WARNING: Secret Wars speculation ahead.
Let’s all take a deep breath and stop freaking out about Marvel spite-cancelling Fantastic Four or pushing the X-Men off into their own pocket universe so Marvel can screw with Fox on the movies. That is an insane, silly thing to suggest, even if you’re going to walk it back later and pretend that you’ve been right all along. First of all, the X-Men have existed in a semi-autonomous corner of the MU off and on for their entire existence. The entire Utopia period, for example, was marked by limited interaction with the rest of Marvel’s stable. Hell, shuffling the X-Men off to San Francisco felt like an excuse to get them away from the Avengers, to limit their continuity impact. And secondly, look at this. The Secret Wars prelude trade’s contents are awfully FF heavy for a company that purportedly wants nothing to do with the Richards/Storm clan. As a matter of fact, it certainly looks a lot like the crossover is going to be the culmination of Hickman’s Fantastic Four as much as it is a cap to his Avengers. So let’s all just stop freaking out about something that’s obviously wrong, and keep freaking out about the stuff we can control, like why we need Steve Trevor AND Rick Flagg in the same movie.
This week in comics, we have two crossovers, a western, an ending, a prison, an omnibus and a Darksiders. But first, we have a glorious homage.
Copra Round 2 (Bergen Street Press)
Everything you’ve heard about Copra is legit. Homage, pastiche, unauthorized continuation, or spiritual heir to John Ostrander’s ’80s run on Suicide Squad, Copra was an early leader in the trend of “indie zines redoing all the violent stuff we loved when we were kids,” but so much more.
Everything about Copra is masterful, but the best part of it is the art. Michel Fiffe, who ended up parlaying his work here onto a run on the latest incarnation of The Ultimates, draws superhero stuff that is crystal clear, but brilliantly insane at the same time. I honestly haven’t felt this way about the art in a comic since the first time I was flipping through Graham and Milonogiannis’s Prophet. The way Fiffe visualizes some of the powers on display is brilliant – Xenia’s power is genuinely overwhelming at one point in this volume, just from the simple way that Fiffe breaks out of comic art conventions. The whole book has a DIY aesthetic that, in a roundabout way, accentuates his skills – insane, limitlessly creative character design; action that’s clear and exciting; and panel layouts that at times rival the best in the business.
I really can’t recommend this enough, even if you have to hunt at cons to get your hands on copies. That recommendation comes without any caveats at all – fans of the Suicide Squad will find more stuff to like, but even coming in having no knowledge of that book other than “it existed” are going to find a smart, beautiful, crazy fun comic.
You can pick up Copra Round 2 at your friendly local comic shop.
Copperhead #6 (Image Comics)
On the other end of the hype spectrum, we have Copperhead, Jay Faerber and Scott Godlewski’s space western about Clara Bronson, a sheriff who moves into a new town on a space colony with her son. It is pure, distilled western, and it is fantastic.
Up until this issue, I would have said that the sci-fi is superficial, just trappings of the setting. The first arc was such a typical Marshall story that I wanted to binge my way through all the good ’90s movies. This month, though, they have a bar scene, and it becomes inevitable that the pendulum would swing back towards odd aliens and lasers. This issue is where the fusion of the two works the best.
Godlewski’s artwork is outstanding. It’s clear and clean and expressive, with panel layouts being just different enough to keep you on your toes as a reader. Faerber’s writing interesting characters in an interesting world, and he and Godlewski have built a really exciting world that feels like a fusion of a million different things, from Trigun to Tombstone.
Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man #12 (Marvel Comics)
We know now that Miles is going to be on the 616 Avengers post-Secret Wars, and I’m a little disappointed. Not that they’re putting Miles front and center – that’s great. Having him in the Ultimate Universe always felt like license to ignore him, like his stories weren’t crucial, and that was too bad, because they were always great. Hell, I even watched the cartoon episode where he showed up, and they actually told a great story about Spider-Mans and legacy heroes and Miles’ role.
What’s disappointing is that this seems like confirmation that the Ultimate U is dead and not coming back. It was a fun experiment that gave us some fantastic stories. I’m even going back into Hickman’s Ultimates because of its role in the prelude trade. The Ultimate line is also where, in my opinion, Bendis has done his best work. He’s never written anything as emotionally resonant or as consistently entertaining as his Ultimate Spider-Man in all its incarnations. Spider-Men was incredible, one of the most powerful cape books I’ve ever read, as was the mini where he killed Ultimate Peter. I really hope that he gets right of first refusal on a 616 Spidey book if Slott leaves, and I hope he gets to keep working with Miles. In the meantime, let’s all pour one out for the alternate universe that gave us the Blob crapping out chunks of the Wasp you know what, let’s skip that and just read Ultimate Spider-Man.
Kaijumax #1 (Oni Press)
Let’s do a thought experiment.
Imagine you’re a comic publisher, and Zander Cannon (of Top 10 fame) comes to you and says “I want to do a comic that’s like Oz but with Godzilla monsters.” How fast do you reach into the desk drawer that’s filled with $100 bills and hurl them at him?
Trick question. You’re a comic publisher, so the drawer is filled with singles at best, and probably quarters. Kaijumax is the result of that pitch, though, and it’s every bit as funny as you’d expect. It’s got the kaiju prison weight room, filled with tanker ships and buildings that they can push down, but come back up again, like those asshole inflatable clowns but with resistance training added in. It’s got kaiju prison tats. It’s got the same Pyongyang joke I made a month ago, but it still had me doubled over laughing. This one’s a delight.
Orion by Walter Simonson Omnibus (DC Comics)
I live my life by three rules: not drinking coffee is better than having a cup of Tim Horton’s; never trust a Duke fan; and anytime a Walt Simonson omnibus comes out, buy it like you got a deal on Apple stock.
It’s a pretty simple logic loop. Simonson draws great stuff: omnibi are amazing: Simonson omnibi are amazing. Even an idiot robot is all over that. I should probably be talking about the first week of Convergence minis, and I’ll certainly get there next week, but this book is a big deal. In addition to it being a beast of a book full of amazing art, it’s also a big, long story that’s nearly as responsible for New Gods lore as Kirby’s original work. Seriously, though, I buy anything with his art in it – Ragnarok, those issues of Waid’s Hulk that were meh otherwise. I’d even pay for a receipt the guy signed. If you’ve got $75 lying around, go grab this and use it to weigh down a coffee table or something.
Masks 2 #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)
Hey, check it out! A good Shadow comic!
Masks 2 is the follow up to
the movie about Rocky Dennis Dynamite’s 2012 team up of the Spider, Green Hornet, Kato, and the Shadow. This one is from Cullen Bunn and Eman Casalos, and it sets up the team up between three different sets of these heroes through different time periods. It’s mostly set up, but there’s some fun interplay between Kato, Green Hornet and the Shadow, and Cassalos’s art is pretty good. Cassalos changes up the panel layouts enough to keep the fight scenes moving. Bunn seems to really like playing with The Shadow, tiptoeing right up to the edge of openly mocking his excessive violence, but always being playful about it, helping the reader get a kick out of it rather than be critical. It’s also nice to see the Shadow actually fighting things in a book he’s advertised as fighting things in.
Star Trek/Planet of the Apes #5 (IDW Publishing)
I’m not really a complicated man. A Star Trek/Planet of the Apes crossover called “The Primate Directive” is the comic equivalent of a puppy. I can’t not love it.
The story is pretty breezy – the Enterprise and a group of Klingons get sucked through a portal to another dimension, and the Klingons decide to start messing around with Ape City politics, backing a military coup against Dr. Zaius. This issue resolves that conflict and puts some of the toys back where they were, leaving Taylor to deal with some of the fallout. There was a little bit of a turd in the living room, though, to keep the puppy metaphor going for a minute, in the form of a couple of rough patches for the art – awkwardly posed figures, action that jumped from point A to point C with no movement or transition, and one time Spock looked like he was possessed. That aside, though, this was a fun book.
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 Soul Heir #2 from Hound Comics, a creator-owned publisher based on Long Island. It’s not the most groundbreaking comic out there, but it’s an interesting, solid book that could develop into something pretty good. It has a very Joe Mad-feel to it, both in art and story. Soul Heir is about a super-powered fantasy warrior, hunting down people who wronged him and using his powers to beat the living piss out of them. The art has all the strengths and weaknesses of Madureira’s – it’s ridiculous and exaggerated and sometimes overly complicated, but it’s also energetic and lively and over the top and fun. The colors are a little bit flat, and the dialogue hiccups a couple of times: sentences seem out of context with the rest of the conversation. But those problems aside, there’s also a good amount of skill and talent evident in the book. The first issue’s framing is done very well. The first two issues of Soul Heir were more fun than I was expecting, and I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for more.
You can pick up Soul Heir #2 (and #1 if you’re so inclined) through Hound Comics’ digital store.
That’s what I’m reading this week. What are you picking up?