This will be the final edition of this feature for this year, and it involves a fair bit of catching-up across several different titles. Digital comics, print comics, comics with female leads, comics with male leads, team books, solo books, everything is here, so check out the review below!
The picks for this week are: Fables: The Wolf Among Us #1-3, Grimm Fairy Tales: Robyn Hood #4-5, Grimm Fairy Tales: Jungle Book: Fall of The Wild #1, Judge Dredd: Anderson, Psi-Division #3-4 and Aquaman #35-37.
Fables: The Wolf Among Us #1-3:
This title is among the latest digital titles to come out of DC/Vertigo, and it features a very interesting look at the Sheriff of Fabletown, Bigby Wolf. In my reading of Bill Willingham’s Fables, Bigby has definitely stood out as one of the most fascinating and awesome characters, and he is very much a Western-style hero, without the setting itself being a Western. He is even called Sheriff by all the Fables, being the one and only lawman that these fantasy characters have among them, and this new title by Dave Justus and Matthew Sturges goes a long way to focus on this wonderful character.
The first three issues of this new digital series are a story of Bigby dealing with a disturbance at the residence of the Fable known as the Woodsman. This is the same woodsman from the classic story of Little Red Riding Hood who saved the heroine and defeated the villain. But in Willingham’s reimagining of the classic fairy stories, the Woodsman is a belligerent drunk with anger issues while Bigby Wolf is The Cop of Fabletown. And in these first three issues, we get a fairly good look at both characters. The latter of course has a history of… problems with letting his inner wolf out, and this is indeed one of the many things that Justus and Sturges focus on in these issues.
Ultimately, while providing a great look at these two characters, we also get to see a fair bit of mystery in the story and the setup for something that is larger than what is happening between the Woodsman and Bigby. And the story is definitely a lot of fun with the medium really suiting the writers’ punchy narrative.
Steve Sadowski is the artist on the first issue with Shawn McManus on the second and Travis Moore on the third. Lee Loughridge on the colours, Sal Cipriano on the letters and Chrissie Zullo on the cover art. Though there are different pencillers on each issue, the overall consistency of the artwork is definitely there, and I loved the sheer ferocity that is seen in both Bigby and the Woodsman. The two female characters could use some more work I think, but they aren’t all that bad really, passable so.
Good start to what seems a fun series.
Grimm Fairy Tales: Robyn Hood #4-5:
This title is another one where the first three issues formed a distinct arc, and proved to be a good reintroduction to the titular character, who has emerged as one of the year’s best characters in comics for me. Robyn Hood, though thematically based on the Robin Hood legends, is quite a different sort of character to her namesake, and is all around much, much better. Being an action hero certainly helps in this regard.
After everything that happened of late in the first few issues, writer Pat Shand kicked off a new arc in the fourth issue, which also introduces Robyn’s friend Britney Waters into the mix. Britney is of course Zenescope’s version of Red Riding Hood from the classic fairy tales, and like Robyn, is totally awesome, particularly since her “superpower” is turning into a badass werewolf.
In this new arc, we see these former Realm Knights (whole another story covered in the recent Age of Darkness crossover event) go up against a local vampiric cult that has some big plans on the city. The meeting between the two heroines is packed with some awesome dialogue as they turn up their sarcasm-mode and I gotta admit that the two of them complement each other really well in a story like this. And Pat Shand definitely seems to have fun with exploring their friendship. And speaking of friendship, there are also some great scenes to be had here with Marion, Robyn’s sidekick here. She has been developing well on her own of late and Pat Shand continues on a high with her.
Tony Brescini is the artist on both issues with Slamet Mujiono on the colours, with Jim Campbell on letters for the fourth and Dave Lanphear on the fifth. Ken Lashley and Wes Hartman are the cover artists on the fourth issue with Mike S. Miller and Mohan Sivakani on the fifth. I have to say that I definitely prefer Claudia Balboni’s artwork insofar as the characters go, but Tony Brescini is pretty good nonetheless and he definitely brings out the best of the characters, especially the trio of heroines here, each of whom has a distinctive design and the action in the later parts of both issues stands out as well.
This book is definitely roaring along on a great high!
Grimm Fairy Tales: Jungle Book: Fall of The Wild #1:
I read Zenescope’s Jungle Book Vol.1 way back in 2012, almost two years ago, and it was a decent experience. As someone who grew up on the Hindi-language version of the Jungle Book cartoon, Zenescope’s reimagining was wildly different from what I recalled, but it was still interesting since it also introduced a whole bunch of new characters alongside the old staple that I remembered.
In Jungle Book: Fall of the Wild #1, we are taken many years forward in time from that first story arc (or could be a few months but the point stands that a significant amount of time has passed), and we are presented with a very different Jungle than before with a very different status quo. The most fun thing about Zenescope’s Jungle Book line has been the gender-bent approach to the central character, as has been the case for characters like Robyn Hood elsewhere. Fall of The Wild is the second sequel to the original mini-series, and thus I am quite behind in my reading as I haven’t read the second mini-series, but we get enough of an introduction to the characters that you are not lost here. But I would definitley suggest reading at least the first volume.
In the new mini-series, the first issue of it that is, we see that all the different groups are making their big play for power in the Jungle, whether it be Mowgli and her friends, or Baloo and his bears, or elsewhere all across. It makes for a fun, tension-charged story that really pulls you in, and it is also quite clear that writer Mark L. Miller is going for a grand epic finale here, which is all fine with me.
The artwork is by Michelle Bandini, with colours by Grostieta, letters by Matthew Krotzer and the cover by David Finch and Ivan Nunes. The issue starts off with a great and massive fight between ants of two different colonies, which then goes on to be reflected on a macro scale with a massive fight between elephants and tigers elsewhere on the Jungle Island. Bandini’s artwork here is fairly good, with each character standing out in a sea of somewhat similar characters at each corner of the island, though the inking was a bit heavy on the edges and gave too much definition to things. But the colours were fantastic, if a bit cartoonish, and Krotzer gave each species a different letter font, which was pretty neat.
New series, new start, the end of everything, this is going to be quite fun I think.
Judge Dredd: Anderson, Psi-Division #3-4:
IDW has been going all-out on several new Judge Dredd comics of late, with a whole bunch of new mini-series that have come out of late, and several more that are undoubtedly in the pipeline. One of the newest of these is Anderson, Psi-Division, which focuses on one of my favourite characters of the franchise, Psi-Judge Cassandra Anderson, who was even in the Dredd movie from 2012, and was played brilliantly by Olivia Thirlby. The recent series has focused on Anderson in a really nice way, given her a great mystery to solve, and been all-around good as far as I’m concerned.
Issues #3 and #4 of the series pretty much round-out the second half of the first story arc by writer Matt Smith, who is no stranger to the setting, having written quite a few prose works with Judge Dredd himself before. The great thing about his writing here is that he always keeps Anderson at the forefront. Since this is her own comic, you’d expect that anyway, but you’d also be surprised by how much writers tend to do the exact opposite in the name of doing something different and quirky. Not so with this title.
This is an investigative mystery title in a near-future dystopian setting, and Matt Smith writes the titular character and the setting itself really well. Anderson is smart, inquisitive, intelligent and, above all else, completely dedicated to her work. She doesn’t need anyone else to prop her up and it is nice to see that Matt forewent including Dredd himself in the picture. It keeps the focus on Anderson at all times and gives her a time to shine. And the mystery itself is resolved aptly by the end of the fourth issue, so no complaints there at all.
The art here is by Carl Critchlow, with letters by Shawn Lee. Carl’s work is quite moody and atmospheric and his pencils really do capture the weird nature of the setting itself, no matter which character he is focusing on, or what the backgrounds are like. And his work is fairly detailed as well with a great use of different colour palettes, and it is just going to leave you wanting more.
A definite improvement over the first two issues I’d say, in all respects.
More Judge Dredd: Anderson, Psi-Division: #1-2.
When Jeff Parker took over from Geoff Johns in 2013 on Aquaman, one of the themes he established (or rather, expanded upon a great deal) in his run was that the people of Atlantis really don’t like their king all that much, despite all he has done for them and that in some way even the underwater kingdom itself is rejecting him. There have been several minor natural catastrophes that have rocked Atlantis in recent times and the people blame Arthur for all of it. Which is where Jeff Parker’s big Maelstrom arc kicks in, following his previous adventures that make him face some of major mythological threats.
The new arc kicks off in Aquaman #35 and we see that Arthur brings in Dr. Shin and Daniel Evans to help him uncover why Atlantis as a whole is rejecting him, and whether this has some historical significance of epic proportions or is just something randomly occurring. I’ve loved having Jeff Parker on this title, and with this new arc he has once again cemented the fact that he was the best person to take over after Geoff’s own fantastic run that finally brought Aquaman forward as a major comics hero without any kind of silly, cliched baggage attached.
In Maelstrom we follow the characters as they learn some great secrets that have been kept from all of them, secrets such as the fact that Arthur’s mother Atlanna was never buried in the kingdom itself, and that she just might have survived in some way. Which of course brings us to Arthur’s greatest ally, or former ally rather, Vulko, once his mentor and also one of Atlanna’s advisers before her… death. With all the secrets that tumble out, we also see the inclusion of another Justice Leaguer, the Martian Manhunter this time, and the story really hits overdrive in Aquaman #36 when we learn the truth about Atlanna and what really happened to her, insofar as her being in Atlantis or not being in Atlantis is concerned.
This all then dovetails very nicely into last week’s Aquaman #37 where Aquaman and Mera face-off against one of the best villains in DC comics, none other than Gorilla Grodd. This was where the arc really hit its stride, despite all the fantastic work that happened in the previous issues, and where the epic nature of this new arc really revealed itself. Jeff Parker has gone above and beyond anything I expected of him with this arc and though we never really got the whole Saga of the Seven Seas crossover this year, Maelstrom is filling-in really nicely, expanding on another element of Aquaman’s history, and making way for what I hope is an even more epic revelation later on.
The art team for #35 is Paul Pelletier, Sean Parsons, Rain Beredo and Taylor Esposito with Pelletier and Parsons on the cover. The only change for #36 is Carlos M. Mangual replacing Taylor Esposito on the letters, and then Dezi Sienty replacing Carlos in #37. This art team has become a really solid team in recent months and these three issues are ample evidence of that fact. The strong characterwork with all the different members of the cast, the interplay between the heroes and the villains, the scenes of Gorilla City in Aquaman #37 particularly. Everything is top notch in these three issues.
You buy these issues not just for the great story, but also for the great art on it.