Cloaks #1 (Boom! Studios)
by Caleb Monroe & Mariano Navarro
I need to make a point of paying attention when Boom! releases other four-part limited series such as this one. The publisher has scored with them in the past (Talent and The Foundation come to mind immediately), and now Cloaks is another such entertaining story. Cloaks fires on all cylinders. Writer Caleb Monroe has crafted a thoroughly (almost incredibly) likeable protagonist in the form of teenage street magician Adam D’Aquino. His sense of justice, his self-reliance, his love of people and his dazzling skills all combine to make a shining hero. In many ways, he’s a formulaic comics protagonist, but the conventional, arguably overused elements are quickly forgotten thanks to the character’s infectious appeal. The crime and intrigue elements are a lot of fun as well, and Monroe has done a good job of incorporating modern digital culture into the mix.
Mariano Navarro’s artwork is bright, crisp and colorful. Despite the tragic elements in the story, it never comes off as sullen, and the art reinforces the fun tone of the script while never going so far as to make it seem silly. Navarro’s art reminds me of the styles of such fun artists as Val Semeiks and Paul Pelletier, and he does a solid job of conveying the main character’s youth. The only manner in which the art comes up short is in its failure to show the diversity that the character represents. If it wasn’t for the script making it clear the title character is of Hispanic descent (by sharing his last name a couple of times), the reader would likely have gone on thinking the character was yet another white kid. There’s still a need for greater racial diversity among comics characters, so I don’t know why colorist Gabriel Cassata would pass on the opportunity for expanding that limited field. I admit, though, it’s a minor gripe. Overall, this is a comic that will likely fly under the radar for a lot of people, but it’s definitely worth seeking out. 8/10
Detective Comics: Futures End #1 (DC Comics)
by Brian Buccellato, Scott Hepburn, Cliff Richards & Fabrizio Fiorentino
I haven’t been following DC’s “Futures End” line of comics after the first couple of issues of the weekly series left a bad taste in my mouth with its many grotesque elements — plus the lack of suspense inherent in any story involving time travel. But as I made my way through the first few pages of this one-shot, I was taken by the central premise: a Batman/Riddler team-up. I was taken back to the days of The Brave and the Bold comics of the 1970s and ’80s, and I figured I was in for a fun read. Unfortunately, the execution here is quite lacking, both in terms of the script and the art. The new design for the Calendar Man misses the mark, notably for the bungled depiction of facial scarring that I assume is meant to reflect the pattern of a monthly calendar; the lines on those tend to be vertical and horizontal, not diagonal. Furthermore, the use of three artists is quite distracting. The styles between the two main contributors, Scott Hepburn and Cliff Richards, are too disparate, making for a jarring transition. It’s too bad, as I rather enjoyed their work individually. Hepburn’s double-page splash early on put me in mind of Paul Pope’s work, while Richards’s art could have easily passed for the clean, noir-leaning style of Lee Weeks.
In a smart move (from a marketing perspective), Buccellato’s plot links to the highly popular “Zero Year” storyline from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman, but there are a number of elements in the story that are irksome. The Calendar Man just hasn’t been established as enough of a legitimate threat for the reader to accept him as the boss of Arkham in the future. Furthermore, the twist is telegraphed incredibly early in the script as the writer plays around with pronouns to keep the secret. And finally, the story ends essentially with the Batman essentially condemning a man to death — a definite no-no in the world of the Dark Knight. 3/10
Hawkeye Vs. Deadpool #0 (Marvel Entertainment)
by Gerry Duggan & Matteo Lolli
I have no idea why Marvel opted to commission this limited series, as it’s not really like the unconventional and often subtle storytelling in the Hawkeye series by Matt Fraction and David Aja has a lot in common with the bombastic, over-the-top, fourth-wall-breaking humor of the various Deadpool comics. The incompatibility of the two different characters and two different approaches is apparent in this zero issue, which offers 27 pages of story and art by an exorbitant five bucks. Writer Gerry Duggan, who’s been writing the main Deadpool title recently, loses uninitiated readers such as myself with ‘Pool’s new supporting cast. Furthermore, the writer’s attempt to replicate Fraction’s storytelling falls flat, and he even mocks it at times in the script, running the risk of alienating part of the readership to which he’s trying to appeal. The revelation of the villain at the end of the issue is a bit befuddling, as it doesn’t seem consistent with her past portrayals as well.
I have to admit, though, that I rather appreciated artist Matteo Lolli’s style here. It’s softer in tone, somewhat in the vein of the style of Chris (Daredevil) Samnee. It doesn’t seem like a good fit for a character as extreme and loud as Deadpool, but I did enjoy his take on Hawkeye. His depiction of the beefy bad guys with which the heroes do battle put me in mind of the work of the late, great Mike Wieringo as well. The double-page spreads are a bit unwieldy, didn’t flow well and came off as an effort to pad the length of this issue. I won’t be reading subsequent issues, but I will keep an eye out for Lolli’s name on future projects. 4/10
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