Remember how I said that I was drinking from Shadowman’s head last week? Well, now that I can function normally again and I got to take stock of what I came home with, this was probably my best con haul of all time: the first issues of Cognetic (out this week, don’t forget) and Welcome to Showside (next week – you’ll see); a hard copy of Two Brothers that I got signed by Ba and Moon; the Hulkbuster series of toys that I won; and that sweet ass Shadowman mug that holds a fist and a half of coffee.
Probably my favorite takeaway from NYCC was from Valiant: they gave me a copy of Wrath of the Eternal Warrior: White to give away to TRV readers. The book is a retailer exclusive art book with the fancy cover you see up above, and 11 pages of raw artwork from Raul Allen that will eventually appear in the upcoming series. The book is signed by Robert Venditti, who’ll be writing. All you have to do to win is this: post in the comments of this column what the best thing you’ve ever brought home with you from a Con is. And if you’ve never been to a con, tell me what the coolest exclusive you’ve ever seen is. I’ll pick the winner randomly on Tuesday, 10/27 at 10:00 AM Eastern time, and then announce it in next week’s reviews.
This week in comics, it’s more free stuff, as I’ve got some preview pages from Wrath of the Eternal Warrior at the end of the page. But first, there’s a stop to make before we get there.
Book of Death: The Fall of X-O Manowar #1 (Valiant Comics)
So let me preface this with two things. One: Book of Death, the latest Valiant crossover with dueling Geomancers and everybody getting eaten by bugs, is excellent. Good action, good dialogue, good art. Two: these “Fall of” tie-ins, telling the last story of all of these Valiant characters, have almost universally been better than the mini. Unconstrained by continuity, they let the creators cut loose and get weird or funny or wild – basically turn everything that’s already good about the present day series up to 11.
This story is a lot of the same: it actually jumps past the promised fall of X-O Manowar to Commander Trill attacking Earth trying to steal Aric’s body (and armor) back for the Vine. Clayton Henry’s art is clean and crystal clear, and Robert Venditti sneaks a bunch of emotion into a guided tour of a museum, then a quick fight and some brief talk therapy. It sounds a little slow from how I described it, but if you’re a long time fan of X-O, you’re likely going to love this issue.
Heroine Chic (LINE Webtoon)
BOLD PREDICTION TIME, KIDS: Audrey Mok is going to be a superstar in like, 5 years. Her new comic, Heroine Chic, teams her with David Tischman to tell a story about high fashion and superheroes at LINE Webtoon. It follows a new intern at a fashion house that supplies costumes to superheroes. So basically The Devil Wears Edna Mode.
The format is interesting – it’s a single panel column scrolling down through the site. Despite the nontraditional reading method, Mok keeps the action flowing and the story moving. Her art looks like Stuart Immonen with a dash of manga, and Tanya Horie makes the colors vibrant and fun without ever really getting in Mok’s art’s way. (Even if it were mediocre, I’d keep reading because of how great Audrey Mok’s art is – thankfully, the story is fun too.)
You can check out Heroine Chic on LINE Webtoon. New chapters come out every Monday.
Clean Room #1 (Vertigo Comics)
I can’t believe I’ve managed to stay excited about this for a full year now. This week, after announcing it at last year’s NYCC, Gail Simone and Jon Davis-Hunt’s horror comic where the relentless, unkillable monster is Scientology releases its first issue. I’m really excited for it – it seems thoroughly researched and thought through, and Simone always does well.
The story follows Chloe, a small-town journalist who finds her boyfriend dead with a copy of one of author Astrid Mueller’s self-help books next to his body, and decides to take down Mueller’s organization. Jenny Frison’s covers are spectacular. One of the things I got really mad about with the Double Take books was how little the covers had to do with the actual content inside. This feels dramatically different – even if the covers don’t actually depict a scene from inside the book, the washed out pink color palette is disconcerting almost to the point of being a little sickening. That’s tonally perfect for the story, and for what the actual clean room does.
Back to the Future #1 (IDW Publishing)
I know I’m about to take on a Sisyphean challenge arguing this, but just because it’s the somethingth anniversary of a beloved nerd property doesn’t mean that we need to endlessly celebrate it with mediocre tie-ins. Next year is the 23rd anniversary of the GoBots, but you don’t see anybody clamoring for GoBots: The Hidden Years. Wait, that’s a terrible example. The GoBots sucked balls. Okay, try this: This year was the 25th anniversary of Total Recall. Where are the tie-in comics? When am I going to see all of Quaid’s backstory? Backstor…ies? Whatever THIS METAPHOR IS FINE.
Point being, nostalgia alone isn’t good enough to carry a new project, and unfortunately, nostalgia is all that this Back to the Future book has going for it. The art is perfectly adequate, but the dialogue and story feel like knitted-together catchphrases leaning hard on that I Love the ‘80s “HEY REMEMBER THIS” referencing rather than creating an actual interesting story. You wanna hear the story of how Doc and Marty met? Well it starts at the end of Back to the Future III, then Doc yells about jiggawatts, then Marty plays guitar, then nobody calls Marty chicken, then there’s a DeLorean, and the rest, as they say, is a good movie that I’ve already watched and I’ll probably go watch instead of reading this book reciting it back to me.
Uncanny Inhumans #1 (Marvel Comics)
Way back before Secret Wars, Charles Soule and Steve McNiven teamed up to preview a new Inhumans comic coming out…eventually. That teaser was the shit. I know this because it’s been so long since it launched that the 0 issue of Uncanny Inhumans is on Marvel Unlimited now.
Anyway, in it, we find out that Black Bolt had given his kid to Kang for safekeeping through the collapse of the multiverse (which, let’s be honest, probably went terribly). Now Medusa’s getting angry that the crown prince is off traipsing about with some purple and green tunic-ed psychopath being chased to death by Roman soldiers on Tyrannosaurusback, and not home with his parents and presumably not dying (though, honestly, it’s a toss up as to who’s worse).
McNiven is one of the best comic artists working today. He could make someone walking up four flights of stairs to visit a friend look epic: screwing around with the Inhuman royal family is a story setting perfectly attuned to his talents. And our opinion of Charles Soule is a matter of record: he’s one of the three best writers working for Marvel right now. This series will probably be great.
The Beauty #3 (Image Comics)
You know how the big problem with writing super geniuses is that they have to be written as genuinely smart? The same thing happens all the time for characters we’re told are gorgeous. Sure they’re treated as beautiful in the story, but so often they’re at best generic, and it completely undercuts the story. This is a minor issue, but it’s not one that Beauty has.
The premise of the series from Jeremy Haun, Jason Hurley and Jeremy Rauch is that a sexually transmitted disease gives the infected a low-grade, constant fever and turns them beautiful. Half the population has it, and the other half hates them and condemns them as unnatural. Issue 3 is actually a bit slower than the first two, with a bit more exposition about the world and the disease, but it’s still pretty good. It’s a bit direct, going from point to point without a lot of extra color, but the series has a Law & Order approach to filling in its characters – a little bit every once in a while is enough. On this book, I agree.
You can pick up The Beauty #3 at your friendly local comic shop or online via Comixology.
ONEs 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 there are two! One, a Halloween themed book that I’m sure we’re all going to love, and the other, a personal, fascinating look at the collapse of a relationship. First, there’s Trick ‘r’ Treat: Days of the Dead, from the folks who are bringing us KRAMPUS HOORAY! And also the original Trick ‘r’ Treat movie. And ALSO also, Fiona Staples from Saga.
It probably won’t surprise you to hear me yowl about how great a Staples-drawn story is, but she could illustrate the phone book and it would be better than half the stuff out there right now. She’s given something to work with here, and the result is predictably excellent – a quick story about witches and a Jack-O-Lantern that takes seeds into the New World that’s very good as a story, and stunning to look at. “Monster Mash,” the final story in the book, is the weakest, with loose art and a story I couldn’t really get invested in. “Corn Maiden” is creepy and beautiful, and the art on “Echoes” is very Mateo Scalera (and therefore excellent). It always helps an anthology if it’s conceived as such, and finding great artists helps even further. This was a great Halloween comic.
The second is Invisible Ink by Bill Griffith, the creator of Zippy the Pinhead. And if that’s your baseline for Griffith’s work, this book is going to seem pretty weird to you. “Unflinching” is a word that gets thrown around a lot in reviews, and often as a shitty synonym for “strong.” What it means to me is not looking away from discomfort: facing difficult issues with honesty and authenticity. Framed by conversations about a medium-distant relative with an older uncle, Invisible Ink is presented as the story of Griffith’s parents’ miserable relationship and his mother’s 15 year affair with a then-famous cartoonist.
I say that it’s unflinching not just because he draws sex scenes that contain his mom and I am this many :holds up four fingers:, but because he struggles through the whole book to understand not only why his mother would maintain such a relationship, but in the end, to reconcile his father as a person, as an individual and not just as a rigid, cruel force of nature that swept his mother into her affair, and to consider everyone involved in the story as people. Narratively, the book is a mess, like a cousin filling you in on all the family members you haven’t spoken with since a family reunion. But at the same time, it’s perfectly done, because that’s exactly what the story is: a guy talking through his family issues, first with his uncle and then with his wife. It retains much of the stream of consciousness structure that you would expect from a conversation like that. Griffith’s cartooning is stunning, particularly his landscapes. The last few pages especially are staggeringly gorgeous. They serve to punctuate a funny, melancholy, honest, emotional story.
That’s what I’m reading this week. Don’t forget to enter the contest or to check out these preview pages – click any of them to see their larger counterparts. What are you picking up?