Bookwyrm’s 10-Word Comic Reviews & Recommendations: Kingpin, Powerless, Redline & More

Bookwyrm’s 10-Word Comic Reviews: Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels and A Modest Proposal among others, once famously said, “There is nothing constant in this world but inconsistency.” So now that I’m three articles into this whole review thing, I think I’m going to completely change the format on you. Because screw consistency.

I’ve decided that there’s enough negativity out there in the world right now. And a lot of review columns, this one included, spend their word counts picking apart the hard work of others, pissing and moaning about what went wrong and what could have been done better. Weren’t we all taught at some point that if we didn’t have anything nice to say we shouldn’t say anything at all? It’s time for me to embrace that.

From this point on, I’m only going to bring you the comics that are really rocking the rack. No more mentions of the ones that need improvement or even the ones that are downright terrible. If you see it in this column, you know it’s worth picking up. And because I’m all about showboating and grandstanding, I’m even going to hashtag it.

So, without further ado, here are this week’s comics that really #RockTheRack:

KINGPIN #2
Publisher: Marvel
Story: Matthew Rosenberg
Art: Ben Torres

What The Trades Say:
IF YOU THINK YOU KNOW WILSON FISK, THINK AGAIN! WILSON FISK’s criminal past has tarnished his public image, but to move beyond it, Fisk must face the demons of his past…and convince the world he’s changed! Writer SARAH DEWEY has conflicted feelings about helping him turn over this new leaf…but is Fisk’s promise of complete transparency and a big (legal) payday too good for Sarah to pass up? This is the Kingpin in all his brutal honesty…the man, the murderer, the criminal…and the good Samaritan?!

What Bookwyrm Says:
Clearly written with Daredevil’s newest fans in mind, this Kingpin series shares a lot of characters and characterizations with the Netflix series. Even its portrayal of Wilson Fisk is fairly in line with Vincent D’Onofrio’s. And, as many of us will attest to, that’s not a bad thing at all. I love D’Onofrio’s formidable yet vulnerable take on the character, and that’s the version that is getting the spotlight here. This is a Wilson Fisk who cares deeply for his city and is willing to do anything — even the unspeakable — to turn it around.

Told from the perspective of a down-on-her-luck reporter who has recently been hired to write Fisk’s biography, this series is a brilliant display of character construction and deconstruction. We learn what makes our central character tick while we watch the unraveling of a well-known and oft-hated antagonist. If you’re looking for action, you’re in the wrong place. If you’ve looking for a great story with three-dimensional characters and intriguing mind games, this is a no-brainer. Granted, I’m not the biggest fan of the gorilla-esque depiction of Fisk, but I can let that slide for how good everything else is.

Twitter-Ready 10-Word Review:
Light on action, but heavy on character. Rosenberg nails Kingpin.

POWERLESS #1
Publisher: Vault
Story: Cecil Castellucci
Art: Marley Zarcone

What The Trades Say:
Billy Bannister lives in a world without superheroes. Not because powers don’t exist. But because everyone has them. After the outbreak of the PRV, a virus that rips away those abilities, Quarantine emerges to stop the spread. An elite agent, Billy is the last line of defense against contagion. But his loyalty is tested when the infection hits too close to home.

What Bookwyrm Says:
If you’re getting a bit tired of the same old superheroes fighting the same old supervillains, you might want to give this one a shot. As the trade summary says, POWERLESS takes place in a world where everyone has powers. Remember that line from The Incredibles? “And when everyone’s super… no one will be.” That’s this. And, while that part of it is pretty interesting, it’s the powers of the Quarantine agents that really caught my eye.

There’s a woman who can teleport by switching places with someone in her field of vision. There’s a man who can travel back in time, but only up to 37 seconds. That one in particular is used rather imaginatively, and on more than one occasion. In a world where 7 billion people all have superpowers, I imagine that there are going to be some interesting variations on the common comic book tropes of flight, super strength, energy projection, and the like. This one is definitely one to watch.

Twitter-Ready 10-Word Review:
Syndrome gets his wish. Fans of interesting powers get theirs.

THE UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL #13
Publisher: Marvel
Story: Christopher Hastings
Art: Alti Firmansyah & Gurihiru

What The Trades Say:
Gwen’s been thrown by Arcade into… a world of Fantasy Roleplaying?!?! It’s Swords & Sorcery, Gwenpool-style! Watch out, or this LARP is gonna become a DARP!

What Bookwyrm Says:
First of all, the gaming references. Oh, the lovely gaming references. Whether you’re a fan of tabletop or MMO roleplaying, there’s plenty to love in this issue. Coming into it, I had no idea who Gwenpool even was — something that Deadpool (of course he’s in this issue, so no spoiler there) even makes mention of as a story point. For those not familiar, she’s a girl named Gwen Poole who crossed over into the Marvel universe from “the real world.” So, just like Deadpool, she’s aware that she’s in a comic book and frequently references as much. Also, though I am keenly aware of the current Deadpool oversaturation in the Marvel universe, THE UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL uses him wisely, though certainly not sparingly.

This issue was just fun. It was fun for me the same way the Dungeons & Dragons episodes of Community and Freaks & Geeks were fun. I’ve been a roleplayer for going on twenty years now, and seeing those kinds of references in other media is a surefire way into my little dragon-slaying heart. Plus, there were some moments in this issue that were genuinely funny, which is more than I can say about the last comic I read with Deadpool in it. That said, do I care about Gwenpool? Not really. Am I going to read another issue? Probably not. But this one was a great find, and a fun way to spend a few minutes. And sometimes, when you’ve had a rough day, you just want to spend a few minutes laughing at something as absurd as this issue.

Twitter-Ready 10-Word Review:
Who is Gwenpool? It doesn’t matter. Funny fantasy gaming references galore.

REDLINE #1
Publisher: Oni Press
Story: Neal Holman
Art: Clayton McCormack

What The Trades Say:
MARS. The near future-ish. A bomb takes out a city block on Harrison Station. The media rush to blame the local terrestrials (re: aliens), however Superintendent Denton Coyle has a feeling that it may not be so simple… or maybe that feeling is Coyle’s hangover gut bomb. It’s unclear… like a 50/50 shot, it’s a mistake or explosive diarrhea. Maybe it’s both? In other words, it’s yet another Tuesday on Mars.

What Bookwyrm Says:
This one tickled the book lover in me. With a style that borrows heavily from Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War or Joseph Heller’s legendary Catch-22, this space-marine satire is full of humorous dialogue and crazy situations. If you like your humor sarcastic and oh-so-incredibly dark, this book is for you.

I want to elaborate a little more on the story itself, but honestly, the trade summary pretty much nails both the plot and the tone of this issue — something that, at least in my experience, rarely ever happens. It either amps it up way beyond what the actual issue covers, or only vaguely references specific events in the issue so that it could apply to just about anything. Not so here. Everything you read above? It’s in there. And damn, is it funny.

Or maybe it’s not, and I’m just a horrible person for thinking it is.

If you like sci-fi, check it out. If Red Versus Blue tickled you in naughty yet interesting places, give this one a shot. If you laugh at ultra-violence that sort of makes you question your values as a human being, this one should already be in your hands.

Twitter-Ready 10-Word Review:
Catch-22 on Mars. Do I really have to say more?

REALMWALKERS #1
Publisher: Bubble
Story: Roman Kotkov & Eugeniv Fedotov
Art: Anna Rud

What The Trades Say:
We’ve got two kinds of news: fantastic news and even more fantastic news. First, our Earth is just part of a Collar of Worlds that consists of many parallel worlds. Second, the gods you read about in myths and legends actually exist. And any world they visit will be destroyed in an apocalypse! But don’t worry; there are heroes that will not let that happens. The universe is protected by the Realmwalkers — a trio with magical abilities and incredible weapons who can defeat any enemy… if they don’t get tired of each other first.

What Bookwyrm Says:
The first few pages of this one make you think you’re about to get into a deep philosophical discussion of how religion can pacify and placate the masses. Then comes the wizard who uses a sonic screwdriver for a wand. That’s when you really realize what kind of book you’re in.

This was another book that really spoke to the RPGer in me this week. So if that’s your jam, then it’s a good week to be a comic reader. This one is a bit different from GWENPOOL, though. You may have to look a little harder to find it. Digital is your best bet, as much as I like to encourage patronizing your local comic shops.

So, in this introductory issue, the titular trio goes up against the one and only Thor. Well, not really the one and only, as this is the actual Norse god and not the Marvel superhero derived from him. This was one of my favorite moments, as the characters — in mid-battle, mind you — have a discussion about the Thor movies that I feel many of us have had. It’s what I imagine off-table conversation would look like if D&D were real life.

Seriously though, this book is filled with the kind of dialogue that frequently pops up among a table of friends on gaming nights. Gentle ribbing, vaguely worded insults, reminding others of abilities they forgot they even had — if one of the story’s trio had actually mentioned the phase “character sheet,” it wouldn’t have been out of place.

I loved every page of it. And if you’re a roleplayer, you will too. Hell, even if you’re not, it’ll probably still get a laugh or three.

Twitter-Ready 10-Word Review:
Hard to find, but worth the read for fantasy lovers.

That’s all for this week. Hope you guys like the new format. We focused on a lot of indies this time — but, honestly, they’re the ones that had the goods. As far as the new focus goes, if you’d rather me go back to semi-randomly choosing comics and picking the bad ones apart, leave me a comment below. Otherwise, I’ll keep the 10-word reviews and recommendations coming. Until next time, ladies and gentlemen… this is Bookwyrm, and I approve this message. ‘Cause I wrote it.

Previous additions Bookwyrm’s rec list:

Ryan Haddock10 Posts

An award-winning author, avid reader, occasional roleplayer, and father to three young geeks-in-training, Ryan loves a good story in any medium — from books and movies to comics and video games. In addition to the above, he is also a dedicated Whovian, a superhero enthusiast, and a Browncoat who just can't seem to let it go. You can find him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

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