The 5/7 Comics Stack: Dystopian Orphans, Eternal Batman and Awakened Godzilla

By Charles Webb in Comics, Daily Lists
Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at 8:00 am

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Please help me welcome our new weekly column spotlighting highlights of the week's releases in comics! As a result, I READ YOUR FANFIC will be moving to Friday, where it arguably belonged the whole time. This is what freeing up the budget by merging the Weekend Hangover post with Monday morning's list has allowed me to do, and it ain't all, folks. Now, here's our authority on all things printed - Charles Webb!]

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I'm going to put this out here real quick and you can do whatever you want with it: Black Dynamite > Batman. Because badass pimp always beats some billionaire wimp.

Discuss. Or whatever.

Still, that didn't stop me from putting the latest issue of Batman: Eternal out in front of IDW's Black Dynamite. If you want to see more of my other idiosyncratic picks for this week's funnybooks, you're just going to have to read on.



8. Burn the Orphanage: Reign of Terror #1 (of 5) (Image Comics)

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It felt right to start this week off with some fight comics, specifically Daniel Freedman and Sina Grace's followup to last year's miniseries Burn the Orphanage: Born to Lose.

Grace and Freedman have essentially constructed a major-indie comic version of a side-scrolling beat-em-up, with square-jawed orphan Rock going after the folks that burned his life to the ground.

That first series culminated in alien fights on far-flung worlds so the duo kind of have their work cut out for them if they plan to top themselves.

Grace is one half of the creative team behind The L'il Depressed Boy, which I never really had a lot of time for given that it was a trifecta of indie feelings, indie music, and a sock lad looking for love. Burn the Orphanage, however, is unabashedly a comic made of punches featuring some truly energetic human and monster character designs engaged in an orgy of old-school (well, the nostalgia formula we're calling "old-school") violence. Must have a tolerance for sketchiness.

The new series sees Rock returning to his hometown, only to find it taken over by the nefarious Manncorp's robots, and there's a resistance made up of hispters living in the sewers (sample names: "Boy," "Nik").

Oh, and his girlfriend is a badass commando, so it's not all terrible.

7. Black Dynamite #2 (IDW)

Speaking of the new nostalgia. Or really, in this case, loving up on the exploitation era.

Writers Brian Ash and Yassir Lester are the latest links in Black Dynamite's multimedia explosion, following the cult favorite indie film satire starring Michael Jai White, on to its small-screen switch to animation thanks to the Adult Swim series.

Now we have the comic, in its second issue of the IDW-published miniseries, where Black Dynamite has to go from the mean streets to behind bars: the bars of Guantanamo Bay, that is.

Satire's a tricky thing - trickier still when attempted on the comic page, but with Jamal Igle on art, you know it'll at least look alright.

6. Batman: Eternal #5 (DC Comics)

I haven't been following any of the Bat-books beyond the first year of the New 52 relaunch (when did Batman, Inc. wrap? Somewhere around then), so I have absolutely no idea what's going on here. But you had my curiosity at "weekly."

DC does weekly comics in one of two ways: either the rare 52 which was, on balance, pretty good, or Countdown, which was, without qualification, one of the worst comic reading experiences I've had the misfortune to stick with for a year out of spite.

I have no idea what the combination of words in this week's synopsis for issue #5 even means, but it involves Red Robin which immediately reminds me that that terrible design is probably still knocking around and no one has been summarily fired for it.

5. Madame Frankenstein #1 (Image Comics)

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I'm willing to go to bat for a book based on the title alone. This is one of those books. Maybe.

James Rich is retelling the Bride of Frankenstein story in the '30s while moving the action to Boston, and I'm going to give him some leeway here because lady Frankensteins are, point of fact, my jam.

(Judge me if you will, but one youthful summer, I watched The Bride upwards of twice. Twice, I say.).

I have to say the first issue is thin stuff, though and actually gives me that The Bride-where-the-doc-is-an-unrepentant-dick vibe. This time out, it's Victor Krall, resurrecting a pretty lady mangled in a car crash. Complications, of course, ensue.

Rich's script casts Krall as a deeply unpleasant and icky human being prone to visions of perky-breasted fairies. So far, no laudanum is in evidence, so we're just going to assume he's crazy.

One issue in, Megan Levens' art didn't leave much of an impression in one way or another. She draws a nice naked dead lady? I'm typing that kind of thing out now?

I'll give Madame Frankenstein one more issue, but it's got to start leaving some questions for us reader to want answered or at least get a little weirder to keep the hooks in.

4. True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys LTD ED. Hardcover (Dark Horse)

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Could someone remind me again why I didn't read this the first time around? Becky Cloonan on art with Gerard Way doing a music-as-weapon sci-fi dystopian thing?

I'm sincerely asking because this kind of book is literally the reason I read comics.

Literally.

The six-issue miniseries follows a young girl, named, erm, "The Girl," who poses the last vestige of resistance against the evil mega-corporation Better Living Industries. I have vague recollections of android phantoms and monster faces in the previews, and wide-open desert vistas and I'm really trying to remember what I was doing that I was too busy to check this out.

The trade paperback is also available this week, but the pair of limited edition Umbrella Academy hardcovers from a couple of years back made it clear to me that Way's Morrisonian weirdness was best appreciated in in fancy format that requires you to clear out some space and put your messier beverages away. That's right, it's the kind of work you savor.

It's completely possible that I'll pick this up and hate it, but I'm kind of taking it as an article of faith that I won't. Team Comics and all that garbage.

Speaking of having a complete and total lack of faith...

3. Godzilla: The Awakening HC (DC Comics)

Yeah, I know, I know, it's a tie-in comic to a monster movie. How good could it really be?

I think you're asking the wrong question, my friend: how terrible could it be?

In spite of some truly impressive trailers, I remain utterly on the fence about Gareth Edwards' Godzilla, largely owing to my complete and utter dislike of his aimless and on-the-nose Monsters ("It's truly us that are the monsters," it all but shakes you and screams), and my concern is that his half-formed immigration parable heralds poor tidings for his big budget nuclear disaster parable.

Now wrap all of that up and put it in a comic, and you can see why my ears pricked up when I found out this thing exists.

Now, it could be the worst of all possible licensed comic disasters (lots of hiding the main attraction, the big monster itself), but apparently, it's chock full of backstory and spoilers for the film (Luke has a great rundown of some of the details from the book). On that front, read at your own risk, I guess?

The Neal Adams cover is pretty sweet, though.

2. Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man #1 (Marvel Comics)

With a new Spider-Man movie in theaters, Marvel won't let the opportunity for a new #1 go to waste. And since Sony is pretty adamant that they don't want to hear about your non-white guy with radioactive spider goop in his blood, the comics are where you're going to have to get your Miles fix for the forseeable future.

As the summer heads into what can only be described as a spider-bang of epic proportions, both Ultimate Comics' Spidey title and Amazing are getting fresh-ish starts, albeit ones that still require years of continuity wank to keep track of. Peter's alive and back in his own body in the "real" universe while Miles is suiting up again and dealing with dead, Ultimate Peter's enemies.

Bendis ain't going nowhere (which is great - his Spider-Man work is his most consistent), and he's joined by artist David Marquez. Marquez is a solid catch (ain't my thing, but he's not not my thing, if you know what I mean).

If you're looking for true survivors' guilt superhero comics, this is the one for you, along with plenty of the Parker luck transposed onto a little kid.

1. The White Lama HC (Humanoids)

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What can I say? I'm a fan of two-fisted tales of Tibetan warrior monks.

Playwright, filmmaker, and the man who almost tamed the gastronomic appetites of early '70s Orson Welles, Alejandro Jodorowsky penned this mystical Tarzan tale about the lost son of a pair of white explorers deemed to be the reincarnation of a 19th-century holy man.

As an aside: did you see Jodorowsky's Dune? You should really, really see that, man, because if an adaptation of Dune from the man who made Holy Mountain wouldn't have been the most fascinating film ever made, I don't know what could possibly fit that title.

I've never read The White Lama (AKA Le Lama Blanc), but the artwork by frequent Jodo collaborator George Bess (Chroniques aléatoires, Bobi) has piqued my interest. Plus, I wonder how an anti-colonialist like Jodorowsky approaches ye olde white savior myth through the lens of a mystical action comic.

The six-part story of The White Lama seems to offer Jodo plenty of space to explore some of his preoccupations, particularly spiritual awakenings in the midst of what he would probably suggest is a soul-deadening material grind, but it's also a chance for a big, masterful storyteller to go buck wild on ideas of myth and transcendence.

And kung fu.

Humanoids is rereleasing The White Lama in a not-too-pricey hardcover ($39.99 for 296 pages) although you might want to check your calendars: while Previews is saying the book is out this week, Amazon has it listed as a July release.


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