I read comics. So should you.

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.

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