Welcome to the Best Panels of the Week article where I take a look at standout panels from comics this past week. I do want to note the lateness of this article. I apologize for that as the election and life made it hard to get this done in a timely fashion.
Hellblazer: Rise and Fall #2
I think we could all use a drink after this past week, or at least a stiff beverage of your choosing. There may not be a better panel this week that embodies the insanity of our current world than offering to get hammered with the literal devil. Seems fitting not only for Constantine but the place we currently find ourselves. Also why I love the absurdity of comics sometimes. You can get moments like this.
Story By: Tom Taylor / Art By: Darick Robertson / Color By: Diego Rodriguez / Lettering By: Deron Bennett
Wolverine: Black, White & Blood #1
This was a big week for violence in comics. I guess you could say every week is but what made it stand out a great deal was this series. Not since the Max Imprint was a mainstay has a Marvel book had such a high level of actual blood. Blood to this level does not automatically make something good, however, when it is executed well it can add to the severity of a battle. Love the use of red here especially how it helps highlight the shift from scene to scene. Also, I am a massive fan of the classic Weapon X Costume. If you are going to have a Marvel character let loose it would be Wolverine in this state.
Writer: Gerry Duggan / Artist: Adam Kubert / Colorist: Frank Martin / Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Now, this is a panel from the same comic but not nearly as bloody. It should be noted this issue was an anthology design with three separate stories from different creative teams. With there being less violence there is also a limited use of red. Mostly using the ‘SNKIT!’ to do the heavy lifting. You have Wolverine doing what he does best, but also in the distance Nick Fury with a small smirk enjoying the show. Right with you there, Nick.
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg / Artist: Joshua Cassara / Colorist: Guru-eFX / Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Here you have a similar flying stance as the panel above although this time Wolverine is taking a bit more damage. That does indicate a lot about who Wolverine is as a person. Jumping with your arms extended like that may not be the most tactical choice. Seems to do nothing more than make you a bigger target. For Wolverine though it is more about the intimidation factor because we all know he can take the damage. What makes this though are the smaller panels below. Displaying violent acts opens up the options for an artist. What is happening here is rather gruesome but it is not shown in a way that overly fetishizes the violence. Redding out the entire panel to represent the bloodshot rather than directly show it.
Writer, Artist, Colorist: Delcan Shalvey / Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Lost Soldiers #4
We continue to look at how violence is depicted with Lost Soldiers #4. Here we see a greater sense of realism applied compared to what is shown above. A quick “BANG” and a life quickly splatters onto the open door of a rundown building. Quick and to the point. Then we see that facial expression. A stare that says so much in an instant. Where the futility of life returns with a vengeance. For a moment this kid who has been turned into a killer receives a bit of his innocence back. Fear of what he knows is behind him consumes his being as he waits to see if his future is set for a similar fate.
Writer: Alex Kot / Artist: Luca Casalanguida / Color Artist: Heather Marie Lawrence Moore / Letterer: Aditya Bidika / Designer: Tom Muller
Star Wars Adventures: Shadow of Vader’s Castle #1
So I wanted to take a break from all the violence to shift to the world of Star Wars. When people talk about Star Wars you often hear about trying to relive the ‘Star Wars magic’. It is never clear what exactly that is to people. Honestly, it seems people are just trying to get something new to live up to a childhood memory rather than something quantitative. If there is something about Star Wars that makes it unique it’s how it can be overly self-indulgent and it still work. Case and point this panel. This celebrates Darth Vader iconography as Anakin Skywalker causes dust to form in the shape of his future lair. Is it ridiculous? Yes, very much so. For the world of Star Wars, this works in the right context.
Writer: Cavan Scott / Artists: Derek Charm / Letterer: Valeria Lopez
Star Wars #8
Now with this panel, I did not choose it because of how it celebrates Star Wars. Instead, this stood out because of the shot chosen. I have read, watched, and even listened to a lot of Star Wars and have not quite seen a shot choice like this. Shot choice can do a lot to add flavor to a comic. Similar to World War II bomber runs, space is filled with ships as they attempt to survive within all the chaos. Of course, that is fitting considering how much of Star Wars is inspired by WWII combat and strategy.
Writer: Charles Soule / Artist: Ramon Rosanas / Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg / Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
The Dreaming: Waking Hours #4
Here is another example of how shot choice can enhance both a panel artistically and storytelling wise. Add to that a hint of irony and you have a special panel. Shakespeare was the King of Irony so this works on a number of levels. Seeing him walk out and state, ‘This is poorly staged’ within a panel that is wonderfully composed made me verbally chuckle. Everything from the creature presenting him as a literal god to the characters standing in shadow in the foreground draws your eye to Shakespeare. Quite the clever moment.
This is a panel chosen for reasons that have nothing to do with art. Having a character express how challenging being a parent can be especially when facing that challenge alone was an honest choice. Based on my limiting experience I find this type of moment is more common than we like to admit. I appreciated the honesty here that breaks the veneer people try to hide behind to pretend everything is perfectly fine. Shakespeare too gets a humanizing moment. Which is a weird sentence to write and say a lout. The wonderful world of comics. Fantasy is best when it takes time to take a breath. To show it is not only about the journey. It is also about who these characters are as people–warts and all.
Written By: G. Willow Wilson / Art By: Nick Robles/ Colors By: Mat Lopes / Letters By: Simon Bowland
That Texas Blood #5
Here we see That Texas Blood is living up to its name. Keeping with the theme of depicting violence we get a panel that is more about the aftermath. How one would try to wash away the sins of past actions. What got me with this panel was the coloring because it is deceptively complicated. Trying to construct a reflection shot of a person looking into bloody water is not easy. You have to be able to feel like you are seeing an actual person while at the same time not lose the consistency of the water. The combination of the ripple effect with the blotchiness of the red makes it all work.
Written By: Chris Condon / Art By: Jacob Phillips
Miles Morales: Spider-Man #20
Yay, more violence! Perhaps this is around the level you would expect from a Marvel comic. Artist Marcelo Ferreira has been developing to quite the artist with this series. Nearly every issue has had a standout moment like this. Using a lot of quick-cut panels helps exemplify the speed of Spider-Man. As the fight continues those panels cut more and more to demonstrate the increased intensity. Spider-Man is not a character I want to see covered in his opponent’s blood al too often. There are times though where he needs to beyond the norm if the situation calls for it. You got that proper buildup with this arc so by the time a scene like this comes it feels not only appropriate but necessary.
Writer: Saladin Ahmen / Penciler: Marcelo Ferreira / Inkers: Wayne Faucher & Marcelo Ferreira / Color Artist: David Curiel / Letters: VC’s Cory Petit
Guardians of the Galaxy #8
I do not have a great deal to say about this panel outside the fact that moments like this are why comics are great. We got a comic that was an old school murder mystery set in space with Rocket Racoon playing the part of Colombo–and it was good. Right, when I read this panel I realized they were just going for it. Every trope you would expect was leaned into for full effect. Sometimes it is okay to just have fun. These are the funny books after all.
Script: Al Ewing / Artist: Marcio Takara / Colors: Ferderico Blee / Letters: VC’s Cory Petit
Red Sonja #21
I long debated including the entire page because cutting off this bit of dlialg does not do this conversation justice. However, this is not called the best pages it’s called the best panels so I choose to go with the most important part. Mark Russell is one of the best writers in any medium that talks about faith and religion. He brings a level of knowledge and insight that make books like The Flinstones and Second Coming so good. You also have moments like this in Red Sonja that turn a sidebar conversation into a time to reflect. Can something untrue be useful? Does belief require one to leave open the possibility of being wrong? Is being open the difference between zealots and profits? I do not know the complete answers to those questions but love that they are being asked inside a Red Sonja comic.
Writer: Mark Russell / Illustrators: Alessandro Miracolo, Vincenzo Federici / Colorist: Dearbhla Kelly / Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Spy Island #3
A flaming skull doing dubstep is something I would pay to see. I guess I kind of am since I do buy this book. Worth every penny. Similar to the Red Sonja panel I almost included the entire page as this was a three-panel joke. The bottom two were by far my favorite though. A zombie going to Harvard is the best 80’s sitcom that never was. Maybe a Netflix movie that will be. Two years can change a lot as well. From punk rock to full prep sounds about right for teenage years.
Creators: Chelsea Cain & Lia Meternique / Writer: Chelsea Cain / Artist: Elise Mccall / Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg / Letterer: Joe Caramagna, Eliza Fantastic Mohan
Fire Power #5
You know it is a weird week when the Image series about Kung-Fu warriors is one of the least violent books that came out. Not that it was void of action. Chris Samnee constructed quite the fight scene in this issue. I loved this moment as our lead character gets to feel what a baseball feels like. Fantastic lettering there and it is a nice touch to have it interact with the actual scene. This is one of those times where you can feel the impact.
Writer: Robert Kirkman / Artist: Chris Samnee / Colorist: Matt Wilson / Letterer: Rus Wooton
Sweet Tooth: The Return #1
Anytime we can get Jeff Lemire doing interior art I am here for it. When that art is inside a new Sweet Tooth book that is a double win. Typically I prefer his art in black and white but this coloring is fantastic. What a use of shadow. Having this man hold Sweet Tooth’s face in this way is so unnerving. What should be a gentle gesture comes off as straight evil when matched with that facial expression. It demonstrates this sense of control. This is not a gesture to elicit love but fear and dominance.
Writer/Artist: Jeff Lemire / Colorist: Jose Villarrubia / Letterer: Steve Wands
Black Widow #3
So let’s finish this week with some more violence. I guess I just cannot get enough. The most important thing with action in comics is being able to follow what is happening. There’s no issue here putting together each and every major beat. Despite there only being three main panels a lot is happening. That mini panel brings you in to see how accurate Black Widow can be. Those sound effects are effective as well. Their size demonstrates how loud they are while their font is reflective of what they sound like.
I have seen many attempt panels like this, but rarely are they this well-executed. Taking a page from David Aja‘s book of tricks with the highlight panels to call out key beats. Again the key to good action is fluidity and here each movement leads directly to the next. You can easily follow everything from start to finish without an issue. Artist Elena Casagrande is doing some impressive work that could launch her into the top echelon of comic book artists. If that Black Widow movie ever does come out I hope more people take notice of this series.
Writer: Kelly Thompson / Artist: Elena Casagrande / Color Artist: Jordie Bellaire / Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit