DC, at the request of the creators, pulled their Joker-themed Batgirl variant cover this week, after people objecting to it (on the grounds that reminding people of a crazy bit of sexual violence in the character’s past miiiiiiight not have been super representative of Cool Hipster Twentysomething Batgirl inside) were threatened for their sensible questioning. I have to be completely honest: while a Joker theme month for variant covers isn’t inherently a bad idea, using The Killing Joke for the Batgirl cover was in as poor taste as a Childhood Vaccination Month Cable cover, a Senior Citizen STD Prevention Eternal Warrior variant, or a Crime Syndicate-Earth cover of NFL Superpro where his uniform was all pink for Mansogyny Awareness.
This week in comics, Greg Pak approaches Fred Van Lente territory; space dictatorships are toppled; I learn British slang; Kaneda gets a hummer; and we find out if a woman’s place is OH I GET IT NOW. That’s clever. But first, more Mignolaverse goodness.
|Dark Horse Comics|
Frankenstein Underground #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
A couple of weeks back, I got to interview Mike Mignola about this very book and you should absolutely take a minute to go read it. He was great to talk to, very clearly excited about this new book and working with Ben Stenbeck. And it shows in the work, too. Frankenstein Underground is a fantastic point of entry into the sprawling Hellboy comic universe.
The story only grazes the Hellboy U, obliquely referencing House of the Living Dead and a couple of BPRD arcs. Mostly it’s Ben Stenbeck showing the Frankenstein monster’s history, giving glimpses of the monster’s Mary Shelly-appropriate past (in that he’s very much the tragic, sensitive monster at his heart, and only through a century of not wanting to talk to anyone did he become the “HRRRRRRRRRRRRN” Karloff Frankenstein). And for about half of the book, Stenbeck gets to draw an elder god/Mayan temple, which Mignola finally lets him tear to rubble towards the end of the issue.
The series promises great art from Stenbeck, and Frankenstein’s monster running around the center of the Earth, punching the shit out of Hollow Earth monsters. This comic is decidedly For Me.
The Kitchen #5 (Vertigo Comics)
We’re about halfway through this series from Vertigo, and The Kitchen is like (oh crap, I guess I’m really going to do this, aren’t I?) the first season of Downton Abbey, except different hangwithmenowpeopleIswearI’mgoingsomewhere.
Where The Kitchen works really well is as a period piece. It’s about three mob wives in the ’70s who take over when their husbands get sent to the pokey. Downton‘s appeal for me has never been about showing how nice British nobility used to be to the pleebs downstairs. It’s always been much more interesting when they’re looking at the shift in gender roles as the new century really got rolling. Masters and Doyle tell a fairly straightforward crime story here, but the added layer of shifting gender roles in a time of pretty rapid, substantial changes in attitude make the reading experience a lot fuller.
If you don’t want to read for subtext, this is still a well done comic. Ollie Masters’ characters are interesting, and Ming Doyle and Jordie Bellaire do their usual excellent work. But if you want to read for depth, The Kitchen has been more than just a solid crime book SHIT I could have just used Agent Carter for a comparison instead. Dammit. I’m still cool you guys, I swear.
Storm #9 (Marvel Comics)
Greg Pak has very quietly become one of the five best writers working in comics today. Nobody ever hands him the reins of a super-crossover (except that one actual Super-crossover, but that was more of a team effort. MY POINT STILL STANDS) or named him the chief creative officer of something, but take a look at his record: starting with “Planet Hulk” about 10 years ago, he’s given us:
- -“Planet Hulk” and “World War Hulk,” then a bunch of other fun Hulk stuff.
- –Incredible Hercules, one of my favorite comics in a long time.
- -a fantastic, out of the way run in the X-universe on Astonishing and X-Treme X-Mens
- -a solid run on Batman/Superman.
- -the relaunch of Eternal Warrior.
- –Doctor Strange: Season One with utterly unbelievable art from Emma Rios.
- –Action Comics, which I’ve lauded before.
- -and now Storm, which has made me passionately care about the character for the first time probably ever.
Every one of those stories has been at worst very good, and in some cases incredible-to-seminal. On Storm, Pak’s made Ororo a morally righteous badass who taps into her encyclopedic experiences to genuinely lead, and is examining all the problems that may cause. I love this book. It’s probably because my definitive X-Men didn’t really have Storm as a major character (the Messiah period being my personal definitive version); because Halle Berry was such flaming garbage in the movies; and because I can’t move my hands fast enough to jump cancel out of a crouching H in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 that I was never terribly invested in her, but Pak’s version of the character fuses so much of her character into one place that I completely get why her fanbase is so large and enthusiastic.
Invisible Republic #1 (Image Comics)
Kinski was incredible, but I get the distinct impression that it was the quiet, “me” project between giant blockbuster epics for Gabriel Hardman. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Deep Gravity, the book he did before (or really concurrently, I think) Kinski, and now Invisible Republic both appear to be, at least from the first issue of this series, big, sweeping science fiction set in deep space. There’s a difference: with the first, it was very much about the adventure. This new Image book seems like it’s going to focus more on a political drama, with the futuristic space setting being nothing more than background noise.
Hardman and his wife, Corrina Bechko, shared the writing duties, and they did a very good job of teasing parallel stories that I’m looking forward to following. It’s the story of a journalist on a planet that’s part of an interstellar economy, collapsing because of outside economic forces and the death of a charismatic leader. He’s looking for a story to ship off-world, and he stumbles across a memoir from the leader’s cousin that talks about the first time she saw what he, and some ravenous crustaceans, were capable of. As for the art, Hardman is typically excellent. It seems different from Deep Gravity, though, and stylistically closer to Kinski. The inks are a lot heavier here, played for effect over the darker story, and his inking is what I think I like best about Hardman’s artwork. I’m very much looking forward to more from this book, despite the unfortunately timed Red Lobster commercial that came on TV while I was reading this, and sent me skittering to the bathroom.
|Click to enlarge. Seriously.|
The Bigger Bang #4 (IDW Publishing)
DJ Kirkbride and Vassilis Gogtzilas wrap up their sci-fi cape story this week. I had originally wanted to review the first issue, but I ran out of space that week, so I waited to read all four issues to review this one, and I’m PSYCHED that I did. The Bigger Bang is psychotic, pulpy comic sci-fi, paying homage to a thousand different stories in a flurry of brushwork, looking like it was deliberately dashed off not because Gogtzilas was rushing to hit a deadline, but because that’s how fast the ideas were coming out of his brain.
It’s the story of Cosmos, a Hyperionesque, overpowered hero born from the collapse of a universe parallel to the one the story takes place in. It follows his conflict with a betentacled green glob of a king who shouts bright purple statements about the nature of power and destruction, and Cosmos’ budding relationship with one of Thulu’s top lieutenants. It’s not overly complicated or deep, but it’s so much fun to read, in part because of the joy that’s evident in Kirkbride’s writing, but in large part because of how fantastic Gogtzilas’ art is.
Sometimes you, as the reader, can sense the creative process at work because the end product feels too mechanical. And sometimes you can hear the creators giggling with joy through their work. This is definitely the latter. I wonder if this is what it felt like to read old Sam Keith or Bill Sienkiewicz as their stuff was coming out. Comics like this that clearly don’t take themselves too seriously all too often end up backhandedly mocking themselves. With The Bigger Bang, nothing’s being mocked. The creative team is just asking you to join them in their gleeful laughing.
Giant Days #1 (BOOM! Studios)
Giant Days is a new comic from John Allison and Lissa Treiman about three girls at college (these are ‘Murican comics, and you’re gonna talk ‘Murican, buddy) and all of the ridiculous interpersonal drama they stumble into. It’s smart, clever, self-aware and an absolute blast to read.
Allison’s dialogue is snappy and really funny, which is completely unsurprising, based on his prior work on Scary Go Round, a webcomic with the same sensibility as both this and Lumberjanes, a book I know we all love and one that a lot of people are comparing this to. It’s a very apt comparison, too. The entire first issue has a very similar feel to it – there’s a hint that there might be something supernatural lurking behind the scenes of Giant Days, but it’s still opening as a slightly older, minutely soapy sitcom-style look at the lives of the main characters. If you have any affinity at all for Lumberjanes, you’re definitely going to want to check out its spiritual companion, Lumberjanes Goes to Whatever The Hell University Is.
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 Bruise, a short risozine (we’ll get to that) by Sarah Horrocks. I can’t for the life of me remember who mentioned this book on Twitter and helped me grab it, but whoever it was, thank you! I’m glad I picked it up.
First: a risozine is a zine made on a risograph: a copier that prints fast, and does a bunch of technical shit that amounts to “can do black, white and one super deep other color.” Bruise uses a sharp, deep blue – a great choice that adds much needed depth to artwork that would have been confusing as hell without it. Horrocks’ art is dense and close and busy, all intentional storytelling choices, and ones that I enjoyed. The story is brief – there’s a car race through a vaguely Japanese cyberpunk city, and that’s about it. There’s no infodump worldbuilding in the text, but the density of the artwork means you’re going to want to go back and read it several times, which is where you end up immersed in the world she created. I liked Bruise a lot, and I’ll definitely be back for more comics from Horrocks.
You can pick up Bruise online via Sacred Prism.
That’s what I’m reading this week. What are you picking up?