We’ve got two whole months of wholesome family holidays ahead of us, but first we get to celebrate the most ridiculous, inane day of the year: Election Day. Also Halloween! Just remember, every time someone dressed as V calls themselves “4Chan Man,” Alan Moore loses a little more of his soul (beard) to Yog-Sothoth. In this week’s comics, two long runs and a short one close; a short marriage and a long war keep grinding to a halt; and the next issue of Joe Casey’s best work since “Poptopia” comes out.
Wonder Woman #35 (DC Comics)
If I hadn’t burned (ha!) the Harley Quinn scratch’n’sniff joke last week, I would have led with that, but who am I kidding: the end of Brian Azzarello’s mysteriously critically acclaimed run on Wonder Woman is the biggest deal in comics this week. I guess “mysteriously” isn’t the right word, because if this had been a creator-owned book about Hercules, it would have been excellent. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.
Let’s start with the good: the art is fantastic every month. Editor Matt Idelson deserves a ton of credit for building a team of artists who can match and sometimes exceed Cliff Chiang’s energy and wonderfully creative design work. Goran Sudzuka and Tony Akins joined Chiang to put out some incredible comic art over the course of the last 35 and change issues. They built a Greek pantheon for the DC Universe that is ripe to be mined by other creators. Azzarello deserves a lot of credit for this worldbuilding, too; he’s put together a classically inspired take on the world of Olympus that was truly interesting. It would have been nice if he had been able to do the same for Diana.
Too often in the 3 years since the reboot, Diana has been reduced to a bystander in her own series. It feels like everyone has seen more characterization than the title character: Lenox, Firstborn, Zola, Ares. Hell, even Hera has her motivations and personality more fleshed out than Wonder Woman. The one issue that spent any serious time in Diana’s head was the 0 issue, where we saw her train with Ares. Other than that, she kneed Orion in the junk one time, and then the rest of the time just seemed to be there, as furniture in her own story.
And then there are the disappointing choices in retooling (intentionally) her backstory: when you take on a character like Wonder Woman, you’re also taking on some cultural baggage. You’re accepting the responsibility of shepherding the stories of our preferred medium’s biggest feminist icon. If in the course of that story, you decide you want to make the Amazons literal spermjackers and have the good guys win only when the Amazons reunite with their cast-off brothers and let Hephaestus’ army of scorned red-pill cautionary tales onto the geographic comic book embodiment of women’s power, it might be time to erase all the names from the script and send the pitch over to a different company. What Azzarello gave us was a very good book about how messed up Greek mythology is. What he didn’t give us was a very good book about Wonder Woman.
Saga #24 (Image Comics)
This week’s Saga is going to be tough to read, but it’s easily my favorite of Vaughan’s work so far (and I still defend Ex Machina‘s ending to people). He and Fiona Staples have done such a good job getting the readers invested in the characters that watching Alana and Marko’s marriage fall apart makes me dread and anticipate (dreadticipate? anticead?) every new page as I’m reading.
Staples’ art has been magical. The richness of the world is due in very large part to her aggressively creative designs. The obvious way to see this is by looking at the quality of Saga cosplay out there. I fully anticipate The Brand and Sweet Boy (from the cover seen to the left) being next year’s hot costumes, though the good Sweet Boy costumes are probably going to be hell on peoples’ allergies.
Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers #3 (Dynamite Comics)
Hot damn, is this pretty. A revival of Jack Kirby’s mid-’80s, creator-owned adventure series, Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers has a lot to live up to in terms of art legacy. It more than does. Nathan Fox, Farel Dalrymple, Jim Mahfood and Brad Simpson turning in one of the nicest looking single issues of the year isn’t really a surprise, though: Dalrymple was already a huge part of Prophet, a book that made me feel like Tom Haverford the first time I saw it. And with Mahfood and Fox, the mix between the art styles is perfect, too. Fox draws with an almost dirty manga style that makes the action feel electric, and Mahfood and Dalrymple come very close to matching the absurd energy that Kirby himself put into his work.
I was pleasantly surprised by the script. Casey is a very capable writer with an annoying tendency to aim his work at the part of your brain that’s still 14 and thinks “Killing in the Name of” is an edgy call to action. When he does that, we get stuff like Butcher Baker, a comic about, as I recall, how many beejers U.S. Archer could get while murdering everyone on the Raft. When he goes for straightforward action, he is capable of knocking it out of the park. He went for the latter here, and it’s highly recommended.
Thunderbolts #32 (Marvel Comics)
“Black and Red Costume People” had no business either being as good as it was or lasting as long as it did, but after 32 issues I am genuinely sad it’s leaving. I will admit that I was a little apprehensive when Soule left: the contract negotiations between Red Leader and Mephisto were hilarious, and Deadpool’s pimp hat with an angel feather on it was one of my favorite bits from any funnybook in the last couple of years.
One of the few hero gags that managed to top it was from the Thrilling Adventure Hour team’s first stab at the Thunderbolts: the annual where a fairy king posing as Dr. Strange was taking over the world by making them happy, and the TBolts have to steal magical artifacts from Valkyrie, W.A.N.D. and Elsa Bloodstone (who, in a just and decent world, is the big secret reveal behind who Skye is, setting season 3 up as Marvel’s Agents of H.A.T.E.) then go kill Dr. Strange. Punisher’s fractional smile at the end has made me laugh every time I read it, and their monthly run has equalled the amusement they gave me on the annual. I’m definitely in for those Thrilling Adventure Hour books coming next year. Goodnight, sweet Black and Red Costumed People With Guns And Knives Comic. You’ll be missed.
Uber #19 (Avatar Press)
By now the “what if there were superheroes in World War 2” trope has been done to death, but Kieron Gillen had written enough great stuff to get me to at least give this a try, and I’m glad I did. The reason Uber works isn’t because KEWL LOOK ALTERNATE HISTORY WORLD WAR 2. If that were enough, we’d all be clamoring for a comic about the Confederacy using AK 47s (and since you’re reading this blog, the probability of you knowing EXACTLY which Turtledove novel I’m referring to is ~1).
The reason Uber is so good is because the supers aren’t the point of the story; they’re a resource in the war. Uber is about how the war would have progressed had the Nazis gained access to a new, dramatic weapon technology close to the end of the war, and how the war would have progressed with the deployment and supply issues the new technology would have created. Only now, 19 issues in, are we getting deeper into intrigue and moving away from a technical, war college description of the alternate ending to WWII.
Frankly, buying this series would have been worth it just for the incredible Antony Beevor book Gillen recommended in his writer’s notes. But the fact that it’s from Avatar also means that when it got to the inevitable Hitler Punch, it was immensely satisfying.
|Red 5 Comics|
Atomic Robo: Knights of the Golden Circle #5 (Red 5 Comics)
My reasons for loving Atomic Robo didn’t really crystallize until I ran across the Adams Memorial Conjugation Department mention in the Tesladyne Field Guide. That’s when I realized that Atomic Robo is as close to an American Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as we’re going to see.
Both are science-literate; both seem to particularly enjoy playing in the absurdity of science fact; and both are great adventures. The main difference is that with British comedy of that type, the plot happens to the protagonist, and the struggle is to find some kind of normalcy amongst or despite the absurd. The hero becomes kind of a champion of heroic inaction. With American comedy of this type, the protagonist takes an active role in trying to direct the outcome of the story (Note: Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy is the ultimate and very deliberate fusion of the two, but that’s neither here nor there).
Anyway, this issue is the last of volume 9, has Robo, Bass Reeves and Doc Holliday fight an army of cyborgs on a Helsingard War Blimp in the Old West. And that is the single greatest sentence I’ve typed in at least a month.
ONE THAT GOT AWAY
Every week there are way too many comics for me to read and keep track of. So in every column, I’m going to take a look at a book that came out in the last few weeks, but that I only just had a chance to read.
This week, it’s Kinski #5 from Gabriel Hardman and Monkeybrain Comics. Monkeybrain, a relatively new publisher, specializes in making digital-only books optimized for Comixology’s best-in-the-business reader. Kinski benefits from the guided view option at Comixology, but doesn’t depend on it.
The story follows Joe, a guy who’s fed up with his government job and finds a black lab puppy on a road trip for work. He decides to ditch work to figure out who the pup belongs to and how to take care of it, and Stuff Happens. Before I got my puppy, this would have been a well drawn indie movie in comic form. Since I got her in January I’ve found myself connecting to stories about pets a lot more than I ever did when I had a cat (fickle, cuddly assholes that they are). That being said, the last panel here had me physically upset, which is to Hardman’s credit. He’s written a simple, relatable, beautifully illustrated story.
Hardman’s inks are spectacular. The play of the light on the dark highway and at the junkyard is really masterful, and guided view lets you really get in and see the brushwork in a way that you couldn’t in a printed book, or even a color one. The story is very much serialized: you’d probably be lost if you picked this up on its own. Thankfully, you can get the entire run of Kinski up to this point for less than one Harley Quinn Annual AND there are no storage concerns besides running out of memory on your tablet :sideeyes Amazon:.
That’s what I’m reading this week. What are you picking up?