See, the strength of this comic is something that comes from having a continuity. Everything in this comic builds upon years and years of mythology. Yes, you have Jim Gordon running around in a Bubblegum Crisis Hardsuit and having to put the thing down in order to stop Mr. Bloom, and, sure, Bloom is scary. You get the introduction of Bullock’s Gotham Style Poker, which just become a new favorite variation in our offices. But you also have the We Are Robin movement getting sick of Bruce being on the sidelines, and calling him out. After months and months of hinting you get Bruce being forced to confront his own mind, followed by the potential consequence of him remembering. The writing here is a thing of beauty, and the art accentuates every twist and turn, making those last few pages absolutely chilling. This is how you build to a climax, this is how you tell a story, this is the slow burn that’s been simmering for almost a year coming to fruition, and it is a majestic thing to witness. Well done, DC Comics. Well done.
For those of you that don’t know, Samael is the actual angelic name of Lucifer. The other named mages – Mastema and Enoch – are mythic figures of importance, and given how long it’s hinted they’ve been here and how time moves, the implications are staggering. We’re literally getting Mikey fighting the devil of Christic mythology, and the build to that battle is sinister enough even without the reader knowing what the name refers to. If you do, though… Lucifer is known as the Prince of Lies, but his real weapon is twisting the truth – and it’s the secrets between Mikey and his family that are destroying them. Aaron is behind bars by an FBI agent that seems to have a personal hatred for him, and the reveal is something that makes perfect sense, all things considered, and is one I refuse to spoil. Wendy is finally trying to heal the rift in her family, helped along by the angel that is about to make her a grandmother. This comic is incredible and cool and twisted, and if you’re not reading it that needs to change.
Spider Gwen #3
It should be pretty clear by now that we’re fans of character and stories that make sense. So, Gwen putzing off to get some insight on her life? That’s interesting. Going to where her counterpart died, and meditating on that and what it means and questioning the power she has? That’s interesting. Sending her back home and having an Osborn enter her life, finding out that Harry went to the military and trained up to avenge Peter’s death? That’s tragic. The pacing is a little off here, which tends to be true of this title in general, but the depth of the characters and the world they inhabit more than make up for the pacing issues. The way the cops are investigating Spider-Gwen, the importance given to Captain Stacy and showing us what he could have done if still alive, the sheer sinister glee that Matt Murdock has every time he prances into panel, all of it adds up to something that feels utterly different from anything else. The art is also stellar, conveying weight, emotion, and momentum, and the character bios are a thing of beauty.
Star Wars Annual #1
Casual Star Wars fans might wonder how bad the Emperor is, really. Nothing in the Phantom Menace made any sense at all, for example, so what exactly did the dude, you know, do? Was he really so terrible? That’s the question this book seeks to answer, and it does so in a roundabout way that works. This tale is told from the perspective of a deep cover agent, someone that we see is good at his jobs and has to do questionable things to maintain his cover and struggles with the monster he believes himself to be. And he does think of himself as a monster right up until the Emperor makes a mockery of him, out-thinking him and out-maneuvering him, killing hundreds of people for the sake of a favorable soundbite and to demonize the Rebellion. It’s thrilling, amazing, and utterly horrific – and I’m hoping that the character introduced in this comic makes it into at least some of the other comics, if not the upcoming movies. A James Bond character running around in Star Wars? That’s a license to print money.
My favorite anime is Revolutionary Girl Utena. It’s a brightly colored fairy tale with shiny primary colors that deals with abusive relationships, incest, twincest, thwarted expectation, identity value, and more… in the first four episodes. It just gets weirder from there, eventually becoming a subversive critique of the magical girl trope and fairy stories in general. This comics reminds me of that in the best possible way. The girl in question is a magical girl – we know that now, and we know that there are other people that are aware of her existence somehow. And we also know that the world she inhabits, like our own world, is full of official corruption that sees the worst criminals in the world exonerated, set free, or even idolized for their crimes. If that horror was visited upon your doorstep and you were aware of how bad things had gotten, if you had the power to fight for justice – real, actual justice – would you? How would you know what that looked like, or what it would cost? This comic delves into those topics. It’s tremendous.
Didn’t quite make the Top Five. Still worth your time.
I’m not sure what more I could ask from this comic other than maybe some better art. The style here is weird, but everything else is spot on – the characters, the way they act and behave, even hints at motivation. The Foot and the TMNT are stranded on Gotham and DC Comics is not their world, so both parties are looking for a way home. Batman gets involved because it’s Gotham, and nothing happens in Gotham that the Bat doesn’t involve himself in. Awesome.
Oh, gods, the art. The pretty, gorgeous, unreal art. The sense of history here is glorious, too, playing with politics and propaganda, some people being in on things to know just how badly they’re screwed and others being utterly ignorant of the monsters in their midst. Of course we’re going to like that, and the build towards the confrontation at the end, and the revelation that happens through that, is nice. Needs to explain a bit more, I think, but there’s so much here.
Wanda is one of those characters who gets by despite no one really knowing what her powers are, and the idea of actually addressing that is nice. I’m wondering about the logistics of showing up in costume (and it’s a nice redesign, by the by) at a crime scene, but her probability based powers can actually be used to explain quite a lot, and hand wave even more. Art style is a little messy, and the magic feels banal compared to, say, Strange.
The art is a little cleaner this month, which is nice. The story does a bunch of interesting things, tackling a bunch of philosophical issues dealing with everything from creation to the ethics and realities of translocation to the idea of things man was not meant to know. This is heady fucking writing, is what we’re saying, and a direct challenge to the idea that superheroes can’t handle hard questions within their own universes and have everyone win. Fantastic.
Okay, if you’ve never read a Valiant book, this will give you some idea of what the company has on offer. If you are a Valiant reader, however, this book is chalk full of in-jokes, character moments, and references that feel like a giant thank you to long time readers. This is Valiant poking fun at itself and the absurdity of comics in general, and the GI Joe-style Unity PSAs are worth the price of admission alone. This was a lot of fun.