Comics of the week reviewed for 18 July (Wired UK)

Having taken over movies, television and animation, comics have
never been cooler. Now, picks out the best and worst of
the week’s titles for your reading pleasure.

This week, Kamala Khan continues on her hero’s journey in Ms
Marvel #6
, while DC impresses with Harley Quinn Invades
but disappoints with Robin Rises -

Ms. Marvel
Ms. Marvel

Kamala Khan proves to be one of Marvel’s best new
characters in years

© 2014 Marvel Characters Inc

Ms Marvel #6, Marvel

After a fantastic first storyarc introducing Kamala Khan, the
new Ms Marvel, writer G Willow Wilson continues to impress with the
opening chapter of the next tale, Healing Factor. With
Kamala still getting to grips with her newfound powers, she finds
balancing a civilian and superheroic life tricky. As the only hero
in Jersey City, she’s tracking down a mysterious figure known as
The Inventor but her late night excursions are raising her parents’

The issue is full of brilliant ideas and even better character
moments. The pre-requisite team-up with Wolverine, who’s recently
lost his own healing factor, leads to Kamala calling him “a short,
angry man who punches stuff” — possibly the best line in comics
this month. The meeting also leads Kamala to consider the source of
her abilities and whether she’s a mutant (she’s not, but she
doesn’t know that yet). Then there’s her first meeting with The
Inventor — revealed to be a contaminated, part-cockatiel clone of
Thomas Edison who’s made giant cyber-gators to infest Jersey’s
sewers. There’s nothing about that sentence that shouldn’t delight
you. Even in Kamala’s home life, a long-dreaded disciplinary
confrontation with her mosque’s Sheikh Abdullah takes a
surprisingly warm turn, with Wilson continuing to build up a
wonderful supporting cast for the heroine.

Jacob Wyatt takes over on art, but keeps a visual consistency to
Adrian Alphonsa’s work on the previous arc. It’s just the right
level of cartoonishness, perfectly capturing Kamala’s delightfully
dorky personality — her fangirl spaz out when she meets Wolverine
and starts telling him about her fanfic is just adorable. Wyatt
also portrays her shape-shifting, size-changing powers with skill,
the physicality of them really leaping from the page.

Ms Marvel continues to be a contender for Marvel’s best
comic of late, one that fully justifies — no, exceeds — the hype
surrounding its launch. A joyful superhero title.

Harley Quinn Invades
Harley Quinn Invades

DC remembers comics are allowed to be fun
with this fourth-wall shattering one-shot

© 2014 DC

Harley Quinn Invades Comic-Con #1,

Harley Quinn has become DC’s closest equivalent to Marvel’s
Deadpool, an anarchic figure meant to cause chaos and break the
fourth wall if it helps land a perfect gag. This one-shot takes the
Joker’s ex-girlfriend and her supporting cast of carnies from her
monthly title on an excursion to San Diego Comic-Con, in the
process delivering something the DC Universe has been lacking of
late — a sense of fun.

Harley starts off trying to get her own comic — the sickening
adventures of Hurl Girl, with the power of projectile vomit –
reviewed by DC’s editors, before beating up waitresses in iconic
San Diego resturants, leading a troupe of Harley Quinn cosplayers
on a rampage, having a lock-in with a room full of Jokers, and
stealing Adam West’s Batmobile. Throughout, there are rapid-fire
and genuinely funny jokes poking fun at everything from comic
readers and convention stereotypes to DC’s own management. Writers
Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti even pack in a few surprisingly
warm-hearted moments, with Harley meeting her real-world creators,
Bruce Timm
and Paul Dini.
The art team is voluminous, with over a dozen creators
contributing, but each pack their pages with background humour and
nerd-pleasing detail.

Harley Quinn Invades Comic-Con is a weird little comic,
full of references that you need to be ‘in the club’ to get, and
relying on reader familiarity with the comics business as well as
what happens in the fictional universe between the covers. It
stands on its own, not even needing much familiarity with Harley’s
ongoing title. But it marks what’s hopefully the beginning of a
tonal shift for DC as a publisher, stepping away from the darkness
of most of its line and daring to put out a title that’s just
purely enjoyable.

Robin Rises:
Robin Rises:

A sloppy start to the story that will return
Robin to Batman’s side

© 2014 DC Comics

Robin Rises: Omega #1, DC

You almost have to feel sorry for writer Peter Tomasi. After
spending about a year building up to the return of Robin to
Batman’s side, the storyline becomes something of an ‘event’, with
this standalone one-shot kicking things off. As a result of having
to appeal to readers who may not have been following the monthly
Batman and Robin title, the first seven pages are devoted
to a lengthy recap. It’s exhaustive too, going back to stories from
before the New 52 reboot and the introduction of Damian Wayne,
right up to his death.

Yet it still doesn’t bring us up to speed on the core event of
the issue — a battle in the Himalayas, pitting Batman and uneasy
ally Ra’s al Ghul against a horde of parademons in service to DC
Universe mega-villain Darkseid. How did we get here? We don’t know.
On the plus side, those preview pages offer a closer look at artist
Andy Kubert’s artwork, with Brad Anderson colouring directly over
the pencils to create an almost dreamlike look.

The bigger problem with the issue is it leaves you confused as
to what’s happening and why. A lengthy flashback and a lengthier
fight scene do not a great comic make. Darkseid’s forces, lead by
the poisonously narcissistic Glorious
, are after something called the Chaos Shard, apparently
in Damian’s sarcophagus. Why? A mystery for later, thought not
enough of one to serve as a satisfying hook on this issue. The
Justice League interrupt the battle, lead by Lex Luthor — readers
who’ve followed Forever Evil will know what’s up, but for
anyone else it’s just odd. Batman himself flips between his usual
stoic self to moments of almost mania, determined to follow the
parademons and use their alien science to resurrect Damian. The
whole comic reads very schizophrenically — over-explaining some
background, ignoring other information, with characterisations that
are at once consistent yet conflicted. A messy first chapter, but
one that feels victim more to being split into a standalone comic
rather than serve as the natural next chapter in Tomasi’s story.
Whether the story leads to Damian’s rebirth or the establishment of
a new Robin, hopefully the rest of the tale can make up for a
disappointing opener.

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