Columns, Comics

New Comic Book Day: Grammar Rules for Your Own Language

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Oni Press

What’s the group consensus on turning character names into descriptors? When describing something as “a trait commonly attributed to Batman,” what is the generally accepted modification to the word “Batman?” Would such a thing be “Batmanly?” “Batmannish?” “Batmanesque?” Batmannish sounds like I’m making fun of British people, and Batmanesque is less “doing something as Batman would” and more “demonstrating visible abs and nipples.” I’m leaning towards Batmanly, despite the implied gendered construction – presumably “doing things as Batgirl would” would then be “Batgirly” this way – just because it sounds most like a real word, and legitimacy is important to my made-up and entirely incorrect language.

This week in comic books, gaps get filled in; Superman deals with the fallout of him going all Sentryese (meh) on Doomsday; Game of Thrones meets Redwall; Oni launches a new all-ages book; and Carmine Di Giandomenico draws a really Batmanesque Gambit.

Terrible Lizard #1 (Oni Press)
Originally debuting as part of Oni’s Humble Bundle a few weeks back, Terrible Lizard is a new all-ages book from Cullen Bunn, Drew Moss and Ryan Hill, and it’s a promising start. It takes place at a government-funded research facility, where Jess, a fairly regular teenage girl, lives with her father, a man who – at the behest of the military industrial complex – is trying to rip a hole in space-time.

Being the first issue, it’s almost entirely set-up, but it’s good set-up. Jess feels like a natural character, and the hook is interesting. The art is great – cartoony, bright, colorful with good linework. It bears a passing resemblance to The Iron Giant, only with more mad science (that’s good!) and less Vin Diesel (that’s bad). I’m definitely in for another installment.

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

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Dark Horse Comics

Avatar: The Last Airbender Vol. 9: The Rift Part 3 (Dark Horse Comics)
Good god, what a title. Don’t let the endless name turn you off, though. The Avatar comics have been very good, worthy contributions to the universe of one of the best American cartoons ever made.

The Rift is the follow up to The Search, where the Aang gang and nattering lunatic Azula track down Zuko’s mom, and The Promise, which takes a look at the political upheaval following the collapse of the Fire Nation empire. Here, the show’s creators, along with Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru lay more groundwork for the eventual transition to Korra by playing around with Toph’s family situation; follow the world’s development into one that can support and sustain Republic City via the continued situation in Yu Dao; and foreshadow (or retcon in, I guess, since this was already done in Korra in season 2) the problems with the spirit world that Korra would eventually fix.

Gene Yang is awesome and he makes awesome comic books. Gurihiru has successfully managed to match the beauty and motion of the cartoon with his sequential art. And most importantly, the source material is amazing. I’m looking forward to this.

You can pick up Avatar: The Last Airbender Vol. 9: The Rift Part 3: The Road to The Legend of Korra and Some More Fun Times with the Aang Gang: Holy Christ Is This Title Done Yet at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

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DC Comics

Action Comics #36 (DC Comics)
Finally finished with the thoroughly uneven “Doomed” crossover, Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder can get back to what they were doing so well: making a great, throwback Superman story.

Not that the crossover was in and of itself atypical to Superman: “Superman becomes the monster he was fighting” is a trope almost as old as comics themselves. The difference was tonal, though. “Doomed,” no matter how hard the creators worked, kept having these streaks of grimdark shoot through it, and Action pre-crossover was decidedly not that.

From almost their first issue, Pak and Kuder wrote bright, positive Superman stuff, pretty much my ideal for the character. The scene early on when they had Superman throw the giant monster who would become Baka “out of the atmosphere” only to grab him out of the air when he’s out of sight of the humans he was defending, and then bring Baka to the Fortress of Solitude was the Supermanniest (there we go) thing he’s done in the comics since the reboot, Morrison-penned included. They’ve also managed to spend some real quality time on his supporting cast, making Steel and Lana Lang regulars and awesome. All told, this is an excellent Superman book, and between Johns/JRjr and this series, the Superman comics are better than they’ve been for a long time.

You can pick up Action Comics #36 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

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Image Comics

Tooth & Claw #1 (Image Comics)
Tooth & Claw is the new high-fantasy series from Kurt Busiek and Ben Dewey that’s like if you smashed together The Name of the Wind, Kamandi and Das Kapital in a Dragon Age game about the disappearance of magic. That’s meant to be a compliment.

The story is set in a world of anthropomorphic animals. The ruling class lives in a magically-hovering city in the clouds, and the lower class works the land and trades with the flying wizards. Magic is dying, though, and the priest/wizards of the flying city debate how to fix that. Most of the series is set up by a decision one of the wizards makes that leads to disaster.

I’m a simple guy, and I like simple things. My second-favorite part of this issue was the old school X-Men-cover sound effect on the full page splash. I know why it declined as a trope, but it’s now so underused that when it’s done well it’s great to see. The best thing about this book is that the pantheon of gods in this fantasy world is basically the US Cabinet. Dunstan, one of the presumed main characters, begins the story by praying to the god of commerce, the god of education, and the god of…oh boy. Not the god of environmental protection. We’re talking about all the gods, commerce, education, and the third one…I can’t. Sorry. Oops.

You can pick up Tooth & Claw #1 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

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Valiant Comics

Eternal Warrior: Days of Steel #1 (Valiant Comics)
Peter Milligan and Cary Nord turn in a good, unspectacular first issue in a story that fills in some of the backstory to the immortal Eternal Warrior. Gilad Anni-Padda is an immortal given orders by the Geomancer on how to best protect the Earth, and here he’s told to protect a baby purported to be some sort of savior from Magyar raiders in middle ages northern Europe.

I have to confess, I think the creators expect you to be more conversant in Valiant continuity than “All those dudes in The Delinquents are pretty funny.” I *think* the savior reveal was supposed to land heavier than it did, and I *think* I know who it is, but ultimately I don’t know. And I don’t know if I don’t know. I think I know, but I’m not positive if I’m even supposed to know, you know?

You can pick up Eternal Warrior: Days of Steel #1 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

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Marvel Comics

All-New X-Factor #16 (Marvel Comics)
I guess it’s not really surprising that Peter David is writing an awesome X-Factor book. I think the surprising part is that he’s still writing an awesome X-Factor book. How many other creators have been working on the same series for, off and on, the better part of 20 years and can still make it fresh and different and entertaining? At a certain point, it seems like the natural tendency of writers to recycle their old work: everyone has pet themes and tics and styles that start to recycle, and eventually the get stale, then turn to self-parody. That hasn’t happened for David. His stories with this team have been great since I was 12. In fact, X-Factor #87 was one of the first comics I ever bought with my own money. It’s 21 this year, and to this day it remains probably the most significant piece of characterization on Quicksilver. And it holds up! I just reread it and it’s still amazing!

This latest run has paired him with Carmine Di Giandomenico on art and prominently features Gambit and the female gaze, and the three fit very well together. The art here is sharp and kinetic, but keeps the talky scenes interesting too. The fact that this issue is billed as an Axis tie-in would worry me a little if it weren’t very clearly tangential from the preview pages. Axis has been not terribly great so far, and it has the absolute worst logo I’ve ever seen.

You can pick up All-New X-Factor #16, a SIXIS crossover issue, at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

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.

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Humanoids

This week, it’s Shamanism from Igor Baranko and Humanoids. This is the best looking comic I read all week. Have you ever wondered what it would look like if Katsuhiro Otomo drew a western? Neither had I, but it turns out the result would be pretty goddamn awesome. Baranko’s art bears a more than passing resemblance to Akira, and that is high praise. The colors are fantastic: flat but energetic at the same time.

The story feels like a lot is packed into a small amount of time, even though the book is a full 150 pages and there are almost no splash pages to fly through. Four Winds is a Lakota warrior who kidnaps the daughter of the Pawnee chief to get her to marry him. Terrible things happen, and he finds that he actually loves his kidnapping victim, so he tracks down a tribe that has the ability to send him back in time so he can fix his mistakes and try and live happily ever after. It sounds a lot like the plot to The Butterfly Effect, only this is beautifully done, emotionally affecting and, you know, good.

You can pick up Shamanism at your friendly local comic shop or online via Humanoids’ web site.

That’s what I’m reading this week. What are you picking up?

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.