This Week’s Reviews:
Welcome Back #1
Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake Card Wars #1&2
Secret Wars: Secret Love #1
Welcome Back #1 (Boom!, $3.99)
By Cat Taylor
It’s been a pretty shallow week for exciting new titles. Normally when this happens I scour the independent links and try to find something that looks pretty interesting. Unfortunately, nothing really caught my attention this week. So, I grabbed the most easily accessible, newly published first issue and went with it. As a result, I read Welcome Back.
First things first, this comic has nothing to do with Mr. Kotter or the Sweathogs. Instead, the title refers to reincarnation of a group of ages-old assassins called “sequels”. Apparently, sequels are paired off with the sole purpose of killing each other. Often when one kills the other, the killer will commit suicide in order to follow his or her enemy into the next life so they can do it again. However, the sequels can be reincarnated into any living form: any sex, age, race, size, shape, and presumably species, and sometimes they remember each other and what they are, and sometimes they don’t. A lot of things like this aren’t yet clear, neither to the reader nor to many of the characters. It seems that there is a journey for everyone involved who stays on board for this series.
The story in the first issue, as written by Christopher Sebela, has a few flashbacks to the past and a subplot featuring one of the assassins who is currently aware and active in her work. The main plot, however, revolves around a teenager named Mila. Mila is the step-daughter of a serial killer and has attracted an unwanted fanbase of serial-killer fanboys who send her letters. The letters occasionally amuse Mila and her roommate, but generally she wants her connection to her step-father ignored and forgotten. Due largely to this undesirable upbringing, her life is currently without direction. She doesn’t have a job, doesn’t go to school, and spends most of her time hanging around her apartment with her loserly boyfriend or getting high and attending parties. Mila is obviously one of the sequels and it’s a pretty safe bet that the other one in the subplot is her designated enemy. However, Mila doesn’t yet realize she’s a sequel. Since Sebela is a veteran writer who has written numerous well-known books for Marvel and other prominent publishers, I’m pretty sure he has this whole mini-series planned out. So, I imagine things will get clearer by the next issue. Right now though, some aspects of the plot are a little hard to decipher.
One thing I’ve noticed about a lot of the Boom comics is how much they look like the current Image books. Both companies have developed an identifiable “house-style” for their art that makes them appear similar to each other. In this case, the illustrator is Jonathan Brandon Sawyer, and his work is very detailed and compelling. The most uniquely identifiable trait in Sawyer’s style is a manga influence that is present in his drawings of people but isn’t noticeable in his rendering of inanimate objects. Another area of the art that makes this book look like an Image title is the coloring. Colorist Carlos Zamudio uses the non-primary palette of neon and flourescent hues that are all the rage in independent comics now. It gives comic book art a stunning look because it causes the images to jump off the page. I used to think using these unusual colors was an original way for a colorist to make his or her contributions stand out, but it has become so commonplace that it’s practically the standard now.
All in all, Welcome Back is loaded with visually stimulating art and there is still a lot to be determined story-wise. I suppose that’s the point though. Keep ’em coming back for more answers each issue. Whether it’s worth your money every week or not though is something that may be tough to decide with just this issue. It didn’t keep me riveted and anxious to find out more but I can’t find anything to complain about either. The concept has some potential that can either get better and better or fall flat. Being this is only a four issue limited series though, the next issue will need to be awfully convincing to keep readers hooked for the duration.
Cat Taylor has been reading comics since the 1970s. Some of his favorite writers are Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Peter Bagge, and Kurt Busiek. Prior to writing about comics, Taylor performed in punk rock bands and on the outlaw professional wrestling circuit. During that time he also wrote for music and pro wrestling fanzines. He has some mult-colored paperclips on his desk and a bottle-cap. You can e-mail Cat at email@example.com.
Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake Card Wars #1&2
By Adam X. Smith
Cards on the table (see what I did there?): Fionna and Cake – or more accurately the fact that their existence comes not only from the fandom but also the creative team’s desire to incorporate them into the narrative of the series – are the reason I even ended up giving Adventure Time the time of day. Any show that treats its fans as being inextricably linked with its success is alright in my book.
Additionally, seeing In Real Life artist Jen Wang’s name attached to it (albeit only as writer, with art handled by Britt Wilson) gave me a perk of additional interest. And whilst Card Wars is relatively light on the real-world versus game-world comparisons that book engendered, it does carry over some notable elements of that book’s storyline, i.e. the desire to be part of a collective, the often exclusionary and elitist nature of many fandoms surrounding gaming, and the desire to prove one’s self through one’s skill and wits rather than one’s gender or in this case species.
Unable to find anyone to play Card Wars with owing to Fionna’s lack of affinity for the game, Cake the cat seeks to join a gaming club and a Card Wars tournament they are holding, but they rebuff her on the basis that they’ve never heard of her (because they never accept new members) and because she’s not a slug. However, when Lumpy Space Prince, the club’s founder and leader, arrives with a busted flooping wrist after an encounter with the Floop Master (don’t ask), it falls to Cake to prove her worth and take his place on the team.
This is all well and good, but as those familiar with the show know, and as the opening of Card Wars #1 hints at for those who don’t, Fionna and Cake are not real – well, duh, but within the context and canon of the show, they are inventions of the Ice King’s imagination, residents of a distaff version of the Land of Ooo where all the existing characters’ genders are inverted. The significance of this in the context of the story, whilst at this point only implicit, is no less valid: Ice King is bewailing the fact that he has no-one to play Card Wars with, being as he is a foul-tempered, largely unlikable troll who lives in a frozen mountain with only penguins and the occasional prisoner as company; at the start of the story proper, he activates a Lonely Panda card, with the scene transitioning to Fionna playing the same card and Cake subsequently getting annoyed at not having anyone to share the sport with. In this scenario, it’s not unreasonable to postulate that Ice King is re-imagining himself in Fionna and Cake’s place, and whilst his previous encounters with them within the realms of his poorly written fan-fictions tend to cast him as a desirable love interest, in this scenario it’s entirely possible that he sees in Cake’s struggle to be accepted a mirror of his own neuroses.
Or he’ll just turn out to be the Floop Master and Mary-Sue all over the place.
Either way, Card Wars is an able successor to the recurring miniseries slots that was previously filled with the likes of Marceline Gone Adrift, and I’m sure I’ll probably continue to check in on it as time goes on. The first two issues are a little slow on the uptake, but so far the pacing is at a decent unfrustrating speed; the writing and art are the usual top quality I’ve come to expect of Kaboom!; and the overall message of inclusiveness that the story has so far adopted is one that I’d recommend to any young would-be gamers and comic fans.
Adam X. Smith managed to go a whole review without cursing, his housemate got a promotion and Axl Rose and Slash have allegedly made amends – clearly this is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Check out his other stuff at @ElectrolyteMag.
Secret Wars: Secret Love #1
By Jeb D.
Given that many of the Secret Wars/Battleworld titles are parodic riffs on existing (well, previously existing) Marvel continuity, the marketing of this one as an overt parody seems to have given it a nice sales bump, but apart from the thematic element of romance, it’s pretty much another Secret Wars anthology book like Secret Wars Journal.
Fortunately, it’s a pretty good one. While the formal “Romance” genre may have faded away with the coming of the Silver Age, soap-opera romance is more or less a cornerstone of Big 2 superhero storytelling, and sometimes it’s more effective taken in these quick-hitting small doses than in the long drawn-out multiple-arc stories that are the norm.
Writer/artist Michael Fiffe evokes the Nocenti/Romita era of Daredevil, giving Karen Page a grimly forthright, well-characterized inner monologue as she narrates Matt Murdock’s final horndog encounter before the end of the Marvel Universe; she’s a delight to read. The big “twist” feels a little awkward, though it raises an interesting question (that may or may not be intentional) about the actual scope of Doom’s domain. Given how many of the Secret Wars titles are revisiting specific comics from Marvel’s past, not many have nailed the look and feel of the “classics” as well as Fiffe has here.
Felipe Smith revisits the Ghost Racers franchise, moving to Doomstadt’s Killeseum to present a tale of Kamala Khan’s infatuation with champion racer Robbie Reyes. It’s a zippy little piece, mostly notable for a tidy action sequence: bright and cartoony, and it’s fun to see Kamala’s powers handled with such a different artistic sensibility than we’re used to in her own book.
The team of Colleen Wing and Misty Knight do a pretty good “buddy cop” partnership, most recently in Fearless Defenders, but in this case, their mutual support isn’t about fists and fury: Misty’s relationship with Danny Rand has hit a rocky patch, and with the backing of Colleen (plus some sage words from Luke Cage and Jessica Jones), our ass-kicking lovebirds will pull things together, once they dispose of a rampaging T. Rex. Of all the stories here, this is the one that could have most used full-length treatment: writer Jeremy Whitley has a good handle on the characterization of his principals, and this basic story could have taken more room to breathe over a few issues, rather than the pat wrap-up it gets here. The art from Gurihiru is a bit on the cute side, tending to undercut the emotion underlying it.
Cute is the overriding element in Marguerite Bennett and Kris Anka’s “Squirrel Girl Wins a Date with Thor”—a what-it-says-on-the-tin 3-page vignette.
The most unusual story of the lot comes from Katie Cook, a tale of Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne reimagined as genuine insects celebrating their anniversary; it’s told mostly through visuals, with much of the dialog in the form of pictograms, and is just long enough to transcend its novelty without wearing out its welcome: I have no idea what, if anything, this has to do with Secret Wars, but it’s one of my favorite stories from the event so far.
I’ll agree that it’s disappointing that Marvel missed the opportunity for at least one same-sex romance here; it’s also worth noting, though, that we’re at a point where no one even remarks that two of the four stories which feature actual humans star characters of color. And though the cover makes it look like strictly a novelty book, there’s enough good storytelling on the inside to give it a firm recommendation.
Jeb D. can’t believe they killed Richmond. Bitch gonna pay.