June 18, 2018

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Rob's Single-Minded for June 13, 2018

Another great week of comics! Here's my thoughts on some of the books that came out this past Wednesday...



Exiles #4
Written by Saladin Ahmed
Line art by Javier Rodriguez (pencils) and Alvaro Lopez (inks)
Color Art by Chris O'Halloran
Letters by VC's Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel
Fresh off their near-death at the hands of the Red Skull, the shell-shocked team has no time to rest, as they're thrust into the world of Blackbeard the Pirate--none other than the Ever-Lovin' Blue Eyed Thing version, that is! A high seas romp to save people on a small scale weighs against the fate of the multiverse as the series' first arc ramps things up towards a climax.



Giving Saladin a comic where he gets to run amok in Marvel's kooky corners is just the gift that keeps on giving. His Ben Grimm is spot-on for the mix of early Kirby-Lee and the heart and soul we've come to love so much, and his partners on the high seas are a perfect mix. Meanwhile, the main cast develops strongly, even as they're tossed across the seas of the page and plot. Oh, and I simply must point out that the Juggernautical might be the best alternative imagining of any character ever.

The art by Rodriguez, Lopez, and O'Halloran is perfect for this. They really nail this version of Ben (who hasn't turned to solid rock, which is fascinating to me--this series has so many little touches like that) and the splash pages really make innovating use of the comics medium, whether it's chained Nick Fury or the gigantic fight scene on the boat. In a very strong week, this was my favorite book. It should be yours, too.

Nancy Drew #1
Written by Kelly Thompson
Line Art by Jenn St-Onge
Color Art by Triona Farrell
Letters by Ariana Maher
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Nancy Drew gets pulled back into her old life by a mysterious message, taking her back to a place she'd left behind. Even the help of old friends (including the Hardy Boys) may not be enough to save Nancy, as the sleuth may have taken on one case too many in this spectacular debut issue.

If it hadn't been for Exiles, this would have easily been my book of the week. I grew up reading the Hardy Boys (along with a few Nancy Drews here and there), learning for the first time about author aliases. Detective work indeed! I've found the previous comic versions of these characters to be uneven, so while I usually read them as they come out, it's often with a skeptical eye.

No worries this time, as Kelly Thompson knocks this out of the park! She updates things of course, but as I mentioned in last week's preview, this Nancy Drew is still the same character we know and love--adventurous, risk-taking, and full of confidence. It's great to see her get this kind of spotlight, and Kelly's dialogue for these young characters feels pretty good to my ears as well. I can see why people think highly of her as a writer.

Jenn St-Onge does a great job of making the characters express themselves in a manner similar to, say, the Boom! Box books, but doesn't just try to copy the style. Like Thompson's script, they look age appropriate, and she's able to keep them moving and active. I like her designs for Nancy, the Hardy Boys, and other familiar faces. As per usual, Farrell's colors are top notch, and it's great to see a book like this take the colorist seriously, picking someone who can enhance the linework. Ending the book with a literal cliffhanger, this is one I can't wait to read again next month.

By Night 1
Written by John Allison
Line Art by Christine Larsen
Color Art by Sarah Stern
Letters by Jim Campbell
Published by Boom! Studios
A young woman trapped in a dead-end situation in her home town gets talked into some investigative mischief by an old friend. When they find a hidden room in a mysterious old man's mansion, Jane and Heather are off on a strange adventure...even if Jane isn't too sure about the prospects.
Allison does quirky young people really well and this is no exception. Jane is like so many people right now--doing a job they're good at, but not really feeling fulfilled. (And bonus points for having a woman in this role instead of Yet Another Boy.) Heather is a bit of a plot device to get Jane moving, but Allison's dialogue for her--combined with Larsen's linework--keep you from thinking about this too hard.

Sarah Stern gets a special shout-out here from me on her coloring work, especially once they enter the house. While keeping the art clear, the effects both of shadow and then the mysterious light work so very well to tell the story for the reader. I can tell strange things are afoot because of the way in which Stern puts together the colors, giving Larsen's art an almost three-dimensional feel at times. As with Nancy Drew, the characters feel their age and are extremely expressive, which works well for this genre of comics. Not all of these are to my taste, but I'm digging what I see so far on By Night.

Domino #3
Written by Gail Simone
Line Art by David Baldeon and Anthony Piper
Color Art by Jesus Aburtov
Letters by VC's Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel 
The hits just keep on coming for Domino, as her friends meet Davy Jones' Locker and she realizes that taking on her new adversaries will take more than her usual skill-set. Facing old fears--and a whole set of new ones--leaves Domino looking for help as this series continues to bring a lot more depth than I think most readers expected--and that's a good thing.

When Gail is at her best as a writer, she can manage to balance the outrageous traits of a character and still give them an inner turmoil or conflict. That's exactly what she's doing here on Domino, who is having a crisis of confidence she doesn't want to let on. Thus we still get the silly merc stuff and a mean lip, but also an inner monologue that in this case flashes to her past. (I'm not sure how much of that is a retcon and how much is revisiting old material. Either way, it works really well for me.) We want Domino to be better, but we can also understand her pain

Oh, and lust. Given that final page reveal, anyone attracted to men (hi!) can definitely appreciate her lust.

The art team continues to be extremely strong, taking Gail's rapid changes from the serious to the silly in stride and providing visuals that help guide us through the more thoughtful pieces. I love the work they do with Amadeus Cho, really capturing how happy he is to play hero. They also do a great job with making the cast feel alive, vibrant, and just sexy enough to really mesh with Gail's style here.

I wasn't sure if I'd stick on this book, but so far, it's one of my favorite series in 2018. As I said on Twitter, Gail is having one hell of a year. I just hope enough people are reading to keep this going for awhile.