Angela – Queen of Hel #1
Marguerite Bennett has done an incredible job giving a character meant for another company a place in Marvel. Before Secret Wars, we got an understanding of where Angela was and where she had been and how she had gotten there – how and why Heven and Asgard went to war, and the terrible price that Heven paid for that war. Odin’s vengeance seemed cruel: he cut Heven off from the rest of the Marvel Universe, leaving the angels trapped and alone, but he had nothing on Frigga. Frigga condemned the souls of all the angels to serve as slaves in Hel for all time. That’s insane. It got so bad that the angels believed there was no afterlife for their kind, so when Angela discovers that her one true friend is suffering, she goes to Hel to rescue her. There’s shades of the old Sumerian myths of Inanna and Ereshkigal here, and the lush artwork of Kim Jacinto and Stephanie Hans work well with Israel Silva’s colors. It’s a beautiful book, both in terms of writing and art, and fits in perfectly with the Mythic Marvel line.
This? This is how you do a twist. The story here is that a plague came to the world and was on the verge of wiping out most of humanity, so humanity froze the infected and uploaded their consciousnesses into a computer simulation. The deal was that the humans outside would make sure the ones on the inside stayed alive, and the ones on the inside would research a cure, but both parties have failed to live up to their end of the bargain. The ones outside have fallen to politicking and corruption, while the ones inside have rebuilt a world based on scarcity economics, only the economy is based on the processing power required for rendering. To age, have features, to do anything on the inside requires memory, but the whole process is fiction. Worse still? Both sides don’t really understand the technology they’re using, and we get a reveal here that is absolutely chilling in it’s scale and scope. Alex Paknadel is penning a fine and poignant tale, and Eric Pfeiffer handles the task of rendering two very different worlds beautifully. Look this up.
Black Magick #1
I want to be snide with this. I want to mention the ratio of Greg Rucka writing to high quality writing, and how that is a 1:1 ratio. I want to and I did, but this comic deserves so much more than that. The set up is similar to Coffin Hill – a witch working as a police detective – but the execution keeps the quality you’d expect while going in a very different direction. The magic here is definitely here and powerful, but there’s a darker presence lurking around the edges of this, a force that thinks of itself as good but can accept nothing other than itself. Like everything Greg writes, this can be appreciated on multiple levels; we’d recommend reading the stuff in back to get more out of an already excellent series. Nicola Scott provides artwork than can be both grounded and ethereal, and mixes the two in a way that gives a real sense of both what is earthly and what is magical. One of the coolest new books we’ve read in a while.
This is going to sound weird, but Steve Wants – the letterer for this book – deserves a special mention. We’ve all seen John Wick, right? Before John Wick, subtitles were predictable. You knew what you were getting. John Wick changed that by making the subtitles and active part of the story, and the lettering in Spire does the same thing. It’s an interesting thing that adds to the voices of this story, and the story itself is as layered and deep as the world in which it takes places. This book does not cater, does not simper – it throws you headlong into an alien world and alien cultures and expects you to keep up, not bothering with expectation and relying on implication to fill in the gaps. It’s wildly ambitious, and speaks to the skill Simon Spurrier has that everything here makes sense. The detail that Jeff Stokely puts into the artwork and the washed vibrancy of Andre May’s colors also help. I want to know more about the world this comic takes place in, and that’s the best thing.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1
So, Secret Wars happened. There were narrative mistakes that needed to be fixed, what with several heroes becoming worse than any of the villains they ever fought, and the company wanted the comics to be more in line with the movies. Rather than handling that organically they went with a reboot, and you can tell which books Marvel was getting right because they were largely unaffected. This? This is one of those comics. It’s pure fun – simple in concept and complex in execution, the superhero concept taken to the logical extreme and made into something wonderful. Ryan North continues to make Squirrel Girl one of the best Marvel superheroes and one of the best people in the Marvel Universe, and it’s fantastic. Only thing I’m not digging? Squirrel Girl is no longer a mutant. Marvel, please stop with the mutant hate. I know why you’re doing it, but this character isn’t an X-Man. She can exist on her own over here. It’s okay for there to be non-X mutants, right? Comic is good enough to overcome that annoyance. Think about that for a moment, then go and pick it up. Everyone deserves to be happy, and this comic is happiness.