REVIEW: Wasted Space #8 ranks as the series best issue so far

By Zack Quaintance — As I mentioned last month in my review of Wasted Space #7, this book being officially turned into an ongoing series by publisher Vault Comics has enabled its creators to do deeper character work, doubling down on this comic’s trademark humor and high-minded pathos. What it has also allowed them to do is slow the pace just a bit, opening things up for what gamers might call side quests, which is exactly what we get in Wasted Space #8.

Read More

REVIEW: Vault Comics’ Wasted Space #7 makes smooth transition into ongoing monthly comic

Wasted Space #7 is out 2/27/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — I’ve been reviewing Wasted Space since the series started in April of last year, and I’ve loved this book from the start. As I wrote in our Top Comics to Buy for February 27, 2019 feature this week, this is the best original space opera in all of comics today. You can read more detailed and nuanced thoughts over on our Reviews Page, but to sum it up, I think this is a versatile and smart comic, one as capable of making jokes about sex robots as it is asking profound questions about religion and power structures.

This is all a means of establishing why I was so excited when late last year publisher Vault Comics announced that the book would be its first proper ongoing series, extending past the always-difficult 20 issue mark. Now, I’m not always one to clamor for more, more, more from creatives, believing as I do that inspiration is a flighty and special commodity, and that writers, artists, etc. shouldn’t mine topical areas that have long gone dry. Wasted Space, however, has brimmed from its inception with almost too many ideas, too many hilarious exchanges, exciting conflicts, and just straight up space operetic adventures.

In Wasted Space #7, the value of transitioning from a finite story to a longer ongoing series for a book like this becomes clear: writer Michael Moreci is able to dedicate more space to the excellent characters he’s been building for half a dozen issues, giving us a chance to get to know them a little bit better. This is—make no mistake—an exciting issue, in which several major plot developments (especially for Dust and Molly) come to a head and push our characters into new directions. But there are also several scenes I think are only possible in the context of a longer-form story

And they’re some of my favorite scenes in this issue. I’m thinking specifically here of the opening, in which Billy and Molly have one of the series trademark philosophical conversations in a cosmic convenience store (rendered with great detail and better colors by the art duo of Hayden Sherman and Jason Wordie). Billy leans back and pours blue space slurpee directly into his mouth as Molly essentially satirizes social media, landing the Wasted Space culture commentary line of the issue with: I have been to the social stacks though. You have terrible people saying terrible things, then you have so-called good people assuming everyone who doesn’t share their exact principles is a total monster. And all it leads to is everyone screaming and no one listening. As usual, this is great stuff.

So yes, while not every comic is best-served by long-form serial narrative, Wasted Space certainly is, quickly making the most of the format and giving us more than enough value for the price of admission. One last note...the editorial team is already buzzing about how good Wasted Space #8 is, so I for one am circling my (non-existent and entirely theoretical) calendar for its due date, March 27.

Overall: Wasted Space #7 is another great example of this books strengths: operatic space adventure blended with philosophical discourse about modern society, all filtered through Hayden Sherman and Jason Wordie’s fantastic artwork. This remains one of the best comics today. 9.5/10

Wasted Space #7
Writer:
Michael Moreci
Artist: Hayden Sherman
Colorist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.


Top Comics of 2018, #6 - #15

By Zack Quaintance —  The most difficult thing about a strong year for comics (like this one) is doing a year-end Best Of list. Now, to be sure, no one mandates websites do rankings. That would be a clear violation of civil liberties. There is, however, a part of the pop culture blogger brain that goes wild for it, whispering all year long...where does this one rank...and if you don’t satisfy that beast—well, bad things happen.

So, here we our with ours, freshly formulated for 2018 by our committee of one. Before we dive into part 2, which features in descending order selections #15 to #6 (Top Comics of 2018, #16 - #25 is up now, with the Top 5 due later today), let’s rehash our ground rules:

  • No trades or OGNs: Building out our OGN coverage is a priority for 2019. We’re just not there yet. So, while I absolutely loved work like Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam, Box Brown’s Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman, and Ryan Lindsay and Eric Zawadzki’s Eternal, you won’t find them here. Ideally, next year’s we’ll have an entire post dedicated to OGNs.

  • No webcomics, manga, or newspaper strips: Again, our site is a bit deficient covering these (if you are into these things, we’d love to chat about you writing for us!). I should, of course, mention that in 2018 someone under the pen name Olivia James took over the long-running Nancy strip and did amazing things with it (Sluggo is lit), but, again, you won’t find it on our list.

  • Longevity matters: New this year, you will find what I consider a key stat—how many issues were published this year. Late debut series like Die, Electric Warriors, and Bitter Root have tons of promise. They just haven’t been around enough to be a definitive comic of 2018. Ditto for comics that ended in April or earlier.

There you have it: guiding principles of our Top Comics of 2018. Now, without further adieu, let’s keep this bad hombre going!

15. Seeds
Writer:
Ann Nocenti
Artist, Letterer: David Aja
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Issues in 2018: 2

The second issue of this series absolutely blew my mind. So much so it was enough to land this comic in our list, and at no. 15 too! I’m going to struggle to articulate why this is not only one of the best comics out today, but also the comic with the most potential to be an all-time great series. But here goes…

Writer Ann Nocenti and artist David Aja have clearly thought hard about the state of the world, dwelling on current trends, struggles, challenges, \and even a few victories to extrapolate a future the likes of which we’ve never seen. There are (as noted in yesterday’s list) many near-future disaster stories running through comics. Many of them do admirable jobs extending a fear or concern to logical places. Seeds encompasses much more with its predictions, in a way that feels impossibly novel yet so obvious you wonder why its ideas hadn’t previously occurred to you. If you start listing story elements—failing planet, media corruption, alien love story/menace—they sound a little rote, but the way these talented creators bring them together is nothing short of remarkable. Now, if only they could get a handle on the delays...  

14. Doomsday Clock
Writer:
Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Publisher: DC Comics
Issues in 2018: 6

Speaking of delays (hey! would you look at that transition), next we have Doomsday Clock. Writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank were as good as their word this year, mostly sticking to the every-other-month schedule they promised following Doomsday Clock #3. We got six new issues in 2018, and the last three were straight up killer comics. This series has, to be blunt, massive ambitions.

Indeed, the intentions of this comic are starting to crystalize, and if Johns and Frank can pull this off, they could end up with a story that speaks to the current rise of authoritarian governments across the globe, the reactions of the media and the populous, and what it means to be a public hero today, to take a strong position. It’s heady stuff, with potential to shape DC’s line and maybe even the stories the aging company does for the next decade.

13. Ice Cream Man
Writer:
W. Maxwell Prince
Artist: Martin Morazzo
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Good Old Neon
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 8

As I’ve noted throughout, ranking the many many many excellent comics this year has been no easy feat. There were a ton of tough choices, but as my friend Rob from Panel Patter noted, at a certain point you have to choose, otherwise there’s no purpose to the endeavor. For me, placing Ice Cream Man was the most difficult decision. An anthology horror comic linked only by the titular (and hella creepy) ice cream man, this book has been a tour de force.

The reason it lands at #13 is twofold. No. 1, 13 is creepy and it seemed fitting, because aside from one other selection (we’ll get into that later), this is the highest-ranking horror comic on our list. No. 2, I’m trying to rank series for holistic reading experience. Ice Cream Man being made of vignettes makes that trickier. This book is easily one of the best comics of 2018, and we’ll heap more praise on it in future posts, specifically the Best Single Issues of 2018, coming later this week. For now, I’ll just note everyone should read this comic, just pick up random issues (they’re all self-contained) and go. The rate of success is high enough I’m confident you’ll all find flavors (sorry) you like.

12. The Wild Storm
Writer:
Warren Ellis
Artist: Jon Davis-Hunt
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: DC Comics
Issues in 2018: 8

It’s pretty amazing this far into a celebrated career, Warren Elllis is doing his best work, writing a slow-burning epic that strips down characters he’s handled for years before building them back into something searingly-relevant for 2018. This new The Wild Storm has a few familiar names, while remaining entirely accessible for first-time readers of this universe. And what Ellis is doing here is exploring the vast influence wielded by long-standing (and hard to comprehend) power structures.

He’s joined by Jon Davis-Hunt, one of (if not the) most underrated artists in comics. Davis-Hunt comes fresh from career work of his own on Gail Simone’s Clean Room, and as good as he was there, he’s hitting a new level, crafting graphic sequential storytelling both kinetic and real, capable of disrupting any visual laws of reality yet photorealistic and engrossing. As intellectual and nuanced a comic as we’ve seen, this is a must-read story.

11. The Mighty Thor / Thor
Writer:
Jason Aaron
Artists: Russell Dauterman, Mike del Mundo, Christian Ward, Jen Bartel, Various
Colorists: Matthew Wilson, Marco D’Alfonso
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Issues in 2018: 4 / 12

Jason Aaron’s ongoing run on Thor is the best long-form story happening in superhero comics, and it’s really not even close. Aaron and Esad Ribic’s Thor: God of Thunder #1, which essentially marked the start of this current run, hit stands in November 2012, a vastly different time in the world and industry. Marvel has no other run close, with Hickman and Bendis gone from the company and Dan Slott off Amazing Spider-Man. Invincible has also ended, and DC’s main challengers—Batman and Deathstroke, for my money—date back to summer 2016, which is hardly a challenge at all.

Thor, however, keeps going strong, landing this year’s 16 issues (and a Jane Foster one-shot) at #11 overall on our list. Our committee of one suspects it will be higher next year, what with the War of the Realms coming. The Jane Foster finale was certainly a high point his year, but it felt like more of a pause than a proper finish, setting the table for what is sure to be some damn fine comics to come. In summation, 2018 was another great year for Aaron’s Thor run, but we all but guarantee 2019 will be even better, possibly the high water mark for this story.

10. X-Men Red
Writer:
Tom Taylor
Artists: Mahmud Asrar, Carmen Carnero, Roge Antonio
Colorists: Ive Svorcina, Rain Beredo
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Issues in 2018: 11

What a surprise this comic was. I’d tapped out on X-Men: Blue and X-Men: Gold, deciding to wait for whatever next big X-thing. Then comes an announcement of a third color, part of the Marvel Legacy line, which, let’s face it, was dead on arrival. But here’s the thing: Tom Taylor and Mahmud Asrar’s X-Men: Red was good. Like, really really really good. Taylor’s scripting understood the franchise better than any writer I’ve read in I don’t know how long, casting the team as equal parts superhero high-flyers and common defenders of the oppressed, all with a geopolitical angle.

It made Jean Gray the face of Xavier’s continuing dream, a brilliant move given her legacy (ahem) and similar skill set, and it faced the X-Men against threats essentially derived from the messages of hate coursing through the modern media landscape, be it reportage or social posting. It was a brilliant stretch of 11 issues that ended way too soon, and, in my opinion, it was the first real hint how the X-Men can be made relevant for 2018, 2019, etc., taking them out of their long-standing continuity mire. It will be missed, and I hope this new generation of X-writers draw from its example.

9. Vault Comics: Fearscape / Friendo / These Savage Shores
Writers:
Ryan O’Sullivan / Alex Paknadel / Ram V.
Artists: Andrea Mutti / Martin Simmonds / Sumit Kumar
Colorists: Vladimir Popov / Dee Cunnife / Vittorio Astone
Letterers: Andworld Design / Taylor Esposito / Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Vault Comics
Issues in 2018: 3 / 3 / 2

Okay, so this one is cheating, but of the three new Vault Comics launched by British writers with clear literary roots in the fall, I couldn’t pick any one to elevate above the others. They’re all incredible, and so I built myself a loophole (it’s my website, afterall), and included all three on the list. I heard Vault editor Adrian Wassel on a podcast earlier this year, saying comics could swing to a literary place that incorporates both recent cinematic storytelling trends and their unique ability to synthesize words and pictures. All three of these titles reflect that viewpoint.

You can read more thoughts about each on our Reviews Page, but let me run through them quickly. Fearscape is a look at pretense, literary culture, and how the nature of creative writing often sees authors bouncing violently between bouts of outsized ego and crippling insecurity. The voice is pretentious and incredible. Friendo is a meditation on the decline of late-model capitalist countries, specifically the United States, casting apathy, ceiling-less corporate greed, and the marginalization of government checks as truly terrifying villains. These Savage Shores is a gorgeous and deep commentary on imperialism, using misdirection to to create an engaging and tone-heavy narrative. Basically, all three of these are well worth your time, and I highly recommend them all.

8. Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles
Writer:
Mark Russell
Artist: Mike Feehan
Inker: Sean Parsons
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Publisher: DC Comics
Issues in 2018: 6

Speaking of literary comics, Mark Russell and Mike Feehan’s Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles (improbably) falls in that bin as well. Last year we highlighted Russell’s work on Flintstones. Another year and another smart take on a Hanna-Barbera property, and here we are again. In Russell’s re-imagining of this mythos, Snagglepuss is a basically closeted playwright during McCarthy-ism, trying to stay true to his values without running afoul of the federal government and staid societal interests.

Russell uses this premise to tell a sophisticated story that dances with ideas about life, art, politics, group think, and conservatism. The emotional core to this thing is the Huckleberry Hound character, whose tragic story beats brought tears to my eyes a couple of times. If reading a comic about Snagglepuss doesn’t sound appealing, don’t worry—you’re not alone in that thinking. But Russell also uses the legacy of the character to do work toward the satirical points he’s making, to help drive them home.  

7. Wasted Space
Writer:
Michael Moreci
Artist: Hayden Sherman
Colorist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Vault Comics
Issues in 2018: 6 (counting the holiday special)

Phew, now we’re getting into the comics that I can’t imagine my 2018 without, the first being Michael Moreci and Hayden Sherman’s Wasted Space. I have heaped my fair share of praise on this book over the past 12 months, and I’m not alone. In fact, Nerdist has called it “easily the best new series to hit comic shops so far this year.” For my money, it’s without question the best wholly new property of 2018, and I’m going to quote myself to elaborate on why...

Wasted Space to me feels like Star Wars by way of 2018, determined to honor the hi-jinx & high adventure of space opera while fearlessly exploring the central conflict of our times: where should one’s desire for comfort end and their obligation to combat oppression begin? I’ve compared Moreci’s absurdist, idea-heavy writing to the late David Foster Wallace and I stand by that, noting that Sherman’s chaotic high-energy art style brings the world to life in a special way. This is maybe the highest compliment I can give: in a day and age where i buy fewer paper comics than ever before, I still have a pull list and on it near the top is Wasted Space.

6. Thanos Wins
Writer:
Donny Cates
Artist: Geoff Shaw
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Issues in 2018: 6

Toward the end of 2017, Brian Michael Bendis left Marvel, dealing the publisher as significant of a writing void as I’ve seen in the past two decades, dating back to before Bendis established himself as the company’s prime writing voice. The thing about voids like that is they force publishers to take bigger risks and bring in younger, newer talent. For Marvel in 2018, that meant Donny Cates (among others).

One of Cates’ first charges at Marvel was to takeover Thanos in the wake of another essentially departing writer, Jeff Lemire, who seemed from the outside to be off to focus on the superhero universe he owned and created, Black Hammer. What Cates and past collaborator Geoff Shaw did with the final six issues of this run was absolutely remarkable, telling what is not only the best Thanos story of all-time, but the best end of the Marvel Universe tail this side of Jonathan Hickman. It’s called Thanos Wins, and it’s exactly what it sounds like.

Thanos Wins is as bold a statement as a young writer doing his first work at Marvel could have made. Aided by the out-of-this-world Geoff Shaw artwork and Antonio Fabela colors, Cates seemed to put all of comics on notice here, not being content to just decimate the very futures of these decades-old beloved characters, but insisting on doing so with wild grin viscerally affixed to his face. You might wonder, how do I know he was laughing and smiling as he wrote all of this. I think the better question, is how could anyone who’s read Thanos Wins doubt it?  

Read our analysis of Thanos Wins here!

Check back later today for our Best Comics of 2018, #1 - #5! Check out Best Comics of 2018, #16 - #25! And check back later in the week for more year-end lists, including our Best Single Issues and our Top Creators of 2018!

For the history-minded readers, you can find our Top Comics of 2017, Part 1, 2 and 3 online now!

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

Top Comics of September 2018

By Zack Quaintance — This month is one that has the potential to be infamous, in that it ended with an event—Heroes in Crisis—that saw one of the Big 2 (DC) embrace a sort of grit and darkness that feels outdated. Word is now coming out that in addition to being a viscerally uncomfortable book, Heroes in Crisis also undersold expectations. Really, it almost feels to me as if the larger line itself is working like an antibody to reject Heroes in Crisis, purging its anachronistic themes from a shared superhero universe that is now bent on being brighter.

But, hey, this isn’t a piece about Heroes in Crisis! This is, instead, a piece about the comics from last month that I really liked, and within it you will find talk of some of my usual favorites—Wasted Space and Immortal Hulk—as well as some discussion of comics I haven’t written as much about, including The Seeds and Supergirl. And because I can’t help myself: yes! Okay, fine. I found Heroes in Crisis disappointing, but I still enjoyed September holistically as another great month for comics.

Let’s take a look at why!

Shout Outs

Snotgirl #11. I’m just so happy this book is back. The art is phenomenal, even if the story has seemed to search for direction. Still, there’s nothing else quite like this comic, one of the most singular today. It’s like reading a guilty pleasure Instagram feed.

While I thought the opening arc of Jason Aaron’s Avengers run was maybe two issues longer than it needed to be, Avengers #7 & #8 are two of my favorite standalone Avengers stories in years, Avengers #7 for its biblical qualities and #8 because of its deep focus on team dynamics.

Relay #3. I’ve been enthralled by this book from its start. It’s, to be reductive, mind-expanding sci-fi brought to life with illustrations that oscillate from detailed and realistic to totally psychedelic. It’s a complex read, one I’m doing my damndest to analyze via reviews.

I’m all in on the SuperBendis run these days, and I liked Superman #3 and Action Comics #1003 quite a bit. Supergirl #22, however, was a fantastic surprise. This is a smaller title, but it’s bringing a welcome additional depth to Bendis’ larger aspirations.

September’s Wonder Woman #54 & #55 teamed one of my favorite rising comics writers, Steve Orlando, with one of my favorite underrated art teams, Raul Allen and Patricia Martin. The results were (unsurprisingly) to my liking.

DC Comics is in a bit of holding pattern in a couple places, waiting for new superstar runs to start (Aquaman, The Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, etc.), but Justice League #8 & Justice League Dark #3 continue to establish its team-up book as a true flagship.

In Black Hammer: Age of Doom #5, some of this series’ mysteries become clear, and the team of Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormstron have more than built a satisfying resolution.

I continue to be impressed with the world-building going on in Skyward, a charming comic that’s clearly lasting for a long haul. Check out our review of Skyward #6.

Not to give too much away, but the last panel in The Wild Storm #17 is well worth your time, provided you’ve read The Authority...

Tom King and Mitch Gerads work in Mister Miracle #11 is once again excellent, featuring action, a future classic nine-panel grid of Darkseid double-dipping a carrot, and a promise that mysteries will be unraveled next month (maybe).

Top Comics of September 2018

5. Wasted Space #5 by Michael Moreci, Hayden Sherman, Jason Wordie, & Jim Campbell

This month saw the conclusion of Wasted Space’s first arc, and what a doozy. What I find most compelling about Wasted Space is that it lives a double life, both as a slapstick space opera and as a deep ideological exploration of culture and society. I’ve said this before but it’s worth reiterating: there’s a David Foster Wallace-esque quality to the ideas and concerns in this book, one that is especially evident in some of the lengthiest bits of dialogue as well as in the intelligence woven throughout.

Aesthetically, it’s a bright and vibrant comic with a quick plot and jokes that feel surprising yet never inappropriate. I’m a vocal proponent of Vault Comics, and, as such, I’m often asked where new readers should start. After this issue (and arc), my answer is now Wasted Space.

4. Doomsday Clock #7 by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank

This issue caught me off guard. In Doomsday Clock #7, there is more plot and action than in the first half of this maxi-series combined. Indeed, the first six issues here were almost introspective in nature, carefully building the individual concerns of different Watchmen characters as they moved from their world into the proper DCU.

In Doomsday Clock #7, our principals start to slam together, with a good deal of direct involvement from usual DC heroes as well. The result is a comic that almost serves as a mission statement for this entire event. It’s an entertaining read that has me more excited for the final five issues. There is a little bit of a bittersweet tinge to it, in that one can only imagine what it would have been like had this book kept to a monthly schedule, as well as what it would have meant for the larger DCU, too. Sigh.

3. Immortal Hulk #5 & #6 by Al Ewing & Lee Garbett

September brought us two new issues of my favorite Marvel comic, Immortal Hulk, and so I’m including them here together. It seems to me like these two books together took a deeper turn into the supernatural, opening the door for the titular undead Hulk to explore some darker, perhaps even supernatural spaces.

The glowing red visage of Banner’s demon father is the MVP of this new scary turn. Designed to horrific perfection by usual series artist Joe Bennett, the face is memorable and terrifying, a fitting personification of this book’s ambition to be a different, unnerving sort of Hulk story. I also like that this book is seemingly separate from the usual cash-grabby fray of crossing over Marvel titles. Indeed, it’s starting to feel like the publisher is actively separating prestige titles from gimmicky cash grabs, and discerning readers are better for it.

2. Batman #54 by Tom King, Matt Wagner, Tomeu Morey, & Clayton Cowles

Batman #54 was a comic that made me emotional. As I wrote in my Batman #54 review, I found this issue to be an all-time great Batman story, a father-son take on one of the most famous duos not only in comics but in the entire world. It’s also largely indicative of what I’ve liked most about King’s run so far: its humanity.

I think I’m far from alone in saying King’s Batman has been one of peaks and valleys, and I attribute this to a two steps forward, one step back journey he has Bruce on. King is trying to slowly humanize and grow a character whose owners have everything to gain by keeping him static. His solution seems to be a series of small pushes in lieu of any major leaps. This issue is one of the most blissful small pushes forward so far.

1. Seeds #2 by Ann Nocenti & David Aja (read our review of Seeds #1)

I didn’t know what to make of Seeds’ first issue. It was a blatantly creative comic, one that intrigued me and seemed to have something much deeper to say beneath the compelling visuals that made up its veneer. The first issue, though, withheld much about what the book intended to be about, and, as such, I withheld a bit of enthusiasm. After reading the second issue this has changed. I’m all in on The Seeds, to the point I now suspect that when the four-issue series concludes, it is likely to be praised as one of the best comics of the decade, if not longer.

This is a story that feels both impossible and real, that feels of our moment and also forward-looking. It’s thematic interests are disparate at first glance, ranging from sex between humans and aliens, the environmental death of the earth, and the bludgeoning impact of human reliance on technology. Look closer, though, and you’ll find a creative team that is almost unnervingly prescient. This is a comic book story that in my opinion is clearly laying out what should (or soon will be) easily the most pressing concerns of our time, and doing it with some of the finest art in the industry. Simply put, if you’re not reading this comic, you are making a mistake.

Check out our Best New #1 Comics of September 2018 plus more of our monthly lists here.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

REVIEW: Wasted Space #5 by Michael Moreci, Hayden Sherman, Jason Wordie, & Jim Campbell

Wasted Space #5 is out 9/12.

By Zack Quaintance — Through four issues, Wasted Space has done a tremendous amount of world-building, character development, tone-setting, and plot setup. This is a book built on a foundation of Star Wars-esque high action space heroics. Said space heroics, however, are also laced with high ideas about religion, chemical escapism, terrorism, and the merits of political stances ranging from complacent apathy to total anarchy. It’s a lot, to be sure, and a less confident set of creators might buckle under its weight.

Not this team. Wasted Space #5 is the conclusion of this comics’ first arc, and it’s also this book’s most entertaining issue to date, paying off so much of the dense track that has been laid while having an absolute blast doing it. That’s not to say this book is irreverent or escapist. No, far from it. The complex and increasingly-relevant battle of one man’s desire to be loved and happy versus his responsibility to combat societal injustice and oppression at great cost to himself continues to rage. Indeed, there are choices made here as dramatic as all get out, yet still executed in a way that mercilessly tickles the brain, be it via machine gun quips, kinetic page-busting linework between panels, or a plot that feels equal parts inevitable and surprising.

What is perhaps most impressive about Wasted Space is the way that Moreci and Sherman have built a tone that gives them so much freedom to tell their story. In this issue, there is a scene wherein two blue robots designed to have sex and murder have a soap opera exchange about why one left the other at the altar. In this very same comic, there’s a three panel set of close-cropped shots of teary characters faces, one of which belongs to a possibly-hallucinated robotic god. None of this feels at odds or out of place. It speaks to the confident imagination and high craft of the storytellers that all of this is now possible and coherent within the space of a single issue.

On top of the big ideas and high adventure, Wasted Space is a sharply hilarious comic.

I see nothing but a bright future for this book. It’s already come such a long way since we reviewed its first issue way back in April, regularly popping in features written by national pop culture outlets about comics that are not to be missed (welcome to the party folks, btw). Its publisher, the very cool and very smart Vault Comics, has also wisely made Wasted Space an ongoing comic. Simply put, Wasted Space is a comic that reads like Star Wars by way of 2018, determined to honor the tradition of the space opera

Overall: Simply put, Wasted Space is a comic that reads like Star Wars by way of 2018, determined to honor the hijinx and high adventure of the space opera while fearlessly exploring the central conflict of our times: where should one’s desire for comfort end and their obligation to combat oppression begin? 9.5/10

For reviews of Wasted Space #1 - #4, plus many other titles, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

REVIEW: Wasted Space #4 by Michael Moreci, Hayden Sherman, Jason Wordie, & Jim Campbell

Wasted Space #4 is out Aug. 22, 2018.

By Zack Quaintance — One of the qualities (among many) that has drawn me to Wasted Space is its sheer complexity. This is the series’ fourth issue, and going in I found myself wondering what facet of this story Moreci, Sherman, et al. would explore here in greater depth. Would we finally see Devolous Yam (almost)? Would we learn more about the powers shared by our series leads (almost again)? How about more of Legion, the giant unstoppable force driven to absolutely stomp our heroes (no, but check out #5’s cover)?

The first three issues have just laid so much excellent groundwork, planting tons of compelling seeds for the creators to explore (great news: this book had been granted ongoing status, now likely to run for at least 20 issues). Anyway, we start here with protagonist Billy having his longest conversation yet with The Creator, a robot who appears only to him and is also basically God to the vast majority of the galaxy.

Wasted Space #4, much like preceding issues, doesn’t spoon feed its audience easy answers. Instead, it keeps marching forward, putting characters in deeper jeopardy and revealing info only as it applies to that. What does, however, become clearer in this fourth installment is that Wasted Space likely aspires to be a pretty direct (although not heavy handed) allegory for our current times, one that challenges readers with difficult questions.

There are plenty of interesting questions asked in brief, but the one I see at the heart of this thing is about repercussions. This is a theme hinted at in every issue, and so it’s no surprise it shows up again here, but what this book seems to want its readers to think about is not causes of systematic oppression or tumult, but rather what is the responsibility of individuals to respond to grave trouble, what is the just thing to do and how does one continue doing it after personal losses mount? It’s heady and compelling stuff, at times blurring the troubling line between staying comfortable and embracing outright nihilism.

Hayden Sherman, meanwhile, continues proving himself one of the most versatile sci-fi artists in comics, as capable of nailing scenes entirely reliant upon facial expressions as he is of rendering extreme violence or intricate spaceship interiors. He’s supported here by Jason Wordie’s vibrant colors, and by Jim Campbell’s letters, which do quite a bit, getting across long tracks of whispered conversation seamlessly. When a letterer is at their best, their work breezes by without notice, and that’s certainly the case with Campbell in this issue.

Overall: Wasted Space #4 is rich with both sporadic bursts of idea-heavy conversation as well as with space opera action, which is basically this series’ MO. For those as engaged with this comic as I am, this issue is yet another step forward in one of the most exciting sci-fi epics in comics today. 9.0/10

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

Top Comics of July 2018

By Zack Quaintance — Maybe I’m suffering from recency bias, but I’m hard-pressed to think of a summer in my life (I’m 22 give or take...SEVERAL years) as good for comics as this. Seriously. There are top-notch stories being told at both major superhero publishers—with characters ranging from Mister Miracle to Captain America—while the creator-owned market hits unprecedented peaks for variety and quality.

Being in the midst of this wave is a blessing and challenge for writing lists like this. Obviously, I don’t lack titles, but it’s tough to narrow things down. I recently faced the same dilemma sorting the Best New #1 Comics of July. My answer is do it and spend the next month regretting choices. Act recklessly and then deal...that’s a strategy I’ve long employed.

Joking aside, I put a lot of thought into this month’s list, agonizing until I landed on the titles below. Sooooo—let’s do this!

Shout Outs

Batman #50 was a good comic with a messy release (the above variant cover is by Jae Lee).

Let’s start with a mess: Batman #50 and the spoiler fiasco. I didn’t get spoiled (thankfully), but I’m sympathetic to all who did. Regardless, this was a fine issue with a welcome twist, especially if as Tom King says, this is the run’s halfway point.

Have you all read IDW’s Black Crown imprint? You should. July saw the end of two early titles: Assassanistas and Punks Not Dead. Put simply, what a glorious wave of odd books, heavy on craft, humor, subversion. Can’t wait to see what Black Crown does next.

The darling of this year’s Eisners, Monstress, wrapped its third arc with a thundering crescendo and the most action in any single issue since the book’s debut. Perhaps most importantly, Monstress #18 also laid great track for future stories. Very well done.

Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen concluded their sci-book Descender, a beautiful watercolor epic about childhood friendship. This issue was great (like the entire series), but it was less a finale than a continuation, setting up a sequel called Ascender that launches this fall.

Al Ewing and Joe Bennett continue to make The Hulk terrifying.

In Immortal Hulk #2 and #3, Al Ewing and Joe Bennett continued to strike a horrifying tone, telling a story closer to prestige horror than standard superheroics, leading to half of comics Twitter saying I don’t usually like the Hulk but I like THIS.   

There’s a reason Incognegro by Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece is taught in schools: it’s a well-done historical mystery steeped in questions about race. Its sequel wrapped this month with Incognegro Renaissance #5, a worthy successor.

Sideways #6 gives its teen hero a defining tragedy, and ho man did it sting. Speaking of The New Age of DC Heroes, The Unexpected #2 and Terrifics #5 were both great too.

Apparently Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt’s phenomenal new take on old characters, The Wild Storm, is selling well (at least online), but not enough fans are talking about it. I wish that would change. It’s so good.

Finally, Flash #50 was an emotionally-satisfying conclusion to a long-simmering plot thread, one that also featured that page with the return of that character at the end.

Top 5 Comics of July 2018

Cates & Stegman seem bent on a character-defining run.

5. Venom #4 by Donny Cates & Ryan Stegman

I don’t want to go into the plot, except to note there’s an expert connection to Jason Aaron’s all-time great run on Thor, and that superhero comic fans love that type of thing. There’s also just a feeling of excitement around everything Cates is writing; he’s like an athlete having his first MVP season, entrenching himself as a lead voice at Marvel, even extending his exclusive with the publisher.

Which is all great, as is Venom #4. It’s still relatively early in this run, but Cates and Stegman have talked about doing a prolonged and character-defining stretch on this book. Also, like Immortal Hulk, this is another book that seems to have many fans reading a character they otherwise wouldn’t. No easy feat.

 

 

4. Wasted Space #3 by Michael Moreci & Hayden Sherman

Wasted Space, the frenetic space opera about addiction and cultism and 100 other things, just keeps getting better. People who write about comics often use that line, but in this case it’s true. Wasted Space is a complex comic with so many big ideas that the experience of reading it improves as more of its scope becomes visible. That’s been my experience, anyway.

I loved Wasted Space #3 (read my review of Wasted Space #3). The ideas and plotting that made the series so engrossing is still here, but this issue also (organically) ups the humor, especially when the big all-powerful gigantic enemy guy tells some rando he’d feel better about himself if he approached work with pride—hilarious. I don’t know if I can be clearer: you should all be reading this book.

Bold design choices elevate Gideon Falls to lofty creative levels.

3. Gideon Falls #5 by Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino

Holy wow, the art in this comic is insane. I know that’s vague and non-descriptive, but if you’ve read it, you’re absolutely nodding along. The truth is it’s hard to to describe these visuals without using dude, did you see that language. The art is imaginative to the point one wonders exactly when Andrea Sorrentino disregarded conventions and straight up started doing whatever he wanted.

There are bold choices, to be sure, every one of which pays off, including red circles around details for emphasis, and arrows telling readers where to look. It could come off as proscriptive, but given how engrossing this story is, it instead feels helpful. I’ve liked this comic from the start (see my long-ago review of Gideon Falls #1), but Gideon Falls #5 somehow reaches new levels of creativity, storytelling, and absolutely bananas visual stimulation on every page. Absolutely bananas.

2. Wonder Woman #51 by Steve Orlando & Laura Braga

With Wonder Woman #51, Steve Orlando and Laura Braga tell a stand-alone story with a deep and nuanced understanding of this character, one that shows exactly why she’s been relevant all these years. It’s the type of small-scale story that plays to a hero’s essence, the type done ad nauseum with Batman and Superman but not nearly as much with Wonder Woman. This comic, however, helps to fix that.

It’s just so perfect. Aside from the adept characterization, it features an engaging and emotional narrative that speaks to Diana’s core values. It sounds cliche, but I teared up here at the drama and and smiled at the jokes. This is, to me, an issue we’ll be hearing new creators talk about on podcasts 10 years from now, citing it as an influence for the way they write/think about the character.

Read our review of Wonder Woman #51.

Just, ouch.

1. Saga #54 by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Nothing will ever be the same. If you’ve read the issue, check out Why Saga #54 Hurts So Bad. If you haven’t, please read the issue and then click that link. There’s just no good way to discuss this without spoilers. Simply put, though, we’ll just note that this is the most consequential issue yet in the best series in comics.

That does it for our July list. Please check back to the site tomorrow for our new feature, Five Questions With Creators, which is being kicked off with writer Zack Kaplan, of Eclipse, Port of Earth, and Lost City Explorers!

Check out our Best New #1 Comics of July 2018 here plus more of our monthly lists here .

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, CA.

REVIEW: Wasted Space #3 by Michael Moreci, Hayden Sherman, Jason Wordie, & Jim Campbell

Wasted Space #3 is this book's best issue yet.

By Zack Quaintance — As Wasted Space progresses, it’s becoming clear galactic dictator Devolous Yam (fantastic galactic dictator name, btw) is a MacGuffin, a writerly term for a plot device many characters pursue with borderline thin motivations. Our heroes want to destroy Yam, our villains want to destroy Yam plus also a planet because anarchy, and an unstoppable otherworldly force wants to destroy our heroes so they cannot destroy Yam because...well, we don’t exactly know yet.

Yam Yam Yam and more Yam. I’m not entirely certain we’ve even seen the guy’s face, but he's all anyone wants to kill or not kill here. We just know Yam eliminated democracy and one of our protagonists—Billy—helped enable his rise, earning great shame and infamy (plus another really painful cost we learn about via incredibly well-done flashbacks in this issue).

And that’s fine, really. It makes for an exciting romp of a third issue wherein various actors intersect after much setup. In #3, writer Michael Moreci, artist Hayden Sherman, and colorist Jason Wordie show themselves just as adept at action storytelling as they’ve been previously at exposition, heady ideas, and character development. Moreci’s sense of humor is on point, too, and Sherman once again makes a strong case for best dystopian action artist in comics.

Yes, as much as I liked Wasted Space #1 and Wasted Space #2, this issue reached a more entertaining level without sacrificing any themes or thoughtfulness. I could get into the weeds about all that I liked, but I don’t want to spoil even small moments. I will say if you’re a new reader, don't be discouraged—reading all three issues consecutively will actually help you appreciate how the various character journeys are being laid out. I certainly know re-reading from the start this time was helpful (if not vital) for me.

Writer Michael Moreci, an avowed Star Wars fan, is clearly having a blast working in homages to his favorite movie franchise.

This book has some of the best side characters in comics, specifically Dust, Billy’s Fuq/Qil Bot best friend who is often comic relief. I’m also a big fan of Legion, the aforementioned unstoppable otherworldly force, who crushes everything and sometimes doles out routine life advice, like, You should take more pride in your work. It leads to a healthier existence.

Lastly, I want to note that there are sneakily relevant bits of ethos and commentary throughout Wasted Space, with Billy flashingback in this issue to himself urging normalcy in the face of dictatorship, an attitude that cost him dearly and sent him into the spiral we find him in when the book begins. I'm curious to see the full scope of the progress he makes as the book continues.

Overall: Wasted Space #3 is this comic’s best issue yet. The creators have built a solid foundation of character and plot, and they’re now clearly having a blast smashing it all together. I have every reason to believe the next issue will be even better as things continue to converge. 9.0/10

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

REVIEW: Wasted Space #2 by Michael Moreci, Hayden Sherman, Jason Wordie, & Jim Campbell

Wasted Space #2 cover by Marguerite Sauvage

Wasted Space #2 cover by Marguerite Sauvage

Michael Moreci and Hayden Sherman’s Wasted Space #2 brings more of its central protagonists’ backstories into focus, putting the duo at a bar, getting them drunk, and having them share tales of mutual prescience. One of these characters—Billy Bane—acts as a stand-in for the audience, voicing a question inherent to the first issue, namely how legit are the future-predicting/God-seeing powers that are in play here? He then posits that his abilities may be a product of his own insanity.

As a result, I’m not sure whether we learn if Billy’s powers are legit, not just yet, but I think the structural choice is a solid one for this second issue, one that lets readers know Moreci is aware of what they’re wondering and also that they can trust him to deliver a satisfying payoff eventually. So, I’m very much with all of that. Another choice I enjoyed in this issue was Moreci continuing to pose capital B Big, sweeping questions about humanity, specifically asking whether the species is doomed to forever war and jockey for position because that’s what it took to get us to the top of the evolutionary chain.

Without giving anything specific away, one of the plot developments here also seems to make a statement about political extremism, specifically about the merits of having a predictable and intact system versus moving toward anarchy by forcing norms and structure to die and crumble. It’s the best kind of surprise twist, at once thrilling and meaningful.

Hayden Sherman is establishing himself as one of the best sci-fi artists in comics.

Hayden Sherman is establishing himself as one of the best sci-fi artists in comics.

And this is all heady stuff, especially considering the thematic and philosophical weight introduced in the first book, which basically opened with a drug dealer arguing that the Greek mythological figure of Sisyphus—fated to forever push a boulder up a hill that just rolled back down again later—actually had a great life free of confusing distractions and filled with focus. Oh, and the first issue also took a David Foster Wallace-esque stance on escapism, painting it as the author did in his opus Infinite Jest as at once incredibly dangerous but also possibly mankind’s natural and necessary state.

There are a lot of massive ideas here, so many that this story falls a bit into a common trap of second issues, lacking action in parts as it dispenses exposition left out of the previous issue. Sherman and Wordie’s art, however, makes the flashbacks and contemplations visually engaging, so much so that Sherman again furthers his case as one of the premiere sci-fi artists in all of comics (shout out to his other ongoing book, Cold War), both in terms of his technology and cityscapes.

Overall: This issue sought to meet a huge bar set by its predecessor, which as I wrote in my Wasted Space #1 review did an incredible job balancing action and ideas. The second issue falls just short of the first, but it’s still fantastic, doing the difficult yet necessary work of familiarizing us with our leads. I will for sure get wasted again next month. 8.5/10

Zack Quaintance is a career journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.