This week’s lead review for Wednesday Comics is Black Cloak #1, the new book from Kelly Thompson, Meredith McClaren, and Becca Carey. In addition, the Wednesday Comics Team has a rundown of the new #1s and finales from non-Big 2 publishers, all of which you can find below … enjoy!
Black Cloak #1
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Meredith McClaren
Letterer: Becca Carey
Publisher: Image Comics
There is much muchness in Black Cloak #1, a book that publisher Image Comics bills as a “Blade Runner-style” blend of “Sage-esque drama.” Consider the first page, which is essentially a map of “the last known city in the world.” The caption boxes establish that this is a post-apocalyptic story, doing son in a voice that evokes the opening narration of a high fantasy fair tale, before going full on conversational, ending with “…it’s a fucking mess. And assholes are too plentiful.” At the same time, the visual layout of the city we see on this first page is a bit sci-fi, listing almost toward urban fantasy with the way it builds futuristic architecture into a mountainside around a waterfall.
And the muchness doesn’t stop with the genre evocations. This over-sized first issue (serving up a triple-length debut at a great price of $4.99) introduces us to hardboiled detectives, an elvish monarchy, and a whole bunch of simmering romance. With this in mind, at times the first act of the book feels like it’s tilting and tottering, throwing so much at the audience that it might all seem to run together — but, very much to the creative team’s credit — this narrative never falls down.
Writer Kelly Thompson is making her Image Comics debut with this creator-owned book originally financed by Substack (Image is really cleaning up with the print publication of these Substack books, but that’s another story…). This follows roughly eight years of mostly work for hire comics from Thompson, including re-imagining Jem and the Holograms in an IDW-published book, before then going on to have quite a bit of success with Marvel, currently deep into a run on Captain Marvel that’s speeding toward 50 issues. I would guess that with her script for Black Cloak, Thompson greatly enjoyed the lack of restraint, sparing few ideas as she packed the vision for this one with world-building, intrigue, and character notes built up while working on those properties. Black Cloak #1 is, essentially, a comic that puts it all out there, accomplishing even more story than one might expect for a book that’s triple-sized.
None of it works this well, however, with the pristine linework and pitch-perfect colors of artist Meredith McClaren. The two have previously teamed on Heart In A Box, a seven-issue series published a few years back by Dark Horse Comics, as well as on some of the later issues of Thompson’s aforementioned Jem run. There is clearly established creative alchemy here. McClaren and Thompson combine for a world that feels well-realized and thoughtful. It packs in all that muchness, but like I said, it never feels like too much (oof, I need a new word), and by the end of the book, readers are likely to feel immersed and invested in the characters that inhabit that world.
While not as bombastic or action-packed, it reminded me a bit of the confidence of Monstress #1 from Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, another big swing at an ambitious fantasy world that left readers indoctrinated and invested in a singular creative vision. While the two books share little in common — not aesthetically nor thematically — the end feeling for the audience may be the same: they just read a satisfying start to a story and now they are on board for where ever it would like to take them.
I could definitely see some readers feeling overwhelmed with just how much is going on in this comic. Like I said at the start, I did feel the narrative straining at times early on, but I think most folks will find themselves thoroughly engrossed by this first issue’s end.
Wednesday Comics Quick Hits
- Bone Orchard Mythos: Ten Thousand Black Feathers #5 (Image Comics): This week sees the release of Ten Thousand Black Feathers #5, which concludes the first miniseries in Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s relatively-new shared horror universe, the Bone Orchard Mythos. This mini series was, unsurprisingly, excellent, featuring as it does such a veteran and accomplished creative team, with Steve Wands on design and letters, too. The top quality I continue to enjoy about Sorrentino’s artwork in particular is just how singular it is without ever feeling tired or formulaic. The artist very much has his own way of approaching the mysterious and other-worldly subject matter of Lemire’s script, and it remains wildly unpredictable. The only thing I know for sure is it won’t look like any other comic book artwork. In the end, I think this series was a massive success, and I feel like it’s actually given me a much better idea of what makes a Bone Orchard Mythos series a Bone Orchard Mythos series. (Zack Quaintance)
- Crashing #5 (IDW Publishing): This week sees the satisfying and bittersweet conclusion to Crashing, IDW’s superhero medical drama from writer Matthew Klein, artist Morgan Beem, colorist Triona Farrell, and letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. With this final issue, Klein and Beem bring the series to its emotional crescendo, rounding out the series’ exploration of addiction and the real-world consequences of superhero action. The cartoony art ironically elevates the reality of the book’s emotion and plays against readers’ expectations, making the issue’s final moments all the more impactful. This is a series well worth seeking out to read in its entirety. (Tim Rooney)
- Dark Ride #4 (Image Comics – Skybound): Imagine the Mouse House lucratively sporting a glittery gothic veneer over an infernal framework fueled by blood and souls. Before you start making comparisons between the Devil Land park and its founder with any existing theme park franchise and its creator, living or dead, understand that the team for Image’s Dark Ride series has avoided such pedestrian pokes. They’re instead spelunking for the jugular with every issue of their horror series. Steady, unpadded scripting pays off in issue #4 with revelations centered around an Elmer McCurdy-level discovery at the park, one directly impacting investigative journalist Summer Seasons. Ripples rock the park’s precarious financial position, raise questions for Samhain Dante about his father’s creations, and lead the ‘Theo’s Amusement Park Mysteries’ YouTube show to exposé pay dirt. Once again, Andrei Bressan deftly entwines mirthful with macabre for whimsically wicked artistic results. If you’re looking for a thrill ride horror series that’ll haunt you the next amusement park trip you take, the fourth issue of this title is a season pass. Your cast members for this deliciously demented delve into Devil Land are writer Joshua Williamson, artist Andrei Bressan, colorist Adriano Lucas, and letterer Pat Brosseau. (Clyde Hall)
- Godzilla Rivals: Rodan vs. Ebirah #1 (IDW Publishing): From writer James F. Wright, artist Phillip Johnson, and designer/letterer Nathan Widick, is a kaiju tale that is as trans as my favorite Godzilla short, “Coming Out,” about the creature’s transgender daughter, created by stop-motion animator Cressa Maeve Beer. By sharing Beer’s short, Toho helped raise the visibility of trans people in Japan. Similarly, Wright and Johnson’s decision to center the story around a Black queer crypto-botany specialist from the University of New Mexico, Dr. Carole Kincaid (they/them), could have a positive influence on readers’ perceptions of non-binary people. And for minority and underrepresented groups especially, “identifying relatable STEM role models is essential and has the power to break down harmful stereotypes.” The importance of having minority role models in STEM is even a plot point, with Dr. Kincaid telling another Black scientist that they only knew they could be a scientist after their parents took them to that scientist’s lecture at Howard University when they were seven. “You were my Mae Jemison. My Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein. Someone who looked like me, making their own in this field,” Dr. Kincaid says, subtly letting readers know that LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC representation is important. The Godzilla Rivals one-shot is one of the must-buys of the week in my opinion. (Rebecca Oliver Kaplan)
- Mindset #6 (Vault Comics): As Mindset reaches its conclusion, writer Zack Kaplan asks the question of who is really in control, punctuated by the gorgeous art of John Pearson assisted by Jimmy Savage, with the masterful lettering of Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. The creative team creates some moments here that are breathtaking either through trippy visuals or just two people talking as balloons and environments fade away. This issue sees Ben dealing with the fallout of his choices, his true intentions, and the reality of influence. As he sets out to make things right, the question of his own morality comes to play as the creative team provides a deeper understanding of who Ben is and has been. This was a man understood to have good intentions, and we all know where those can lead. Ben and Eitan grapple with the idea of control and what it looks like to relinquish that, and it’s messy as they become tangled in wondering who was controlling whom. Mindset has been a deep character exploration looking at wealth and influence and the fading morality that comes with achieving those statuses; it’s all folly. We are inundated with media glorifying wealth, propping up the “geniuses” that achieved it, promoting standards of beauty and living; we’re influenced at every moment by the things we see and the lenses we’re told to see them through. Mindset through six beautiful issues asks the question “who is really in control?” (Khalid Johnson)
- Nemesis Unloaded #1 (Image Comics/Netflix): Mark Millar has always excelled at the high concept, as sort of king of the Elevator Pitch. It’s there in everything from Civil War (a schism between Marvel’s greatest heroes) to Kick-Ass (what if some one REALLY tried to be costumed hero?). Nemesis, a title he created a few years ago with artist Steve McNiven is also as easily pitched — what if Batman was bad, like really bad, and used his wealth, ability to create endless contingences and gadgets to terrorize Gotham instead of protect it. The series was a hit and now Millar is (in hi sown words from the issue’s introduction) softly rebooting the concept with current superstar artist Jorge Jimenez. The plot here is Nemesis jumpstarting a campaign to murder every cop in the city, in a clever way that explaining would ruin one of the books better surprises. Like the previous series, the art in the book is fantastic. Jimenez excels at superhero art, and he does pull out all the stops. This is a gorgeous looking book. Jimenez makes great use of Nemesis’ stark white costume design to create some great images of contrast, movement and all sorts of bloody mayhem and action. And that’s also the best way to describe the story. Along with the high concept, Millar is also great and high velocity paced action scenes to drive the narrative and scenes of ultra violence so over the top that one can argue it’s parody. And that can be a turn off to some, as Nemesis does revel in nihilism and anarchy. But it’s still fun, if a bit dark. Because at the end of the day, you are following the story of a cold-blooded supervillain. This book is also supposed to tie-in to a big crossover, Big Game, that is going to bring together more of Millar’s current creator-owned titles. That’s another hook that grabs, because it does sound kind of cool to think about Nemesis fighting Kick-Ass. So if you have always liked what Millar does, this is a title you want to pick up. I enjoyed it and am curious to see where this wild ride is going to go. This issue featured colors by Giovanna Niro and letters by Clem Robins. (Manny Gomez)
- Vampirella Mindwarp #5 (Dynamite Comics): The Queen of the Vampires’ latest adventure across time wrapped this week with Vampirella Mindwarp #5. Jeff Parker’s script with letters from Jeff Eckleberry provides the campy, retro action you’d expect to see from a character like Vampirella, but also delivers a new layer as she takes a step back from the drawn-out fight with Baroness Gruzal to take a new approach in trying to understand her foe’s motivation for chasing youth. What started as an intense and important mission to stop Gruzal’s plot, ends with something special shared between the two, and it’s worth checking out for the character moments alone. The art by Benjamin Dewey and colors from Dearbhla Kelly gives the story the look and feel of classic Vampirella tales that people come to this title for. (Bryan Reheil)
Wednesday Comics is edited by Zack Quaintance.
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