I read comics. So should you.

The Stack-8/2/17

In new books, reviews on August 3, 2017 at 6:00 pm

Hi there! Okay, let’s just start off by addressing the Elephantmen in the room:

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No, not that one. Though you should read this comic. It’s incredibly good.

I disappeared in July. I’m sure you’re not interested in the least about why that occurred. It was part workload, and part crushing stress and depression. Believe me, there were astounding books on the shelves this past month, and I wish I could talk at length about them, but I haven’t yet tapped into the time-rewinding powers available in this busted timeline. I’ll just sum things up with a few choice statements, and then we’ll move on.

Check out Generation Gone. It’s nice to see Ales Kot putting out another comic full of rebellious vigor.

#makeminemilkshake: This was the result of really lowest-common-denominator hateful trolls trying to say women ruin comics, which is of course bullshit. I’m hesitant to give people like this any attention whatsoever, but I also have a tendency to jump into the fray and show solidarity when this behavior rears its pockmarked little head.

MAN do I LOVE Volstagg as War Thor.

Motor Girl from Terry Moore is making me laugh and cry in equal measure.

The Divided States of Hysteria cover controversy: I myself am divided (yuk yuk) when it comes to this. So Howard Chaykin drew a cover to this new Image book that portrayed a person of color lynched, with brutal mutilation. After it was revealed, there was push back substantial enough to get the art pulled. As you might expect, opinions landed all over the spectrum. Now me personally, I think Chaykin is allowing his political anger to steer him WAY off course with this comic. This is a stunt I’d expect from a youngster looking to shock in order to get their voice heard, and not from an industry veteran. ON THE OTHER HAND, people screaming for censorship, or clamoring for a full boycott of Image, need to rein that shit in. It’s art, and it’s subjective, and often awful, and it’s mostly protected as free expression. You can’t demand that it vanishes unless it is genuinely harmful. It’s not free from consequences, of course, so feel free to spend your money elsewhere, but you’re going down a dangerous path if you demand that someone is silenced.

Calexit, from Black Mask Studios, did a brilliant job of political what-iffing without getting heavy-handed or failing to entertain.

This week in comics: Comics full of emotion, comics taking big chances, and even a comic in 3-D! Let’s take a look:

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Champions #11 (Mark Waid, Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba, Edgar Delgado, VC’s Clayton Cowles-Marvel): I’ve felt that overall this series has been very uneven, but I continue to stick with it month after month because when it taps into its seemingly endless supply of heart and sticks to its core message (The new generation of heroes has to learn from the mistakes of their forebears and find a way that is better), it shines. And when it shines, all the squawking about forcing this team to happen falls away, and it really IS an inspirational superhero title.

This issue is a prime example of Champions at its best, and somehow while also being an event tie-in, which is sort of like being a superstar piccolo player, rocking sick woodwind solos when you’re meant to be working in concert with the rest of orchestra to produce a larger overall piece of music. Broken into teams after the Hydra attack on Las Vegas featured in Secret Empire, our protagonists search the ruins for any possible survivors, and it’s a completely gut-wrenching experience. I’m a bit torn on how this is executed, though. Viewing this operation at ground level, amidst the wreckage, you really feel how insane indiscriminately attacking over half a million people is, and feel even stalwarts like Hulk get overwhelmed, as hopelessness creeps in. On the other hand, we do not see a single casualty. There are no bodies. Anywhere. It’s a ghost town, and the horrors are (deftly, I’ll admit, through dialogue) communicated in a non-visual way. Now I understand that this is more of a teen+ book, but I have strong opinions about this approach. If you remove the warts-and-all consequences of violence, you produce a disconnect, which I find very irresponsible. The team did their best to compensate, but I really wonder if this was Mark Waid’s choice, or this came from editors. Mr. Waid is currently under fire for his treatment of characters in the new issue of Avengers (which I’d love to debate, if anyone is game), so I’ll just keep these musings under my cowl. It’s comics, after all, and barking online at creators over things like this miiiiiiiiiight just have something to do with them having office outbursts and quitting Twitter. We all need to take a deep breath, and remember to be respectful human beings to each other. But I digress, so let’s move on.

Hadrian’s Wall #8 (Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel, Rod Reis, Eduardo Ferigato, Troy Peteri, Rich Bloom-Image): I really need to go back and re-read this series, now that is has ended. Over the course of eight issues it has become a compelling tapestry of traditional Science Fiction, murder mystery, and relationship drama, illustrated beautifully in a style reminiscent of fantasy art magazines and anthologies like Heavy Metal. The power plays between characters and factions portrayed were very well-developed, but none really steal the show like the one between Annabelle and Simon, former lovers who were willing to go to great lengths to hurt each other after their relationship fell apart. In this final installment, trapped on a ship that is out of power and oxygen, the two finally decide that they want to truly bury the hatchet, before they’re both dead. They get the happy ending, but it’s more from the fact that they are ready to move on than that they are ultimately rescued and survive the perils of outer space. If you haven’t been picking this up, make sure you don’t miss the collection.

Alters #6 (Paul Jenkins, Leila Leiz, Leonardo Pacciarotti, Ryane Hill-Aftershock): There’s a truism that we are constantly losing sight of, and it’s that things are not always about us. We all want the spotlight on us at all times, and we all believe that our problems are the most important ones. In the first story arc of Alters, Chalice was front and center, trying her best to come to terms with being trans and a person with powers while saving the world from a very dangerous terrorist. These struggles are by no means over, but in the calm that has come after the showdown with Matter Man the focus now shifts to a woman named Sharise, struggling to raise two kids in poverty while coping with her own burgeoning powers. Chalice can sense her as a fellow alter, but Sharise wants none of her help or her sympathy. It’s extremely admirable that this team continues to expand its inclusion, and in a very thought-out way.

Spider-Man #19 (Brian Michael Bendis, Oscar Bazaldua, Jason Keith, VC’s Cory Petit-Marvel): Sometimes, it’s perfectly fine for a superhero story to just put down its fists for a little while and spend some time simply as a drama. Particularly a story primarily about teenagers. So this issue is more about life, and the everyday ups and downs. Ganke is flirting on his phone with Danika, Fabio mysteriously disappears after reflecting on his fight with Hammerhead, and Miles’s parents do their best to clear the air and focus on guiding their child. There’s also an interesting scene where Ganke voices the concerns of fans who would rather see legacy characters doing their own unique thing instead, and one where Hammerhead is looking for new and dangerous ways to get his payback. A solid, low-key, sitcom (in a good way) issue.

Shade, the Changing Girl #11 (Cecil Castellucci, Marley Zarcone, Ande Parks, Kelly Fitzpatrick, Saida Temofonte-DC/Young Animal): At last, Shade has arrived in Hollywood, and just in time to prevent the elderly star of her favorite Earth TV show from taking her own life. She uses her madness powers to perform the ‘ol Freaky Friday body swap, and puts forth a deal: Honey will teach her about life and being human, and Shade will take it all in through the matured senses of her idol’s form. When Shade’s done, she lets Honey die. Sprinkled throughout the issue as this plays out are Mellu’s continued scheming, the collection and weaponization of Shade’s power by US authorities, River and Teacup’s attempts to track down Shade, and classy paper dolls. This continues to be one of the most fascinatingly creative books out there. It’s young adult fiction processed through the filter of an alien poet, and it’s gorgeous.

So there we go. Back on track, and enjoying the stack. Feel free to comment and share and follow me on social media @rabbit11comics. As always, thank you for reading and for reading comics. Please support your local shops, be good, and I’ll see you in seven.

The Stack-6/28/17

In new books, reviews on June 29, 2017 at 2:18 pm

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This week in comics: A whole lot of jaw-dropping, revelatory moments. It was exhausting, and wonderful. But first, apologies are in order.

I’m overly skeptical of nostalgia and crossover gimmicks, to say the VERY least, so naturally I felt it incumbent on myself to take a big ‘ol poop on DC’s latest superhero/Looney Tunes mash-up specials as soon as they were announced. None received more of my spleen ventings than Batman/Elmer Fudd. Why? It seemed so absurd, in the most crass and exploitative way. “What can you possibly do with this?” I thought. You either make Batman look Joel Schumacher-levels of hokey, or you try to make comedic cartoons dark and edgy, which is only a SLIGHTLY worse crime in my eyes than, say, co-opting those cartoons in order to sell your dumb fucking truck mud flaps or ‘urban’ t-shirts.

Despite how cranky I can be, I always keep an open mind, and try not to level substantial criticism against any comic without having read it first. So, I read it. Turns out, it’s both successful in its execution, AND very enjoyable. Let me be clear: It’s not that I doubted the impressive talents and abilities of Tom King and Lee Weeks; I simply didn’t think you could put this particular chocolate in that particular peanut butter and get anything other than corporate dysentery. I was wrong. This creative team rose to the challenge, and made something engaging, that was reverential without being tiresome, and stood on its own as a story. It appears that when you make the Looney Tunes into human citizens of Gotham, it’s a perfect fit. It also needs to be said that Lee Weeks needs to be the sole illustrator of Batman comics going forward. To my shame, I had forgotten what an artistic powerhouse this guy is.

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And now, with foot firmly planted in mouth, it’s time for me to review my other favorites from this Wednesday:

Mother Panic #8 (Jody Houser, John Paul Leon, Dave Stewart, John Workman-DC/Young Animal): The hunt for the body bag killer continues, and Violet bullshits her way closer to her prey using the only resources she really has available: the internet, Otis’s army of rats, and her fame’s uncanny ability to get her on television. There’s some great scenes elaborating on her cybernetic implants, and artists John Paul Leon and Dave Stewart really convey just how much pain and suffering those devices are causing her. For my $3.99, this is a far more compelling tale of crime-fighting in Gotham than most of the actual Bat-family books right now.

Black Magick #6 (Greg Rucka, Nicola Scott, Jodi Wynne, Chiara Arena-Image): At last, the triumphant return of one of my favorite new Image titles! In this issue we see Rowan, in a ritual on her thirteenth birthday, contacting her entire lineage, and then nearly going mad with anger and despondency as a result of having lifetimes of distrust, abuse, torture, and murder thrust upon her in one night. This story of a witch who works as a police detective has been top notch, and I really must stress again how strong this book is on ALL fronts. Nicola Scott’s greyscale art is mindblowing, adding flourishes of color precisely when they’re needed. It’s rare to see lettering that’s a deviation from the norm, but Jodi Wynne’s is a perfect example, clear yet distinctive, and more thematically true. Do yourself a favor and get caught up now.

Secret Weapons #1 (Eric Heisserer, Raúl Allén, Patricia Martín-Valiant): This miniseries is another great example of delving deeper into superpowered characters who get overlooked and ignored–the C and D-listers. In this case they have literally been left behind by their benefactor, the infamous Toyo Harada. Without his wealth and protection they are exposed, struggling, and prime targets for an alien creature that absorbs abilities from bathing in the blood of psiots. Enter Livewire, a former student and soldier of Harada’s who wants to do for these kids what no one else would. This was a terrific first issue, with particularly creative use of character powers and page layouts. If you’re a Valiant diehard, or someone who enjoys comics like Generation X or Runaways, you’ll  want to check this one out.

Saucer State #2 (Paul Cornell, Ryan Kelly, Adam Guzowski, Simon Bowland-IDW): So this is it. An alien intelligence has been spotted at the edge of our solar system, and is advancing. President Alvarado has no choice but to snap into action and confront the greatest shitstorm of panic that the human race has ever known, and she does so with flying colors, assembling an inner cabinet that will advise her on how best to approach the subject with the rest of the world. Meanwhile, Major Abramowitz is seeing to some scheming loose ends, and the greys appear with one hell of a revelation. The feeling here is similar to what’s going on now in the final arc of Letter 44. Both are outstanding comics, and are required reading for fans of Sci-Fi, alien stories, and conspiracy theories.

Saga #44 (Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples, Fonografiks-Image): Wandering a hostile backwater planet, trying to deal with Alana’s miscarriage and the bizarre magical powers that it’s imparting to her, Hazel and her parents are devising a train-hopping Plan B while some locals close in on Petrichor and the ship. The ending is of course another unforeseen shocker, but I’d like to take a moment to focus on those locals. What’s intriguing here is that they are a sort of mirror image of our main characters: a man and woman from very different races (one is a black human, the other is a white centaur), who had a mixed child that no one else around them approves of. The difference here is in ideology. This family seem to be decidedly pro-life (in terms of the unborn, anyway–they had no qualms about murdering adults, even pregnant ones), whereas Alana and Marko came to this place seeking an abortion (though due to the disturbing miscarriage). One of our longest, most heated disputes in this country is playing out in the pages of Saga, with all the grey areas that it entails. Bravo.

And that’s just about it for this week. As always, thank you for reading comics, and for reading this. Feel free to comment and share, and follow me on Twitter and Instagram @rabbit11comics. Don’t forget to support your local shops, be good, and I’ll see you in seven.

The Stack-6/14 & 6/21/17

In new books, reviews on June 22, 2017 at 11:49 pm

Bah-weep-Graaaaagnah wheep ni ni bong, everybody! So yeah, you COULD go and see YET ANOTHER pandering, garbled mess of a Transformers movie this weekend, OR you can hear me out for a minute and learn about all of the amazing comic books that came out recently, and spend your hard-earned energon on those instead, thus making the world a better place. If Transformers 5 had a poor showing at the box office, perhaps Hollywood would get the message that we’re tired of formulaic shit. With comics sales on the rise, perhaps we’ll just continue to get more of them, and their creators won’t need to rely on Patreon to make ends meet. Some win-win food for thought, free of charge.

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Let’s start with last week’s books, which I failed to cover in a timely fashion because, despite having played every single Persona game, I am still terrible at time management. More accurately, the little time I had left after playing Persona 5 for far too long was not managed well. I am merely mortal, folks, and my hobbies are many. Okay, before this goes from digression to full blown video game review, let’s get to the comics.

Cinema Purgatorio #10 (Alan Moore, Kevin O’Neill, Garth Ennis, Raulo Caceres, Max Brooks, Gabriel Andrade, Keiron Gillen, Nahuel Lopez, Christos Gage, Kurt Hathaway-Avatar Press): Look, I know the arguments. Many of you have Alan Moore burnout. They just announced a Watchmen reboot TV show. You’re tired of his name being used as comic book cool kid currency. Perhaps you don’t like just how often sexual assault shows up in his work. Just bear with me for a moment, and trust in your old pal Jared. He won’t steer you wrong, even when he talks in the third person like a total wanker. This book is REALLY good. All of the work in it is strong, and it contains one of my favorite Moore stories, which goes right up there with Promethea and Miracleman. We see from the point of view of the main character that they are trapped in a purgatory consisting of an old movie house, one which shows films that are familiar, but also bizarre. Moore uses this as his platform to dissect the malicious underbelly of Hollywood and other studios responsible for the cartoons, movies, and news reels of yesteryear. This latest installment is pure inspired brilliance. In it we’re subjected to a children’s film starring precocious, sleuthing scamps who, appropriately enough, are investigating a cursed cinema. The kids’ aunt mentions that movies played there skip, are missing frames, and that sometimes a hair will get caught in the gate of the projector. Soon after, those things happen to the very film these kids are IN, only from their perspective that manifests as time jumps and an otherworldly centipede demon. Things go from innocence to horror so quickly that it is genuinely jarring. You can say a lot about Alan Moore, but you cannot say that he has lost his ability to layer a unique story, and deliver it with real impact.

Winnebago Graveyard #1 (Steve Niles, Alison Sampson, Stephane Paitreau, Aditya Bidikar-Image): Steve Niles is one of comicdom’s great horror writers, responsible for fan favorites like 30 Days of Night and Criminal Macabre. In his latest, a miniseries about a family taking a road trip that goes horribly awry, he combines some of the great horror movie tropes like creepy carnivals and small town death cults into something uniquely unnerving. What really makes it all gel so well is the sketchy, atmospheric look of Alison Sampson’s artwork. I keep paging through and finding new details.

Secret Empire #4 (Nick Spencer, Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, Sunny Gho, Rod Reis, Joshua Cassara, Rachelle Rosenberg, VC’s Travis Lanham-Marvel): Just a quick word or two on this issue. There is some new, messed-up fusion of Hank Pym and Ultron that lives in Alaska, and it is my new favorite thing in the Marvel Universe. That is all.

Green Valley #9 (Max Landis, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cliff Rathburn, Jean-Francois Beaulieu, Pat Brosseau-Image): The exploits of the Knights of Kelodia come to an end in this oversized final issue, and it’s a surprisingly happy end for our heroes, having overcome a time-travelling criminal from the future and his pet dinosaurs. I’m eager to see more from everyone involved with this title. It was a beautifully constructed little crowd pleaser.

Bug! The Adventures of Forager #2 (Lee Allred, Michael Allred, Laura Allred, Nate Piekos of Blambot-DC/Young Animal): The Allred family are unique in the comics world for many reasons, but after reading another issue of Bug! two things stand out most to me: They have a genuine reverence for the classics, and they communicate that love with a carefree, adventurous spirit that you can’t help but smile at. If I didn’t hate garbage words like ‘wholesome’ so much, I’d use it to describe this. It’s fun but never too cheesy. It’s like your dad showing you his comic collection, if your dad had a brief flirtation with psychedelics and a proper love of Jack Kirby. Set in World War Two, this month’s journey has appearances from The Losers, Sandman, Blue Beetle, and lots of abominable snowmen.

Bitch Planet Triple Feature #1 (Cheryl Lynn Eaton, Maria Fröhlich, Andrew Aydin, Joanna Estep, Conley Lyons, Craig Yeung, Marco D’Alfonso-Image): One thing I believe that we need a lot more of in comics are rebellious political voices. I mean that. Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro’s Bitch Planet has been leading the charge, telling the story of a prison planet exclusively for women who will not submit to the will of men, and doing it with a middle finger planted firmly in your face the whole time. The Triple Feature lets some other creative teams add to this world, showing what perceived transgressions can get a woman, in an already bad set of circumstances, with the deck stacked against her, arrested, banished, and confined. Each tale is disturbingly familiar, but ends in a defiant awakening for the main character. And just like in the core title, there are some really thought-provoking essays included at the end.

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Moving on to the current week. It just MIGHT be my favorite of 2017 so far. It was a magical rainbow of genre, tone, and nudity, like a swinger party sponsored by Skittles. Now that that awkward simile is out of my system, let’s take a look at the highlights.

Shirtless Bear-Fighter #1 (Jody Leheup, Sebastian Girner, Nil Vendrell, Mike Spicer, Dave Lanphear-Image): The following sentence is entirely true: This comic book is about a man with a huge dong who loves flapjacks and punching bears. If that doesn’t sell you on the book, I don’t think anything will. Inspired lunacy in the spirit of recent Image greats like Chew and God Hates Astronauts.

Nick Fury #3 (James Robinson, Aco, Hugo Petrus, Rachelle Rosenberg, Travis Lanham-Marvel): This book is an absolute work of art. I obsessively study each issue, because they are a perfect storm of story and art, form and flash. It’s a straightforward spy thriller at its core, but that simple framework allows the penciller, inker, and colorist to craft a mesmerizing sensory overload on each page. It’s bold, and it’s enchanting, like the man himself.

Royal City #4 (Jeff Lemire, Steve Wands-Image): This was a gut punch right in the feels. If you too are a struggling creative person who bailed on your hometown as soon as you possibly could, and are now staring down the barrel of forty, trying to formulate a plan for your third act, you will probably weep like a baby after reading this.

God Country #6 (Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, Jason Wordie, Dee Cunniffe, John J. Hill-Image): Speaking of crying, in this final issue Donny Cates and company totally stick the landing in this tale of fathers and sons and giant magic swords. It beautifully conveys how precious and brief human lives are, and how they transcend and become immortal through story and memory, though not in a saccharine way. These characters are Texas boys, after all.

The Mighty Thor #20 (Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, Matthew Wilson, Valerio Schiti, Veronica Gandini, VC’s Joe Sabino-Marvel): Now let’s stop being mopey and move on to– ah crap, time for more crying. SPOILERS Jane, trying to explain herself to the Odinson, collapses on the ground, possibly succumbing at last to her cancer, and it occurs just as the realm of Nidavellir is attacked, with Muspelheim Firefly Riders burning a camp of elf refugees. Volstagg of the Warriors Three has children with him during the attack, and they die in his arms. In a daze, he goes to Old Asgard and discovers the hammer of Ultimate Thor, calling to him. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new War Thor. SHIT IS ON.

Plastic #3 (Doug Wagner, Daniel Hillyard, Laura Martin, Ed Dukeshire-Image): Okay, we need to have a brief discussion about this book, since we’re in Downerland at the moment. I think it may have crossed a line. I know how that sounds. It is, after all, a book about a guy brutally killing others who have wronged his sex doll. But wow, there is some absolutely repugnant sexual assault in this issue. And while the woman involved survives it, and even asks to join Edwyn on his bloody quest for revenge, it just feels like too much. It feels lurid, and too easily dismissed. If you’ve read it too and want to exchange notes, please do so, because this one really bugs me.

Crosswind #1 (Cat Staggs, Gail Simone, Simon Bowland-Image): And that brings us to Gail Simone’s newest book, in what I’m ashamed to say is my worst segue ever. It too involves a woman who, while not physically attacked, is harassed and belittled to the point where it will fill you with rage just reading about it. But then the twist hits, and you get the suspicion that all this is building to what can only be described as Grade A motherfucking comeuppance. SPOILERS It would appear that this browbeaten housewife has just switched bodies with a man so stone cold that he shot his childhood friend dead just to keep his boss happy. It’s the ‘Freaky Friday’ body swap trope, but I’m completely confident that there’s much more in store than just a couple of fish out of water.

Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #1 (Chip Zdarsky, Adam Kubert, Jordie Bellaire-Marvel): Let’s end back on a fun and silly note, shall we? Cool. So even if you only possess a passing knowledge of modern Marvel comics, you know that there are a buttload of Spider-People running around, including multiple versions of Spider-Man. Among them of course is the original Peter Parker, primarily over in The Amazing Spider-Man. That’s where all the drama happens, and that’s fine, but too often it feels like something is missing. That something is Spidey’s trademark wisecracks, quips, and put downs. Where did they go? Fear not, because Chip Zdarsky is here with a new Spectacular title, chock full of web-swinging and joke-slinging, and plenty of verbal and physical sparring with folks like The Human Torch, Ant-Man, and Ironheart. It’s goofy and gleeful, and I suspect it is exactly what folks will be looking for after going to see Homecoming next month.

Okay, it’s time for me to shoosh my face and get some sleep. Thanks for reading comics, and for reading this. Feel free to comment, share, and follow me on various social media spots at the links below. Don’t forget to support your local shops, be good, and I’ll see you crazy kids in seven.