Monthly Archives: July, 2016

Scarlet Witch, Vol. 1

“Witchcraft is sick. Witchcraft is ailing.”

Hej hej (there’s some Swedish for ya), this is D.C. back to  catch up on even more throwdowns after a very dry July. Tonight let’s discuss my thoughts on this one:

Scarlet Witch is just one of the many series to come out of Marvel’s All-New, All-Different initiative. I picked up Vol. 1: Witches’ Road and barreled through.

Lesson time!

This isn’t your Scarlet Witch from the Marvel films. Wanda Maximoff was the mutant daughter of Magneto, a long-time Avenger, and prolific magic user. She has had a long, sordid history, and her mental instability has resulted in the Avengers disbanding (Avengers Disassembled) and nearly made mutants extinct (House of M and Decimation).

Unresolved history is certain trope of Wanda’s: once a mutant and constantly having her family background questioned and retconned, recent stories have resulted in her no longer being a mutant, let alone Magneto’s birth daughter.

Highlights

Vol. 1: Witches’ Road takes Wanda’s life in a different direction far away from the Avengers, and deeper into the world of witchcraft. Not the world of magic like in Dr. Strange, but witchcraft. Writer James Robinson does a great job of building up Wanda’s world with stories of witchcraft and the price of using it.

I enjoyed Robinson’s portrayal of the Scarlet Witch. He reminds the reader that she is aware of her own mental illness, yet she is still a strong woman with confidence in her skills and prowess apart from the Avengers that she’s been so tightly tethered to for most of her history.

It seemed as if Robinson really did his research in presenting the lore in Scarlet Witch, including Greek and Irish lore. I’ve always had a love for folklore and mythology, so I was very much drawn in by Robinson’s efforts.

The cover art is certain worth mentioning, too. Most of it was just plain great.

Lowlights: The Art

Volume 1 had five issues, and a different artist in every issue. Different artists often means different art styles. I’ve never liked when a book had different artists every issue. It makes the flow and feel of a trade, which usually covers an arc, disjointed.

The best artist by far was Marco Rudy. His painted art was beautifully rendered and gave a perfect picture of the dark and hidden world of witchcraft. Rudy has a great mastery of anatomy, which is always a great thing. I think Rudy definitely captured the essence of what Scarlet Witch is.

Every other artist I didn’t like at all.

Vanesa Del Rey’s art didn’t fit well at all for Scarlet Witch, seeming more appropriate for a “pulp fiction” type. Worse was her terrible facial depictions in this book, especially the eyes. Scarlet Witch always has been a beautiful woman, and Del Rey makes her look haggard. Javier Pulido suffers from the same downfall as Del Rey, bad eyes and facials, with art that is just mismatched for the feel of a mystic title. Pulido’s art is more fitting elsewhere, but I’m not sure where.

Del Rey’s portrayal…

…and Pulido’s.

Steve Dillon…His art has always been smooth and was better than most of the others, but I’ve never been keen on his art. I’m only realizing now that Dillon has a real thing with accenting the philtrum–the area between the nose and upper lip. It always looks weird. I don’t like how he does teeth as well–the black areas make it look like everyone has gaps. These things just scream at me in a book like Scarlet Witch. It may work for The Punisher, but not here.

Chris Visions fared a little better, but that’s because his art works just well in the supernatural realm called Witches’ Road. When the setting changes from plane to plane, it’s nice to see a shift in art style to reflect it; Visions’ art worked adequately in those parts, but I wish it had a more mystical feel, rather than just being different. The colors and art together didn’t quite suffice.

 

Lowlights 2: Story

Well, the story overall was good. Again, Robinson did an adquate job painting Scarlet Witch’s world. What bothered me was the revelation in the Witches’ Road that, for the umpteenth time, revised Wanda’s family relations. How many times must we read that Wanda’s supposed parents aren’t what we were led to believe. Unresolved history should not be a consistent plotline for a character. Hopefully Robinson can let this be laid to rest once and for all.

Recap

For those who like the supernatural side of fiction, Scarlet Witch, Vol. 1: Witches’ Road does a great job of touching on not just magic, but witchcraft. James Robinson really knows how to capture the essence of Wanda Maximoff as she tackles this side of the Marvel universe.

The cycle of artists did an overall disservice to the overall arc by giving it a disjointed feel. Marco Rudy by far did a fantastic job, but the others were simply not up to par. Hopefully the next trade and issues have a more steady artist.

Regardless of my issues with this series, the mystical aspect alone may force me to buy the next book to come.

END THROWDOWN!

 

Advertisements

Betty & Veronica #1

Hey, all, D.C. here. It’s been a while (training, work, and general chaos), but I’ve finally managed to get back here for a throwdown. I feel like sharing my thoughts on this bit:

I was a huge Archie fan in my youth, and was very interested in checking out the revival by Archie Comics. I’ve yet to pick up the first volume of Archie, so in the meantime, I decided to look at the next best thing: Adam Hughes’ Betty & Veronica #1.

Quick lesson!

For those unfamiliar–and I might have to kill you for being unfamiliar–Betty and Veronica are just part of the Riverdale gang in the Archie universe. Back in the day, the stories were set in a 1950-ish town with a 1950-ish feel. Tomboy Betty Cooper and spoiled rich girl Veronica Lodge are mainstays of the Riverdale gang, along with Archie Andrews, Jughead Jones, and others. As the title implies, Betty & Veronica focuses on these two ladies.

Highlights?

Adam Hughes certainly portrays the characters well, and that works for any reader of the old Archie comics. I don’t recall Betty being so tomboyish and strong, but it definitely works for her this time around. She is still a charming young woman underneath that fierceness. Veronica is still the same vivacious, conniving and unapologetic person I remember. Everyone else is as they had traditionally been, all with a more modern feel.

The colors used throughout this issue really gives the feeling of autumn (which, I assume, was the setting season), and that was a very good feeling.

I liked how the comedy in this new series keeps the essence of the old Archie comics, but with a more modern, yet similarly over-the-top display. The Hughes used Betty’s tomboyish, dynamic persona to comedic effect. I enjoyed scenes like this in particular.

Another hilarious section, though lengthy, was the obvious jab the book took at itself through the protagonists when a page was “missing.” There’s nothing better than a book that insults itself from time to time.

Lowlights?

The story and dialogue presented was silly, and not the good kind of silly. Granted, I found parts of the dialogue very comical, especially the narration by Hot Dog. The gang’s dialogue together as a whole didn’t sit too well with me. It felt too “rara,” if that makes any sense. I might have missed that as a child, but I don’t remember the Riverdale gang being so ridiculously idealistic and naive.

Betty’s over-the-top speeches about saving Pop’s diner sat even worse with me, but I’ve always disliked the idea of kids thinking they can solve real adult problems like a restaurant’s foreclosure. It just doesn’t make sense, but I’m sure that’s supposed to be silly. Still, it was something that chipped at the charm I felt Betty exudes.

While the art was mostly good, there were some portions that just screamed ugliness. Some hiccups included Midge and Archie’s faces on the same page. Midge looked so manly, and Archie looked inexplicably old. Not older..OLD. Thankfully, these were truly hiccups in the issue. An artist isn’t always perfect, not always uniform, so I can overlook this.

Recap

Betty & Veronica definitely is a good nod back to the classic Archie, but with a more modern take. Adam Hughes really knows how to make the characters as comical, ridiculous, and endearing as they were decades ago. The art is mostly good and smooth with an innocent and comedic feel. The silliness in some of the dialogue may work for some, but I was not particularly fond of it. Still, this is only the first issue, and the way things ended made me want to give more time to this series. I’ll definitely pick up issue #2.

END THROWDOWN.

Review of 3: Book of Death, Cyborg, Invincible Iron Man

Hey, all, D.C. here. I’ve spent so much time reading and so little writing, that I think I will throwdown in a different way with quick reviews on some of my reads to play catch-up.

Book of Death

Valiant’s 2015 event Book of Death picks up some time after The Valiant storyline. This time around, a new Geomancer is being manipulated by one of Valiant’s most enduring villains in an effort tear the world asunder. Gilad Anni-Padda, the Eternal Warrior and Tama, a time-displaced Geomancer, race to stop the catastrophic events detailed in Tama’s Book of the Geomancers from coming to pass. Of course, the Eternal Warrior’s allies in Unity believe Tama is the cause of dozens of murders, and seek to put her and Gilad down.

Like The Valiant, Book of Death is a very quick read, with Robert Venditti using the members of Unity pretty nicely. Venditti does not waste time and paper in this book, such as Eternal Warrior handing his allies their asses in entertaining fashion. It is pleasing to see an isolated tale that simply cranks out the story while maintaining sufficient (and sometimes compelling) interactions between the warring protagonists and antagonist.

Robert Gill’s art is nothing particularly special in my eyes, but his appropriate facial expressions, body language, and gestures are an adequate job. This is focused well on a rough and desperate Gilad Anni-Padda, who is driven to prevent further failure of his duty. The ending was written just as simply with satisfaction and finality. It twists the fate of an immortal warrior on its head, but also sets the tone for the follow-up series, Wrath of the Eternal Warrior.

Cyborg, Vol. 1: Unplugged

I finally decided to crank out DC’s Cyborg, Vol. 1: Unplugged. David F. Walker does a good job focusing on the thoughts and insecurities of Cyborg in the New 52, and one of–in my eyes–seriously intelligent black characters in comics.

Walker adequately delved into the layers of Victor Stone: his friendships and rivalries; his superheroic identity, his internal conflict about how he sees himself and how he is viewed by others; his dysfunctional upbringing…and how they all serve to evolve Cyborg, literally and figuratively.

It was good to see Cyborg in his own element, and in his hometown, interacting with people only he would know. I thought some parts of Walker’s portrayal came off as silly, but that might have been an intentional show of Cyborg’s crass and non-very humorous sense of humor. Not everyone can be very funny, right?

Ivan Reis primarily does the art for this first volume, and he does a great job presenting smooth and detailed art. Reis shows wonderfully intricate detail to the cybernetics on Cyborg and his antagonists.

I don’t get to read many black-centric comic characters, and this was one that did a character like Cyborg some justice.

Invincible Iron Man, Vol. 1: Reboot

Marvel’s flagship All-New, All-Different Marvel title was something I was waiting to tackle. Invincible Iron Man, Vol. 1: Reboot delves right into Tony Stark’s attempts to reinvent himself after a mid-life crisis style…crisis…when his ingenuity is questioned and challenged.

I enjoyed the new cast in Invincible Iron Man. For the most part. David Marquez’s art is great. He draws a new, vivaciously intelligent woman in Stark’s life who challenges his bravado in big ways. Dr. Doom’s return post-Secret Wars was portrayed very well, yet there is still much mystery as to Doom’s motivations and machinations. Madame Masque’s unmitigated insanity is always a pleasure to read.

What really started soured this experience, though, was Brian Michael Bendis’ portrayal of Iron Man. It seemed obvious, to me, that Bendis was trying much too hard to capitalize on the Marvel Cinematic Universe films and trying to invoke Robert Downey, Jr.too much. The comedy quickly lost its luster. Much of the story arc was honestly forget to me, aside from Madame Masque, so I think Bendis needs to find a spark that will give weight to this book.

Mary Jane Watson’s inclusion in Invincible Iron Man is of no problem to me. I have always believed that characters don’t “belong” in a particular book, and that they can find a place in any place, in any book, with the right reasons and writer. It changes the dynamics. And you can see the dynamics start to shift for both MJ and Iron Man. The curse of continuity changes reared its ugly head when Tony introduced himself to MJ. How is it that they don’t know one another when Spider-Man was an Avenger, when MJ lived in Stark Tower for a time? Even after Spider-Man’s One More Day storyline, there should be no reason these two would introduce themselves. And that moment soured the experience even more.

Invincible Iron Man, Vol. 1 has much to offer, but it also leaves much to be desired. I hope Bendis and polish his portrayal of Iron Man without trying to copy-paste Robert Downey, Jr. on paper. If I wanted that, I’d save money and watch the MCU films.

Hm…three quick reviews? There will be more to come. Tune in next time, folks.

END THROWDOWN!

Echo – Vision Quest

“My life is a foreign film with no subtitles.”

My god, it feels like it’s been a while. Hey, all, this is D.C. back for another month of reviews. In between work and the holidays, I’ve been reading many (and buying) many books. To start off July, I’m pleased to share this gem:

 

Daredevil, Vol. 8: Echo – Vision Quest is a solo arc by David Mack, and picks up right after Daredevil’s Hardcore storyline, which depicts Daredevil’s takeover of Hell’s Kitchen. This tale detail’s Echo’s return and her attempts to make sense of her life.

NOTE: For those needing a quick recap, Echo is Maya Lopez, a deaf, part-Native American who is the Kingpin’s adopted daughter. She is one of the many chaotic loves of Daredevil.

Highlights

In a word…

I can barely find the words.

This arc blew me away. David Mack did a phenomenal job tackling Echo, a deaf Native American. Mack masterfully paints a picture to the reader using those two important aspects of Echo.

The first issue of this arc had me hooked from the beginning. It is a dense read, and you literally have to read EVERYTHING on each page to understand this tale. Everything that appears insignificant, is not. This is not a book to read if you prefer action and pictures over literature (and really, there are people like that). It is heavy in imagery and metaphor, but that is its exact charm.

One of my favorite lines from this arc was that even in her heart broken anger, Echo hits the nail on the head about Daredevil in the way others have: “Do you realize what a nutcase you are?”

Just like the writing, David Mack shows off his phenomenal skills in art. Echo – Vision Quest is mostly painted, and the colors are just as striking, vivid, and beautiful as the pencils, if not more so.

Unlike other artists, you can see true variability in David Mack’s work throughout this book, and it happens for a reason. Different styles are used to convey Echo’s different experiences in life. There are even pages where Scrabble tiles are used. I don’t know why I found that comical, but it was added to the beauty of Echo – Vision Quest.

One of the biggest benefits to this arc is that this is Echo’s tale from beginning to end. Mack enables the reader to understand Echo’s past while still being well-focused on the present.

It is very obvious that David Mack did substantial homework in providing this tale. The depictions of sign language, Native American mythology, even the use of particular names and meanings. These all provide a greater sense of reality to this fictional character, as do her very human desires to belong and to fix her own mistakes with Daredevil.

 

One thing surprised me the most out of this volume of Daredevil: I thought I was going to cry from reading something this magical and lyrical. It was like music.

Similar to the Miracleman booksEcho – Vision Quest reads like a novel.

Recap

Daredevil, Vol. 8: Echo – Vision Quest is a true work of literary and visual art by David Mack. Mack paints a beautiful picture and story of Echo that feels so real and is entirely relatable. I found this book to be flawless in both portrayal and execution. I can’t recommend this book enough.

END THROWDOWN.