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My favorite part of having a regular writing gig is how I get to go on record with a bold opinion, then spend the next several months methodically contradicting myself. Case and point: crowdfunding. I write this big, long screed about how Kickstarter is destroying Capitalism, and then I keep finding all these good, worthwhile campaigns to give money to. The latest is the Oath Anthology, a Kickstarter for an anthology book designed to help create more LGBTQ superheroes that will also showcase some solid queer talent. This is cool stuff, and I’m particularly excited about Sarah Searle’s story (in no small part because of how great her story in Fresh Romance was) and Vaneda Vireak’s art. I mean, if you want to see more people telling more stories in comics, this is an absolutely worthwhile endeavor and precisely the kind of crowdfunding campaign that platforms like Kickstarter and Patreon knock out of the park. Even if you’re just interested in good comics, look at Vireak’s promo art! It’s so great.
This week in comics, I wrote most of the reviews while working my way through a pitcher of mojitos. See if you can figure out what order I wrote them in!
Star Wars: Shattered Empire #1 (Marvel Comics)
Part of the reason why this latest wave of Star Wars comics hasbeen so successful (and make no mistake: two of the five best series Marvel currently publishes are Star Wars titles) is because they’re putting top talent on them. That continues to be the case on this, arguably the most important Star Wars book they’re putting out. Greg Rucka and Marco Checchetto, who last worked together on a very good Punisher run, now get to bridge Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.
I’m trying not to let the Episode 7 hype train careen out of control, but, at the risk of sounding insensitive, right now it’s being driven by a drunk Metro North operator late for a date. In the past 3 days, I’ve spent about 3 hours gazing longingly at the Kindle page for Chuck Wendig’s novel; sat with my hand hovering over the “buy” button on the Blu-ray OT even though I own it in two different formats; and changed the background on my wife’s Iphone to the Kmart Kylo Ren figure. I have a feeling that might backfire. The hint I’m trying to get across is “I want you to buy me this,” but I think she might read it as “Oh my god what did I do when I married him?”
Catwoman #44 (DC Comics)
Genevieve Valentine’s Catwoman has been as much about the crime families of Gotham as it has been about Selina herself, and people seem to really dig it. This issue is a good spot to jump in, as it’s the first of a new arc, and the first after the story gets pulled in tighter with the broader Bat-universe.
Kevin Wada’s covers are terrific. Even when he’s not drawing the X-ladies as a Duran Duran cover, everyone looks so fashionable, like perfect, sharp-angled models, so he’s perfect for this book. David Messina does a good job with the shadows: heavy inks that stay moody and shadowy, never veering into muddy. Valentine was a great find for this series, carving out an outstanding, interesting corner of Gotham for Selina and her newly expanded crew to live in.
|Dark Horse Comics|
Mirror’s Edge: Exordium #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
The Last of Us gave it a late run (even though I first played it on PS4), but Mirror’s Edge might be my favorite last-gen game. The story wasn’t anything overwhelming, but holy hamburgers, was it pretty. And innovative! The controls and gameplay style were unlike anything I’d played at the time, and people trying to rip it off led to another great game from the last gen in Titanfall.
A comic version bridging the gap between the first game and the soon-to-come sequel isn’t going to have the innovative gameplay style or control scheme to hook you in, but it is going to be able to take you back to the shiny, totalitarian dystopia from the game, and Mattias Haggstrom and Robert Sammelin do a couple of interesting things with the art to bring back the vibe of the game. The initial parkour sequences are a lot of fun. I’m also looking forward to seeing how Christofer Emgard – a writer on the games who’s handling the scripts for the comic – builds out Faith’s universe and moves us towards the next game. Bottom line: if you liked the first game, get this. If you haven’t played the first game, go buy that (should be crazy cheap used) and then get this once the game hooks you.
Sonic the Hedgehog #276 (Archie Comics)
Despite the comic being 30% less sickening than most of the fanfic floating through cyberspace, the new issue of Archie’s Sonic comic is still worth checking out, even if it’s just to make you long for the days when there were good Sonic games worth playing.
Evan Stanley and Adam Bryce Thomas’s pencils are surprisingly vibrant for art that’s also so on-model. Everyone is recognizable – Sonic is Sonic, Dr. Robotnik is Dr. Eggman, etc. – but the camera angles and Terry Austin’s shadows are less straightforwardly cartoony than I expected from an all-ages video game adaptation. They do a really good job of capturing the movement I wanted from a Sonic book, and the story, about Dr. Robeggman or whatever the hell we’re calling him now capturing global MacGuffins that aren’t Chaos Emeralds to try and take over the world, is an excellent transition from the nonsense of the games.
|Action Lab Entertainment|
Holy F*cked #1 (Action Lab Comics)
Let’s start by dispensing with the pretense: I’m not going to call this “Holy Fstarcked” any more than you will, so let’s just agree to use its proper name. Holy Fucked is the story of Jesus, Satan, and Maria Garcia. Following their defeat of a bunch of other gods and the emptying of Mount Olympus, Jesus and Satan are trying to live a quiet life together in LA, while Maria is feeding the downtrodden at a food bank/shelter/community center type place. Jesus (who’s hung from more than a cross) is a burly, genial skateboarder, while Satan is his quieter, hipsterish boyfriend who also manages to get knocked up. Hercules, one of the few remaining gods on Olympus, hears about this and vows to ruin Jesus’s new family.
As you can probably guess from the title, this book is not a dense, thoughtful musing on theology and the power of belief. And I was wary of this book for a little while – I don’t usually want to read something just to shred it, but literally nothing about the previous series (the immaculately tensed Holy Fuck) appealed to me on its face. Shock humor doesn’t last, and I assumed a comic that was trying to be cute about the curse in its name, with cartoon Jesus hosing down his black barred schlong in the preview art, would be about very little but forced depravity. Fortunately, I was way off in prejudging the book. Holy Fucked is certainly a lot of dong and foul language, but there’s cleverness and a kind of unironic joy behind Nick Marino and Daniel Arruda Massa’s squid cloud of filth that made the book worth reading, and I’m going to hang around to see where the story’s going.
Diesel #1 (BOOM! Studios)
Tyson Hesse, whose previous work on Sonic, The Amazing World of Gumball, Mega Man, and Bravest Warriors, not to mention his webcomic Boxer Hockey, starts his own new series at BOOM! this week, and this one should be pretty popular around here. It’s the start of a good adventure yarn with a lot of fundamentally well-executed comedy that’s reminiscent of stuff like Bravest Warriors, The Adventures of Aero Girl, and even a little bit like Lumberjanes in how much fun it is.
It’s the story of Dee Diesel, the daughter of a famous airship mechanic and a little bit of a disaster. She stands to inherit her father’s ship on her rapidly approaching 18th birthday, but she can’t really do anything on it competently. Cap is (surprisingly) the captain of the airship and doesn’t particularly care for Dee, while the rest of the boat is populated by somewhat stock characters who benefit from Hesse’s natural dialogue.
What impressed me most about Diesel was the comedic timing. So much of humor is the continuity of a joke, the progression from setup to punchline and the timing of the delivery, and in a static medium like comics, the trick to successfully pulling that off is finding the exact slice of time to pull the punchline and a reaction from. Hesse does a great job of picking out those moments. There’s a scene between Cap and Dee about a third of the way through the book where the two are arguing, and Cap throws Dee off of the bridge. Dee says “but what about your open door policy?” and Hesse drops two small panels in to the side: one with Cap looking at her sign on the door that says it’s always open, then the next with her immediately after ripping the sign down, but before she’s removed her paper-stuffed hand. Any additional panels, like one with Cap reaching for the sign or one with her hand already gone, and the joke is dragged out to the point of meaninglessness. And had he chosen any other moment for the third panel, Hesse would have just missed on the punchline. His timing and pacing are perfect, though, and the result is a very good comic.
Atomic Robo: Everything Explodes Collection (IDW Publishing)
As part of the transition to IDW, Team Robo decided to repackage all their old collections with new trade dress and package them in threes for $40, and despite all the comics published therein being available on the web for free, this is still a hell of a deal. The Everything Explodes collection takes the first 3 volumes of Robo, which include some of the funniest bits in the entire series (see: Robo being the inspiration for The Martian‘s low-tech messaging system AND for its occasional forays into mild filth), and puts them back out on the market.
If you’re looking for a quick, easy, cheap way to pad your shelf with good Robo stories, this is a good place to start. Hell, even if you’re looking to condense some of your collection ahead of a big move :coughcough you’re welcome Queens Public Library for those 9 Robo trades I dropped off before I left cough:, these are great for that. And it’s a great time to check these stories out, as this week is also the first print issue of Atomic Robo and the Ring of Fire, the newest story that’s been running free on their site.
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 Chicago by Glenn Head, a semi-autobiographical, real-as-hell story about “Glenn’s” journey from art school, to the streets of Chicago, to a maybe-suicide attempt, to comix success. Chicago opens with a quote from George Orwell: “Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something distasteful,” a quote that caused me just enough confusion to keep me assuming the whole thing was true. The story takes Glenn from his home in North Jersey as a virgin teen with a crush heading to art school, to Cleveland, where he discovers that school is probably not where he needs to be at that point in time, to the streets of Chicago, where he spends a few months just barely not-homeless. We see him meet Crumb, score an art gig with Playboy, and end up back home, naked and popping off gunshots in his parents’ attic, before he gives Russian Roulette some serious consideration.
There’s no great moral to the story, no real point to him telling it now besides putting it out there, and I think that’s kind of the point – even through some really terrifying shit, the Glenn in the comic just kept moving forward and busting his ass. There’s something really admirable about that, even though he’s an idiot teenager for most of the comic. The art is very ’70s underground, and very intricate and detailed. We’ll have a little more on this next week (because I interviewed Head about the book), but this is a great book, and worth picking up. ESPECIALLY if you’re in NYC and want to get Head to sign your copy at Desert Island Comics in Brooklyn tomorrow night (9/10) at 7. Aww, now I miss New York again. :checks Gothamist’s weather report for NYC: Ok I’m over it now!
That’s what I’m reading this week. What are you picking up?