Join me as I delve into the debut issues of a bunch of new titles, namely The Freeze, LaGuardia, Shazam! and the latest Winter Soldier comic.
by Dan Wickline & Phillip Sevy
Writer Dan Wickline has come up with a novel concept here, that some kind of unknown phenomenon has frozen everyone the world over. At first glance, one might think it’s a story about time being frozen, but that’s not the case; it’s just people. That makes for some moments of sheer horror and the realization that we take our mundane lives for granted in many ways. The story revolves around Ray, an IT support guy who, for some reason, is unaffected by the Freeze and who has the ability to bring someone out of it with a touch. Wickline does a great job of conveying Ray as a regular guy and a good man. I enjoyed the flash forward with which the writer opens the story, as it establishes just how radically Ray’s life will change as a result of his unique role in a new world order.
Phillip Sevy does a solid job with the art, conveying the necessary cues to enable the reader to follow the unconventional plot premise and pick up on the cues scattered about that show time isn’t frozen, for example. His work is a little stiff, but that works well with the concept from which the series derives its title. Sevy’s art looks like a cross between the styles of Bernard Chang and Jamal Igle. He has a strong handle on perspective, and the closing splash page does a great job of conveying the immense scope of events. Honestly, one of the most important components in the visuals isn’t in the line art, but rather the colors. Sevy uses subtle differences in tones to differentiate between the frozen and the active. 7/10
by Nnedi Okorafor & Tana Ford
In light of the irrational and destructive debate about immigration that’s been unfolding in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world in the last couple of years, LaGuardia is an important and well-crafted piece of science-fiction that delves into those relevant issues. I’ve not read any of Nnedi Okorafor’s prose or comics work before, but after perusing these pages, it’s definitely a name I’ll watch for in the future. I read up a little bit about her in preparation for this review, and it’s clear that in LaGuardia, she’s drawing heavily upon her own cultural and political experiences. LaGuardia reads like the sort of thing that might have arisen had Margaret Atwood and Nelson Mandela collaborated to pen the script for Men in Black. Okorafor’s vision of a future in which aliens live among humans on Earth is full of wonder but also menace and cynicism. I don’t want to give much away about the plot, but suffice it to say that it’s a topical, entertaining and sometimes challenging read that merits wider attention.
Tana Ford achieves an engaging balance between detailed and realistic linework for the more grounded elements and a brighter, flowing, wondrous look for the alien aspects of the story. I’m reminded of the styles of such artists as Jon (Clean Room, The Wild Storm) Davis-Hunt and Martin (Ice Cream Man, She Could Fly) Morazzo. I was absolutely mesmerized by the beauty of Future, our lead protagonist. Ford depicts her as both nurturing and fierce, reflecting the personality the writer had instilled in the character. 8/10
by Geoff Johns, Dale Eaglesham & Mayo “Sen” Naito
Not surprisingly, the character lineup and overall tone of this new series lines up pretty closely with what we’ve seen in the promotional material for next spring’s Shazam! movie thus far. Writer Geoff Johns finally picks up the thread he began as a backup feature in Justice League a few years ago, and he’s building on it nicely. There’s a great sense of fun at play here — which is absolutely the right way to play a bunch of kids who find themselves with magical super-powers. Johns’ script is quite accessible; one needn’t be familiar with the recent history of this incarnation of the property to enjoy this story. My only real issue with the comic was how much the opening bank-robbery scene reminded me the ATM smash-and-grab scene from the Spider-Man: Homecoming movie. I was a bit skeptical of Dale Eaglesham as the choice of artist for this new series, but he performs incredibly well here. His conveys the inherent fun of the plot and characters, while also capturing the larger scope of what the kids find inside the Rock of Eternity. He distinguishes nicely and clearly between the adult and adolescent characters as well.
The highlight of the issue is the backup story, penned by Johns with art by Mayo “Sen” Naito. Naito’s Japanese-influenced art is incredibly cute and delightful, and it reinforces the innocent and fun qualities of the story and characters. Naito’s only misstep is that the two members of the Shazam! Family don’t adopt adult forms upon their transformation at the end of the short story. And then there’s the promise of something even cuter and more nostalgic that Johns includes in the final couple of panels; I don’t want to spoil it here, but it warmed my heart and suggested this series will always make time for playfulness. 7/10
by Kyle Higgins & Rod Reis
Given the high visibility of the character in its cinematic universe, it’s completely understandable that Marvel would keep trying to launch a Winter Soldier comic series that would take hold with readers, to capitalize on his popularity in other media. Writer Kyle Higgins takes a new approach to the character, focusing on the fact he’s been given a second chance (more than one, really), and now that he’s feeling more stable in his new life, he’s decided to work to ensure others on dark paths like the one he once walked get second chances as well. The notion of a super-hero witness-protection-type setup is a novel one, though I wonder about how lasting the concept can be as a premise for the series. We already see it come undone to some extent in this first issue, but I have to admit I like the twist revealed at the end of this issue in the form of a new (sort of) antagonist.
Rod Reis channels the style of artist Phil Noto here, albeit with a much looser approach. The muted colors and lithe figures are pleasing to the eye, but Reis’s style is a bit stiff, which makes for some awkward visuals in the action scenes. I do like his backdrops; they’re convincing vignettes of the everyday world, and that brings credibility to the story. 6/10