We’ve got a huge haul of comics this week, since there were a handful of books that I missed in the SDCC rush and really wanted to talk about. We also have the winner of that free copy of Fantasy Sports from Nobrow, as promised last week.
So join me after the break to find out who won, how good their prize is, and whether or not Archie pulled off the new reboot without their crowdfunding…funds.
First of all, congrats to Andre Morelo! You won the free book! So do me a favor: email your real name and your mailing address to me at thejimdandy1 at gmail dot com, and we’ll get that in the mail for you right away. And let’s talk about your new comic.
Fantasy Sports (Nobrow Press)
I don’t remember which one, and I can’t for the life of me find it on the intertoobz now, but back when I was in college, we used to [CENSORED] and put on a bunch of And1 streetball videos one of my roommates had lying around. One of them had the hype man shouting “BRO-ken ANKles” every time something cool happened. About halfway through reading Sam Bosma’s Gauntlet/sports manga, I started hearing “BRO-ken ANKles” in my head, and it worked. I got so excited.
Fantasy Sports is the story of Wiz, a level-1 mage assigned to intern with Mug, a much more experienced vault-raiding tank character. They are hunting for treasure in a pyramid/tomb when they open a door (by hitting a mid-range jumper, BTW) to a giant auditorium where a mummy sits atop his throne. Mug rushes in and challenges him to combat under “the old rules,” and it turns out those old rules are basketball.
Bosma adds in some backstory about how they don’t really get along, which is neatly resolved through the course of the book, but while the story is important, the art really shines. He Of The Giant Steps, the mummy with the killer flat top, moves and poses like pictures of so many great big men in basketball – Kareem’s hook shot, a dunk from Shaq. There is so much vibrant motion in every panel of the basketball scenes that this comic made me mad I hadn’t read any sports manga before. If this is what it’s like, I’ve got a new favorite genre.
Archie #1 (Archie Comics)
Last week saw the launch of the much-anticipated (and occasionally maligned) Archie reboot, and I am really happy to report that it was excellent.
Mark Waid has Archie narrating directly to the camera, and despite the historical overuse of that trope, it feels fresh and entertaining. I mean, it’s still basically Zack Morris calling timeout, but it works really well as an introduction to the new, updated Riverdale. He also makes Jughead the most important character to the plot, and uses Archie and Betty’s recent breakup to dig deeper on the three of them than I would have expected for a first issue. And the intentional ambiguity around “the lipstick incident” (which no, before you ask, does not involve Hot Dog) is a good ongoing subplot that will keep me coming back for more issues.
Really, though, everyone should buy this book for Fiona Staples’ art. Holy hamburgers, it is beautiful. I know a 30-something year old guy fawning about how “cool” and “realistic” a bunch of high school kids look is weird, but :sigh: they looked so cool. In all seriousness, the Archie comics didn’t really need a ton of updating. The publisher has been versatile and creative enough to put out versions of the character that fit a lot of different settings, and even though he’s got a 75 year history built in, a lot of the main story elements of a good Archie comic are timeless. But! If you’re going to update it, you can’t really do better than Fiona Staples for art that feels modern. Her fashion sense fits the characters ages and setting perfectly. She’s got such a great eye for designing things like that, and the comic is infinitely better for it.
|First Second Books|
The Divine (First Second)
The Divine is a new supernatural story from Boaz Lavie and Asaf and Tomer Hanuka. I can’t really speak to Lavie or Tomer Hanuka, but we’ve talked about Asaf before (his collection from BOOM!, The Realist) and it’s easy to feel his contributions to the story here. It’s also easy to see them, since, what with it being his pencils and all, they’re exploding gore in your face on every third page or so.
The story mostly takes place in a fictional East Asian country. Mark, the main character, is an explosives consultant for an oil company not too far out of the military. He’s got a wife and a baby on the way, but there’s a kind of half panic/half ennui in his mannerisms that shows he’s not happy. So he takes his work “friend” up on an offer to do a week of explosives work in not-Myanmar, and ends up travelling through a world of child soldiers and mystical creatures.
The art is amazing. The linework is stylish and sharp, but all the lines are wire-thin, leaving tons of space for shading and bright neon colors that nail the mood of being surrounded by jungle magic. It’s also gory as hell. On at least a couple of pages, I found myself trying to visually sort through someone’s exploded head, picking out recognizable body parts. The dialogue is sparse, unobtrusive and generally very good. My one quibble is that occasionally the word balloons were too big for the words they held. They didn’t obscure anything, but they felt unnecessarily large. :waits excitedly for someone to take the bait:
Robin: Son of Batman #2 (DC Comics)
Here’s a sentence I never expected to say: Speaking of bright, psychedelic jungle magic, next up we have a comic from the guy who’s been drawing Batman and Robin half obscured by red shadows for the past 4 years.
I was genuinely worried about Robin: Son of Batman coming out of Convergence. I’ve been vocal in my evangelizing for Pete Tomasi and Patrick Gleason’s Batman and Robin, calling it a top-10 Batman run of all time in large part because of Gleason’s moody pencils and interesting panel layouts. Taking Tomasi out of the equation had me a little bit worried with all the normal concerns that you get when an artist with no writing credits to his name takes over. The urge to draw something cool and then figure it out after the fact, a kind of juvenile Marvel Style, must be pretty strong.
Thankfully, the first issue of Damian’s new comic was great. The second issue manages to improve on the first, largely because Damian’s mission is becoming clearer, but also because Gleason gets to draw a Mayan stone giant with psychic powers fighting Goliath, Damian’s giant furry man-bat pet. It doesn’t yet have the emotional resonance that Batman and Robin earned, but this is still a really good book.
Island #1 (Image Comics)
A magazine-sized, ad free, 100+ page anthology with more Multiple Warheads and a new story from Emma Rios? Yes please.
Brandon Graham’s other big project at Image has been getting Island up and running: a place where people he’s enthusiastic about get some high-profile recognition alongside crowd favorites. I’m really excited to try this, even though I’m waiting to read it until I can hold it in my hands. It really seems like, from the previews, this book would suffer in a digital format.
It’s got a continuation of the great, pun-filled Multiple Warheads, which along with King City was my hurricane reading for Irene a couple of years ago; a new prose piece from Kelly Sue DeConnick; a story about a mummy and the friends who knew him before from Ludroe; and a new sci-fi yarn from Emma Rios. All of them look amazing, and I feel like even if you disregard the quality of the creators on the book, they should be rewarded for taking a shot at something different. Even if Island doesn’t work (which I’m fairly sure it will), it’s not going to be like too many other comics on the stands.
Book of Death #1 (Valiant Comics)
Valiant’s big summer crossover kicks off this week with a surprisingly creepy first issue that’s huge in scope. It shouldn’t be shocking that a series called “Book of Death” is a line-wide crossover where everyone is maybe going to die, but it was still very cool that we got glimpses of that dark future.
Book of Death works as a direct sequel to The Valiant. There, in order to stop the Immortal Enemy, the Eternal Warrior cheats a little – he lets the Geomancer die and brings a new one back from the future to replace her. However, that means that there are now two running around, and one is being manipulated by a sinister evil dude in the shadows (spoilers here if you want to know) into sending bug attacks at Gilad and his future Geomancer. Meanwhile, Unity blames Gilad for a bunch of mysterious events around the world, discovering Geomancer energy at those sites. So they go find him and have “a conversation” with him (they’re gonna fight next issue).
The Valiant really set the gold standard for company-wide crossovers – it was immediately accessible and of impeccable quality. Book of Death doesn’t quite get to that level, but it’s still a good first issue, and it looks like it’s going to be an exciting series.
Godzilla In Hell #1 (IDW Publishing)
Is it somehow possible that this book exceeded my expectations? Godzilla In Hell only made my preliminary review list because it’s James Stokoe, and I felt obligated to talk about how intensely detailed and beautiful every single pencil mark on every page is. But then I read it and oh man it was amazing!
First of all, there isn’t a single word spoken in the entire book. Not that there should have been, but still, when you’re putting together a story like this, there has to be some not-insubstantial urge to include a POV character, or something that makes the story more relatable to readers. Nope. Nobody speaks at all.
Second, Godzilla destroys a giant stone sign with “Abandon All Hope…” on it. That indicated immediately what kind of story it was going to be, and I nearly shouted with joy.
Third, Godzilla fights a demon kaiju. Top 10 all time, this book.
Invader Zim #1 (Oni Press)
The comic continuation of the beloved cartoon picks up a vaguely long time after the show left off. Zim, missing for “some time,” (they have to be vague about the time frame or everyone still being in fourth grade would be really weird) returns to Earth to find his arch nemesis Dib smelly and feeble, or “smeeble,” from years of sitting in a chair watching and waiting for Zim to return. The plot is…insubstantial.
The dialogue is great. If you had even the slightest affinity for the show, you’ll be able to read this in the character’s voices, and their speech patterns and senses of humor are exactly where we left them when the show went off the air. GIR is still the best, but now that I’m a little older, I think I appreciate Zim and Gaz (Dib’s sister) are a lot funnier than I remember. I’m always entertained by people getting so buff they can shoot chairs off their asses, so I give Invader Zim #1 four out of five flying ass chairs.
Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders #1 (Marvel Comics)
Hey, Al Ewing is pretty great. I don’t think I’ve really talked about it before, but I’ve loved everything I’ve read from him recently. Mighty Avengers/Captain America and the Mighty Avengers have been excellent comics, books that folded in the giant crossovers (man, much like this parenthetical, Axis killed the flow of a bunch of comics) without really missing a beat. Same goes for Loki, but there he also managed to pick up on the themes and ideas that Kieron Gillen was working into the character on Journey Into Mystery and later Young Avengers and make a beautiful story out of it. More Al Ewing is a good thing, which is why I’m ridiculously excited for his Ultimates. Also because Galactus is an Avenger.
Meanwhile, he gets his own little corner of Battleworld, where he gets to have a living legend, Alan Davis, draw his alternate world. This is an easy book to get excited for – it looks gorgeous, and it should be entertaining as hell.
That’s what I’m reading this week. What are you picking up?