Hobby Hole: Comic Reviews for Nov. 20, 2013

So, I wasn’t going to write this up, as I only found time to read the books over the weekend (more on that tomorrow), but I was so impressed with last week’s selection (especially given how low-scoring the previous offerings were) that I simply had to share their greatness.

Animal Man no. 25 by Jeff Lemire and Rafael Abuquerque | DC | $2.99

I didn’t enjoy Rafael Albuquerque’s art in the last issue, but, holy shit, did he absolutely nail it in this climax. I think it helped that the story didn’t focus as much attention on Maxine and her trip through the Red (which, though offering infinite possibilities visuals-wise, proved relatively bland throughout this mini arc).

Instead, we’re treated with a nearly full issue’s worth of Buddy Baker tackling (or, at least, attempting to) his latest dilemma, with outstanding visuals of what stands for real-life in the DCU merging with some of the more creative character designs from Blood’s army. This was reflected in the writing as well, as one of the story’s main points was to prove the reality of the Red to the general public.

Lemire’s writing, while I’m at it, was also top notch, though there was a bit more back and forth between Animal Man and his wife than I believe was necessary. The ending, especially, caught me for a loop and, paired with Albuquerque’s images, has made me incredibly excited to see what happens next month.

Hobby Hole score: 9.1/Fantastic
Previous issue’s score: 5.8/Forgettable

Harley Quinn no. 0 by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti and Various Artists | DC | $2.99

Ever since I dropped 90 percent of Marvel’s books in 2010, there’s been very little humor in my weekly purchases. Sure, Saga has its share, as does Hawkeye and FF, but overall my books have taken on a darker edge (as have most of the top publishers' titles).

That may be why, after reading the light-hearted Harley Quinn debut, I’m so keen to continue reading the series when it properly releases next month. This book is funny, in a vein incredibly similar to the issues of Deadpool from around “Secret Invasion,” particularly Harley’s secondary voices, which seem to be coming from a stuffed beaver. Yes, I wrote that correctly. Sure, this issue holds dozens of inside jokes (though anyone who reads Bleeding Cool regularly should easily share in the laughs), but I always love some fourth wall breaking, and the interactions between Harley, the writers and the artists was simply mesmerizing.

Speaking of artists, it’s easy to compare this book to the ill-fated extra issue of Dial H (that is, Dial E), which attempted a similar feat but failed rather joylessly. However, the fact that the changing artists are completely written into the plot makes the jarring shifts in tone and imagery far easier to handle and, actually, much of the joke. It also didn’t hurt that the pages were all rather easy on the eyes.

Hobby Hole score: 8.7/Great

The Wake no. 5 by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy | DC/Vertigo | $2.99

Somewhere around the third issue of The Wake, I wondered how Snyder could possibly continue the series through ten issues without making it feel extremely padded.

Well, now I know.

Snyder easily fulfills the promise he made at New York Comic Con, as this issue is a complete game changer that radically shifts the plot from one very close to Aliens or The Abyss to… something. I Am Legend meets Avatar maybe? I don’t know, though the wait until February (when the next issue is scheduled for publication) will seem interminable in the meantime.

It’s understandable, though, as Murphy delivers some fantastic art in this month’s pages, and the second half of the story seems like it will more closely follow the through line hinted at briefly, though beautifully, in the debut. It’s worth noting, however, that my favorite spread this issue had the least amount of actual art, but conveyed the physical and emotional impact of the climax expertly with a page almost entirely black. Brilliant.

Hobby Hole score: 9.3/Fantastic
Previous issue’s score: 8.5/Great

Young Avengers no. 12 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie Mckelvie | Marvel | $2.99

I've criticized Mckelvie in months prior for his lack of defined backgrounds, and this issue sees no different, but what it does offer is some truly breathtaking foregrounds, with incredibly detailed characters displaying a variety of emotions and at least one astounding two-page battle spread that could easily be found confusing but reads with ease.

That was a long sentence, but my point stands: though Mckelvie doesn't care much for backgrounds, his work continues to evoke a perfect blend of crisp, clean action and subtle, evocative moments of pure dialogue. That dialogue is handled well this issue, and very little feels infuriatingly vague or headache-inducing as in past issues. It seems Gillen's endgame is coming into play, and all our answers are (hopefully) starting to be answered.

Hobby Hole score: 9.3/Fantastic
Previous issue’s score: 8.5/Great

Zero no. 3 by Ales Kot and Mateus Santolouco | Image | $2.99

Just three issue in and Zero has moved into my top five ongoing series. If you’re not buying it yet, you should be. Admittedly, I remained a bit wary of the shifting artists after last issue, but I’m starting to enjoy it more and more as the change is used to portray a different moment, a different memory of the main character. It continues to be used quite effectively, and I’m sure much of this is owed to the book’s ongoing designer. Though, as with The Wake, my favorite page is devoid of art. As I said for that review above, fucking brilliant.

The book’s writing is completely top-notch, reminding me of a mix of Secret Warriors and Thief of Thieves, though in my opinion far, far better. One particular scene, which sees Zero crawl through a tight air duct after stripping off all his clothes, absolutely floored me, though it was not alone (that “oh shit!” moment when those around him started falling to pieces—wow).

I can see this book breaking out of the top five and into my top three. Easily. Hopefully, it continues to be so strong going forward.

Hobby Hole score: 9.4/Fantastic
Previous issue’s score: 8.7/Great