This week on the Wal-Tor Weekly Review, I become woefully overwhelmed at the amount of awesome comics that come out this week.  Seriously, this might be the best set of releases we’ve seen thus far this year.  Today we’ll take a look at the all-new Archie series by Mark Waid and Fiona Staples, the new Star Wars Lando miniseries kicking off and the start of Marvel’s new Civil War.

Archie #1

ARCHIE_1Archie Andrews is your average high school kid going through an atomic breakup.  His girlfriend since kindergarten, Betty Cooper, just broke up with him last week following the mysterious “lipstick incident”.  Archie and Betty are now the talk of the entire Riverdale High School, with friends and foes alike reeling with questions over the breakup.  Archie’s best bud Jughead is pressed hard by fellow classmates for information but remains tight-lipped.  A handful of the students devise a brilliant plan to try to get Archie and Betty back together during the homecoming dance.  As is the way with Archie’s life, nothing can be that simple and the whole thing leads to plenty of exciting as well as hilarious moments for the whole Riverdale Gang.

Mark Waid and Fiona Staples launch an all-new Archie comic for a whole new generation of comic readers, creating an Archie title that will speak largely to today’s youth in ways few comics can.  From the first panel Mark Waid shows us his strong characterization of Archie Andrews, giving us a loveable goof who is charming, kind, hilarious and an all around normal guy.  Waid doesn’t just handle Archie well either, using the rest of the cast from the Riverdale Gang to near perfect, showing us the epitome of characters like Jughead or Betty with a few simple panels.  The plot itself isn’t anything complex or overly brilliant, it’s simple and to the point, being a story that will make you laugh, smile, and most importantly invest in these characters.  If anything it shows just how well-tailored Waid is for this project, knowing that he doesn’t need to bring over-the-top plots to the table for a character like Archie, he just needs to keep it simple and bring compelling character drama.  Fiona Staples runs away with her fantastic art this issue, perfectly suited to introduce new readers to the character of Archie.  Her art style is simply beautiful but again plays up simplicity, never drawing crazy splash pages or using complex panel layouts.  Fiona makes this book look and feel accessible to anyone, providing a perfect platform to allow new readers to jump on and enjoy the lives of these characters.  In my mind, one of the best parts of Staples’ artwork in this issue is how distinct she makes every character while not trying to make them look too gorgeous.  This book is set within the high school life of Archie and that bleeds through on the page because of the number of unique characters that are juggled and how well represented they are by not only Waid’s writing but Staples’ artwork as well.

PROS CONS
 +  Excellent first issue  –
 +  Lush artwork  –
 +  Simple, enjoyable plot  –

Wal-tor_Rating_5Overall:

Archie #1 is a fascinating social narrative sculpted by the brilliant creators in Mark Waid and Fiona Staples.  Together, this creative team is dynamite, creating a comic that is accessible for old Archie fans but encourages new readers to give it a try.  It’s a perfect comic for anyone in the age range of 14-25, likely resonating deeply with people in this age range because of the subject matter at hand.  Waid touches on the core of his main characters with general ease, building a simple but highly accessible plot that anyone who has ever been through high school can relate to.  Fiona Staples shows why she is one of the best artists in the industry today with a “less is more” approach here, not doing anything earth shattering with her art but taking the simplicity at hand in stride.  Under Fiona’s guidance these characters look exactly how they should for this period in their lives and some of her best pages are pages where there aren’t any words at all.  Waid and Staples do strike gold with their first issue of Archie, being a highly enjoyable read that should satisfy any type of reader.

 

Star Wars Lando #1

Lando_1Lando Calrissian is a man who is seemingly always getting into more trouble than he’s worth.  A smooth talking, charismatic man, he’s the type of guy who can work himself out of just about any situation.  When Lando tries to settle up a debt and comes out on the losing end, he needs to recruit a team to pull off one of the biggest highest of his career.  With the help of Lobot, Lando quickly assembles this ace team to get the job done but doesn’t quite realize the trouble he may be getting himself into.  Little does Lando know exactly who this ship belongs to and this all but promises to cause even more trouble in his already exciting life.

Charles Soule and Alex Maleev bring Lando into the Marvel Star Wars playing field with this first issue of his new mini-series.  Soule nails the character of Lando within the first 4-6 pages, showing the seductive and charming nature of the character rather easily.  Lando’s voice is so convincing as spoken through Soule’s script that you genuinely start to believe every word he says even though you know he’s always working an angle to better himself.  This entire first issue is an excellent opening chapter into what I’d describe as a definitive “heist” story, introducing Lando’s problem and goal, the team he needs to pull off the heist, as well as the heist itself.  It’s a great start to the series but the only stumbling block in the plot I found was that you didn’t get to see much of the heist Lando pulled off.  The build up and ultimately the payoff of the heist are excellent but to see the heist itself relegated to only a bit of panel time was slightly disappointing.

Alex Maleev breathes so much life into his panels that it makes him a clear and perfect candidate for this book.  Each character interaction is something you can look forward to as everyone just looks so darn good.  The way his artwork blends and is complimented by the colourist, Paul Mounts, is astounding as the two men together provide an incredibly engaging aesthetic to the page.  The light, almost pastel like colours of the book just suit the tone and I was rather stricken by how the colours used were noticeably different depending on the setting being used.  In most comics there is a fairly consistent colour palette used across the entire book but I found with Lando #1 you could really tell the difference in setting just based off the colour choice alone.  Brilliant work by Soule, Maleev, and a much deserved colouring credit for Paul Mounts who just helps to elevate this issue.

PROS CONS
 +  Convincing Lando portrayal  —  Minor pacing issues
 +  Excellent artwork
 +  Beautiful colouring

Wal-tor_Rating_4_5Overall:

Lando #1 just shows yet again how strong Marvel’s Star Wars comic line is.  With this first issue, Soule taps into who Lando is as a character in almost the first panel and doesn’t back down from there.  You’re consistently entertained by how Lando is portrayed and interacts with other characters the entire way through this issue.  The plot is exciting and moves at a solid pace, although it disappointingly jumps over a key component to the plot of this first issue.  Nonetheless, this issue brilliantly sets up the future of the mini-series with plenty of interesting directions to head in from here.  Although Soule gets down Lando as a character, it’s Alex Maleev who makes the character breathe.  Everyone that Maleev renders onto the page just looks amazing and there’s no other way to put it.  His artwork is a high part of a near perfect first issue for a miniseries like this one.  Tack that on with how well the artwork blends with Paul Mounts fantastic colouring and we’ve got a winner.

 

Civil War #1

Civil_war_1Six years ago, a civil war broke out amongst the superhero community with Steve Rogers waging war against Tony Stark.  Tony Stark sought to enable the Super Human Registration Act, or the S.H.R.A., which would require anyone who had superpowers to register their identity with the government and get appropriate training.  Steve Rogers opposed this idea, believing that heroes shouldn’t have to reveal their identities.  Tragedy occurred during what was supposed to be the final showdown between Stark and Rogers, resulting in the death of over fifteen million people.  Fast forward six years and the two men have established all new regions for themselves as a result of this unending war.  Stark occupies a region known as the Iron, a place that is governed by strict laws to ensure safety to its population.  Steve Rogers and his allies reside in the Blue, a region that only has two laws; do no wrong and help whenever you can.

With Civil War #1, Charles Soule and Leinil Yu bring a rather interesting comic to the forefront during the massive Secret Wars event.  Charles Soule spends much of the issue establishing a believable timeline for this war, as any war should have.  This results in a hefty amount of exposition, that although truly engaging, does drag on for just a little bit too long and actually hurts the conclusion of the comic a bit.  As a longtime fan of Marvel, I truly adored the first half of the comic as Soule uses full-page spreads to illustrate the six years prior to the present day and show readers what happened to result in this Civil War escalating to the height of which it did.  As I said a few sentences ago, the amount of exposition hurts the conclusion, taking valuable page and panel time away from a scene at the end of the comic that could have been explosive but ended up just falling flat.  With a few extra pages to slowly burn to the dramatic moment, the end of this issue could have been amazing but instead meanders around the realm of “just good”.  Leinil Yu illustrates some awesome two page spreads for the first half of the comic, following Soule’s likely free-flowing script to enlighten the reader to the past.  Yu’s artwork seems almost restricted towards the end of the issue, having to use smaller panels that don’t compliment his breathtaking style as much as doing large spreads and panels do.  Nonetheless, Yu’s storytelling abilities are still strong here and reward the reader with a largely enjoyable reading experience.

PROS CONS
 +  Solid world building  —  Pace of plot strips away emotional punch to narrative
 +  Intriguing ideas  —  Tad bit too much exposition
 +  Good character designs  —  Line work is a bit rough

Wal-tor_Rating_3_5Overall:

Civil War #1 is a comic with a ton of promise after using this first issue to establish a timeline for the series.  Now that the reader knows the basis for the Civil War, as well as why it still rages on all these years later, there is nowhere to go but forward.  Soule definitely has plenty of awesome ideas at play here so it’s definitely going to be fun to see where he takes things from here.  The plot is dragged down ever so slightly by the overuse of exposition and, as such, one of the final scenes stumbles because it didn’t have the panel time it needed to develop into something more compelling.  One thing that can be said for the plot here is that Soule does an excellent job of making it difficult for you to pick a clear side with this first issue.  As the series continues there is no doubt that the lines between which side you want to win will become more clear.  Leinil Yu’s artwork is as fun as it’s always been although he seems somewhat restricted by the use of smaller panels in the later half of the story especially after illustrating so many two page spreads in the first half.  Nonetheless his artwork is still beautiful and not to be missed.  With a second issue coming out later this month, Civil War can only improve on the excellent base work it did with this issue.