This week in comics: Science Fiction front and center, Nick Spencer has the American milieu on speed dial, and the bizarre controversy around X-Men Gold #1. But first, one of many reasons I adore Valiant Comics:
The genre of Science Fiction is stronger than ever, especially in comics, which I largely attribute to a notable handful of visionaries like Warren Ellis, Rick Remender, and the folks at Image, and if that’s your bag then this week was a treat. Some kind of alien treat, served in a space ship. There was sports Sci-Fi (Motor Crush), Fantasy/Sci-Fi twist (Green Valley AND Seven to Eternity), Western/Sci-Fi (Copperhead), and also . . .
Redline #2 (Neal Holman, Clayton McCormack, Kelly Fitzpatrick, Crank!-Oni Press): Redline is probably most accurately described as MILITARY Sci-Fi. The point of view is from the troops on the ground on Mars, caught between corporate warmongers and a mysterious race of aliens. The humor is gloriously inappropriate, the kind of detached and lovingly insulting bonding that you tend to encounter in high-stress situations. Suicide bombers, wild hallucinations, shootouts in strip clubs, or brushes with alien life: It all gets treated with off-color zingers and dick jokes, which does a highly entertaining job of grounding the unbelievable in the unseemly. It’s so good.
Immortal Brothers: The Tale of the Green Knight #1 (Fred Van Lente, Cary Nord, Clayton Henry, Mark Morales, Brian Reber-Valiant): A one-shot about Gilad, Ivar, and Aram, and their version of the events of the Arthurian tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight? Oh HELL YES. Faith, of the Harbinger Renegades, is sick in bed, and Archer decides to tell her the story, as Armstrong told it to him, all Princess Bride-style. Heads get lopped, squires get acquired, and the truth about Morgan Le Fey and the Lady of the Lake is uncovered. It’s so well done that you can enjoy this book without any knowledge of the Valiant universe. If that’s the case, you might soon find yourself snapping up back issues of Archer & Armstrong, Faith, and Wrath of the Eternal Warrior, just FYI.
The Unbeatable Squirrel-Girl #19 (Ryan North, Erica Henderson, Rico Renzi, Travis Lanham-Marvel): Doreen is facing down her worst nightmare: A REALLY long villain monologue. It turns out that SPOILERS Melissa Morbeck, who was previously seen as a friend and benefactor, is a big-time baddie, and has been reverse engineering tech that will allow her to control nearly every animal that has come into human contact on Earth. To what end? To rule, and to blame it all on Doctor Doom, since that name carries more weight in the grand scheme of evil things. Can she, Koi Boi, Chipmunk Hunk, and Nancy save the day? Will her new suspicions ruin her friendship with Howard the Duck? Will things work out for Alfredo the Chicken? Read the issue, snort-laugh your butt off, and find out!
The Wicked + The Divine #28 (Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles, Dee Cunniffe-Image): A Great Darkness approaches mankind, and the one force that can stop it, a pantheon of gods reborn into the bodies of various young people, is too busy being assholes to bother. Some are digging up dirt, some are getting their party and orgy on, some are enduring abuse, and some are busy murdering. In a flashback, the one who sought to manipulate these deities is literally weeping for the future. This issue, oddly enough, shares a common thread with the recent Marvel works of Jason Aaron: Gods are in fact not far removed from us, and thus are capable of sucking just as hard as we can.
Godshaper #1 (Simon Spurrier, Jonas Goonface, Colin Bell-Boom! Studios): Speaking of gods, there was a brilliant new entry from Boom this week, all about an alternate version of our world where physics misbehaved, and resulted in human beings getting personal gods do their bidding in exchange for worship. The wrinkle is that not everyone got a god, but instead the ability to manipulate these gods, changing their appearance and power sets. Ennay, a wandering musician, is one of these ‘Godshapers’, and is about to get involved in the shady dealings lurking beneath the latest midwestern shithole he’s journeyed into. There’s nothing out there quite like this comic, a sexy amalgam of Pokemon, Rockabilly, and hobo culture, illustrated with colorful abandon by Jonas Goonface. I highly recommend giving it a read.
Captain America: Sam Wilson #21 (Nick Spencer, Daniel Acuña, Rachelle Rosenberg, VC’s Joe Caramagna-Marvel): SPOILERS Here we are. After twenty issues, Sam has made a decision, informed by everything he’s been through, including the fact that Rage was recently put into a coma for daring to stand up to both the Americops and his criminal past. He’s moving on, returning to his life as Falcon, and passing the shield back to Steve Rogers. If all of this was planned in detail by Nick Spencer, then that cements him as one of the best writers in comics as far as I’m concerned. He’s done nothing less than tell one of the most timely and compelling stories about superhero legacy ever. He has taken the character on a journey that examined race, politics, fandom, and abuse of power, and for as sad as this ending is, and knowing just how bad it’s about to get in the big Secret Empire event, it feels like this is exactly how it needed to happen. Sam needed to feel the shadow of Cap and the disapproval of those fans, he needed to be true to himself and pay a huge price for it, and most importantly, he needed to decide to fight on despite the weight of the world crushing him and those closest to him. This is who he is, and he’s going to do what he thinks is right on his own terms again. No matter how hard he tried, he was never going to fill those boots, but it didn’t stop him from actually trying, and it didn’t stop him from inspiring people along the way. The tragically ironic thing is that those actions make him more worthy of being Captain America than the current version of Steve Rogers, but the extremely vocal opposition will not have it. That’s the world that we and these characters live in now, but if we refuse to give up, it CAN and WILL change.
Moving on, I suppose I should touch on the controversy of the week, involving X-Men Gold #1. The short version is that comics artist Ardian Syaf put references to the Indonesian interpretation of the Quran in the issue, and that these references allude to religious hatred and the current political climate in that area. It was a foolish, self-serving thing to do, and it cost him a career that many of us only dream about. For more in-depth information, I suggest checking out the Tumblr of G. Willow Wilson, writer of books like Ms. Marvel, which can be found here.
Then there’s the after-effects that this little fiasco has caused in the retail and collector’s worlds. I have had my shop’s phone ringing ever since, bombarded with would-be speculators looking to make a buck off of one idiot’s misguided attempts at a statement. The issue is going for upwards of $40 on places like Ebay as I write this, which is a fact that makes me physically ill. That anyone wants to make thirty bucks off of religious animosity is disgusting, and is exactly the kind of bullshit that we do not need. I talk a great deal about how comics are for everyone, and that all are welcome. Let me make an amendment to that. Insensitive scumbags treating it like the nerd stock market can just fuck right off. Speculators, online flippers, unscrupulous retailers and dealers, and anyone else who thinks this is acceptable:
Thanks for fighting the good fight with me, and thank you for reading comic books. Feel free to share your thoughts and your pulls in the comments. Be good, support your local shops, and I’ll see you in seven.