dramatic narration. The story speaks to anyone who has that creative itch and invites readers into its world of fantasy. With Something Epic #1, Kudranski delivers a stunning first issue on every level. —Alex Batts
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