Reviews

Short & Sweet: No theme necessary

This week we read more Marvel comics, some bande dessinée, manga, and ONI Press’s stir-causing The Bunker. We don’t have a theme–but who needs one? 

She Hulk #1. Charles Soule, Javier Pulido, Muntsa Vicente, Marvel Comics.She-Hulk #1
Charles Soule, Javier Pulido, Muntsa Vicente
Marvel Comics

I have been jonesing for a She-Hulk title since I started reading FF and this beginning issue was just everything I could have wanted. It was sassy, it was empowering, and it was action-packed for a law-centric tale. Jennifer Walters battles giant robots and the system as she tries to help a down-on-her-luck widow get compensation from Tony Stark, whose company stole tech from Holly Harrow’s late husband.

Everything I loved about Matt Fraction’s run on FF was in She-Hulk, despite it being written by Charles Soule. Though, given the similarities between his style and Fraction’s, I now suddenly understand why he can replace Fraction for Inhumanity to little fanfare. I’m not sure the layman would even notice a difference. I barely did, and I consider myself a Matt Fraction super fan. The banter is fun. Jennifer is a great balance of brain and brawn (something I’ve always appreciated about her as a character), and the trend Marvel Comics has had with telling more mundane types of stories with the heroics as part of the supporting arc (Captain Marvel, Hawkeye, and hopefully Ms. Marvel) continues here with She-Hulk. If the stories Soule is telling in this book are anything like this first issue, I’ll be eagerly anticipating each upcoming installment.

On the other hand, as much as I dug the story, the art didn’t work for me. At all. In the way that I’m reminded of Matt Fraction with Charles Soule’s writing, I’m reminded of Michael Allred with Javier Pulido’s art. And I don’t really love Allred so I spent most of the issue feeling like they’d just stretched some pages out from FF. Everything was wider than I felt it should be and after being so impressed with Kevin Wada’s cover art, I was just a little disappointed. I’d read the heck out of a book in Wada’s style.

I can’t wait to read issue #2. If She-Hulk keeps telling stories like this first one and stays out of the big events Marvel Comics keeps putting out (see my review of All-New X-Men below), I think I can be a happy fan for many more issues. I could even handle it if Pulido keeps drawing it. It’s that fun a book.

— Kristi

All-New X-Men #23. Brian Michael Bendis, Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, Marte Gracia, Marvel Comics.All-New X-Men #23
Brian Michael Bendis, Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, Marte Gracia
Marvel Comics

When Marvel Comics announced The Trial of Jean Grey event, I was dead-set against buying Guardians of the Galaxy, since I find the entire concept of trying the young Jean Grey from the past for the future crimes she’d end up committing as the Phoenix later in life to be problematic. Plus, I’m super against all of the events this comic company keeps ramming down our throats (seriously, it’s only an event if it’s above and beyond — when there’s a new Marvel event every three months, it’s no longer above and beyond). I always end up having to buy books I don’t usually read in order to keep up.

But enough of my grousing: I am reading both series now to get the whole story, because I am invested in the tale of the X-Men from the past. I find Brian Michael Bendis’ writing of the original X-Men to be compelling, so much so that I’m going against my initial decision to boycott another Marvel event to keep up. All-New X-Men #23 is part 3 of 5 but the ending didn’t really give me any sense that this story is about to wrap up in two issues. If anything, I think the repercussions of the final encounter of this issue will continue well into the rest of All-New X-Men’s run.

I don’t know what it is about Stuart Immonen’s art that really draws me, but I’m really into it. It’s not as stylized as I tend to like (but if you read my review of She-Hulk #1 above, you’ll see that stylized only does it for me when it works) but the clean, thick lines really pull me in. And it’s a little cutesy but I really like it. I find Immonen’s Angela to be particularly adorable, though that’s probably not exactly what he’s going for.

I swear, after this event, I won’t buy into any more Marvel events that would require me to buy more comics than I normally would. But now that I’m more than halfway through The Trial of Jean Grey, I’m glad I’m doing it. The tension being built between Scott Summers and Jean Grey alone while the rest of the gang is forced to awkwardly stand by has been worth it alone.

— Kristi

Hirohiko Araki, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood. Jump ComicsJoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Seasons one to four
Araki Hirohiko

I hate this series. It’s bad in every direction. Araki illustrations, circa recently? Those are good. This, this is awful. The art is derivative, the stories are atrocious and barely there anyway, the continuity is irrelevant, the mythology paltry, the characters are all dead behind the eyes and nobody and nothing has any moral or emotional weight. It wriggles about in petty grotesquerie. During the third season, one of the heroic characters feeds a baby a spoonful of its own shit. This is regarded as a victory. This series is literally full of shit. Bury JoJo in the woods and never check to see if it’s truly dead.

If you don’t believe me–I wouldn’t have, either–and need to see it for yourself, start with the second JoJo, at Battle Tendency. The first JoJo, the first season (Phantom Blood), has nothing to do with anything in later volumes, you do not need to read it, and I wildly resent that the concept of “canon” tricked me into giving it my time.

I hate this series.

— Claire

Agito Cosmos vol. I: Aquaviva. Olivier Milhaud, Fabien Mense Glénat Editions SA.Agito Cosmos vol. I: Aquaviva
Olivier Milhaud, Fabien Mense
Glénat Editions SA
(in French)

An impulse purchase off a Comixology sale turned out to be the best bang for my buck that I’ve had in a while. Admittedly it was only one, but even at full price I wouldn’t have any regrets, or have hesitated to put the next installment in my cart.

Centuries after an ecological disaster which rewrote the contours of the Earth, humanity — with the help of the mysterious Alphas–has rebuilt a thriving post-industrial civilization. The Alphas have long since disappeared to be consigned to legend. However, a colorful cast of characters–including a reckless submariner on an archeological mission, a young islander boy whose coming of age ceremony goes horribly awry, a determined detective and the immortality-obsessed crime boss he’s determined to catch–are about to discover otherwise as their paths cross in the city of Istanbul.

With less than a hundred pages to breathe a world to life, not to mention introduce a cast that proportionally eclipses that of Game of Thrones, it’s no surprise that the story of this volume sometimes feels more like a prologue than an installment in its own right. The big draw is Fabien Mense’s art, which melds together kinetic, expressively stylized figures and settings rich in organic detail into a whole that takes its cues from the likes of Moebius and Monkey Punch by way of Miyazaki (one character in particular looks like he leapt straight off the animation cels of Castle of Cagliostro).

Alas, there’s no English translation on the horizon just yet. But if you can read French and want to check out a contemporary bande dessinée, you could do worse than this one. Just a word of warning: though the character designs are simplified, this is not a kids’ comic. There’s some violence and a fair amount of casual nudity–nothing egregious, but if you’re thinking of gifting this to a minor, read it through yourself first and make your own judgment call.

— Mai Pucik

The Bunker #1. Joshua Hale Fialkov, Joe Infurnari ONI Press.The Bunker #1
Joshua Hale Fialkov, Joe Infurnari
ONI Press

Holy hell, does this book deliver on the promise of first chapter of a tantalizing mystery. A group of friends have one last hurrah after college graduation and find an underground bunker with their names inscribed on the door. Inside, letters from their future selves warning that the world is going to come to an end, and worse, that they’re the ones who are going to destroy it.

First and foremost, if you’re interested in picking this up, be aware that this book should come with a trigger warning: one of the characters is a survivor of child sexual abuse. It’s not exploitative and is written with a focus on how it impacts the survivor, but it gets a fair amount of page time. If that’s something you’re sensitive to then it might be best to steer clear.

This is going to be a character-driven mystery, and the creators take the extra pages in this double-size issue to showcase the main players, both their present self and the people they grow up to be. Within a few pages, all the characters become distinct not just through Joe Infurnari’s wonderful design, but because Fialkov gives each a distinct personality and part to play in the present’s mystery and future’s scary disaster future.

Now let’s talk about that sweet, sweet art. Joe Infurnari is the solo artist, doing the pencils, inks and colors, and the book has a feel unlike anything on the market. With many pages he eschews inks all together, using just pencils and colors. It’s beautiful and detailed without ever looking busy or overdone. The color use becomes part of the storytelling, and the limited pink-and-blue palette he uses for the present sequences makes for awesome contrast from the scenes set in the future.

Too often, geek media promises big mysteries that it doesn’t deliver on (looking at you X-Files and Battlestar Galactica), but The Bunker tells you the ending outright. What’s going to be fascinating is seeing how these kids become their future selves or, maybe, try to change it. After this issue, I’m along for the ride.

— Catie Coleman