‘Tis the season for some really great comics, and as always, there’s some holiday specials in the normal mix. So what have we liked lately? Let’s talk comics!
Faith’s Winter Wonderland Special #1 (Valiant Comics)
Maurgerite Sauvage steps out of her role as frequent artistic contributor to Faith Herbert’s adventures and writes this special with art by Francis Portela and MJ Kim.
Faith is recruited by Mister Rabbit, a character from her favorite childhood show, a Sesame Street-like show about imagination and based heavily on Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland. She has to rescue to queen of Wonderland from cynicism and consumerism. The always enthusiastic Faith jumps into the adventure with both feet and saves the day, just in time for a quiet evening with a surprising friend.
In some ways, this tale works really well, in others, not so much. Let’s get the latter out of the way first- as a holiday special, outside of the last two pages, this doesn’t work. Nothing about Wonderland is particularly holiday themed. While the last two pages go a long way to make up for it, it doesn’t quite get there.
However, as a one-shot, it works. Sauvage paces it well, and is able to give us a fun single issue story. Faith has some great character moments, and her childlike optimism is a key part of the story. Portela and Kim’s art is complementary, but different enough to distinguish some important tonal and setting differences between the scenes.
A very fun story, but not one that got me in the holiday spirit.
Rating: 7 out of 10
The Verdict: Buy for the Valiant fan in your life
Royal City #8 (Image Comics)
Jeff Lemire’s family drama flashes back this issue, focusing on the late Tommy Pike. Tommy goes out with big brother Richie, which leads to him taking a hit on a joint. The high is pleasant at first, but then leads to a panic attack. He ends up walking home and sharing a sweet moment with his sister.
I’ve only had an opportunity to read the first issue of this series, so I was only somewhat familiar with what was going on. However, that quickly didn’t matter as Lemire crafted a stand-alone story in the truest sense of the word. You didn’t need to know about the struggles of the Pike family. You just get a good slice of life and wonderful realistic introspection from an interesting teenage boy.
Lemire’s art is phenomenal. It’s just gorgeous, and that’s largely due to his painted colors. Lemire has always been a solid cartoonist, but the watercolor style colors elevate his line work into true art.
This is definitely enough to entice me into trying the trade once it’s out. All-in-all, a great read.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
The Verdict: Subscribe
Aliens: Dead Orbit #4 (Dark Horse)
James Stokoe does something pretty impressive in this final issue of his Aliens miniseries. I expected to read a climactic conclusion to a story that I actually hadn’t read. However, Stokoe goes beyond that, providing what I’m sure was a great conclusion for those who had read the complete miniseries, but also crafting an excellent single-issue story for a reader picking this up casually.
The issue is a race against time as the protagonist (who I think is named Wassy?) tries to escape the xenomorph before his space station blows. Meanwhile, the story flashes back to the crew’s initial frantic and bloody confrontation with the xenomorphs, drawing parallels between the two confrontations. He is able to narrowly defeat the xenomorph, before resigning himself to an ambiguous fate.
Stokoe does a stellar job here. He tells a tense story. The entire length of it is a chase scene, and it displays great horror and some creativity outside the typical Aliens story. His art does almost all the storytelling in the “now” timeline. His hyper-detailed style really adds to the classic Aliens setting and feel.
Truly a must-read for an Aliens fan, or a fan of Stokoe’s work.
Rating: 8 out 10
The Verdict: Buy
Sheena: Queen Of The Jungle #4 (Dynamite Entertainment)
To think of Sheena, generally a cheesecake comic, being worked on on a mostly female creative team is actually pretty exciting. With Marguerite Bennett as one of those creators, it has even more potential.
The issue starts with Sheena and her companion Chano facing supernatural creatures called the Face Stealers while trapped within an ancient temple. The duo fight their way free, and rush to stop a war from starting between Sheena’s tribe and modern man. Sheena’s quick thinking may stop the war, but the outsiders have awoken something terrible.
The issue has some highs and lows. The story, by Bennett and and Christina Trujillo, is very well done. It’s a fun adventure, and Sheena is actually an interesting protagonist. The threat is clearly written as the terrifying thing it could be. It’s a very fun issue.
The art, by Maria Sanapo and Mario Torrisi, is decent, if not consistent. Though there are some really strong pages, it doesn’t remain strong through out. After one good page, you’ll get one that’s incredibly rough and almost looks unfinished. The upside though is that there’s lots of promise, and this duo will definitely grow.
Definitely a good read for a fan of jungle adventures.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
The Verdict: Buy if a jungle action fan, pass if not.
Supergirl #16 (DC Comics)
I haven’t had a chance to sit down with Steve Orlando’s Supergirl series since the Rebirth one-shot. I’m glad that I finally did with this issue, the second after Orlando was joined by Jody Houser as a co-writer. How did it go?
National City is under attack by Strange Visitor (a great deep dig by Orlando and Houser!) whose quantum energy powers have caused a lot of chaos across the city. Supergirl, however, is wanted by the DEO, and has to face a tough choice whether to out herself or sit by and allow people to be endangered. She makes the call that we knew she would, saves the day, and escapes the DEO. However, it appears that the DEO is setting Kara up, and to try again, they unleash a powerful female alien warrior.
This is a fun issue, even coming in a little blind. Orlando and Houser jump into the action, but don’t leave us readers blind, recapping the situation through the first few pages. The turn of the DEO’s motivations mid-issue is great. Hopefully they aren’t just another evil shadowy organization, but it’s all very engaging.
Artists Robson Rocha and Daniel Henriques do a fantastic job. Robson has come a long way since his work on Green Lanterns. His action is clear and he leads the reader’s eye wonderfully. His facial expressions, a frequent sore spot in the past, have improved greatly.
I’m definitely interested in the next issue.
Rating: 7 out of 10
The Verdict: Buy for a Super-fan in your life.
Amazing Spider-Man #792 (Marvel Comics)
In the second part of the Venom, Inc. crossover, Peter Parker and Flash Thompson are on the trail of Maniac, while Eddie Brock wants the Venom symbiote back. Meanwhile, Maniac is using his newly acquired symbiote to make a play on the criminal underworld, zombifying supercrimnials across New York.
It’s a pretty simple story, really. The hard thing with crossovers is that sometimes you have to have an issue that’s mostly set up, and that’s exactly what this is. Fortunately Dan Slott is able to navigate that be including some solid character work, whether it’s Peter trying to cope with Flash’s behavior, Flash and Eddie both acting like addicts, or Maniac’s underworld takeover. It was a low-action issue, and mostly avoids being unsatisfying like too many issues like this become. The only low point in the story is how Slott treats Eddie Brock, who kind of takes a step back from Mike Costa’s more nuanced portrayal of him. Over all though, it’s very solid.
Artist Ryan Stegman is a welcome return to this book. Though he draws Brock a little too bulky for my personal tastes, overall, it’s a great looking book. The scenes of the Venom-ized (Maniac-ized?) villains ambushing Black Cat’s gang are a particular highlight. Color artist Brian Reber does a solid job as well, though in some scenes, the lighting effects are a little off, and some of the colors are too bright.
If you’re a Spider-Man fan, you’ll enjoy Slott’s continued work on the character, and welcome Stegman’s return to the core book.
Rating: 7 out of 10
The Verdict: Subscribe if a Spidey fan. A non-Spidey fan will probably want to pass though.
Tony Thornley is a Mormon geek dad, blogger, Spider-Man and Superman aficionado, amateur novelist and all around awesome guy. He was born and raised in Utah and has been reading comics since age five. His first comic series was GI Joe and he was doomed from there. You can follow him on Twitter @brawl2099.