This week’s lead review for Wednesday Comics is The Forged #1, a hard-punching new sci-fi epic from Greg Rucka, Eric Trautmann, Mike Henderson, and team. In addition, 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!
The Forged #1
Writers: Greg Rucka and Eric Trautmann
Artist: Mike Henderson
Colorist: Nolan Woodard
Letterer: Ariana Maher
Publisher: Image Comics
In the distant future, intergalactic humanity is ruled by an Eternal Empress. Her will is enforced by her mighty navy, the elite bioengineered super soldiers called The Forged, and the Cassandras — her hand-picked psychics whose power comes as much from their mastery of sensuality and sexuality as it does their ability to casually reach into someone else’s mind and change it as they see fit.
Forged team Scimitar-3 are running a retrieval mission — one of the Empress’ ships (the Ever Seeking Forward) has gone down, and Scimitar-3 are to brave the ludicrously deadly planet Gehenna D-54-C to retrieve its logs. Dangerous work, certainly. But not the type of work that would usually require the Forged, warriors respected and resented across the empire for their lethality and superhumanity.
Naturally, the retrieval goes far from smoothly. The Cassandra — who was engineered alongside Scimitar-3’s leader Victory, has a plan, a plan that completely upends Scimitar-3’s mission and leaves them decidedly hard-up. The Forged, between their power, training, and tech, are not like to die easily. That does not mean Gehenna D-54-C, its flora and fauna, and the comic’s other players won’t take their shot.
The Forged #1 is a fun piece of pulp sci-fi. Artist Mike Henderson gives each member of Scimitar-3 a distinct, striking, look and body language to go with it. Victory, for instance, wears military discipline as both armor (against the jeers and fear of the regular military) and as a comfort (the Cassandra throws her off balance in part by insisting Victory be more casual with her). The Cassandra herself is marvelously designed. She (literally, even) radiates power and sexuality, and Henderson draws her expressions (always knowing, whether she’s amusing herself or acting seriously) marvelously.
Henderson’s action is similarly strong — Scimitar-3’s power armor is massive enough that the squad (who are largely tall and muscular) look small wearing it (and distinctive enough that each member is easily recognizable despite full face shielding), and compared to what they face down in the book’s closing pages, the armor looks downright teensy. When the Forged are in training, their power and skill is clear. When they drop into action, the might and limits of their armor are clear. And when an overwhelming force comes into play, it looks as massive as it reads. It’s top tier work on Henderson’s part.
Script-wise, The Forged #1 is solid. Eric Trautmann and Greg Rucka are working in pastiche here — most directly of Warhammer 40000’s pomp-and-circumstance-filled eternal empires guarded by superhuman warriors. The Cassandra brings in echoes of space mysticism (and speaking strictly for myself, feels like a competently executed, deliberately eerie take on the Bellarian priestesses from beloved MST3K subject Space Mutiny). It’s an interesting set of riffs, and I’ll be curious to see how Trautmann and Rucka expand on them — particularly given that The Forged is also exploring some of Rucka’s interests from Lazarus — the engineering of people as weapons, the humanity of those people, and the slippery, sinister nature of power. There’s also a hateful fop, and Rucka’s got a good ear for hateful fops. Personally, as far as writing goes, I prefer Rucka’s lower key work (Stumptown, for instance) but it’s neat to read him and Trautmann going bombastic, and it’s solidly done.
All told? It’s a good comic.
Wednesday Comics Reviews
- Ancient Enemies — The Djinni #1 (Frank Miller Presents): I’ve been really high on all the books coming out from Frank Miller Presents, on which the eponymous creator is teaming with long-time DC Comics editorial head honcho, Dan DiDio. This is, to be sure, a small line, yet it’s managed to achieve some variety, banking Ronin II as the reliable Miller-driven book, Pandora as a sort of brash experiment by relative industry newcomers, and Ancient Enemies as the book that will scratch that shared superhero universe itch. There have so far been two issues of Ancient Enemies proper (both great), and now the book is going to a schedule where it will build out its world by alternating main story issues with one-shots that expand on its characters. If this first issue is any indication, this is something to be excited about. This one-shot — penned by DiDio and Kevin VanHook, illustrated by Jose Luis and Jonas Trindade, colored by Hi-Fi, and lettered by Pete Carlsson — is a satisfying read on its own merits, elevated further when taken in the context of the broader story. I had a good time with this one, and I highly recommend it. —Zack Quaintance
- I Hate Fairyland #5 (Image Comics): I Hate Fairyland concludes its first arc back in a special way, utilizing the strengths of the comics medium for a silent sequence of pages that invites the reader to take their time and take in the gorgeous art of Brett Bean and colors of Jean-Francois Beaulieu. This sequence is heightened by the song “This World”, created specifically for this issue by Jack the Radio, George Hage and Danny Johnson, so make sure you scan the QR code at the front of the book or follow the link! When dialogue comes in for this book, letterer Nate Piekos brings the charm and expressiveness that has been present the entire arc. This issue sets Gert up for the next phase of her adventure in Fairyland as writer and cover artist Skottie Young shifts character motivations and character positions, promising more of the violence Gert has become known for and a fun journey through Fairyland. –Khalid Johnson
- No/One #1 (Image Comics): No/One lacks identity by its very nature. It’s the selling point. In today’s comics scene, such a method of market penetration is unheard of, but here it’s more ambitious than anything else. No/One, a ten-part miniseries eyeing to rock the foundation of the Massive-Verse, stacks all the right trending ideas of an indie book into one neat oversized first issue. Writers, Kyle Higgins and Brian Buccellato, bring us an investigative journalism mystery concerning a slowly unfolding serial killer narrative with an established M.O. that wants to play within the realm of today’s true crime podcastsphere. Artist, Geraldo Borges, hits the scene with a sculpting style similar to some time-tested greats like John Romita Jr and Sean Phillips. Colorist, Mark Englert, casts a bleak, brush-frayed Criminal-like light on the noir-lit framings within. Letterer, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, scratches gunshots onto the canvas and lets timeframe exposition seep in from the edges. Rounding out the motley crew, production artist Wesley Griffith, adds verisimilitudinous documents to shill the ARG (this is an ARG, alright!) and House of X-era Hickman style credits. Voilà! There’s even a podcast that feeds directly back into the book and assorted twitter/IG accounts! What else is there to tell you this title has it all and more! But more than anything, this ambition, this stacking of superlative trends, the way the first issue packs exposition dump after exposition dump into the frame to confine the lineart into smaller boxes– for me, No/One lacks an identity. I believe that’s ultimately the point. Just not a point I personally find particularly interesting. —Beau Q.
- Nocterra #12 (Image Comics): Nocterra — the who’s-afraid-of-the-dark meets Smokey and the Bandit apocolypse comic from Scott Snyder, Tony S. Daniel, and company — returns this week with its twelth issue and the start of a new story arc. The series has been at what feels like a bit of a pivot point as of late, building out backstories for the characters we met in the first 10 issues or so, and that continues in this new story arc. For fans of the series, getting to know our principal cast better is surely a thrill, one that makes the unique world of this book feel more lived-in and well-realized. If you’ve been reading this one from the start (as I have) the first issue of this arc is a good one, one more likely to keep you trucking than to send you looking for an off-ramp (warning: the blurb you just read has a few too many trucking puns, oops). —Zack Quaintance
- Spy Superb #3 (Dark Horse Comics): Matt Kindt has always been a creator I’ve watched from the sidelines and told myself ‘I’ll check his work out eventually,’ and oh man should I have jumped in a long time ago (and not for the finale of this stellar title). Jay Bartholomew III, a horrible writer and the newest unwitting spy, is so annoying yet so charming to follow. I’d be distraught to be trapped in a room with him, yet I’d kill to read another series about his exploits. The story is a blast, but Sharlene Kindt’s colors immediately caught my eye. Everything is coated in these muted watercolors, giving each panel this rough texture that makes you wanna run your fingers across the page. Matt Kindt’s cartooning gives everything a slight wobble, making it feel as though the panels are constantly in motion. The series is phenomenally lettered as well. Each sound effect is embedded into this world, constructed in a way that makes me feel as though the characters could pluck them out of the scene and squeeze them. While I’m devastated that this is the final issue (though there’s a slight hint for more!), Spy Superb has been a kickass book and does a great job of showcasing the Kindts in all of their glory. –Cy Beltran
- Star Trek – Defiant #1 (IDW Publishing): First and foremost – and not necessarily directed at this creative team, but the creative teams helming the IDW Star Trek comics as a whole – I’m hopeful future Trek titles will adopt a more “diversity-oriented” approach to creators, as is befitting the philosophy of the Franchise. On a closely related note, I am hopeful that we can move beyond the pool of Star Wars writers who seem to be dominating the IDW Trek line at the moment. The two franchises aren’t even the same genre: SW is fantasy, while Trek is science fiction. I’d like to see more Trek comics with stories that emphasize this fact (like the excellent 2022 Star Trek: Lower Decks miniseries). This issue features a cast comprised of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Star Trek: Voyager characters, most of them traveling on the (second) Defiant. It’s hard not to compare this to the ongoing Star Trek: Picard season 3, which also features returning TNG, DS9, and VOY characters (including overlap, like Worf). However, Picard also features a brand-new (well, mostly new) hero ship, the Titan-A, a fresh and exciting “next generation” crew, and a story that heavily incorporates sci-fi concepts while building on continuity established by the current run of Trek shows. While this comic can boast none of those things, it could have included some expansion of thematic concepts or another “comic-only” element that would have made it a more engaging read. Regrettably, there is very little reason to follow this series into the second issue, save perhaps the excellent coloring by Marissa Louise. — Avery Kaplan
- Star Trek – Resurgence #5 (IDW Publishing): Media tie-in comics are often a hit or miss type of situation when it comes to overall quality, especially when used to tie into video games, as this one does with the upcoming Star Trek Resurgence. However, IDW’s Star Trek Resurgence by Andrew Grant and Dan Martin sets the bar high in this finale issue, delivering a welcome addition to the revamped Star Trek line of IDW. This book preps readers for the eventual adventures they will experience in the new game, while also delivering a satisfying and heart-pounding sci-fi adventure comic. Art and color team Josh Hood and Charlie Kirchoff shine with impressive space-scapes, ship combat, and plenty of explosions. Stories confined to the interiors of ships like Resurgence often find themselves limited in what they can show apart from passageways and different bridges, but Hood’s art paired with Kirchoff’s colors and Neil Uyetake’s impressive letters give readers a proper feel for the ship’s interior, leaving it seeming like one of the book’s main characters by this story’s end. —Bryan Reheil
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Wednesday Comics is edited by Zack Quaintance.