From BOOM! Studios, Sam reviewed and enjoyed both Lumberjanes and Jonesy, while Kylee continues to obsess over Alex Paknadel’s latest offering, Paknadel & Trakhanov’s Turncoat.
Kylee also saw the end of the entertaining Gutter Magic, from IDW Publishing and Comics Experience.
From DC Comics, Jackson gave three stars to Action Comics #51 and four stars to Gail Simone’s Clean Room. He also gave four stars to the Marvel Comics Karnak.
Check out all of our reviews below and tell us what you’re reading in the comments!
Author: Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, Chynna Clugston Flores
Artist: Carey Pietsch, Laura Lewis & Mad Rupert
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Source: BOOM! Studios DRC
While the last Lumberjanes arc with Seafarin’ Karen was a little hit or miss for me at times, the current arc is basically everything I could ever want out of this series. I mean, it revolves around magical kittens. MAGICAL KITTENS. It turns out that the Scouting Lads and their horde of kittens weren’t really all they seemed to be. One day the kittens all started to develop random super powers. And while they were once very obedient and well behaved, the kittens are now venturing out of the Scouting Lads camp and into the Lumberjanes camp.
This couldn’t be happening at a more inopportune time because the head honchos from the Grand Lodge are coming to check up on the camp and the staff. Not only is Jenn upset that the girls sneak Barney into camp to retrieve the kittens but that doesn’t really help the problem much – the kittens are everywhere! The campers all band together with girls from other cabins to capture all the kittens just in time.
Except as the folks from the Grand Lodge arrive they are whisked away into the air by something large that flies – and Rosie gets taken away with them. Somehow I feel like this arc is going to end with the girls fighting a giant eagle or something with super-powered kittens.
As exciting as that sounds, the most interesting part of this new story arc so far is Molly. She gets some kind of bad news in a letter from home, but before she can share it everyone gets wrapped up in dealing with the kittens. Poor Molly.
But that’s not all this issue has to offer. No, instead we get a supersized issue that not only starts out our new arc but features a short standalone Lumberjanes story featuring a siren and a sneak peek at the upcoming Lumberjanes / Gotham Academy crossover. (In which Rosie also gets kidnapped by something large that maybe flies. Who knows?)
Anyways. Super-powered kittens, people. Best arc ever.
Author: Sam Humphries
Artist: Caitlin Rose Boyle
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Source: BOOM Studios DRC
Oh, Jonesy. This series just gets better and better with each issue. This time around Jonesy is still desperately trying to get musician Stuff to fall in love with her. But since she can’t use her powers to make someone fall for her she has to get creative. Somehow in her teenage mind that equates to getting a tattoo to show her love for Stuff. Her dad vetoes that idea so she tries to make him fall in love with the idea of her getting a tattoo.
Only… it backfires. Her dad falls in love with the idea of getting a Stuff tattoo for himself and though she stops him from getting one that’s not the end of things. Her powers go wonky and he ends up asking the tattoo artist who was going to tattoo him out on a date. Jonesy – worried about someone breaking his heart – tries to sabotage the date. But in the end learns a lesson about letting her dad get back out into the world of dating after divorcing her mother. (And I guess she kinda wins because they end up getting matching donut tattoos…)
The issue ends with her talking all kinds of devious about shipping Stuff with someone and making him fall for her for real this time so… the next issue – which I believe may also, sadly, be the last – should be pretty freakin’ awesome.
Paknadel & Trakhanov’s Turncoat #2
Author: Alex Paknadel
Artist: Artyom Trakhanov
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Source: BOOM Studios DRC
The bones of Paknadel & Trakhanov’s Turncoat are a classic neo-noir detective story, but much like the way the city has molded over and transformed into something new piled under all of that alien, Paknadel has done well to elevate the tropes, making for one hell of a compelling story. Issue two reveals, of course, that there was more than just a simple missing person case for Detective Gonzalez to investigate. Jumping back and forth between her past and present, readers are shown some of what happened in the immediate aftermath of Management leaving, as well as where some of the animosity towards Gonzalez springs from.
As far as the twist in the story goes, it was guessable, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting. It doesn’t take anything away from the implications to come and I have faith that Paknadel will spin the straightforward storytelling recipe into something new. Artyom Trakhanov continues to deliver visuals that are bright and psychedelic, while underscoring the setting with subtle alien touches. The writing owes a lot to the artwork, in its unflinching displays of violence, horror, and discrimination to help get the points across.
It’s always hard for me to write about Paknadel’s work because I want readers to experience it for themselves first-hand, to have the opportunity to get that same visceral reaction I feel when reading his comics, to want to immediately flip back to the beginning once finished. Suffice it to say, neo-noir fans – I’ll even drop Blade Runner in this review – aren’t going to be disappointed by the direction that this (mini)series is headed in.
Gutter Magic #4
Author: Rich Douek
Artist: Brett Barkley
Publisher: IDW Publishing & Comics Experience
Gutter Magic has been a fascinating series from start to finish – a universe in which World War 2 was won with dragons and magic? The possibilities are endless, though the entire story was scaled down to one man, Cinder Byrnes (man… that just…), and his quest to obtain magic for himself. Issue #4 wraps up the series at lightning speed, while delivering a solid amount of backstory on Cinder’s family, as well as the backstories of Oppenheimer, Morgue, and Shiver. If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is. For a final issue, it was jam-packed with exposition that might have better served readers spread out across earlier issues.
Brett Barkley delivers more than one amazing flashback panel to go along with Douek’s storytelling this issue. Barkley and Jules Rivera also work together to make some beautiful panels to go along with Cinder finally getting exactly what he wants. Between the way magical runes overlay characters who are using magic, and the explanation Cinder gets, this issue especially owes a credit to the artist and colorist for bringing such vivid storytelling to life.
With all of that being said, it does feel like something of an abrupt, if open ending, that leaves room for the creative team to revisit this universe and these characters if they should ever choose to. Beyond Cinder and Blacktooth, very few character connections are easily made for the reader. I’d love to see more of Morgue’s life after that peek into her backstory, but for a four issue mini-series, Gutter Magic is worth picking up and exploring. An interesting twist on magic, a fascinating alternative history approach, and a host of characters loaded down with baggage makes for one roller coaster of a read.
Action Comics #51
Author: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Paul Pelletier
Publisher: DC Comics
While many of the books on shelves have entered a sort of prolonged wind-down as DC rushes towards the new status quo of the upcoming Rebirth relaunch, the Superman offices have been rushing to set the stage for what’s coming next, with the extended Super League storyline, which sees the New 52’s younger Superman realizing he’s dying and begin rallying allies to take his place after his fall. At its heart, it’s a Silver Age comic, one interested in what Superman means and how ordinary men and women can be inspired by him but in execution, it’s frequently flawed by cross promotional demands and a conservative streak that benefits only executives, instead of the reader.
This week’s Action Comics #51 sees Superman finally locate Supergirl, who’s been hiding in National City with the help of the DEO to prepare for what might be coming in a world without her cousin. Grounding her character into National City, Cameron Chase and the DEO is about as transparent of a tie-in to the show as when Marvel pretended we all liked Phil Coulson back in 2013. It’s nice to see Supergirl though, especially since the character’s mostly been missing since her book’s cancellation last year.
It’s also an issue wonderfully illustrated by Paul Pelletier, one of DC’s best traditional superhero artists and his action sequences, like Superman smashing through a DEO Lab are as well realized as the quieter moments, like a malevolent Clark Kent impostor entering the Daily Planet offices. Peter Tomasi, who’s writing Superman after Rebirth has the unenviable task of mostly table setting Dan Jurgens’ upcoming run on Action Comics but he does fine here. His characters are well realized and the dialogue’s sharp but it’s hard to look past what we’re losing in this event in favor of a considerably less adventurous status quo.
And that’s really the biggest flaw of the book. DC’s spent the last 5 years building their new, younger Clark Kent up to a character and now, it’s being scrapped for something readers have already had, a Jurgens-fronted comic about an aging hero balancing his personal and professional lives against some of the worst villains the ‘90s had to offer.
It’s the textbook example of DC working to appease its older, more vocal fanbase in favor of anything resembling character development or giving new creative teams a chance and is emblematic of the extreme reactionary nature of the comics industry. It’s a move that readers shouldn’t hold against these comics but it’s hard to overlook for fans that grew to accept and care for the Clark Kent we’ve read for the last half of a decade.
Author: Warren Ellis
Artist: Roland Boschi
Publisher: Marvel Comics
There’s a certain amorality that’s often regarded as mature and exciting in comics. You see this a lot in fans who gravitate to characters such as The Punisher, The Demon, X-Force, and darker portrayals of Batman but most of these books still operate within a traditional sense of superhero morality. The characters are still working in the service of a universally-recognized greater good. They’re devoted to protecting innocents and fighting against tyranny and transgressions against well-recognized cultural mores. That mission is what separates who readers recognize as heroes and who they recognize as villains and it’s why even when Punisher is lighting a rapist on fire, when Etrigan’s selling souls, when Cable’s slitting throats, and when Batman is breaking bones, we still recognize them as heroes.
That sense of universal morality is what makes Karnak feel like a queasily transgressive comic. The book’s had a protracted release schedule, as well as changes in art teams across every issue but this week’s #3 sees Roland Boschi join Warren Ellis as the series’ new artist. It’s good to see his vision here. Boschi’s had his ups and downs as an artist and is often something of a divisive creator but his heavily shaded, gravely figures feel at home here. The plot sees SHIELD Agent Coulson guiding the Inhumans’ ultimate destructive force preparing to take on the Chapel of the Single Shadow.
Ellis has written Karnak as a character who not only sees physical weakness in others but ethical and moral ones as well and this issue sees his morality fall to new depths as he compares himself to Satan and commits mass murder of innocents. It’s hard to defend Karnak as a character and it’s clear Ellis is challenging readers’ expectations of a protagonist and a character, creating a book that’s more intriguing than enjoyable. It’s also clear the book’s brutal last line is meant to be read at least partially as comedic but its implications are brutal, calculating and cruel, meant to prey on your weaknesses in the same way it preys on SHIELD’s.
Clean Room #7
Author: Gail Simone
Artist: Jon Davis-Hunt
Publisher: DC Comics
The greatest strength of Gail Simone and Jon Davis-Hunt’s Vertigo horror series Clean Room has been its imagery, nightmare mishmashes of alien and terrestrial imagery, southern-fried blood-letting and grand giallo theaters of broken bodies and demonic influence. Those moments have buoyed the book through its transparent, often times obscure world-building. While the characters’ motivations and actions have been clear, the nature of Astrid’s organization, power, and leverage have been more elusive.
Clean Room #7 serves the dual purpose of clarifying the book’s mythology while offering a compelling new entry point for readers interested in getting into the title. After saving Chloe from The Surgeon, Astrid considers her past as well as her first encounters with another woman who has encountered the alien threat that changed her life.
It’s the most the character has been humanized yet, even though it’s an issue that refuses to let her off the hook for some of her most unethical actions, like leading to the self-castration of one one man or her role in the deaths of dozens of others. In that way, Astrid’s something of a classic Simone protagonist, an ethically compromised person working within her own rigidly defined sense of right and wrong, while trying to ignore her massive moral transgressions.
As such, Clean Room #7 is more of a character study than anything else, revealing new layers to Astrid’s immaculately presented facade of control and wisdom. There’s unnerving moments here, like an encounter within her mind palace with The Surgeon, but it’s primarily an issue that’s more illuminating than horrifying in all the right ways.