This week in comics: Wonderful number ones and twos, bracing for more cancellations, and The Bendis shows us just how poorly superheroics and family mix. But first, in the battle of band-inspired books, who wins?
(Here’s a hint: IT’S FUCKING SLAYER)
Eleanor & the Egret #1 (John Layman, Sam Keith, Ronda Pattison-Aftershock): What do you get when you put the creators of Chew and The Maxx on the same title? You get the quirky story of an art thief and her magical talking bird. You get the full Sam Keith experience, including unconventional page layouts, coloring that pops and swirls, figures clad in flowing fabrics and towering hats, and unnecessary yet charming reminder balloons. You get a book unlike any other on the shelves. Got it? Good.
Shade the Changing Girl #7 (Cecil Castellucci, Marguerite Sauvage, Becky Cloonan, Saida Temofonte-DC/Young Animal): Shade has been living up to its pedigree and potential each month, carving out its own unique path while maintaining a tether to the works of Peter Milligan and company that came before it. This story of an alien that traveled to our planet and found itself in the body of a high school bully has been an inferno of emotion, poetry, and psychedelia, and I really think it all starts to gel in the best possible way with this latest issue. Here we get some much-needed back story on the Avian formerly known as Loma, and where their wanderlust came from, as well as all sorts of parallels they share with the former Shade. After the flashbacks, the issue builds to a moment when those wronged by Megan, the girl Loma now inhabits, get their revenge, and the realization hits that it’s time to outrun the past and see what Earth has to offer. All of this is illustrated beautifully by Marguerite Sauvage, and it’s a feast for the eyes.
Black Cloud #1 (Jason Latour, Ivan Brandon, Greg Hinkle, Matt Wilson, Dee Cunniffe, Aditya Bidikar, Tom Muller-Image): This is my favorite kind of story, for two reasons. First, it’s the kind that is difficult to describe to other people. My recommendation to friends and customers ends up being, “Just read it!” ( I promise this speaks more about the creator’s wild imagination, and less about my laziness and habit of stumbling over my words). Second, it’s a story about the power of stories, so it’s a mysterious little imp of a meta-narrative. It revolves around a woman who is a homeless nobody in our world, staying alive by giving the disenchanted rich a tour through other realms. Beyond that, issue one is a sublimely rendered collection of questions, with answers looming in the distance. Dive right in, you won’t be disappointed.
Champions #7 (Mark Waid, Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba, Edgar Delgado, VC’s Clayton Cowles-Marvel): Champions is a book about youth, the good and the bad. Cyclops, Hulk, Ms. Marvel, Nova, Spider-Man, and Viv made a decision to form a team of their own, separate from those like The Avengers, with a mission statement full of wide-eyed optimism, social media connection, and solving problems without all the property damage and dead bodies. This particular issue is all about the naivete of that stance, as they deal with getting set up by The Freelancers, a team with a completely mercenary approach and no moral compass. In a final cruel twist, SPOILERS the heroes are confronted with their logo, now trademarked by their enemies and splashed across products that are completely antithetical to what they stand for. The lesson: Be ever vigilant, or evil will totally co-opt your shit.
Extremity #2 (Daniel Warren Johnson, Mike Spicer, Rus Wooton-Image): Let me start off by apologizing for not covering issue one of this series. It slipped past my radar, and I did not get to read it until just recently. But when I finally sat down and cracked open a copy, it absolutely rocked my damn world. It’s a Sci-Fi adventure drama, a tale of revenge and tribal warfare, and it lives in a fascinating and fully realized world of massive airships and deadly beasts and terrifying cruelty. I am now a total fanboy for creator Daniel Warren Johnson. His art is stunningly visceral, reminiscent of greats like Paul Pope and Geof Darrow, and it pulls me into each and every page. I can’t recommend this one enough.
Motor Girl #5 (Terry Moore-Abstract Studio): I absolutely adore Terry Moore’s work. From Strangers in Paradise to Rachel Rising and now Motor Girl, you will always find a very human center to whatever madness is happening in the narrative, driven by strong, compelling characters, and a joyfully independent spirit that permeates everything. Case in point: Sam, a former Marine Sergeant who was beaten and tortured by the enemy while deployed, has visions of a big friendly Gorilla who is her only close companion now that she works alone in a junkyard. Her and her employer, a fiery old lady named Libby, are caught in the middle of a bizarre alien visitation and the weapon developer who wants to intercept it. How can you NOT read that? And if you dare to complain that the comic is in black and white I will throw extra ripe durian fruit at you.
It’s time for the Bendis double-trouble feature!
Jessica Jones #7 (Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos, Matt Hollingsworth, VC’s Cory Petit, David Mack-Marvel) & Spider-Man #15 (Brian Michael Bendis, Szymon Kudranski, Justin Ponsor, VC’s Cory Petit, Patrick Brown-Marvel): I personally enjoy that old chestnut, you may have heard of it somewhere, about great power coming with great responsibility. Superheroing ain’t easy, and that goes double if you still have family and friends in your life that you are putting in harm’s way merely by association. As a family man, I imagine this aspect is often at the forefront of the mind of The Bendis, and why it appears in his work so much. SPOILERS Jessica Jones has lost the trust of her husband by going undercover for S.H.I.E.L.D. and hiding their child from him, and her old habits are creeping in as she tries to cope. Over in Spider-Man, Miles and his father are confronted by Rio, who has finally pieced together that they have been lying to her face about their lives away from home. These resolutions go as you would expect, with forced explanations doing very little to soothe hurt feelings and uncertainty about the future. It’s in these personal and emotional stakes that we most see ourselves, and it’s how we get invested in a story. A long form genre comic that deals only in the escapism aspect will always be the lesser for ignoring that fact. Thanks, Bendis and your amazing art teams, for putting some truth about the human experience up on Front Street.
I covered a bit more than usual this week, and got delayed by storms knocking out my internet, so I’ll just briefly touch on the upcoming end of some of my favorite books, whether due to cancellation, the end of a run, or just the fact that they are only a mini-series. In the next few months we are losing Unfollow, Clean Room, Patsy Walker aka Hellcat, Letter 44, Invincible, God Country, and more. They will be missed, and I look forward to whatever these creators are up to next.
Having said that, remember that you vote with your dollar. Buy the books that mean something to you, especially if they are taking big chances and/or at a publisher that quickly drops the axe once sales hit a certain low. And DO NOT be one of those asshats that drops a title simply because it’s a mini-series. Not every story needs to go for a decade or more. We can all be better about getting the word out, so that great work is recognized and those behind it can make a living. It’s precisely why I own a comic shop, and why I make this blog. Be a one-nerd comics street team. Tell your friends and family. Share on social media. Go to conventions FOR THE ACTUAL COMICS. It’s a small community, in the greater scheme of things, but it cannot be a clubhouse. You’re all welcome, and there’s always room for more.
Be good, support your local shops, and I’ll see you in seven.