Columns, Comics

New Comic Book Day: Glass-Steagall for Comics

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IDW Publishing

There’s nothing I can say about last week’s horrific murders in Paris and the awfulness that followed it that hasn’t already been said a thousand times better than I could by Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter or by Jacob Canfield at The Hooded Utilitarian, so I’m not going to try.

The other huge news last week was IDW’s purchase of Top Shelf. This is a really interesting move for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is because it keeps Top Shelf comics coming out (I’m really psyched for March). IDW’s been doing a great job of mixing up what they offer. It’s a good split between licensed stuff like Transformers and G.I. Joe and the really expensive, really incredibly awesome Library of American Comics output – I forwarded the press release announcing the Kamandi Artist’s Edition with a subject of “Aww Jesus, bye $125.” The merger with Top Shelf provides them with a portfolio of books that are basically more affordable offerings of their artier fare. But what if this heralds a wave of consolidation for comic publishers? Maybe Congress should pass a law that keeps art comics and cape comics published by separate companies. Because the last thing we need is comic companies misstating the amount of art comics they have on hand and oh god I’m really gonna try and make a joke about the rules separating investment and commercial banks, aren’t I? Nope! :waves it off like a pass to Dez Bryant: We’re calling that one back. IDW’s doing great and this move is fine and the bill I’m thinking of would be a Gramm-Leach for comics anyway. Good day!

This week in comics, it’s all fighting games, all the time, starting with AbramsTrek vs. DS9: All of the Sprites.

Star Trek #40 (IDW Publishing)
You could have dipped into my own personal stock of mentally-filed fanfic and you wouldn’t have found something as crazy awesome as a Q Continuum-Pah Wraith war that puts Sisko, the nu-Enterprise and Q on the Defiant in the Bajoran wormhole. The story in this is terrific. Mike Johnson, who’s done very good work on Supergirl, has managed to veer away from the obvious fanfic pitfalls and make the Trek lore work for the story he wants to tell, and it’s genuinely entertaining. That said, the art’s a little stiff – it looks like stills from an Archer Trek episode. But aside from that, this was a really good book.

You can pick up Star Trek #40 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

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DC Comics

Mortal Kombat X #1 (DC Comics)
This series is a prequel to the follow up to Mortal Kombat 9, the game that saved fighters for Warner. Seriously, without it, we wouldn’t have Injustice (the comic or the awesome game); we wouldn’t have the new game, which looks as tactically interesting as any fighting game released on either generation of consoles; and we wouldn’t have this comic, about which I am guardedly optimistic.

MK9 was a time-travelling fustercluck of a reboot; imagine the Star Trek reboot if Eric Bana got cut in half by a spinning hat. But it was the most coherent story of any Mortal Kombat game – Raiden, about to lose the tenth Mortal Kombat to Shao Khan, sends messages to his past self to try and rig old tournaments to allow Khan to illegally merge Earthrealm and Outworld before the fated tenth loss. He doesn’t figure it out until Kung Lao, Smoke, Sub-Zero, Jax, Kitana, Nightwolf, Jade, Kabal, Sindel, Stryker and Liu Kang are dead, but then he does and he whups Khan’s ass, and the Elder Gods destroy him. Flash forward about 20 years to this comic, and a bunch more kumite gibberish happens with Kenshi, Scorpion, the Red Dragon Clan and a new, mysterious Sub Zero. If you don’t care about Mortal Kombat, you should probably not buy this, because it’s ridiculous. If you do, and you’re irrationally psyched about the story rationale why Sonya and Johnny Cage had a kid together who has three different fighting styles in the game, let’s talk in the comments, because we are both the exact same flavor of nerd.

You can pick up Mortal Kombat X #1 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

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Dark Horse Comics

Conan/Red Sonja #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
Like Street Fighter X Tekken and Tekken X Street Fighter, Dark Horse is publishing the first part of a cross-company crossover, while the second (the creatively named Red Sonja/Conan) will be published by Dynamite. The pedigree of the creators on this book is outstanding – Gail Simone and Jim Zub are both terrific writers, and Zub in particular really excels at epic fantasy. Dan Panosian’s art in the previews looks terrific – stylish, angular, and with thick, moody inks that work great on swords and sorcery fantasy stories, I think.

Can anyone explain to me why the rights to both aren’t tied together, though? In my head, I’ve always associated the two with each other – I assumed they were part of the same universe already, but I guess when they went public domain they split off? I would appreciate a two sentence summary that does not include a sarcastic LMGTFY link pls kthxbai.

You can pick up Conan/Red Sonja #1 at your friendly local comic shop or online via the Dark Horse app.

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Marvel.com

Star Wars #1 (Marvel Comics)
Part of me wants to roll my eyes at the 632,449 variant covers or the obvious Lootcrate padding. but still:

One million copies sold.

That’s enormous. I know it’s dwarfed by what old comics were doing, but no amount of shade thrown by Rob Liefeld can take away the fact that Marvel is moving a million copies of a comic. That hasn’t happened in almost 20 years. Add to that the fact that it is by all reports very good – which isn’t particularly surprising, what with Jason Aaron and John Cassaday doing post A New Hope Luke, Leia and Han stories – and we could very well have a new gateway comic for a whole pile of new readers.

I doubt you’ll be surprised to hear that I’m an easy mark for EU Star Wars stuff. I squealed with glee when I read the Kyp Durron joke in What If? Dark Horse’s latest Episode 4.5 series was the last holdout after my Brian Wood pull list culling. And to keep with the theme, if you want good Star Wars fighting game crack, Soul Calibur 4, in all its broken glory, is your jam. I’m down like the clowns who made Masters of Teras Kasi for all the Marvel Star Wars books.

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

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Oni Press

Stumptown #5 (Oni Press)
I read volume 1 as part of Oni’s Humble Bundle (and if you haven’t checked out Image’s this week go there right now and come back, because holy shitballs). Matt Fraction described it in the intro as “The Rockford Files in Portland”, and it’s exactly that – light, entertaining, exciting without needing giant epic stakes, and generally entertaining as hell.

Volume 3 is a little heavier. It dug deeper into Dex’s background, and gave us a case that was a lot more personal to her than the first one. Rucka handled it very well. As an aside (like I should all of a sudden call them out [this is just gratuitous {Pull up! *I CAN HOLD IT*}]), I just got past Rucka’s guest appearance on Rachel & Miles X-Plain the X-Men , and holy damn if he doesn’t sound like Lewis Black if he ate like, 50% fewer cigarettes. Oh yeah, Stumptown! It’s really good. This issue wraps up the new volume, and as I said above, it’s a little heavier, a little more personal, but the kind of detective story I wish was still on TV.Maybe we can get ABC to go in on a Dex Parrios/Castle crossover and watch nerd twitter collapse on itself.

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

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Valiant Comics

The Death Defying Dr. Mirage #5 (Valiant Comics)
Jen Van Meter and Roberto de la Torre made a pretty good, unspectacular hero comic rebooting Valiant’s old Dr. Mirage as a paranormal detective hunting for the spirit of her dead husband. What pushes the book from fine to pretty good are David Baron’s colors. The palette is atypical for a comic like this, with lots of greens and reds as opposed to what I think is typical for magic-based heroes – lots of blue, yellow and purple.

This is the last issue of the miniseries, and it does a nice job of wrapping up the story. Aside from the general great job of coloring that Baron did, the best part of the issue is de la Torre’s art on the climactic battle. He does a really good job of showing Dr. Miage’s Astral Heat move.

You can pick up The Death-Defying Dr. Mirage #5 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

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Image Comics

Henshin (Image Comics)
Ken Niimura, who you may know from I Kill Giants, has this anthology collection coming out in America from Image this week, and it’s pretty good. The art styles change from story to story based on the subject material – loose and really sketchy for one, a much cleaner line with detailed backgrounds for others. The one consistent thing he does very well is to use those shifts in style to match the tone of the book and to focus the reader on important panels and events. That’s really solid craft.

Speaking of panels, the “how to read Manga” diagram on the back is pretty great. As someone who’s only been reading it for, like, a cumulative 3 months, I honestly struggled keeping my eye from reverting to left-right, especially on the same panel.

There is a surprising undercurrent of darkness tying a lot of the stories together. There are suicides, there are hammer killings, there’s a bullied girl fighting off an amusement park full of mascots with the uzi she found in her grandfather’s glovebox, and I promise that’s actually darker than it sounds. But it’s the little things about this collection that make it really entertaining. The telepathic bond from a Mom nerve pinch is immediately recognizable and relatable. So is the way that a deuce on your childhood toilet is usually better than anywhere else you can go. And who among us hasn’t farted a Phantom Zone demon as self defense?

You can pick up Henshin 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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Retrofit/Big Planet Comics

This week, it’s Fungus: The Unbearable Rot of Being from Retrofit/Big Planet Comics and created by James Kochalka.

The entire book is like the ballroom sketches from The Muppet Show. Each story is just a quick bit, a brief vignette that’s usually comprised of two characters talking to each other focused on an absurd take on an existential topic like “philosophy” or “comics.” Most of them are really funny.They’re all utterly ridiculous, like a witty, juvenile avant-garde improv routine where the audience shouts words and two little mushrooms riff off of their complete misunderstanding of the theme. Occasionally you get some really sharp, sarcastic punchlines, but it’s generally just absurd.

You can pick up Fungus: The Unbearable Rot of Being at your friendly local comic shop or online via Retrofit’s web store.

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.