I read comics. So should you.

The Stack-1/18/17

In new books on January 19, 2017 at 1:34 pm

Two weird comics things cross my mind as I type this: I get nervous whenever it feels like the 90s are creeping back in, and right now it must really seem like I have a strong anti-Rebirth bias going on. Allow me to briefly address this.

So the 90s thing. Some of you may be too young to remember, or weren’t into comics back then, but the 90s almost killed the comics business. To oversimplify, I’ll just say that there was a shift toward gimmicky collectability. Every new book had to have a ton of variant covers, and these covers were often foil-embossed or encased in a special polybag. Everything was marketed as a collector’s item, one that’s sure to increase in value (even though we printed millions of them) in no time flat. People who saw comics as an investment swooped in. Home shopping networks got in on the insanity. A bubble formed, and soon popped. Companies went belly-up. Marvel had to sell off movie rights to avoid sinking. It was a dark time, and I never want to see it happen again. So yeah, when I see Image doing 25th anniversary variants in that same style I chuckle, but it’s a nervous chuckle. When I see Valiant comics with send-away variant coupons tucked inside, my eyes roll so hard that the sockets sigh. PLEASE, comic book industry: let’s not do this shit all over again.

Now, a few words about DC’s Rebirth. The entire conceit behind this relaunch did not exactly fill me with confidence from the start. I’m not big on taking steps backward. I really fucking despise nostalgia. I don’t want any ‘good ol’ days’ crap. I don’t need it. The past is what it was, and we’re eternally in the present, where things are always changing, always moving forward. It shouldn’t be a scary prospect; it should be EXCITING. That’s what I want in my comics. Show me something new, bring in a new perspective–just EXCITE ME again. I don’t want to live in a feedback loop where each successive iteration has a slightly more pungent degradation to it. Is that what Rebirth actually IS? I can’t say that it is, entirely. I’ve tried a few of the titles so far: The Rebirth Special, All-Star Batman, Batman, and The Hellblazer. I am a fan of the creators involved, but these really did nothing for me. Still, in the interest of fairness, now that the first trade paperbacks are arriving, I’ll be trying a bunch more to see if any stand out. Top of the list is Rucka’s Wonder Woman, and I’ve heard good things about Green Arrow. I’m looking forward to the new Batwoman, too. So expect a follow up, and maybe, JUST MAYBE, some Rebirth stuff will get added to the stack.

And now, on to this week’s Wednesday warrior treasure trove:

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Curse Words #1 (Charles Soule, Ryan Browne, Jordan Boyd, Michael Parkinson, Chris Crank, Shawn Depasquale-Image): I’ve been eagerly anticipating this book since I was fortunate enough to get an ashcan edition of it last year at the Retailer Summit. This is a story about a badass wizard that is sent to our world to prepare it for the coming of a dark overlord named Sizzajee. What happens instead is that the wizard falls in love with how free we are, and decides to be a spellcaster-for-hire while flirting with being a good guy for once in his life. There are of course hefty repercussions. I have absolutely no idea if this is true at all, but Curse Words feels like Ryan Browne, known for zany, free-form comics like God Hates Astronauts, took lawyer (no, seriously) and writer Charles Soule out for beer and convinced him to take a step sideways from things like Letter 44 and just get magically twisted. And now, thanks to that collaboration (however it actually happened), we have talking koala bears (#teammargaret), pop stars who want to literally go platinum, and hogtaurs. If that isn’t worth four bucks a month, I don’t know what is.

Invincible Iron Man #3 (Brian Michael Bendis, Stefano Caselli, Marte Gracia, VC’s Clayton Cowles-Marvel): The torch has been passed to Riri Williams, and now it’s time for the ladies to be in charge. Control of Stark’s company has been given to his birth mother, Amanda Armstrong, and she plans on doing all she can to improve the world, backed up by Mary Jane and Friday, the AI construct. Showing Riri the ropes of the often deadly world of superhero-ing is none other than Pepper Potts, though she may be a little too late. The haters can keep on hating, become the truth is that this book is awesome. If you truly don’t understand the importance of legacy in superhero fiction, perhaps it’s time to move on to something else. I just now tried to come up with an example of something exceptionally boring and consistent, but I can’t. Life is change. The sooner we all accept that, the better.

Black Hammer Giant-Sized Annual (Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston, Nate Powell, Dave Stewart, Matt Kindt, Sharlene Kindt, Dustin Nguyen, Ray Fawkes, Emi Lenox, Michael Allred, Todd Klein-Dark Horse): Colonel Weird is without a doubt one of the most tragic figures in comic books today, and this annual is all about another of his mind-bending journeys through the Para-Zone, where he encounters a strange entity that has touched the lives of every member of his team at some point. Featuring stories by an impressive lineup of art luminaries, it manages to be beautifully heartbreaking in that way that only stories about being helpless in the presence of fate can be.

Kill or Be Killed #5 (Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser-Image): Speaking of fate, it is also the narrative throughline of this issue as well. Dylan continues down the path of murderous vigilante, trying to justify his actions as he prepares for each new target, springing to action when a heartless white-collar criminal serendipitously crosses paths with him. It all goes pear-shaped in a hurry, and he suddenly realizes, “The world is nothing but chaos… and chaos will fuck us all eventually”. Poetry. As is Sean Phillips’s art on… well, EVERYTHING he does. I’m constantly fascinated with his line work, and use of shadow. It’s like he’s simply recording these events in the world’s most impressive sketchbook.

Generation Zero #6 (Fred Van Lente, Diego Bernard, Javier Pulido, Andrew Dalhouse, David Baron, Dave Sharpe-Valiant): I have really been digging what Van Lente has been doing in this book. There’s a sort of junior A-Team vibe with psiots who escaped from the corporate forces looking to exploit their powers. There’s a little bit of The Prisoner in the way this mysterious town of Rook is presented, with its Cornermen and mind-control beverages. Despite me using those reference points, the book really has coalesced into its own thing, and it’s deeply intriguing and still a lot of fun. Observations that I had about this issue: Gamete, the psychic fetus who controls the body of her brain-dead mother, is just about the most unsettling character I’ve ever seen. That psychotic, wide-eyed stare freaks me out every time I see it. Bonus points for the Settlers of Catan reference. I love the Heroscape idea, and how it gives an opportunity to explore other art styles and genres within the pages of what is at its core a superhero comic.

That wraps things up for now. As always, feel free to share your thoughts and picks in the comments, and make sure you support your local shop.

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