Welcome to “Report Card,” our week-in-review feature. If “Cheat Sheet” is your guide to the week ahead, “Report Card” is typically a look back at the top news stories of the previous week, as well as a look at the Robot 6 team’s favorite comics that we read.
So find out what we thought about Thunderbolts, Wonder Woman, Herobear and the Kid, Vibe and more.
Archie Comics Co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Sam Levitin, who was her liaison to Archie after her legal feud with the company and Co-CEO Jon Goldwater was settled last year. Levitin has responded that Silberkleit “lacks functional communication skills and has an unstable temperament” and has a “venomous and destructive effect” at the company. Levitin asked the court in December to remove Silberkleit as a trustee of the company, and she responded in April with the allegation of sexual harassment against both Levitin and Archie Comics. An outside firm hired by Archie determined that her claims were “unfounded,” and the publisher is not a party in the latest lawsuit.
The Tampa Bay Comic Con saw their attendance jump from just 550 attendees in 2010 to an expected 20,000 at this weekend’s convention. The growth hasn’t come without some annoyances; the Tampa Tribune reports that fans were met with long lines to get into the door and into the exhibition hall. The convention this year welcomed several stars from Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, as well as comic creators like George Perez, Frank Brunner, Mike McKone and Jimmy Palmiotti, among others.
The school board in the Japanese city of Matsue has restricted student access to Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen, the autobiographical story of a six-year-old boy who survived the Hiroshima bombing. The board ruled that the book will remain in elementary and junior high school libraries but only teachers will have access to it; students will not be allowed to check it out.
Update: The school board has lifted the restrictions against Barefoot Gen.
And finally, at Fan Expo Canada, Canada Post revealed five stamps celebrating the 75th anniversary of Superman and the hero’s Toronto roots. Superman co-creator Joe Shuster was born in the city, and the Toronto Daily Star building served as the model for the Daily Planet. The stamps depict the Man of Steel in five eras, by five different artists: Superman #1 (1939), by Shuster; Superman #32 (1945), by Wayne Boring; Superman #233 (1971), by Neal Adams; Superman #204 (2004), by Jim Lee; and Superman Annual #1 (2012), by Kenneth Rocafort. They’re sold in sheets of 10, with the booklet covers featuring art by Shuster, Lee, Rocafort and Dick Giordano.
Wonder Woman #23
Written by Brian Azzarello
Drawn by Cliff Chiang
Colored by Matthew Wilson
Lettered by Jared K Fletcher
Published by DC Comics
Wonder Woman is the last New 52 comic standing in my pull list, which means that I consistently enjoy it, but I understand the two major criticisms I hear about it. The first group is from longtime fans who just don’t like the changes to Wonder Woman and her supporting characters. It’s not a problem for me, but I get it. This isn’t a series for people who already had a definitive, iconic version of Wonder Woman that they liked. There’s nothing wrong with feeling that way; it’s just not the way I feel.
I can relate more to the second group of complaints, though. Azzarello and Chiang have been telling a single story for almost two years now. Objectively, I believe that’s a strength of the series, but it also creates an air of “sameness” from issue to issue. Each issue is measurably NOT the same as the others, but since the overall plot hasn’t changed, it can still feel that way. Until this issue.
I won’t spoil it, but something big happens here that changes Azzarello/Chiang’s Wonder Woman in a fundamental way and should shake up the series’ status quo quite a bit. I’ve always enjoyed this series, but this is the first time I’ve been this excited for the next issue. —Michael May
(Justice League of America’s) Vibe #7
Written by Sterling Gates
Drawn by Andres Guinaldo and Mark Irwin
Colored by Brad Anderson
Lettered by Taylor Esposito
Published by DC Comics
One of the best things about Vibe #7 is Andres Guinaldo and Mark Irwin’s portrayal of the headliner. Vibe is a teenager (the “origin box” emphasizes he’s the JLA’s second-youngest member), and in this issue he looks it. The issue opens with a “Five Years Ago” flashback to his brother’s funeral, but when it jumps to the present in the first page’s last panel, Cisco doesn’t seem that much older. This sounds like a low bar to set for a comic book about a teenaged superhero, but in an environment where Vibe is supposed to piggyback on the popularity of JLA, if not the Greater Geoff Johns Empire, any sign of individuality is welcome.
Fortunately, I can recommend Guinaldo and Irwin for more than just their age-appropriateness. Their work is crisp and clean, and detailed without being over-rendered or busy. Since Vibe, his ally Gypsy, and his opponent Rupture are chasing through a multiversal menagerie, the artists pepper the panels with some familiar faces; but they never let things get cluttered or confusing. It helps that Sterling Gates’ script isn’t very complicated. The plot’s only other track follows Vibe’s handler Dale Gunn as he gets Vibe’s brother Dante out of harm’s way, and then has to deal with Amanda Waller. Characterization is likewise straightforward. A plot twist which sets up the issue’s cliffhanger is pretty obvious, although the emphasis on action doesn’t leave much room for nuance.
Generally, though, this was a solid issue of a young (in every sense) superhero series. It was entertaining and engaging, and even the “obvious” twist came off as more of an uh-oh moment, since the reader was expecting it but the victim wasn’t. There was some violence, as various beasties got shot up with big sci-fi guns, but not on the level of (for example) Pandora literally shooting someone’s eye out in her latest issue. Vibe #7 opens with a flashback page, segues into a double-page layout which sets the scene and builds some tension, and then erupts onto a double-page spread as Vibe and Rupture blast each other. It’s a well-executed progression, and the issue keeps moving steadily until another double-page layout sets up the cliffhanger. It wasn’t too long ago that Sterling Gates was one of DC’s newest writers, but he developed quickly into one of its more dependable, and with this creative team, Vibe appears to be in good hands. —Tom Bodurant
Written by Charles Soule
Drawn by Jefte Paulo and Terry Pallot
Colored by Guru eFx
Published by Marvel Comics
The Marvel NOW! Thunderbolts have had a rocky start; leaving behind their previous modus operandi for the obvious pun name for any team led by Thunderbolt Ross didn’t make them a lot of friends. Daniel Way’s initial story seems a little forced, and the art by Steve Dillion takes a lot of getting used to, but there was something to the idea that kept me reading just to see if there was a diamond in all this rough. I’m glad to say that the change in creative team seems to be a breath of fresh air to the unusual concept and throws in a twist to the Ross-gathered team of extremely violent loners. Mind you, this might have been mentioned in its original storyline, but it seems part of the deal of working with one another is that they’ll be going on no-questioned-asked missions for one another in sort of a round table hit squad, or as Deadpool puts it, “the selfish Avengers.” This issue, Punisher literally gets drawn out of a hat to take the team on a mission to hit a source of mob crime in New York City; the rest of the group rolls their eyes and goes along with the idea, but since this is an Infinity tie-in, you know there’s going to be something more behind it all.
Charles Soule keeps the story snappy and intriguing, his mob dialogue gleefully written, but the real star is the fascinating artwork by Jefte Paulo. It’s rough and a little jagged, but that stylistic approach works with a team of killers whose methods are a little rough and jagged themselves. His pacing on the page is fantastic and has a kind of comedic timing about it; it won’t be for everyone, but as far as storytelling is concerned, Paulo is fantastic. Don’t come to this issue for any concrete facts about the big Infinity event, pick up the issue to see this book find its footing in the Marvel NOW! —Carla Hoffman
Solid State Tank Girl #3
Written by Alan Martin
Art and colors by WJC
Lettered by Jon Chapple
Published by Titan Comics
Heading off on a Spın̈al Tap-ish tangent, I’ve always realized that though I like art that is either clever or stupid, my very favorite things in the world know how to expertly walk that tightrope between clever and stupid. Y’know, like The Stooges, or Monty Python. We’ll add to that honor roll the writing of Alan Martin and Solid State Tank Girl #3 from Titan Comics. A mix-up of Joseph Campbell-inspired philosophy, beat poetry, bad puns, and knob jokes. And as I keep saying, as drawn by Warwick Johnson Cadwell, it looks extraordinary, like no other comic on the shelves at the minute. WJC first made a reputation by posting insane, hilarious mash-ups that came straight and unedited from his hippocampus. I always knew the combination of his art and Martin’s words would cause some sort of polymerase chain reaction of greatness.
I’ll also take a second to praise Titan Comics, who with a few great choices have managed to leap up from nowhere to third in the imaginary league table of my favorite publishers. This, A1, Numbercruncher, It Came — they are on a hell of a roll at the moment. —Mark Kardwell
Herobear and the Kid: The Inheritance #1
By Mike Kunkel
Published by BOOM! Studios
I know I’m coming late to the Herobear party, but this comic first came out over a decade ago, during the phase of my life when I wasn’t reading comics, so I’m reading it now for the first time.
Maybe that’s why the first thing I noticed about it is its timeless quality. It’s a story that could have taken place anytime in the last 50 years; there are no cell phones, no allusions to the media, not even a computer. We first see the main character, Tyler, at his grandfather’s funeral, and right away we know there was something special about the grandfather. Tyler’s parents have inherited his grandfather’s house, which is a rambling Victorian that comes complete with a butler. When they move in, Tyler finds his inheritance from his grandfather waiting on his bed: A stuffed bear and a pocket watch. He is not impressed.
Tyler gets off to a bad start at his new school by oversleeping and missing the bus, then alienating the class bullies, although he does make a new friend and develops an instant crush on a pretty girl. Unfortunately for him, his sister has dragged the stuffed bear along and waves it at him at recess. All this culminates in Tyler getting beat up by the bullies, and as he’s lying on the ground afterward, bitterly complaining, the bear suddenly transforms into a life-size superhero bear.
And that’s it for issue 1, which leaves a lot to be explained. Kunkel does a good job in this first issue of setting up the character and making us like him; he’s witty and self-aware, although you could read that as smart-alecky. The story in this first issue is standard middle-grade graphic novel stuff—new kid comes to school and has a hard time—but what makes it really stand out is Kunkel’s art, which is fluid and cartoony, and the way he composes each page. He uses large and small panels, word balloons that overlap the borders, and compositional techniques to draw the eye across the page in order to emphasize whatever is going on. It makes for a lively comic that really draws the reader in, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the deal is with the superhero bear in issue 2. —Brigid Alverson