Columns, Comics

NEW COMIC BOOK DAY: Con Crud Edition

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Dark Horse Comics

The New York Daily News was reporting earlier this week that New York City has its first cases of ebola. They had to retract the report when the city Department of Health confirmed that it wasn’t ebola, just con plague. Thank God that wasn’t in my con haul this year. All I got was a black and white Essential Judge Dredd, The Rise of Aurora West, three emails from an 8 year old kid who really wants to discuss the Phalanx, March, Atomic Robo: Real Science Adventures vol. 1; a rash on my arm, Underwater Welder, and this week’s best book.

Action Philosophers 10th Anniversary Hardcover (Dark Horse Comics)
While not new stories, this hardcover is an anniversary re-release of blog-favorite Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunleavy’s accidentally educational, highly entertaining comic book guide to the history of philosophy. It’s huge, clocking in at over 300 pages, and the new release has a ton of never-seen bonus material. There are photos of the stage production of Action Philosophers, old pin ups, covers to all of the individual issues, and the stories are reordered so that the philosophers are presented chronologically, instead of being grouped sorta-thematically, as they were when they were originally published.

John Stuart Mill as Charlie Brown and Plato the Wrestler are two real highlights from the book. There’s a lot of the humor that you’d expect from the guy who wrote MODOK’s 11, but it’s also a really thoroughly researched, well presented non-fiction comic book that helps understand why we know what we know now.

You can pick up Action Philosophers at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

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BOOM! Studios

Sleepy Hollow #1 (BOOM! Studios)
This book, from Marguerite Bennet and Jorge Coelho, is based on the television series of the same name.

The art is very good, especially when the script calls for Coelho to jump back and forth between action (like the truck flipping over the kids) and the grotesque (like a good half of the rest of the book). There are moments of palpable discomfort reading it, which is one sign of a well done horror book.

The writing assumes a decent amount of background knowledge of the show, which I’m sad to admit I don’t yet have. Even without that knowledge, though, it’s pretty entertaining. There are a couple of moments where it veers from “good story” towards “fan Tumblr,” but even when it’s fanboyish, the book is still amusing.

My biggest problem is that John Noble appears 0 times. That is a gross omission, as Walter Bishop is the greatest character in the history of television and was robbed of several Emmy nominations. And by “several” I mean “all.” Best Writing on a Reality or Variety Show? Walter Bishop. Best Actress in a Miniseries? Walter Bishop. Best Nightly Newsmagazine? Walternate. If he’s not in issue 2, I’ll be very disappointed.

You can pick up Sleepy Hollow #1 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

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Dynamite Comics

Magnus: Robot Fighter #7 (Dynamite Comics)
Fred Van Lente week continues at Topless Robot with Magnus: Robot Fighter. This is a character who has picked up a lot of nostalgia value in his long, tortuous publishing history, and Van Lente was brought on board to revive him earlier this year.

As expected, he has brought a great deal of humor to a tale of a man who punches robots in the chest and neck. This is, of course, the same series that got an imaginary theme song to “Leeja Clane: Human Hunter” stuck in my head (does not com-pro-mise her fem-i-nin-ity WOO!). This issue alone has a nine-panel pantomime of how human babies are born. You should buy this comic book.

You can pick up Magnus: Robot Fighter #7 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

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DC Comics

Batman and Robin #35 (DC Comics)
COMIC BOOK HOT TAKE: Pete Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, and Mick Gray have very quietly put together one of the ten best Batman runs of all time. They’ve flown under the radar because at no point have they even been the most hyped Batman book on stands, let alone the most appreciated. That doesn’t change the truth, though: it’s been amazing.

This team was the first to really get a crack at Damian Wayne after Grant Morrison set him loose on the world, and they took all his best attributes from those stories and made him into a well-rounded, functioning cog in Batman’s life. One of Morrison’s biggest failures as a superhero writer is that he too often doesn’t integrate his work into the larger shared universe around him. He really benefited from having Tomasi and Gleason doing that for him.

I normally wouldn’t include mid-arc stories in the reviews column, but this is my first chance to sing this creative team’s praises here (and holy shitsnacks, Tomasi and Mahnke on Superman/Wonder Woman? YUUUUUUUUUUUUUUP). This is a good jumping-on point for new readers, in that it has Mecha Batman going to tear up Apokalips while he screams “GIVE ME BACK MY SON” like he was Mel Gibson only if Mel Gibson had a Jewish best friend.

You can pick up Batman & Robin #35 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

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Marvel Comics

Deadpool’s Art of War #1 (Marvel Comics)
Enough with Deadpool everything already.

It kills me to say this. I picked Nolan North as my character’s voice in Saints Row IV. I have a full set of the Way series in trade on my shelf. I bought the Deadpool game and he was my middle character for six months in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. I recognize that I’m part of the reason why we’re here today, but he makes Wolverine look like an obscure, throwaway character like Forget Me Not by comparison. Here’s a sampling of the books he’s been in since 2012:

Deadpool. Thunderbolts. Hawkeye vs. Deadpool. The Gauntlet. Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe. Deadpool vs. Carnage. Deadpool Killustrated. Night of the Living Deadpool. Deadpool Kills Deadpool. Deadpool vs. X-Force. Return of the Living Deadpool. And now Deadpool’s The Art of War.

That’s 12 books. I get why Marvel does this – if the books didn’t sell, they’d stop flooding the market. I also get the appeal for creators. My favorite way to use Wade is to have his books be essentially a hyper-violent Bugs Bunny cartoon. That’s another thing that’s driving me crazy about this one: Peter David (who usually writes things that I enjoy greatly) said at NYCC that he’s going to use Deadpool to show Sun Tzu’s lessons go wrong. To use him to show what not to do. That sounds very close to what I want out of a Deadpool comic. But I’ve been burned before, and I’m burned out now, so I’m going to skip this until I hear good things, and then maybe give it a look on MU.

You can pick up Deadpool’s Art of War #1 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

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Dark Horse Comics

B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth #124 (Dark Horse Comics)
What a gut punch of an issue this is. This issue, from Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Tyler Cook, is a one-off look at an ordinary guy in Santa Fe dealing with the aftermath of a monster attack. You don’t need to know anything to pick this up besides “monsters are everywhere and the Hellboy people are trying to clean them up.”

The art is genuinely terrific, highlighting the grotesque character designs and doing a good job of balancing the horror of living in a world where hell has been unleashed with the stupid, banal crap that everyday people would still have to deal with in that world. I suspect that long-time readers will appreciate some of the smaller characterization moments in the story. I can’t say much more without giving a lot away, but this is good comics.

You can pick up B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth #124 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

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Valiant Comics

Unity #0 (Valiant Comics)
This issue acts more as a bonus issue to people who have been following the series all along, or as a teaser for people who are getting excited for The Valiant. The story, by Matt Kindt, is about the Eternal Warrior and his team from World War I, Unit Y (GET IT?). They came together to fight off the Germans, and were almost incredibly successful.

The art, from Cary Nord, is gorgeous. All of the action sequences (and it’s about 85% action) look excellent. The story is a little dense for new readers, but not too tough to follow. My only complaint, and it’s not really a complaint, is that it has the Claremontiest phonetically written accented dialogue in comics today. There is a Scottish character whose dialogue is almost entirely au’s and dropped r’s. I spent 15 minutes calling my dog a “wee daft bonny fella” after I finished the book.

You can pick up Unity #0 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology

ONE THAT GOT AWAY
There are way too many comics every week for me to read and keep track of. So, every week I’m going to take a look at one of the comics that came out a few weeks earlier, but that I just missed.

This week, it’s Debbie’s Inferno by Annie Emond and from Retrofit Comics, an alt-comic shop out of Philly.

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Retrofit

Debbie’s Inferno is a story of a woman sinking into depression who, like Dante, goes on a journey through her own personal hell (guided by her cat) to work through it. This book is very close to excellent, but there’s one big thing holding it back. Too much is explained to the reader. There are some really inventive representations of emotional problems in here, but for a few of them, it seems like Emond doesn’t trust her audience enough to get the reference, so she has Virgilcat explain it to the camera. That was frustrating because so much of the rest was well done.

I’m a total sucker for Dante’s Inferno references. I read the book when I was waaaaaaaaaaay too young to get it, so I absorbed all the imagery at face value and it scared the shit out of me. Then I read it again when I was old enough to get it, and I realized that it was one of the sickest dis tracks ever laid down. Emond obviously also liked the original, because there is the same imagination (and a swoon! Nobody ever cares about the swoons) in her work, I just wish there was a little more confidence in the art.

Overall, there’s some very good stuff in here, and this book is almost great. I’ll definitely read more from Emond.

You might be able to pick up Debbie’s Inferno at your friendly local comic shop or definitely online via Comixology.

That’s what I’ve been reading lately. What are you picking up this week?

About Author

Jim Dandeneau is many things: motorcycle tech, plastics executive, accomplished Highlander. But above all else, he is a comic book fan, and has been reviewing comics and covering cons for TRV since 2014.