Columns, Comics

New Comic Book Day: What a Nice Guy

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First Second Books

The Super Bowl bet between Chrises Evans and Pratt has to be the nicest thing in the world. How could you not like these guys? To catch you up: Evans is a Patriots fan while Pratt likes the Seahawks. If the Seahawks won, Evans agreed to go to Seattle Children’s Hospital dressed as Captain America and wave a 12th Man flag. Because the Pats won WOOOOOOOOOOOOO GO SAWX, Pratt agreed to visit Christopher’s Haven in Boston dressed as Star Lord, but wearing a Brady jersey TAWMMY WOOOOO.

Sorry. Evans, being the all around awesome dude he is, is still going to Seattle Children’s dressed as Cap, which is more than enough to make me go “Awww,” sigh and surreptitiously fan myself like the genteel Southern lady I am.

This week in comics, Cobra tries to up their Q score; women be plottin’; Batman takes an odd angle to stop drug shipments; time runs out on the Ultimate Universe and the Goon’s will to live, apparently; Boom redoes Starship Troopers without all that pesky racism; and AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. But first: hot damn can Scott McCloud write.

The Sculptor (First Second)
It’s hard to write about Scott McCloud’s new brick of a book because there’s no way to put into words how it made me feel. This was one of the most incredible, intensely emotional comics I’ve ever read, but everything I say about it, even the hyperbole, is underplaying the experience.

There’s an old quote from George Bernard Shaw that says, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” That’s a dismissive pile of bullshit, and McCloud atomizes that idiom with The Sculptor. More famously known as the guy who makes books about comics (see Understanding Comics, Reinventing Comics, and Making Comics), McCloud’s first big dip into fiction has been rattling around his head for about 30 years. Somehow, he managed to capture the emo angst of a twentysomething artist looking to leave a mark on the world without making David, the title-referenced sculptor, seem at all whiny or grating. Instead, he tells a heartbreaking story about accepting yourself, about an artist coming to terms with his ability and his medium that is beautiful, wonderful, sad, and very nearly perfect.

Sometimes I worry about my own hyperbole. It feels like every week I’m reading something that makes me say “holy shit this is one of the best comics I’ve read in a while.” I think that’s a function of a lot of things, McCloud’s work as a theorist being a large part of that. People are pushing the boundaries of the medium in ways that they’ve never had the language or the space to before. The Sculptor is a giant flashing billboard from McCloud reminding us that he’s not just about the theory – he’s got the game to back it all up. I don’t want to get too much into the story here, because the whole thing is an experience I think everyone should have for themselves, devoid of any outside expectations from spoilers or even plot guidance. I will tell you that the most emotional I’ve ever been from a book until now was when Dobby got whacked, but when I finished The Sculptor, I closed my laptop and sat with my head in my hands for about 10 minutes before I went and gave my wife a hug. You should go buy this ASAP.

You can pick up The Sculptor at your friendly local comic shop. It’ll be available online eventually.

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Dark Horse Comics

The Goon: Once Upon A Hard Time #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
Man, I’ve been away from The Goon for a long time. Like, since the first trade a long time.

This is a very well-done comic, but I’m not entirely certain that this is great for folks other than die hard Goon fans, despite the number 1 on the outside (“A comic book #1 that’s not new-reader friendly?”, the British baroness who lives in my head asked as she clutched her pearls so tightly they were absorbed into her hand). It’s very clearly the continuation of the last story. Something horrible happened to the Goon, and now he cries and is trying to set up a suicide mission where he takes a bunch of people down.

Like I said, this is a really well-executed book. The backstory’s light because I doubt that anyone writes the last arc of a character to be a great jumping-on point. But the art is superb. It’s very clean and energetic and emotive. This probably is a good place for Goon fans to jump back in, but for new readers, everything’s in trade, so start there. And be forewarned: The Goon cries more than me in this issue.

You can pick up The Goon: Once Upon a Hard Time #1 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Dark Horse.

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Marvel.com

Avengers #41 (Marvel Comics)
The clock ticks a lot louder in this week’s Avengers. The cover art here is not a mistake, by the way. The latest incursion, the smushing together of the 616 and adjacent universes, finally smushes the Ultimate universe in, as has long been rumored. That is in fact the cover to The Ultimates #1. Just Ultimates, six volumes and three ridiculous adjective prefixes ago.

I joke, but Hickman is amazing. Even when he “fails,” like some people claim happened in Infinity, he still writes some of the most epic, intense, intricate stories I’ve ever read. I apologize for brushing off his art partners in this discussion, because they have all been to a person outstanding, and some of them like Leinil Yu and Rags Morales have turned in my favorite work of their careers. For these company-owned superhero books, for every reader there’s a definitive team, a definitive arc that shaped your conception of the character(s) – my Spider-Man will always be Bendis’, my Nova always Abnett and Lanning, my Batman is “No Man’s Land,” my Champions will always be Nextwave. Hickman’s got two of those right now – Fantastic Four and Avengers. Though I suspect once Secret Wars is over, they’ll both only be one.

You can pick up Avengers #41 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

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DC Comics

Detective Comics #39 (DC Comics)
Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul have been co-creating some DC book since the relaunch, first with The Flash and now here. They are a great partnership – the colored pencil feel to the art is one of the coolest things in comics, completely changing the mood of Gotham and fitting in with the overall bright, borderline-garish and perfectly appropriate neons and purples and pinks that Fco Plascencia has brought to regular Batman. Manapul’s figures are terrific, resembling a manga-influenced Ed McGuiness, and his panel layouts are among the most innovative you’ll see in a monthly comic. He uses every square inch of the page and every angle imaginable to engage the reader.

Their stories have only occasionally moved from “pretty good” – nothing award winning, but without any real flaws or plot holes or poor characterizations to hold it back. The biggest complaint you could make about the story is that it seems almost quaintly low-stakes compared to Batman, where the Joker has pumped all of Gotham with degenerative Joker toxins (and by the way, Batman #38 was the best issue of Snyder and Capullo’s run – what a great, enormous action movie of a comic), or Batman & Robin, where MechaBatman went to hell to punch the Devil and bring his dead son back to life. Here, Batman’s busted up some gang dudes and raced a motorcycle, but he looked beautiful (in a totally masculine way ha ha uncomfortable ha whatever ha) doing it. Capullo draws badass action, and Patrick Gleason does the best moody shadows Batman, but Manapul and Buccellato are drawing the slickest, coolest Batman on stands right now.

You can pick up Detective Comics #39 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.

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IDW Publishing

G.I. Joe #5 (IDW Publishing)
I mostly know Karen Traviss from her work on Star Wars EU novels, which were replacement-level. A little Mandaloverkill, but they were pretty breezy page-turners otherwise. There’s a comfort she seems to take in writing military-esque fiction that shines through here, even if you probably want to have read the last year or so of G.I. Joe comics to grasp the background that the story is set in.

But let’s talk about those Saul Bass covers! I know aping one of the most famous graphic designers of all time isn’t necessarily innovative, but who gives a shit; these covers are awesome. Jeffrey Veregge, the cover artist for this series, is even making the characters look like their old figures. That’s great stuff, man.

To catch you up on the story, this is much more of an espionage/political thriller than you’d expect from a military group that includes cockatiels in their official uniform regs. Tomax is taking Cobra legit, Duke works for a PMC, and the Baroness is using her sniper rifle to politely disagree with Tomax’s leadership strategies (“A Baroness? Shooting?” I really need to stop watching Downton Abbeywhile I write these things). It’s a story that includes Cobra’s official press flack and somehow manages to not even be the slightest bit ridiculous. If you want to have your cake and eat it too, Cobra, I hear Lanny Davis is taking on new clients.

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

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Dyclops

Antioch #1 (Dyclops)
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. Kevin Colden, who was nominated for an Eisner for his work on Fishtown, is releasing Antioch through the indie label he and his wife (the previously-lauded Miss Lasko-Gross) created, Dyclops. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH. Antioch is a time jumping mystery about a guy who jumps through time into different bodies, with each timeshift occurring during a seizure or some kind of blackout. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH. The coloring is an absolute highlight of the book, with a lot of washed-out pinks and blues to signify each time jump. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. So far, it’s an interesting story about a serial killer/cult in each of the time periods, whose calling card is some kind of ritualistic, really really explicit ball snipping AAAAAAAAAAAH. OH GOD AND HE SHOWS IT AND I CAN’T STOP SCREAMING. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH Antioch #1 AAAAAAAAAAAAAH .

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BOOM! Studios

Cluster #1 (BOOM! Studios)
Ed Brisson and Damian Couciero have partnered to jam the Suicide Squad into The Forever War. That’s not a criticism. No matter how many times you run it through the wash, Suicide Squad is an awesome high concept (Copra is seriously great, btw), and working that into a story about criminals being coercively enlisted to fight on the space frontier against terraforming saboteurs oh god that sentence is so good.

The art is great, too. Couciero pulls off first person perspective really well to disorient you along with the characters at the beginning of the issue. The perspective starts out tipped on its side, just like Samara (the main character), and rotates to perpendicular to the ground as she drags her (presumably) drunk ass up so she can be arrested. It moves on to the desolate pre-terraforming prison planet/military base where her cast gets fleshed out, and then her guts-liquefying bomb implant gets activated when a mission goes to shit. Smart money is on that bomb being made of a big box of mac and cheese and a glass of milk with a timer attached.

You can pick up Cluster #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.

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Image Comics

This week, it’s Bitch Planet #2 from Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro, and it was awesome. To be completely and totally up front, I’ve never been over the moon for DeConnick’s writing. I read Pretty Deadly because holy shit how amazing is Emma Rios, but until I reread it, I found the story to be a little impenetrable. Captain Marvel is a good cape book, but it’s not my favorite. And despite my professed, inappropriate, unholy love of Black Dynamite, ’70s exploitation movies aren’t really my bag. So I read the first issue because it was getting good buzz, and I liked it enough to come back for the second one.

I’m soooooooooooo glad I did. I’m sure that part of it is the sci-fi prison setting that sucked me in, and De Landro’s design, especially in the confession scene, is stellar. But I think I just really like Kamau, the main character, and the eventual prison break is being built up to be awesome. I added this to my pull list as soon as I put this issue down. This book is a ton of fun to read. If background gags are your thing, the entire sequence on the treadmills where Penny Rolle beats the hell out of progressively larger groups of guards, :kisses fingers: c’est magnifique.

You can pick up Bitch Planet #2 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.