Columns, Comics

New Comic Book Day: Robert Caro’s The Manhattan Projects

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Vertigo Comics

I threw last week’s copy of The Manhattan Projects across the subway when I was done with it. It was terrific, but it also had that disclaimer at the end that it was going on hiatus and that is BULLSHIT. The only way I’m going to be happy with this is if the “new format” means it’s actually volume 5 of Robert Caro’s biography of Lyndon Johnson, about the extraterrestrial-inspired shift south and west of America’s political center of gravity and how Johnson misread Soviet intentions in North Vietnam because he was replaced by a shapeshifting tentacle clipping from Leonid Brezhnev.

Quick note about last week’s reviews: I only read a digital copy of Ody-C, so I completely missed the absolutely stunning 8 page fold-out that opened the book. If you can get your hands on a print copy, please do so.

In this week’s comics: Rai crashes the stacks; BMO is involved in Adventure Time in a meaningful way; Apollo dies; Alan Moore comes back to (comics) life; werewolves hunt werewolves; Iron Fist punches his fists back to healthy; and Metroplex punches Trypticon to death.

Wolf Moon #1 (DC/Vertigo)
Cullen Bunn, Jeremy Haun and Jae Lee are making what sounds like a pretty atypical werewolf story. Rather than being transmitted through bites, their werewolf jumps from person to person, leaving the hosts perfectly normal with a mess of fallout to deal with when it’s done with them.

The preview art for this looks very good, and I just finished reading the first volume of The Sixth Gun, so I’m looking for more from Bunn to read that I’d like. Plus, with covers from Jae Lee, you can expect several shots of people tilting their heads back and looking down at the reader, in front of things like smoke, fog or possibly a clear sky. I think this one’s going to turn out pretty good.

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

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Valiant Comics

Rai #5 (Valiant Comics)
Given how quickly technology advances today, you’d think that something like cyberpunk, which ages like a 10 year-old opera singer, would eventually go out of style. That hasn’t proven true, though. Not only has it continued to exist, but there continue to be good cyberpunk stories told, and Rai is one of them.

Clayton Crain is the regular artist for Rai. The coloring isn’t dark and muddy like it was on his X-Force run, but they are still muted, which is an interesting choice, but the right one: it makes his pencils lighter, like a digital anti-inking. Also, if you were to imagine Japan in 1000 years, you would probably have a seizure from all the flashing bright colors, so I think it was the right choice. Unobtrusive coloring helps the focus stay on the structure of the world and not on the presumed sensory overload. The story, from Matt Kindt, is a glimpse into the tragedy behind Rai, with some machinations against the existing order. It’s a good comic, and I’m in for more.

You can pick up Rai #5 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

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Marvel Comics

Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #7 (Marvel Comics)
Kaare Andrews’ Iron Fist has been a really pleasant surprise. As the first version of the comic since the awesome Immortal Iron Fist, this had a lot to live up to. The last one is the book that put David Aja on the Big-2 map, and part of the trend that popularized Marvel’s strategy of giving talent out-of-the-way, short runs to put their own voice into. Aja, Brubaker, Fraction (and then Swierczynski and Foreman after that) made an amazing, throwback kung-fu comic.

Andrews is doing something similar here, only it’s more like the opening credits to an old Hong Kong kung-fu movie than the old book ever did. The shadows and the figures feel like the main titles of Samurai Champloo at points. It’s a very dark book, and the story matches the art. Andrews wants to hurt Danny, and he’s done that. Both hands and K’un Lun are broken, and he has to figure out how to be the Iron Fist again. Spoilers: he does, via punching.

You can pick up Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #7 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

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BOOM! Studios

Adventure Time #34 (BOOM! Studios)
I am genuinely mystified as to why I haven’t reviewed Adventure Time yet, since it’s one of my all-time favorite comics. If I have reviewed Adventure Time already, then my intellect, my memory and my Google Sheet review tracker have all failed us all, and Google and bourbon will taste my fury. Assuming I can still remember to be mad.

Ryan North, Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb have created a note-perfect adaptation of the wonderful TV show. This issue has the best non-soul-crushing LSP moment in Adventure Time history, and it wraps the Mnemonoid story. North’s voice is so well-matched to the gentle but ridiculous tone that the show creates that even though I’ve been a Dr. McNinja fan since Yoshi first showed up, I’m a teeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeensy bit worried that Chris Hastings won’t be able to match it when he takes over in 2 issues. The same goes for Paroline and Lamb: if you slipped panels from the comic into a book of full color storyboards from the show, you would be hard pressed to find which was the comic and which was the show. The one thing I really hope carries over is the practice of hiding jokes at the bottom of the page. I love that they found a way to sneak rollover text into print comics.

You can pick up Adventure Time #34 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

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Dynamite Entertainment

Battlestar Galactica: The Death of Apollo #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)
Dynamite hired Dan Abnett, half of the writing team of the awesome, sweeping space opera Legion Lost, to tell the story of what happened to Apollo between the end of the original Battlestar Galactica and Galactica 1980. The result is…not great. The writing is fine, but it’s tough to get invested too heavily in characters who are so drastically different from what I consider my Battlestar; still, Abnett manages to make it work. The art, from Dietrich Smith, is amateurish and hurried, with faces in odd positions on the head, and not a ton of flow from panel to panel.

Ultimately, Abnett writing space stuff is enough to get me to read any comic, and enough to keep me coming back to one I’m not thrilled by. Even if it’s a comic about something I care so incredibly little about, like filling in a continuity gap between two hopelessly dated TV series that I never cared about until someone turned them into a metaphor for religious strife between Israelis and Jimi Hendrix fans. As hard as they tried, I don’t know if we’ll ever see a resolution to the Israel-Electric Ladyland conflict.

You can pick up Battlestar Galactica: The Death of Apollo #1 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

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Avatar Press

Crossed Plus 100 #1 (Avatar Press)
It’s interesting that Alan Moore decided to return to monthly comics on a comic about a disease that makes humanity give in to their most depraved, violent urges. I’m sure it’s a coincidence.

Crossed is a shameful blind spot for me. The amount of talent working on this series – created by Garth Ennis, with contributions from Jamie Delano, Simon Spurrier, Justin Jordan, Christos Gage, David Lapham, and now Moore – is crazy. The subject matter gives these guys, who are all very imaginative people, license to mine the depths of their own debauchery. Moore’s story teams him with Gabriel Andrade and jumps forward 100 years in Crossed‘s future to show the world even further down the dystopian timeline than current issues. Although, now that I think about it, I am worried about Moore getting a story excuse for one of his favorite crutches. “Everyone can be as depraved as they want” as a plot hook sounds like license for “Alan Moore writes the first half hour of an SVU episode over and over and over again.” Maybe I’ll just pick up a Crossed: Badlands trade instead.

You can pick up Crossed Plus 100 #1 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

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Image Comics

Just The Tips (Image Comics)
Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky, creators of Sex Criminals, culled 96 pages of hints, tricks and advice from their letters columns and are releasing them as a how-to sex guide. I can’t think of two people better-equipped to dispense tips and tricks for doing sex to people than the writer of Hawkdude and the guy who is somehow only the second most disreputable former Toronto mayoral candidate ever.

Hopefully this will go beyond a mere recap of the sex advice given in the book (how many times can you go over “it’s both a blessing and a curse to stop time when you orgasm” before it gets exploitative?) and get into some behind the scenes tidbits and discussions of sexual theory. Is Reverse-Reverse Cowgirl a commentary on the decline of feminist self-identification in modern celebrities? What are the health benefits to the Fleshy Lightswitch? How long did the crew of Un Chien Andalou take to paint the gerbil to look like a Hawkmoth?

You can pick up Just the Tips 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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IDW Publishing

This week, it’s Transformers: Primacy #4 from IDW Publishing. It’s the culmination of a series of minis looking back into Cybertron’s past. The art from Livio Raimondelli is angular and stylish, but it’s still very recognizably Transformers. The story is from Chris Metzen, a comic writer and jack-of-all-trades for Blizzard, and Flint Dille, the son of a bitch who killed Optimus Prime when I was 5 former story editor for the Transformers cartoon and mastermind of much of the movie.

This series isn’t going to convert any new fans, but if you’re a longtime TF follower, you’re going to want to pick it up. And if you’re a lapsed fan, this is going to feel like scratching an itch you didn’t know you had. I saw Quintessons, Sharkticons, Stunticons, Grimlock, Hot Rod, Predacons, Sky Lynx, Omega Supreme, and Trypticon falling from orbit to punch Metroplex hard enough so he could be stabbed in the chest with a Junkion ship. Even typing that out made my eyes roll into the back of my head while I let out an “aaaaaaaaaaaaaah.”

You can pick up Transformers: Primacy (ALL OF IT) at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

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.