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411’s Comic Reviews: Detective Comics #935, Wonder Woman #1, Doctor Strange #8, More

June 30, 2016 | Posted by Steve Gustafson

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Hello and welcome to 411mania’s weekly Comic Book Review Roundtable! Each week we’ll be serving up a warm dish of reviews from Marvel, DC, and anything else that captures our interest. What did you pick up this week? Let us know in the comments.

Want to write a review? If you can write at least one review a week, consistently, email me at [email protected]!

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Yesterday we asked, “What Did We Learn From Captain America: Steve Rogers #2?”

Last week RobF wrote his 150th review for the Comic Review Roundtable! Rob has been here from the beginning and has been one of the most reliable reviewers I’ve ever know. I trust his picks and look forward to his stuff weekly! Thank you Rob!

Now on with the show!

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Deadpool v Gambit #1

Review by RobF

The Merc with a Mouth meets the Ragin Cajun in Deadpool v Gambit 1. A combination like this should be a guaranteed smash. Not so fast. Ben Acker and Ben Blacker present a lackluster beginning to what should have been a slam dunk mini-series.

This story starts out oddly: Both Deadpool and Gambit are waiting in line for entrance into Hell. No, not the fire and brimstone place but a popular coffeehouse. That’s the kind of humor that is the norm for this issue. There are some humorous moments but no consistent laughs. The pop culture references wear thin after a while.

The other issue weighing this book down is the overuse of the flashback. Over 2/3 of the story details the first Gambit/Deadpool caper where they are hired and ultimately betrayed by a man called Chalmers. They stage a battle dressed as Spider-Man and Daredevil respectively in order to masquerade a robbery. It had the potential to be very funny but it’s a one note song that goes on too long. In the end they decide they contemplate throwing in with Chalmers. Finally we see the title characters together and we can see where the story is headed.

I feel the art throughout Deadpool v Gambit misses the mark. I thought there should have been a lighter touch to match to comedic tone of the comic. And Gambit, who is supposedly the X-Men’s resident heartthrob, looks rather ugly here, with an exaggerated nose and scraggly face.

Following the successes of Deadpool vs Thanos and Deadpool vs Hawkeye the expectation is high but unfortunately Deadpool v Gambit falls flat. It fails to properly set the stage by relying on the past rather than the present. The authors need to pull it together and focus on the title character and move the story forward.

Rating: 5.0 out of 10

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Captain America: Sam Wilson #10

Review by Rob Bonnette

This issue serves a twofold purpose: one is to set up the next arc of Wilson’s stories, the other is a Civil War 2 tie-in. We start off with Wilson cycling through the thoughts in his head as he flies through the air, represented by a montage of news reports with various dissenters with his position as Captain America. The new twist to it is that with Steve Rogers restored to his full health and strength, there’s a perfectly good reason for Sam to hand to relinquish the mantle and let Steve carry it alone. A lot of this is the same ‘Not my Cap!’ stuff that we’ve seen in previous issues but one panel that stood out to me was of a naysayer who would not back down even after being told that Rogers had given his blessing to Wilson continuing on in the role. This is a great example of how in what passes for political discourse today, the introduction of evidence does little to sway someone’s opinion once they’ve dug in. From there we go to a press conference where a new privatized civilian police force is rolled out, the Americops. We’ve seen them in previous issues playing a Minutemen border security kind of role but now they are being deployed in the streets of America. Yeah, that’s gonna go about as well as you think it will. From there we get to the meat of the issue: the funeral for James Rhodes, killed in Civil War #1. And here is where the issue really takes off.

Wilson has been tapped to give the eulogy, and that’s a bit of a problem for him because he and Rhodes weren’t particularly close despite often fighting some of the same bad guys together. In essence they were two guys who worked in different departments of the same company, Sam in the Captain America department and Rhodes in the Iron Man department, who occasionally had a project together but were usually on different floors of the building. Sam is met by a collective of black Marvel superheroes – Luke Cage, Storm, Black Panther, his girlfriend Misty Knight, and Brother Voodoo – and they commiserate together for a few moments to lift each other up and talk about their fallen black superhero brother Rhodes. For any black person who’s been one of a few black employees at a large company, this scene really resonates. Even if you don’t work together directly you have a kinship of sorts and a shared experience of having to deal with being somewhat of an outsider in your own house so to speak. And from there Sam and Misty have a private conversation where she reiterates to him the singular significance of a black man serving as Captain America and the unique space as role model to black boys and girls that he holds, a space different from that of even other black superheroes. He’s more than a glorified vigilante he’s Captain freaking America.

From there we get the eulogy for Rhodes and an epilogue of the Americops in action on the streets, pushing the people who live there to the brink and potentially over the edge. The eulogy is your standard fallen hero kind of stuff, punctuated by the faces of various Marvel heroes listening on as Sam speaks. When we get back the streets the Americops are on patrol and we are given a glimpse of the whispers around town about their sometimes excessive efforts at enforcing the law. And then on the final page a new character named Rage emerges to lead the people on the streets up against the Americops. This issue is really two in one. The beginning and end center around what comes next for Sam while the middle is all about the funeral for Rhodes. The middle really shines here but the other parts are pretty disposable to me. The Americops angle seems forced and hotshotted without much buildup, and they jump too quickly from their initial deployment to the people being ready to lash out at them. I’m not particularly interested in Sam Wilson taking to the streets to battle the Americops and becoming an even more controversial figure than he is to the American people. But everything leading up to and including Rhodes’ funeral is worth the price of the issue. My final judgement is that you should get this one; the middle parts are that good.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

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Detective Comics #935

Review by Rob Bonnette

DC Rebirth continues with the second of the now bi-weekly Detective Comics series. This series is centering around Batman (of course) and a new team he’s assembled to help fight crime in Gotham City consisting of Batwoman, Tim Drake (now back under the Red Robin moniker), Stephanie Brown (Spoiler), Cassandra Cain (going under the moniker of Orphan), and Clayface. Yes, that Clayface. The issue opens up with a Kobayashi Maru-level training montage in what can best be described as a mock up of the Danger Room of X-men fame. Surrounded by a literal army of Jokers, Stephanie, Cassandra, Clayface are failing miserably and get promptly dressed down by Batwoman after Tim shuts it down. Batwoman gives us a nice run down of each one’s respective fighting weaknesses and we get a full view of the new Bat headquarters called the Belfry, located in Gotham City proper and not on the outskirts like the Batcave and equipped with enough surveillance tech and vehicles to get anywhere in the city quickly. And this supreme readiness has Tim questioning why they’re doing so much training and so little crime fighting, which brings a warning from Batman himself that something’s afoot that has him really worried about being caught off guard.

From there we get cutaways to three subplots. We start off with Bruce, Tim, and Jean Paul Valley (Azrael) who is nearly unconscious after getting beaten down pretty good by this new threat in the city. And Bruce being Bruce, he has Valley not in a hospital but in an underground space being tended to by Dr. Leslie Tompkins so that whoever’s out there can’t get to him but also so that when he comes to and is ready to talk Bruce can get whatever information he has upfront. Next we move on to Tim and Stephanie, who are now an item talking over Tim’s future. Tim has been accepted into a big university and is now considering life away from crime fighting. He’s in Gotham now because Bruce needs him but for once he’s got something else to consider. And lastly we go to Kate Kane (Batwoman) talking with her father, who used to be her version of Alfred, about her new endeavor and us getting a rundown of the history between the Wayne and Kane families. Kate’s father is skeptical of it all working because Bruce doesn’t play well with others until he absolutely needs it and that spells doom for any kind of team endeavor.

We go forward to a rooftop meeting between Bruce and Tim where they talk over the threat that’s arrived, named Colony, and a nice explanation from Bruce to Tim as to how important he is to what’s going on and why he values him. It’s a rare moment of Bruce admitting that he actually does need help in his ongoing mission. The issue wraps with Bruce in the Batmobile talking to Alfred, and admitting that he brought Batwoman on to keep an eye on her as much as it is to get her help. And as Alfred begins to once again puncture Bruce’s convoluted secret keeping logic, he’s interrupted by the Batmobile being attacked. Colony is on the scene and they’re after him. The issue ends with the Bruce popping out of the Batmobile and being surrounded by fifty Colony soldiers and getting an order to surrender, which he of course does not comply with. There was a lot going on in this issue but they handled it well. We got some character development for Tim, Stephanie, and Kate and a few clues as to who the enemy is going to be in this opening arc of the series. One of the big concerns with a biweekly series is that you’ll get only a month’s worth of story spread across two issues, but that isn’t happening here. They manage to get in a whole monthly issues’ worth of story in a biweekly issue without it feeling cramped or rushed. This isn’t really that surprising seeing as writer James Tynion IV has been on the book for a while now and is old hat at telling Batman stories. Detective has been a very underrated book for some time now and that continues here.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10

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Wonder Woman #1

Review by Edward Tripp

In some ways we are all trying to find our way home and it is no different for Wonder Woman who seeks to find a way back to Themyscira. Greg Rucka takes over as writer for the series with Liam Sharp and Laura Martin providing art and color respectively. Rucka has done a remarkable job on his female led series (Whiteout, Stumptown, Queen and Country) and has experience writing for Diana several years back prior to the New 52 era. This opening issue under the Rebirth era is not packed with action but more about laying the groundwork for this new era of Wonder Woman. So is this team on the right path? In my eye, they are on multiple levels.

When I first saw the new Wonder Woman costume several months ago it reminded me of a lot of the BvS version of the suit. After seeing Sharp’s work in this first issue that feeling has only increased in a good way. I can’t help but see subtle notes to Linda Carter and Gal Gadot in how he presented the facial features of the character. It works but needs to be more consistent going forward. I also feel in coming issue Sharp could dial in the facial expression further as they felt to bland in this first issue. Martin’s color work fit the jungle setting and I look forward to seeing her pallet choice in a more vibrant environment. Overall the duo does a great job in this first issue by giving a taste of the style they look to utilize going forward.

In recent years there has been some criticism of the direction of Wonder Woman. Whether or not these criticisms hold merit is up for debate. You can see the direction Rucka is going with the character in this first issue, but not enough to make final judgments. This first issue does its job well to setup a new tone and direction for the series. Where is goes from here will take several issues to fully flesh out as is Rucka’s writing style. I have faith he will learn from past miscues to really create a series worthy of the legendary character.

While this is far from a perfect issue, it does very well in giving a glimpse into the new future of the character. “The story keeps changing” and hopefully things will begin to make better sense in this new era for DC. Wonder Woman should be one of the top Rebirth series and only time will tell that to be true or not.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10

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Aquaman #1

Review by Jonathan Durden

I’m in the camp that Rebirth has been on point so far, with only a small few questionable issues so far. The official #1 of Aquaman has kept me in that camp, despite myself not being so high on the character or his Rebirth issue to begin with. This #1 has made me like Aquaman even more than the new Superman issues have made me like Superman. This was just an all-around fun issue to read.

Let me start with art, as comics are indeed a visual medium: Aquaman #1 boasts the creative illustrative team of Brad Walker on pencils, Andrew Hennessey as the inker, Gabe Eltaeb on colors, and Pat Brosseau on letters. Each and every one of these I mentioned has a crucial role in making this comic work the way that it did.

Walker’s pencils amazed me with his attention to detail- the background of Spindrift Station showing the fish and Atlanteans swimming around in the water-filled sections of the station gave a great feeling of community and population to the page. Not only that, but the height differences between the land-dwellers and the Atlanteans really gives you the sense of how powerful these people are and that they, even though they are on land, are still in their element and are willing to make peace with land-dwellers.

And even though Walker had to draw such populated scenes, writer Dan Abnett made sure not to saturate the story with unnecessary characters. Everyone who was there needed to be there and every line of dialogue served a purpose of either exposition or furthering the plot. Truly a great example of what a great first issue of a comic can be.

I’m not done with the art quite yet, though. Though I’m not the biggest fans of the outfits for the Atlanteans, especially Aquaman himself, there’s no denying their importance in keeping the separation between Atlantean and surface-dwellers distinct, and what better way to do that than with the spectacular efforts of colorist Gabe Eltaeb? Eltaeb colors a very distinguished Spindrift Station in this issue and gives it the perfect essence of being an Atlantean fortress that is making efforts to reach out to the people of earth.

Even the inks by Andrew Hennessey play a beyond important role in this issue. Namely, when “Delane” was telling Captain Sark how he had no idea where the explosive charges came from. Notice in that panel (if you happen to have it in front of you) how his face is almost completely shadowed, giving away that he is of bad intentions. Then, suddenly, on the next page, we see Captain Sark slammed against the wall be the fake Ray Delane, who then reveals himself as Black Manta.

The resulting chaos is not only conveyed brilliantly by the penciller, inker, and colorist, but also by the letterer. Pat Brosseau does a fantastic job of getting across every emotion the characters are expressing in the art, with just the way the letters are formed and displayed on the pages. You know that little voice in your head you hear whenever you read something that plays out in the dramatic way that the art is playing out on the page? That is all thanks to the letterer. If Aquaman didn’t have a talented and professional letterer, this issue would in no way have been as exceptional as it was.

I say all of this not only because I loved this issue, but also because I myself have been discovering the infinite value that every member in a creative team offers to a comic book, and felt like I needed to share it here. So next time you read a comic book, take time to appreciate not just the story, not just the art, but every bit of the handiwork that goes into making it. And I haven’t even touched on editors. They’re the ones that make all the aforementioned stuff possible. They are like the last line of defense a comic book has before being published. They have such a thankless job. Much like when I worked for my church in the sound booth, folks only noticed me when something went wrong. And that’s what it’s like being an editor, I imagine. People notice mistakes but don’t take the time to appreciate the accomplishments because they aren’t as obvious.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10.

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Ultimates #8

Review by Sankalp G.

Civil War II has been a mixed bag for me. I loved the concept but the actual product doesn’t have that ‘it factor’. I think I had too high of hopes after Secret Wars. I believe the reasons are, first, lack of build up and second, most of the comic community thinks of it as a meaningless, cash-grab event.

Coming back to the point, the problems like Ulysseus is the reason why Carol (Ms. Marvel) established this team, so this tie-up doesn’t feel forced and then there is ‘subtle’ storytelling of Ewing who makes even square pegs fit in a round hole.

This issue takes us back in time and shows how/why Carol establishes The Ultimates. This issue sheds light on the interesting personalities we are dealing with here. It also enhances the swift and somewhat forced ending we had at the end of Civil War II #2.

I have had lots of praise for the whole creative team,Ewing, Rocafort and Brown. It just shows on the page. They have redone Galactus with the Lifebringer Saga we had and then they have introduced the Philip Vogt character who is described as The Man in Shadows.

Ewing’s version of this team has shades of the J. Hickman New Avengers run ( I have said it before.) and Ewing acknowledges it in the issue that they are not the Illuminati. They will not go by that road and problems will be dealt with as peacefully as possible. Then there is the political side of this issue. Most of that is about how the US council thinks of the Ultimates and how they do not trust most of them. How they fear the powers of some of the criminal-turned-heroes.

I, as mentioned above, felt the ending of second issue of Civil War was a bit rushed. But Ewing’s style of storytelling has all the drama in it and I felt that some moments here came naturally and didn’t feel like it was done for the sake of doing it to tie to Civil War II. We also relived the battle at P.E.G.A.S.U.S facility against Thanos. The difference was we got to see the planning behind the attack and how the Ultimates dealt with it.

Art has been always fantastic. The use of colors is what highlights the issue. The emotions and ambience of the panels can be instantly recognized by colors in the background. The environment has been done superbly, be it Wakanda or the Ultimates Headquarters. Even the one-shot villain, Xarggu, had a fantastic design.

There were some funny compliments here. We had some awkwardly romantic moments between Monica Rambeau and Blue Marvel. As we know, if Light (Rambeau) and antimatter (Blue Marvel) collides, isn’t it supposed to create a blackhole?

Fun aside, this has been one of the best series Marvel has put out. Thing to note was some material they showed here could have been included in the Civil War II #2 issue and it could have changed the impact it had. Basically, it was good, unlike the rest of the tie-ins we have had. Great read, even better colors, one of the best from Marvel.,

Rating: 9.0 out of 10

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Doctor Strange #9

Review by Richard Bishop

This issue opens in the Himalayas, with a group of unrelated individuals trekking through the snow, although none of them knows why. Each of them has been touched by magic at some point in their lives, and they are making their way, along with Zelma Stanton (Dr. Strange’s librarian and recent escapee from his house on Bleecker Street), towards the temple where Wong has kept monks to “pay” for Dr. Strange’s use of magic. Wong greets them (and is referred to by Zelma as the doctor’s “butler”, to which he chafes) and leads them inside, telling them they all need to believe in Dr. Strange until it hurts.

In another location in Tibet, the good doctor is found being chased by a pack of very angry monkeys; they have been feeding on the magic within a temple and Dr. Strange has taken the last item there, that being the skull of his mentor, The Ancient One. He leaps from a cliff to avoid their wrath, only to be picked up mid-air by Doctor Voodoo, flying The Phantom Eagle’s old plane, yet another of the rapidly-dwindling magical artifacts left in the world. Stephen crushes the skull, saying that it is the last one, but that in order to beat the Empirikul, they need to bring a bigger monster.

Cutting to Bleecker Street, the Lord Imperator enters the house, where his minions have gathered. He expected the house to have been razed by that time, but they have had problems dealing with the creature in the basement. The Lord Imperator engages it, telling it he will destroy it, but it is not frightened by his threat, and in response, it opens its chest, revealing the pain and horror that spawned it to him.

Back in Tibet, Strange’s band of under-powered mystics have gathered with the various items they’ve collected. They debate what they are going to do next, and while they do, Stephen leaves and heads to the temple where Wong and the monks are. He is appalled by what Wong has been doing in secret, but Wong says it has all been necessary to keep Stephen alive all these years; Strange orders the collected masses out of the temple, then casts a quick spell to knock Wong out. He exchanges a few words with Zelma and then heads off in the plane towards his home in New York to take on the Empirikul.

Inside the house on Bleecker Street, the Lord Imperator tries in vain to harm the creature, but as it was made from pain, he fails at that task. Outside the house, Strange’s mystic brethren attack the Inquisitor minions, while back inside, the Lord Imperator continues to rant, saying there will be no more monsters, no more magic until he is quieted by an arrow shot by Doctor Strange, who promises the Lord Imperator he will be his monster…

Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo just keep knocking this book out of the park month after month. After last month’s slightly slower installment, this issue starts off at the top of the big hill on the roller coaster and flies down the track from there. They’re approaching the finish for this storyline and they are putting together a great examination of just who Stephen Strange is and what drives him. This may be the title I look forward to the most each month (although Moon Knight is a close second), and I will be counting the days until next month’s book comes out to see how they wrap this up.

Rating: 9.0 out of 10

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