|Dark Horse Comics
I managed to sneak away from my piles and piles of comics that I have to review long enough to go check out Ant Man this weekend, and I loved it. It had as much heart as a phase 1 Marvel movie, with more humor than Guardians of the Galaxy. With ranking Marvel movies being all the rage these days, (I must have seen that thing on Facebook 15 times yesterday alone) my first thought when I walked out of the theater was “Top 5 Marvel movie. Would have been top 3 except for Yellowjacket.”
I think I feel bad for Corey Stoll. I mean, I hate House of Cards and The Strain, so I might just be predisposed towards disliking him, but his introduction to the movie was bad enough where it took me a good 10 minutes to get back into the movie. It’s like they wanted him to chew the scenery, but then stuck a mouthguard in so he couldn’t actually get his teeth onto anything. He was so ridiculously mustache-twirly, and really the whole villain side of the movie was so stupid that it took a herculean effort from Rudd, Pe?a, Abby Fortson and Antony to make up for it. “Hey, Hank, good to see you back at the office! Come with me and let’s watch this promotional video for all the international laws we’re going to violate.” I mean, come on.
This week in comics, we travel to a couple of years ago in a galaxy far far away; a long time ago in a galaxy far far away; a long time from now in a galaxy like, right here; a 1980s Montreal nudie bar; the seedy underbelly of Metropolis; and the biggest fantasy of all: an affordable building in Williamsburg. But first, we bounce around time until we find a Kaiju hole.
PastAways #5 (Dark Horse Comics)
Scott Kolins draws time travellers hunting Kaiju.
Is that not enough to get you interested? Because it should be. Kolins’ art on PastAways looks so much like Seth Fisher’s stuff that looking at preview pages made me sad, then immediately go find copies of Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big In Japan. He’s a very versatile artist, but it seems like Matt Kindt is just throwing a bunch of stuff at him here and letting him go wild with it, and it looks really good.
Kindt got rave reviews for his work on Mind MGMT (which I really need to get around to reading soon) and does really good work on all the Valiant books he’s writing, so I’m okay with setting aside my time travel grumpiness to give this a shot.
You can pick up PastAways #5 at your friendly local comic shop or online from Dark Horse.
Manhattan Projects: The Sun Beyond The Stars #2
Jonathan Hickman writes a lot of things that I love, but I think my favorite of his work has been Manhattan Projects. It feels like the loosest book he writes, and the one he has the most fun with.
Nothing will ever top the Freemason orgy that Harry Truman is presiding over when FDR dies, but Hickman and Nick Pitarra have tried really hard to pack this book with more craziness in every issue. The Earth-based first volume had an almost manic, anarchistic joy to it, with Pitarra and Hickman caricaturing all these well-known historical figures to turn them into amoral mad scientists. Then, after a short break, another issue, and another short break, the series shifted into space, following Yuri Gagarin and Laika the Cosmodog into an alien civilization. Basically, they’re doing an entire story arc about the Mos Eisley cantina.
My one complaint about the first volume is that they didn’t once use LBJ’s actual, real life caricature of himself. It’s a missed opportunity when you can’t work in a mention of Johnson’s bunghole.
You can pick up Manhattan Projects: The Sun Beyond The Stars #2 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.
Hawkeye vol. 4 (Marvel Comics)
Props to Marvel for not waiting the standard six months to collect this, considering we waited like…84 months for the last issue to come out.
This week, we get the final collection of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkbro story. This series has been the subject of a ton of hype, but now that it’s done and we can take it as a whole, it’s safe to say that every bit of it was completely justified. I have never cared a whit about the character before this series started, and I really only bought it at the start because of how good Aja’s art was on The Immortal Iron Fist – the way he emphasized the strikes and paced out the martial arts action in that series was utterly incredible. It’s one of the few series on which I would consider dropping serious loot for original art. His work here was no less innovative and exciting. He has a way of communicating through his art that I think very few others are capable of.
In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised at how much I loved this series, though. Aja’s art was predictably excellent, as was Annie Wu’s “Kate on the West Coast” issues (and Matt Hollingsworth’s colors, while not being as innovative as they are on Wytches, were still essential to making this book so amazing).But there was so much heart and lovable earnestness from Fraction’s writing – the same things that keep Sex Criminals from being pointless, empty hilarity made Clint Barton one of my favorite Marvel characters.
Nothing that happened in the last issue was a surprise. If you’ve read the rest of the series, last week’s final issue had telegraphed pretty much every beat well in advance. But that didn’t stop it from packing one hell of an emotional wallop. This was one of my favorite superhero runs of all time.
You can pick up Hawkeye volume 4 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.
|Drawn & Quarterly
Melody: Story Of A Nude Dancer (Drawn & Quarterly)
This is one of the most interesting comics I’ve ever read.
Melody is the semi-autobiographical, serialized story of a woman moving to Montreal from the country and taking up nude dancing at the behest of her scumbag boyfriend. It was originally self published as something like a zine in Quebec in the ’80s. Sylvie Rancourt, the creator of Melody, had no formal comic art training before she started the series, just an affinity and skill for drawing. Patrick Gaumer, a bandes dessinees historian, called it the “first Canadian autobiographical comic.”
Rancourt’s art is fascinating. The figures and presentation are pleasantly amateurish – Melody looks like a drawing that a skilled teenager would make. There’s not much in the way of depth or scale to the art, but that helps with the tone of the story. Everything that happens is presented so matter-of-factly that it’s impossible not to be sucked into the story. It’s almost demure in how it deals with normally racy subjects – stripping, prostitution, shitbag drug-dealing abusive boyfriends – while managing to sneak subtle bawdiness into parts. When I started reading this, I intended to pop around and read a couple of sections and skim the rest, but I ripped through the entire book in about 3 hours. I couldn’t put it down. As an artifact of comics history, this is a capital-i Important book. But as a story, this is a really valuable, entertaining story that’s very worth checking out.
You can pick up Melody: Story Of A Nude Dancer at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.
Superman #42 (DC Comics)
The character who fared the best in the New 52 reboot was probably Batman. Somehow, despite all the continuity problems that the reboot introduced for him, the line still managed to have a creative energy – between Snyder and Capullo’s main book, Tomasi and Gleason’s B&R, and the conclusion of Grant Morrison’s epic story – that no other family of books could match. By comparison, the Superman comics were a bit of a mess, with everyone existing in a holding pattern while Morrison told his out-of-order “first Superman story” in his Action/Superman Beyond/All-Star Superman trilogy.
That hasn’t necessarily flipped: the Batman comics are still great across the board. But that same excitement that was there for reboot Bats exists now for the Superman comics. The body of work being done by Tomasi and Doug Mahnke on Superman/Wonder Woman, Greg Pak on Action Comics with Aaron Kuder and on Batman/Superman with Ardian Syaf and Gene Yang and John Romita, Jr. on this title would have been perfect for a reboot. If someone is asking where to start if they want to get into DC books right now, the stories these folks are telling makes it easy for me to just say “buy anything with Superman as the main character.”
When we were talking about Superman on Twitter during SDCC, I mentioned that I would read the shit out of a book that focused on Clark Kent, Investigative Reporter. That’s pretty much what Yang’s first issue was – there was superheroics, but the thrust of the plot focused on the human side of the character looking into a weapons smuggling operation. I love that. The Clark Kent side of his identity is, more than any powers he can be given or taken away, the most important grounding aspect to the character. Clark is his connection to Earth, how he best expresses his human side. Even though Yang can write great action and Romita can draw it (and draws one of my favorite Supermans), I’m most excited about this run because it seems like it’s going spend time on the best part of him.
You can pick up Superman #42 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.
Star Wars Little Golden Book: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (Random House)
I was as surprised to see this in the Diamond list as you probably are to see it in the reviews column, but the publication of a set of Little Golden Books based on the six Star Wars movies gives us a good chance to talk about something very important.
If you’re like me, you’re generally one of two, maybe three nerd role models in the lives of whatever little ones you’re affiliated with. That’s not the case across the board (for one dude, I’m actually “sports uncle,” believe it or not). But statistically speaking, if you’re reading this column, you’re probably going to be the first person the kid thinks of when they want to know where Green Lantern gets his magic wishing ring from.
That’s a serious commitment. There are so many things that could go wrong in the course of nerd mentoring: did you wait too long to show them Deep Space 9? How young is too young to explain the homonormativity of Grayson? Will they still be able to suspend disbelief if you let them read Damage Control? But there’s no more solemn obligation than choosing the correct order in which to introduce the Star Wars movies to a developing mind. I have spent quite literally hours discussing this, and the conclusions my very thorough friends and I came to were mostly a best-case scenario and some hopeful sighing.
It’s going to be hard as hell to do this, but you really shouldn’t let anyone under 12 watch the prequel movies. The proper order in which to introduce the Star Wars movies is IV-V-VI-Lock the child in a vault until December. The first three movies spur…uncomfortable questions. Questions you may not be equipped to answer. Questions like “How much younger than me can the Jedi I marry be?” or “Ha ha that green man sounds Chinese no I don’t know what racism is I’m 5.” I’m telling you this as much for your sake as for theirs. The last thing you want to feel is that squelching pressure in your chest that you get trying to hold back a sob as your niece’s little tear-stained eyes look up at you and ask “Uncle Jim…did they ever let Anakin act in a movie again?”
You CAN pick up the Star Wars Little Golden Book: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace at your friendly local comic shop. But stop and think about it before you do.
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 Mercury Heat by Kieron Gillen and Omar Francia. This was previewed as Avatar’s Free Comic Book Day issue, and as part of my standing rule to read anything Gillen writes, I checked it out. It’s also near-ish future hard sci-fi, so pretty much everything about this comic was an indicator that I’d like it.
Surprise! I liked it! Francia’s art is a little bit grubbier than both what I’ve come to expect as Avatar’s house sci-fi style and from a sci-fi space station book, and that benefits the story, I think. His landscapes and space panels are grand spectacles, really impressing the scale on the reader. But he hits the Avatar gore perfectly, making a great looking smushed head/blood spatter combo in one of the fight scenes. Gillen’s script takes a fairly straightforward plot – cop on the edge, mystery killings in a society that shouldn’t have them – and layers in enough details about the universe that Mercury Heat exists in to make sure that the story feels fresh. I enjoyed this a lot, and I look forward to coming back for more.
You can pick up Mercury Heat #1 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.
That’s what I’m reading this week. What are you picking up?