Last week, AMC & Regal announced that they’ll be marathoning every Marvel movie in release order, leading up to the premiere of Age of Ultron. I am here to tell you that this is insane. Sitting in a movie theater for 27 straight hours for anything other than charity is nuts. How do you pick your bathroom spots? I know there are lulls in the movies, but that requires either wearing a diaper or meticulously choreographing every pee you take for more than a day. By the time AOU rolls around, I’d be exhausted just from the amount of focus it would take to plan that intricately. I would MUCH rather do like Mike Furth from The Comic Archive (confession: he’s an IRL friend of mine) and have people over for a weekend-long chronological viewing. At least then I’d be able to use a comfortable-ish bathroom. Comfortable-ish because mine is SWELTERING right now. It smells like a haunted jungle bog.
This week in comics, hell gets broke; the much vaunted ninja division of the British Intelligence Services finally get some recognition; Charlie Wormwood (but not his eyes) gets damned; everything gets punched; Howard gets Ducked; Bill & Ted get to come back; Tanzania gets m4d l337; and a great webcomic gets recognized. But first, video game tie-ins get legit.
Batman: Arkham Knight #1 (DC Comics)
So Arkham Origins sucked. It sucked big, hairy ass. A decade ago, I never would have thought I’d play a Batman game as good as Arkham City. And after Arkham City, I never imagined I would walk away from a Batman game in disgust, but that’s what happened with AO, that sunbaked turd. So I promised myself that I wouldn’t get swept up in the hype train for the next game, even knowing that Rocksteady was coming back to make it.
Then John Noble happened.
It is the height of unfairness that John Noble doesn’t have a wall full of Emmys for Fringe. He was far and away the best character on TV while that show was on, and while I never considered him for voice acting, he is PERFECT for a menacing, behind-the-scenes mastermind. I can’t believe I’m going to actually buy a video game tie-in comic (which isn’t the slur it once was, thanks largely to how great the Injustice books have been) based on the strength of one voice actor who obviously won’t be reading the comic to me, but whevs. I’ll read it in his voice and pretend.
The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood #5 (Dynamite Comics)
Originally a Thrillbent series, The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood wraps its first print volume from Dynamite this week, and I think it’s worth hunting down the collection when it comes out. Christina Blanch and Chris Carr are telling a very subtle, moody story, and with Chee’s moody art, the end result is a really good comic.
Charlie Wormwood teaches in a prison, has a kid in the hospital, and by the end of the volume, a probably dying father. He’s not keeping up with the medical bills, and he has to decide whether or not to enter into a scheme with some of the inmates to keep his head above water. There are a lot of literary references (he’s an English professor, after all) which keep you on your toes while you read, looking for clues about where the story might go. I don’t think the creative team is reinventing the wheel here, though. The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood is very much a tragedy, and I expect that once it starts to wrap, it will end very much like a tragedy. As a matter of fact, now that I think about it, the only way this could end worse would be if Charlie spontaneously turned into Daredevil.
Howard the Duck #1 (Marvel Comics)
Joe Quinones is a fantastic choice for art on Howard the Duck. Facial expressions and body language are probably the most important components to a humor comic, and Quinones can and will nail them.
But, and this isn’t to denigrate the work that Quinones is going to do, he’s not the real draw for me. There was literally no way that a Chip Zdarsky-written book in Marvel canon would not find its way home with me. The only reason I haven’t tripped over myself to get the second Sex Crimz trade is because I’m waiting for the promised Artist’s Edition (HA HA IT’S REALLY HAPPENING). With the Howard set up that Charles Soule helpfully threw into his She-Hulk swan song, our duck-boobed friend looks to be setting up his PI agency in the same building as Shulkie’s law firm, and I expect hilarity to ensue. I honestly can’t see any way that this doesn’t turn out terrific, unless Chip turns into Steve Gerber overnight. In which case, we’d probably have much bigger things to worry about than late shipping, off-voice comics. Namely, ghosts.
Hellbreak #1 (Oni Press)
This was a really good first issue. Hellbreak‘s elevator pitch is an interesting one. A mercenary special ops group knows how to get into Hell, and can retrieve whoever you want, if you can afford it. Cullen Bunn writes a rarity for first issues lately: a complete story in one issue, but with seeds for more laid everywhere. He takes you through one full operation, wasting no time trying to build atmosphere. A lot of credit should go to the art team, too.
Brian Churilla’s art conveys the action well. He also does a terrific job of making Hell look actually scary – a tougher proposition than you might think. A lot of folks go weird over horrific, and Churilla manages a nice balance. Dave Stewart’s colors are pretty much perfect, too. He goes for washed out black and grey and white for Hell’s palate until the still-living start blowing the hell out of everything. That’s a traditional depiction, but it’s a neat trick and one that I feel like fell into disuse for a while. Solicit text has promised a “thousands of hells,” so I’m looking forward to seeing what else these folks come up with. I hope they throw some random ones in there, like Duke Basketball Fan Hell, where they can only watch games with UNC alum-announcers (happy March!), or NBC Executive Hell, where he’s the only person in an audience laughing hysterically at a Kimmy Schmidt/Community marathon, but no one will explain to him why it’s funny.
Ninjak #1 (Valiant Comics)
The newly flush with cash Valiant (more on that later this week) gives us another strong opening issue with Ninjak. The first ten pages are one long, meticulous, perfectly paced fight sequence between the title character and a woman who presumably works for MI6 and has hair that can light you on fire okay it kinda came loose at the end there but trust me, Ninjak is awesome.
In all seriousness, there’s an old David Brothers article on CA about the fight scenes in Dragonball, and that’s exactly what Ninjak made me think of. Clay Mann walks you through each move in the fight, and it looks outstanding. Kindt and Mann paced the main story extremely well. The backup looks great, too, with Butch Guice drawing a rainy Pyongyang beautifully, and Ulises Arreola doing a fantastic job coloring the reflection of all the neon in the rain-soaked streets. I didn’t realize Pyongyang had electricity at night, though.
The Surface #1 (Image Comics)
The Surface is a new cyberpunk comic from Ales Kot, Langdon Foss and Jordie Bellaire, who I assume has to have a cape thrown on her every time she finishes coloring a book, because she’s the hardest working woman in the comics business. Seriously, the solicit text for this issue was a highlight, because it correctly listed as Jordie Bellaire’s past work, “Everything.”
This is a story that wears its influences on its sleeve. Or maybe on the front of the shirt in big block letters. Case in point: the introduction page is styled like a news feed straight out of Starship Troopers, and one of the news stories is about the “Verhoven-Delaney” theory. And the story is so heavily foreshadowed I feel like you can’t even call it foreshadowing, it’s more like directly under-shadowing, even self-spoiling. There are a BUNCH of references, starting with what the “Verhoven-Delaney Theory” is, to what I expect is the big twist of the series. Enough that I feel like I knew what was coming right away.
None of this should really be taken to mean that it was a bad comic. Foss’ art is extremely reminiscent of Nick Pitarra’s on Manhattan Projects, which is a good thing now that I have to wait for more of that comic. Kot is toying with some cool ideas here, and he seems to have thought through the development of society in the book really well. This is a strong first issue, and I’m definitely coming back for more.
One-Punch Man vol. 6 (Viz Media)
I’m actually sticking to my resolution! I promised to read more manga, and one of my favorites so far is one that I came to off of our own Mike Toole’s top 10 list from 2014: One-Punch Man. I’m not caught up enough to be able to read this volume for probably another week, but from what I’ve seen so far, I ADORE this series.
It starts out with its tongue firmly in its cheek: Saitama, the main hero of the story, defeats everyone he faces with only one punch, pissed that he can’t find anyone who’ll last longer than that who might be able to challenge him. I completely fell for it early on, when he announces that he trained himself bald. And while it’s played for jokes the whole time, it’s also a sneaky deconstruction of stories about overpowered heroes (Goku is the obvious comparison, but Superman is also apt). It’s really smart, and it’s such a loving, absurd take on fight comics that if you’re a fan of Dragon Ball, The Raid/Dredd, or any quest/martial arts books, you absolutely want to check this out.
A word of warning, though: I read this on the Comixology app for my Kindle Fire, and my only complaint about this book is how it was laid out for guided view. The art is terrific, but scrolling through split up two page spreads pulls a little of the oomph out of that art. And by oomph, I mean “punches so hard they destroy a city.” God, this book is so good.
Bill & Ted’s Most Triumphant Return #1 (BOOM! Studios)
NERD HERESY #38: I never really got into Bill and Ted. I’ll wait for your gasps to subside before I continue.
Feel better? Excellent. So it’s not that I’m pathologically disinclined towards Keanu Reeves or anything (far from it – Man of Tai Chi is soooooooooooo good). I think it just took me a while to develop a distinct media palate from my parents, and they were way more interested in
trying to get me to light my brother on fire with a fart Mel Brooks and sarcasm than what probably appeared to be a couple of pop culture-steeped stoners. And now trying to go back is like (REGULAR PERSON HERESY #20) listening to the Beatles. I get why people liked it and why it’s important, but…meh?
And I wrote that before I read this issue, so I SWEAR that the Beatles reference was serendipity and not me trying to be cute. Bill & Ted’s Most Triumphant Return is really entertaining, regardless of whether or not you have any prior knowledge of the characters. It takes place immediately after the end of the second movie, and Brian Lynch and Jerry Gaylord do a good job using that to power through most of the set up and exposition you’d get in a first issue like this and jump right into the jokes. The backup, from Ryan North and Ian McGinty with a special guest appearance from North’s Squirrel Girl teammate, Erica Henderson, is very specifically a Ryan North comic, and thus pretty damn funny.
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 the McDuffie Award-winning MFK by Nilah Magruder, a webcomic about a small town of dirt-sand farmers and wizardry. It’s the story of Jamie, a sand farmer with aspirations of joining the outside world, and Abbie, a powerful magic-wielder who turns up in Jamie’s town injured and gets nursed back to health by Jamie’s aunt.
It’s a delightful story. The characters are great, and the art is manga-influenced, bright and flows really well. It’s really easy to see why Magruder is winning awards for it – it took a grand total of 12 pages for me to get completely and totally emotionally invested in the story, and it took me about an hour to rip through the three issues and assorted scene-setting material that’s online. My only complaint is that there isn’t more to read already, but hopefully with the additional recognition she gets from the award, she’ll be able to start raking in that comic bank and make MFK full time HAHA comic bank.
You can check out MFK at its web site.
That’s what I’m reading this week. What are you picking up?