I started my year out wrong. I made a New Year’s resolution to try and get more stuff from outside of my reading comfort zone – more pamphlets, more webcomics, more indie stuff, and more manga, and recommendations are more than welcome in the comments. I even used Mike Toole’s awesome list as a guide when I was at the shop last week. They didn’t have the first volumes of One Punch Man or Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin so I grabbed Biomega instead – I will report back soon. But that resolution was a terrible mistake, a lazy failure of imagination on my part.
What my resolution SHOULD have been to make and eat one of these magnificent shooter sandwiches without dying. This looks like something from Man vs. Food back when Man was still the underdog. What little blood could still move through my arteries after that…well, you know where it would be.
This week in comics: Tim Drake gets a Victorian reboot, sorta; Ice gets Fire-d; the Civil War gets liberties taken in its comic adaptation; Red Sonja gets old; Squirrel Girl gets Hunted; I get Wally Wood; and Betty Draper gets wrist guns. But first, time gets collapsed into a single point in 1952.
Epochalypse #2 (Legendary Comics)
Jonathan Hennessey and Shane Davis are in the middle of an interesting story – artifacts from throughout history keep turning up one place that seemingly exists outside of space time, and anything from after 1952 creates some kind of imbalance in the Time Trapper’s pocket universe. It’s competently written, though the fact that it’s nothing we haven’t seen a thousand times over lessens the stakes. But by the same token, there are no failures of characterization or gaping plot holes that wouldn’t exist if the story weren’t about time travel and thus specifically about plot holes, and the art is very good. It’s also nice to see something drawn by Shane Davis that’s not written by someone who makes me not want to read it.
You can pick up Epochalypse #2 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.
Spawn of Mars and Other Stories: The EC Comics Library (Fantagraphics Books)
Look at this book. Look at it! It’s magical.
Fantagraphics has been putting out old EC comics in these gorgeous oversized hardcovers. This edition collects a bunch of Wally Wood sci-fi stories from the ’50s, which were basically the Book of Genesis for all comics sci-fi that’s come since. Maybe Deuteronomy.
One way or another, I would probably buy this book – either for the historical value, or for the quality of the stories and the incredible art. But the reason I’m almost guaranteed to eventually pick this up: shelf porn. I’d probably buy “Wally Wood sci-fi reprints” as a digest, but this is going to eventually look so damn good on the oversized shelf. It’s the smuggest reason to buy anything ever, but I ain’t care. I’ll Tweet out a picture of my shelf when I get it, too, just to show how sophisticated and cultured I am. “Why yes, that is an entire shelf of X-Men trades in chronological order according to timeline and not publication date,” I’ll sheepishly say as I later retract any attempted claim at taste or sophistication.
You can pick up Spawn of Mars and Other Stories: The EC Comics Library at your friendly local comic shop or online probably but why would you want to? Buy it in print. Put it on your shelf. Look at it as you fall asleep. So pretty.
|Dark Horse Comics
Lady Killer #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
Joelle Jones and Jamie S. Rich’s book is about a ’50s homemaker who’s also Deadshot, and I can’t talk about the hook for this comic without getting myself all excited. Imagine Leave It To Beaver if June spent 5 minutes an episode meticulously plotting an assassination? IT WON’T STOP.
Jones’s art is really interesting – the figures are lean and angular like Aeon Flux, but everything is suffused with the ’50s aesthetic. So the ultimate effect is like putting Jackie Onassis in an anime The Americans. JESUS, man, every sentence I write about this makes me more amped. I might end up overhyping this for myself, but even if Lady Killer doesn’t end up having a knife-wielding John-John in his funeral dress being fastball-specialed onto a Soviet’s face, I still think it’s going to be great.
You can pick up Lady Killer #1 at your friendly local comic shop or online via the Dark Horse app.
Justice League 3000 #13 (DC Comics)
I bought the first issue of JL3000 when it came out, because why not? DeMatteis has written some of my favorite comics and cartoon episodes of all time, and the bwa-ha-ha team getting together to write future Justice League? That’s a promising premise. It didn’t hold me for too long, though, so I ditched it. Grumpy, asshole clone JLA in the same setting as the Legion of Super Heroes with no extant Legion book as a companion/counterpoint wasn’t really doing it for me.
Then Ted Kord came back.
The most exciting thing going on at DC right now, for me, is all the lunatic time-travel/multiverse collapse/DCU becoming self-aware stuff that’s infecting every book. Having a pre-Infinite Crisis Blue Beetle and Booster Gold show up on Takron Galtos is the shit. Adding immortal ice-elemental Ice, a somehow-resurrected Fire and future-Etrigan (next month WOOO) is just gravy. I swear to God if they nail the rhyming on the head, I’ll buy copies of this comic book ’til I’m dead.
You can pick up Justice League 3000 #13 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.
Red Sonja: Vulture’s Circle #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)
This was a lot funnier than I expected. I came into it anticipating gore and Heavy Metal-esque costumes, and I walked out pleasantly surprised at the depth that Nancy Collins and Luke Lieberman gave Sonja.
Sonja, now running a school where she trains developing young lady sword- and bow-killers to unlock their full sword- and bow-killing potential, has to face off with Sutekh, the half-human son of snake god Set. Sutekh is born from one of the grossest scenes I’ve read in recent memory, and overall the art from Fritz Casas is very effective. It’s clear, vaguely reminiscent of DC’s house style, but without muddy inks dripped all over them. It’s also gory and more naked than I thought it would be, though I’m not sure why I figured a comic about a sword-wielding mercenary in a chain mail bikini would be reserved in its boobage. My one minor quibble was that all the boobs had pancake nipples. Truly good art takes into account the wide variety of nippling, and presents that diversity to the world.
You can pick up Red Sonja: Vulture’s Circle #1 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 (Marvel Comics)
I like Erica Henderson. I loved her stuff on Atomic Robo: Real Science Adventures. I think she draws cartoony action really well, and her facial expressions are perfect for a comedy book.
I like Ryan North, and that liking is very well-documented by now. Dinosaur Comics and Adventure Time are/were (aww 🙁 ) consistently great, and I can’t really think of a better Marvel character for him to take on than Squirrel Girl.
And since I also like Squirrel Girl, I’m fairly certain I’m going to like this comic. She’s basically a PG Deadpool – fourth wall breaking, over the top to the point of ridiculous power, and I expect with this series she’ll become emblematic of the particular comic age in which she gained popularity in the same way. I think that just as “dropping a shitload of acid and drawing magicians with big collars” was the hallmark of ’70s character creation, or the ’90s were all about “giant guns and no feet,” “earnest to the point of being unsnarkable” is going to be the new trend in big-2 character development in the twenty teens.
You can pick up Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.
Feathers #1 (BOOM! Studios)
Jorge Corona (Teen Titans GO! and more recently Goners) makes a book for Archaia that’s a lot more suited to his art style. Feathers is loosely a steampunk Tim Drake solo book. Actually, that’s really reductive, because it’s a lot more fun and interesting than your average steampunk story. I hate steampunk.
There’s a lot of great energy here; energy that Corona brings to all his work. Poe (the begoggled feathered main character) is a boy covered with feathers and delivered as a baby to a nice monk in the dumpy outskirts of a really economically segregated Victorianish city. Bianca (the adventurous, rebellious daughter of one of the inner wall-dwelling upper crusters) is anxious as hell to see the world around her, and is more than happy ignoring the orders of her father and dipping out of their carriage when they go for a ride to see the poors. Both are very engaging characters, and there’s a swashbuckly vibe to the entire thing that makes me look forward to the next issue. At least until somebody shows up in a stovepipe hat with one of those pairs of glasses with the six thousand lenses over one eye. Feh, steampunk. Feh.
You can pick up Feathers #1 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.
This week, it’s East of West #16 by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta. East of West is, I think, the best book I’ve ever read from Hickman. It’s also really hamstrung by being a monthly comic.
Hickman is a meticulous plotter (which you can see from his cascading plot sheet from when he wrote Fantastic Four). He’s also incredibly gifted writing books that juggle immense casts – at no point in his Avengers have two characters sounded the same. He can give every character he writes a voice and consistently hit those same notes every time he comes back to them. In a story as complicated as this one, those are incredible assets, but having that ability also makes it tough to not write about 20 characters across 3 main storylines and 2 background ones. And yes, I counted: Death is trying to find his son; the other three horsemen and Babylon are trying to destroy the world; the war between the Endless Nation/PRA and the Republic of Texas; the ongoing collapse of the Union; and the coup in the Confederacy.
This is a crazy, intensely complex story that Hickman is telling, and building an alternate universe where the Civil War made 7 countries instead of 1 takes a lot of time. Space constraints mean sometimes stories don’t get mentioned in successive issues, and sometimes you go 60 days between sequential plot beats. That’s tough.
None of this is to suggest that it’s bad. I don’t want anyone coming away with that idea at all: like I said, this is the most inventive and wildly creative thing I’ve ever read written by Hickman. And Nick Dragotta’s art is unbelievable – like late ’80s Sal Buscema drawing Akira. It’s like a mix of comic art comfort food and awe-smacking epicness. But it might be better to buy the book monthly and every 6 issues or so reread the whole thing in a day so you can follow the threads a little better, because taken as a whole, this is one of the best comic books I’ve ever read, but reading it in monthly chunks isn’t as satisfying.
You can pick up East of West #16 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology or Image’s web store
That’s what I’m reading this week. What are you picking up?