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1485

God of Comics 2015-08-05

Culture, God Of Comics

August 4, 2015

 

Bloodshot Reborn 005Bloodshot: Reborn #5

Why You Care: The best pure action comic on the shelves has been mixing some horror elements into its narrative with great success, the sort of thing that leaks from the Valiant to Book of Death. The issue promises a deeper look at the voices haunting Bloodshot and driving the action, both who and what they are. Given how good this book is, we can only imagine how cool that reveal is going to be.

 

 

Cluster 006Cluster #6

Why You Care: A girl who didn’t kill her sister but took the fall and the guilt for it being sentenced to military service, only to learn that the military is up to no good for the profit of a very few, continues. Also, her politically powerful father is trying to being her home from the revolution she is not a figurehead of, and a bountey hunter has been called in. Weird and excellent.

 

 

 

Deadly Class 015Deadly Class #15

Why You Care: Because there is nothing else like this comic, and never has been in the history of comics. Runaways and worse are kidnapped and brought to a school for assassins, and the faculty are up to something as our main character continues to self-destruct in the wake of his not-girlfriend’s secret murder. There’s a bleak honesty to this comic, a tightrope terror that is utterly unique.

 

 

Imperium 007Imperium #7

Why You Care: You read our article on Hacktivist, right, and why you should be reading it? And you read our article on X-O Manowar? Imagine combining the themes of those two books and you have Imperium, a series about a man trying to move the whole of the world from scarcity economics to a Utopia and the powers that would do anything to stop him, including unleashing an enemy beyond comprehension.

 

 

John Flood 001John Flood #1

Why You Care: If you missed Luther Strode, go read those comics. Then come here and grab this, which is the next tale from the fertile mind that wrote that. Basically, an experiment robs a man of the ability to sleep and forces him into a waking dream state, which allows him to see the underlying patterns of the world around him… including a serial killer that no one believes exists, but now knows that he’s out there…

 

 

Ms Marvel 017Ms. Marvel #17

Why You Care: The editorial staff at Marvel has spent the better part of the past decade assassinating the character of Spider-Man in an effort to do what this comic is already doing. The magic of this title is incredible and perfect, a tale of a young girl coming of age, with respect to the dignity of the character and the world she lives in. And this issue marks the first time that our teen hero teams up with her super-idol. There are few comics better than this one.

 

Nailbiter 015Nailbiter #15

Why You Care: Because some of the mystery that hangs over this book is coming to light. More than a dozen serial killers have all emerged from a single town, and the one FBI profiler who noticed this has had things go horribly wrong for him. Everyone else following in his footsteps has had similar problems all tied to an ancient temple under a lake – a temple we now know is a fake. What the hell is going on? No idea, but the premise and characters are impossibly cool.

 

Pisces 004Pisces #4

Why You Care: Do you watch Nerdcouver? You should. In one of their reviews, they talked about how this book is about a man drifting through his own consciousness and possibly dealing with post traumatic stress disorder. That alone would make this book worth looking into, but the creative team that handles this book is incredibly talented, and is crafting some of our other favorites (Rat Queens, for a start). Worth tracking down.

 

 

Spire 002Spire #2

Why You Care: A murderer in a society where the whole of the populace lives in a large spire is causing a bit of a ruckus, and the cop that’s been assigned to search for the killer is a one-of-a-kind mutant with connections to the noble house, connections that are not especially pleased with her. Crime and politics mingle with imaginative art that makes the whole more than the sum of its parts. If you’re looking to branch out a bit, this is worth your time.

 

The Wicked + The Divine 013The Wicked + The Divine #13

Why You Care: Kieron Gillan is writing and he’s one of those writers who, when you find out he’s written something, you should try to track down a copy. Kieron’s work is the sort of thing you study, and his art team handles the expressions and concepts of his worlds perfectly. In this case, gods incarnate every ninety years or so and then die after two, a cycle that keeps the world existing. This comic is Eisner Nominated. It must be read.

 

 

We Stand On Guard 002We Stand On Guard #2

Why You Care: The United States conquers Canada using the same justification that use when invading anywhere else – a pack of lies that hide the fact that they’re after resources of political advantage. Only, this is the future instead of the modern day Middle-East. Hey, remember when America was the good guys? Do you think in another generation or so anyone will? Anyways, giant mechs and plucky freedom fighters equals a sci-fi version of USNA, and that’s not a bad thing.

 

The Woods 015The Woods #15

Why You Care: A whole high school gets warped to an alien dimension with kids and faculty inside. They’ve since met other peoples from other times, and are trying to make a life for themselves in a world they barely understand and tied to a some fairly serious intrigue. There’s a war brewing and there’s monstrosities coming, and it’s hard to say which will be worse. This comic is excellent.

 

 

UFOlogy 004UFOlogy #4

Why You Care: Ever been offered something amazing you didn’t want, or been denied something that you are perfectly suited for? This comic is about both things at once, and how that lack can be a powerful foundation for a friendship – especially when there’s aliens involved. This is one of the most human books on this list, a weird tale about humanity and coming of age and the strangeness of expectation. Absolutely fantastic.

 

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5057

God of Comics – Hacktivist

Culture, God Of Comics, Reviews

July 31, 2015

Hacktivism.

A new and, for some people, weird concept. At it’s base, the idea is that if enough people are paying attention to a thing and are spreading enough real information about a thing, then that thing will be dealt with. People will get angrier and angrier about that thing until something must be done. And when that conversation starts, it doesn’t end until whatever problem is being spoken of has been resolved.

And it is a conversation – that’s what the internet has brought us. Before, it was dictation, and always one way: the media told us what it wanted us to believe and ignored any inconvenient facts. Information was given the illusion of integrity while lacking that quality, because there was no check or balance in place to make sure that integrity existed. We assumed the news and the police and the politicians were honest, at least in the west.

Which is weird, considering the evolution of culture in the west was born of revolution, or was rooted in rebellion. People attacking established power structures. And yet, as history continued, people placed more and more trust in the power structures that evolved, believing that the ones that had been instituted were somehow more honest and better than the ones that had been there before.

Protip: They weren't.

Protip: They weren’t.

“Four legs good, two legs better.” We forgot the warning we had been given, focusing instead on the shiny new baubles that were dangled in front of us. We bought into the lie that the civil rights movement in the sixties changed everything and that racism was finished. We believed in the lie that the equal rights movement had triumphed over sexism. We believed that the government was there to help us.

Watergate changed that. There were always parts of the press that were interested in actual journalism, in keeping the public informed. In 1979, when corporations were given human rights, that changed. Watergate brought down an American President, and the powers that be took note and made sure that nothing like that would ever happen again. The press has increasingly become a mouthpiece for what has become known as the 1%, touting a party line that has nothing to do with fact and everything to do with propaganda.

Think we’re wrong? Look at what’s happening with Planned Parenthood, a service that helps women stay informed as regards their personal health and helps them make informed decisions. Abortions are the smallest part of what they do, but figures like Sarah Palin would have you believe that they do nothing but kill babies. Bill O’Reilly would encourage you to kill the doctors that work there, then back pedal when his watchers actually listen to him.

All of the distractive atrocities get worse when you realize that is what they are; distractions. Pay attention to the lies being told about Planned Parenthood and the way Planned Parenthood is being forced to apologize for crimes they never committed. Ignore the for-profit prisons, the for-profit schools, the for-profit insurance companies that Obamacare replaced that didn’t actually offer any protection at all.

They turned Occupy Wall Street from a focused protest against money in politics, the unlivability of the minimum wage, and the ludicrous double standard of justice into a meaningless moment that collapsed into itself and was forgotten.

It was a brilliant piece of sleight-of-mind.

Pictured: Tired of your shit.

Pictured: Tired of your shit.

And then the internet happened and slowly, slowly, the world began to change. People began conversing with one another, sharing their stories and realizing that the things they suffered where not exceptions to the rule, but the norm. #blacklivesmatter. #yesallwomen. It’s a direct challenge to the propaganda that’s been passed off as news for decades, and it’s discredited horrible people that are too slow to adapt to what the world is becoming.

Hacktivism.

We’ve spoken before about how comics are a medium of change, an overlooked means by which outliers can find community and strength. The mutants of the Marvel universe are stand-ins for homosexuals, pariahs, Jews, African-Americans, anyone that feels marginalized by a media that demonizes them. Superman as the immigrant that makes a new home for himself, becoming the best of what his adopted people have to offer and being lauded for his achievements. Prez, both the old and new versions, which talk about the responsibility and promise of youth on a political level when that level has become entirely corrupt.

Hacktivist. A story about how open and frank communication can change the world.

This is a series created by Alyssa Milano, an actress who left acting to become one of the best people in the world, essentially using her celebrity to do good works. It’s written by Jackson Lanzig and Collin Kelly, two people that are well-versed in internet culture, marketing, and the on-going dialogue that the web has brought us. It’s drawn by Marcus To and colored by Ian Herring, who add light and shadow, weight and emotion to every frame. The end result is beautiful and gripping and shattering. It’s a comic series about our world, about hope and expectation and the people that would strangle the world out of pride and greed, and the naivete, genius, and courage that is needed to fight them and win.

It’s a story about two friends that create an internet communications company that is something like Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr and use it as a means to overthrow a horribly evil political regime and fight the political forces that try to control them. It’s about one of them learning and becoming willing to sacrifice himself to make the world a better place despite those same forces, and the consequences of what follows.

hacktivist 000

Turns out overthrowing a corrupt regime is only the first step.

Needless to say, we loved the volume. The kind of courage it takes to talk about the sort of topics that this comic took pains to discuss is massive, and the maturity to address them in this fashion while keeping a sense of maturity and dignity is intense. There was nothing shocking here, no strange twist, just excellent storytelling that took advantage of every strength the medium could offer. It was one of our favorite comics, period, and one of those titles that we still talk about.

When a sequel was announced there was a bit of a commotion in our offices. When the issue arrived we approached it with fear and eagerness, wondering if the integrity of the second epic would live up the first.

It does.

A thousand times, it does.

Spider-Man likes to talk about how with great power comes great responsibility. Their first time out, the two main characters of this title toppled a country and fooled the American government to make the world a better place. One of them faked their death, the other taken in and put in a very polite prison by that same government. It all felt real and earned, and this comic takes place six months after that one.

The world has changed, and internet culture is viewed, incited, and studied. There’s more going on in this one comic than in some entire runs of other titles, or even other titles in their entirety. And yet Hacktivist feels uncrowded, letting ideas and characters percolate and develop at their own pace. Swords win battles, sure, but ideas topple empires.

And this? This is an idea writ large, a primer on how to make the world a better place while also serving as a warning against becoming the same old and evil you might be railing against. There’s nothing else like it on the market today, and that alone would make it worth reading even if every little detail is wrought to perfection.

This isn’t for everybody, but it should be. This is a conversation piece about politics and weight and consequence, about all the things we’re told not to discuss in polite society and really must. All of those subjects are the ones that matter, that shape us and let us make the world a better place. Not dictation, not believing blindly in the edicts of any single source, but rather finding your own truth.

We can do that now and we really must, and this comic is a good place to start learning how to become a part of that conversation. If you want to see intelligent political commentary on the realities of the world and be entertained while you’re doing it, this is one of the finest pieces of literature that you could choose.

And we cannot wait to see what comes next.

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1663

God of Comics 2015-07-29

God Of Comics

July 28, 2015

 

1602 Witch Hunter Angela #21602: Witch Hunter Angela #2

Why You Care: Yes, it’s part of Secret Wars. Yes, I’m doing everything I can to avoid Secret Wars. No, I am not willing to miss anything Kieron Gillan writes, and neither should you. Kieron managed to develop his mythology despite the crossover, and is telling a damn fine tale to boot. Highly entertaining, awesome art, and medieval Guardians of the Galaxy. Buy this.

 

 

Batgirl #42Batgirl #42

Why You Care: If there’s one writer who seems to have informed the feel of the DCYou, it’s gotta be Brendan Fletcher. His work here and in Gotham Academy infected the whole of the DCYou with a sense of hope and play, and this title inevitably packs a hell of a lot of story in to each issue. Charming, intelligent, and dense. What more do you need?

 

 

Black Widow #20Black Widow #20

Why You Care: Everything we said about the substance of Punisher holds up here? This has been a masterpiece of storytelling, the idea of violent redemption explored and ultimately found lacking even when it is the only option. The artwork is also some of the prettiest in any comic being published today. The bloodiest of all character studies.

 

 

Guardians Team-Up #8Guardians Team-Up #8

Why You Care: (I am) Groot teams up with the Silver Surfer to save, well, something. That something will be left to the end, undoubtably, but if we’ve learned one thing from this series, it’s that the journey is worth the destination. Fun, fun, fun, without having anything to do with any of that Secret Wars shit. Funny and surprisingly deep.

 

 

Hacktivist #1Hacktivist #1

Why You Care: There’s a volume two? There’s a volume two. Well, this makes the choosing something for the analysis thing easy. This comic is about what happens when people use the internet to try and make the real world a better place and the corporatist government that tries to stop them, and outright murdered someone for being good last time. This time? The man who is left battles evil. Let the games begin.

 

He-Man The Eternity War #8He-Man: The Eternity War #8

Why You Care: This comic is the best sort of lunacy. Skeletor returns to help He-Man and She-Ra lead an army of Snake Men against the Evil Horde, who have recruited Evil Lynn. Shocking that someone named Evil Lynn would turn out to be evil. This is consistently better than it was any business being. This issue promises to bring the epic, and we believe it.

 

 

Jem and The Holograms #5Jem and The Holograms #5

Why You Care: The art features different body types! The writing features fully formed characters with unique personalities that feel like actual people! There’s so much complexity in this that it’s insane, and it’s all brightly colored and captures the insanity and freneticism of the cartoon. Perfect in just about every way.

 

 

Lazarus #18Lazarus #18

Why You Care: Well, Greg Rucka is writing. That’s usually a good reason. This is also Game of Thrones by way of future dystopia sci-fi with one of the most interesting female leads in comics, and family drama the likes of which you will find nowhere else. The art is sketchy and washed out, which only adds to the narrative construct. Freaking epic, and read the letter pages.

 

 

Ninjak #5Ninjak #5

Why You Care: It’s Valiant, which is almost always a mark of quality. This is Ninja Death Note, with smart people trying to outthink one another, and one of them is a British ninja and adrenaline junkie who stands shoulder to should with gods via sheer skill. It’s pure action espionage comics, and a fresh take on a Batman-like mythology. Check it out.

 

 

Red Sonja #17Red Sonja #17

Why You Care:Have you read any of the Gail Simone run on this comic? Because you should read the Gail Simone run on this comic. The art work is lush and gorgeous and the stories do that nuanced layering that I love so much, where the tale can be enjoyed on multiple levels. Red Sonja is typically okay. Gail Simone Red Sonja is Epic.

 

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #48Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #48

Why You Care: You like the Ninja Turtles, right? Of course you do. We all do. It’s hard not to. There’s been some decent versions and some terrible versions over the years. This comic series takes all the good and makes it better, and it’s incredibly cool. One of the original creators is on staff, which probably helps. They’re just moving into new stories now, so hop on board and enjoy the awesome.

 

 

Scarlett Couture #4Scarlett Couture #4

Why You Care: This is just glorious cheesecake fun. A super spy works for a modeling agency because reasons, and there’s various other things going on. The art style is flat and shouldn’t work but does, being oddly charming. The writing veers between deep and absurd, which can be disconcerting. This comic isn’t sure what kind of story it’s telling.

 

 

Wayward #10Wayward #10

Why You Care: Is there a finer primer on Japanese mythology, both old and new, than this? I would say no. This gets into all the weird tropes and things that have informed the entirety of Japenese legend, up to and including magical girls. The artwork is fantastic, the story shifting from fun to terrifying to thought-provoking with a master’s careful hand. If you like comics you should be reading this.

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1248

God of Comics – the Punisher

Books & Writing, God Of Comics, Reviews, Uncategorized

July 24, 2015

The Punisher is a strange character.

On paper, it looks simple enough – a war veteran named Frank Castle witnesses his family get killed as collateral damage in a shout out between rival gangs and swears revenge. Some depth was added to the character during the excellent Punisher Max run, which gave Frank some layers, and that was good. Hell, that was excellent. It’s one of the best comics out there, what with the terrible sense of grime that coats the whole of it, and it’s utter lack of any other Marvel character.

See, there’s an argument that Frank couldn’t work in the Marvel Universe. It’s the same argument that people level against the likes of Hawkeye and Black Widow, that a non-powered character – and especially this one – couldn’t operate in a world with powered heroes and criminals, that he would be easy to hunt down and either capture or kill.

And you’d have to, wouldn’t you? If you’re a hero, the Punisher looks like a mass-murdering monster, with at least a four-figure kill count stretching from Vietnam to the modern era. He has, all by himself, filled cemeteries of criminals. If you’re a villain, priority one has to be stopping the guy that’s killed thousands of your friends and henchmen and will put a bullet through you if he ever gets the chance.

Here’s where we get to the problem, because what is the Punisher’s power?

He’s good with guns. That’s it.

At least, that what it looks like on the surface. If you stop to think about him about him, though, a whole new vista opens up. He was a black operative on Vietnam, trained to be one of the most lethal soldiers in one of the most terrifying wars this world has ever known, and he’s done nothing but fight ever since. He’s refined his technique, dedicated himself to fighting and nothing else.

Iron Man is a rich guy in power armor with no formal combat training. Spider-Man gets by on spider-sense and heightened reflexes. The X-Men are a civilian militia with a lot of practical experience.

Frank knows more than all of them combined when it comes to the preparation and application of violence. His power is that he’s been fighting for so long that he can’t do anything else and that there is nothing else to him.

Punisher 004

And not a weakness of whatever it is Frank has become.

He’s not even human any more, not in any way the rest of us could understand. He’s moved into some weird mental place where he exists all by himself, occasionally touching someone’s life or, more likely, ending it. He’s a force of nature pretending to be a man.

So when it was announced that Nathan Edmondson was going to be doing a Punisher series, I was interested. Good Punisher stories are hard to find, but when they’re good they’re great. Nathan’s written some interesting military-based characters in the past (Who is Jake Ellis?, Olympus), so that seemed like a good fit.

Then I read the solicit, which said something about the Punisher going out to Los Angeles, and how was he going to operate so far out of his element, which the solicit seemed to think was New York. I remember looking at this quizzically for one simple reason: Frank’s element is killing people. Location is incidental; he’ll know as much as he can about the terrain long before he gets there, and he’ll pick up the lay of the land quickly. That’s kind of what he is.

When the first issue came out I picked it up a little nervously, thinking that we were going to see Frank making mistakes because of the territory, but that didn’t happen. Instead, the various criminals assumed he’d be out of his element, and they suffered for it. It was fun and well written, with everyone showing the right amount of terror of Frank and Frank out-thinking them as best he was able.

Because, as dangerous as Frank is, he’s still only a man physically. He’s got human reflexes and endurance, is prone to exhaustion and incremental pain, and as likely to make mistakes as anyone. When the gangs call in Electro – who Marvel really began pushing to coincide with the last Spider-Man movie – even Electro was scared of him, and ready to run away rather than stay in the same state with him.

And that’s all well and good. Really. It seemed like a good Punisher tale about Frank going on summer vacation, heading out to LA to get some sun and kill some people. It was intelligent and everyone felt like people, with us getting a police officer character and getting to see how Frank’s actions affected her, specifically, and the rest of LA in general. The criminals came across as people making the best of their situation, and no one was made to hold the idiot ball. That counts for a lot, in any story, and especially in one that focuses on people over powers.

Pictured: In his element.

Pictured: In his element.

The story continued, and as it went on we got into the real heart of this. There were hints of something larger going on, and Frank got wind of whatever it was and started killing himself to answers. He took a trip down to a Mexican prison, killing everyone on his way out, and then kept the murder going on his way to the truth.

A gang war broke out and martial law was declared in LA, with Frank heading back as things continued to go wrong. We learned that the Howling Commandos – Nick Fury’s old unit from World War II, and the best active soldiers in the Marvel Universe – were after Frank. For reasons. We spent some time with them, getting to know them. We got to see how intelligent they are in the field, how carefully the plan and how skill they are.

If Marvel decides to have Nathan Edmondson write a Howling Commandos comic I’ll be all over that.

So, keeping in mind how skilled and efficient the Howling Commandos are, we get to see that even they’re taken aback when they’re ordered to go after Frank. Being soldiers and professionals means they’re willing to do it for the good of the country, but the respect they give even the idea of going after Frank shows exactly how terrifying he really is.

Punisher 005

They snipered him through a building use technology Frank didn’t know existed. It was either that or nuke the city.

It gets more complex, though. See, the Howling Commandos only get involved with things on orders, and usually around the world. Someone high up the chain has to want them to conduct operations on domestic soil, someone with a vested interest in keeping things violent in LA.

Here’s what we learn: the politics behind everything that has happened. Simple, right? And silly. We’re told never to talk politics in polite society, as if the various causes that form laws are somehow dirty and beneath notice. The truth is that there are few things that we should be discussing more, and it’s a truth that the young are adopting and claiming for their own as they come to understand how corrupt the politics they’ve inherited are.

And comics? Comics have always been a means of exploring different political causes, all the way back to their inception. The Punisher has always been about the lost, about how broken things can get, and about how crime both literally and metaphorically steals life. These are tales of societal and cultural entropy.

The Punisher is a rage-filled tragedy.

Frank is a character who stares into the face of every human evil and says no, because he’s already lost everything.

The brilliance of the Edmondson run is a sudden shift in scale.

Frank fights the symptoms of that corruption, the evil that comes from disenfranchising entire swaths of people, of forcing them into ghettos and feeding them drugs, of institutionalized racism and unchecked greed writ large. He fights against generations of criminals who come from generations of victims, the logical end result of a meat grinder society.

The Punisher goes after murderers, thieves, and rapists. He targets those organizations that are undeniably criminal, but not the white color criminals that destroy countries, that bankrupt nations, that cause the symptoms that he’s so effective at fighting. He is, in reality, nothing more than a painful bandage that does nothing to actually solve the problems he thinks he’s fighting.

Here, Frank finds himself trailing the cause of the symptoms he fights. He finds himself going to Washington DC, find himself in the office of an American Senator who put in motion a plan to incite riots and gang violence in Los Angeles so that martial law would have to be declared. The idea was to make money for both the military and a number of corporations, and the people that live in LA, well, they’re acceptable losses for the profits that will come as a result of this plan.

The senator in question is not afraid of Frank, because he hasn’t directly murdered anyone. He’s never held a knife or a gun outside of war time, if at all, and he’s certainly not going to go mug any one person. He has, however, played an indirect part on the deaths of hundreds in this political decision alone, and he admits that he’s done this sort of thing before and will do it again. This is what senators do, serve their corporate masters using whatever excuses they need to sleep at night, and the rest of the world can burn provided these senators get their kickbacks.

Punisher 000You want to talk about people that aren’t human anymore?

This is an evil that is above Frank. He can’t kill this senator and can’t fight the corruption that is causing the evils he fights every single day. They are, tragically, above and beyond him. He ends up facing off with Captain America after having this realization, and passes all this information along to Cap, but whether or not that will actively change anything in the Marvel Universe is questionable: Secret Wars came and derailed that story the same way it did everything else.

What we take away from this is a simple truth: violent revolution is all well and good, but nothing changes when you confront symptoms instead of causes. The simplest observable outcomes of an action are not the root action themselves, and without an intelligent look at why an action is happening, that action will continue to happen indefinitely.

For all his skill and lethality, Frank accomplishes very little. He’s a part of the very problem he thinks he’s fighting, another manifestation of the drama that is caused by the politics and greed that hover above him and every single one of his victims, and all of their victims, and so on, and so forth. No other comic has ever looked at the utter futility of what Frank has become like this one has, but Frank reacts predictably to this truth:

He heads back to LA, back to the riots that are now being blamed on him.

There are symptoms to fight, and that’s what the Punisher does.

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1521

God of Comics 2015-7-22

God Of Comics

July 21, 2015

 

IXth Generation 004IXth Generation #4

Why You Care: Stjepan Sejic on art, and Matt Hawkins writing. Right there? That’s what we call a recipe for in. Sejic is one of the best artists working in comics today, and Matt has taken the rich mythos of Top Cow and moved it into the weirdest possible future. The appendix that comes with each issue is usually worth the price of the cover alone.

 

 

 

All-New Hawkeye 004All-New Hawkeye #4

Why You Care: Did you see the God of Comics write-up last week? This is the continuation of that, and it’s been one of the most interesting books Marvel is publishing right now, with dream-like flashbacks and hardline draws for the present, and a story that shines from Kate and Clint’s personalities and a complex narrative. This is awesome.

 

 

 

Archie vs Predator 004Archie vs. Predator #4

Why You Care: Because this is weird and excellent, playing with the playful insanity of Archie and the violent madness that is the Preadtor. The writing captures the feel of both properties perfectly, and the classic Archie art somehow works with the Predator stalking everyone. This has no reason to be awesome, and yet it is. Simply fantastic.

 

 

 

Birthright 009Birthright #9

Why You Care: A weird mix of urban and classical fantasy that is unlike anything anywhere else. A child is taken from our world because he is the chosen one somewhere else, and all he wants to do is get home. It’s been a year for us, and twenty for him. His mom has finally come around, but what he’s brought back with him…? This comic is insanely good.

 

 

 

Book of Death - The Fall of Bloodshot 001Book of Death: Fall of Bloodshot #1

Why You Care: The guy writing Hawkeye? Also writing this. Bloodshot has been the best pure action comic being published since its release, harboring a surprising amount of depth to compliment the bloodshed. Valiant is moving their universe forward again with Book of Death, making this an optional tie-in that will blow your mind. Read this.

 

 

 

Fight Club 2 003Fight Club 2 #3

Why You Care: It’s Fight Club. C’mon. Tyler kidnapped the Narrator’s kid, which is, well, it’s something. And Tyler’s been up to no good, doing all kinds of terrible thing right under the Narrator’s nose. The Narrator, however, is wising up to some of Tyler’s tricks. Can he fight someone who knows him inside and out? Probably not. Tyler wins.

 

 

 

Harley Quinn and Power Girl 002Harley Quinn & Power Girl #2

Why You Care: Because this is weird and adorable and very very strange. Power Girl’s got partial amnesia and thinks her partner and BFF is Harley instead of Huntress. The two of them are instrumental in helpings a seventies style space warlord fight off an alien invasion in a parallel dimension. Read that sentence one more time. Realize how wonderful comics are. Then read this.

 

 

 

Hellbreak 005Hellbreak #5

Why You Care: Mercenaries who break into Hell to rescue the toasty souls of the damned while scientists try to make sense of what Hell is and what it might be discover a native human population hiding out down in the Pit? Yes. That’s exactly the high concept stuff we like. It’s also being written by Cullen Bunn, and few people can match him for qualitative horror.

 

 

 

Ivar, Timewalker 007Ivar, Timewalker #7

Why You Care: A time-traveling immortal who is trying to make time a better place has to rescue his girlfriend from herself, because she’s the inventor of time travel and she will eventually go bad, except the two of them may have changed time. This is the most intelligent time travel story you’re going to stumble across. Also, there are burgers.

 

 

 

Justice League 3001 002Justice League 3001 #2

Why You Care: Clones of four of the core Justice League members are made a thousand years in the future, we’re they’re trying to make sense of when they are and who they’ve become. Various members of the original league are also showing up for a multitude of reasons – and this issue brings us Supergirl. Fun, odd, and excellent. Worth hunting down.

 

 

 

 

Kanan - The Last Padawan 004Kanan: The Last Padawan #4

Why You Care: Did we all watch Star Wars: Rebels? Are we all listening to the Star Wars: Rebels Podcast? Good and good. This is the story of how Caleb Dume survived the Jedi purge that happened in Revenge of the Sith, how he gave up everything he knew and became the smuggler, Kanan Jarrus. The art is good and the story is heartbreaking.

 

 

 

Loki - Agent of Asgard 016Loki: Agent of Asgard #16

Why You Care: Everything Mythic Marvel is outstanding. Thor, Angela, and Loki are among the greatest comics that Marvel has ever published, with both perfect writing and perfect art, and nowhere is the very idea explored more thoroughly and viscerally than in these pages. The writing is witty, the art captures the madness perfectly, and this is great. Track this down and read it.

 

 

 

Magneto 020Magneto #20

Why You Care: Cullen Bunn again. When he’s not rocking Moon Knight or Sixth Gun or Hellbreak, he’s over here developing one of the most complex characters in comics, adding layers to that complexity and treating Erik Magnus Lensharr with the dignity and respect that he deserves. Yes, this is a pre-Secret Wars tie-in, so it has that going against it, but in Bunn we trust.

 

 

 

Prez 002Prez #2

Why You Care: There is no finer satire of modern politics in the world than this comic right here. Because it takes a one-note joke from Gaiman’s Sandman and makes it terrifying by applying grim meathook reality to it. The art is good, the content is funny and terrifying, and so far this is one of the most brilliant comics being published today. You must read this.

 

 

 

The Punisher 020The Punisher #20

Why You Care: Nathan Edmundson has been penning one of the greatest Punisher epics ever written, firmly entrenching him in a perfect weaving of real politick and and superheroes. The best part is that this writing gets both Frank and the world he lives in, and perfectly captures what makes Frank so dangerous. This is Nathan’s climax to his take on Frank, and if you haven’t been reading it, well, you need to.

 

 

Runlovekill 004Runlovekill #4

Why You Care: Masochism? No, no, the real reason you care if a love of sci-fi like Aeon Flux, which both the art and writing draw heavily from. The frenetic pace of the opening has slowed own somewhat, explaining a little more of this world, what’s at stake, and why all of these things are happening. This is the halfway point; if you’re not in yet, change that.

 

 

 

Spider-Woman 009Spider-Woman #9

Why You Care: Spider-Woman, Ben Urich, and the Porcupine head off on a road trip to investigate the weirdest corners of the Marvel Universe, looking at strange cases that get swept under the rug becase some people know how to be subtle, even while wearing brightly colored costumes and using superpowers. Intelligent, witty, and charming.

 

 

 

Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde 001Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde #1

Why You Care: You shouldn’t. It’s a Secret Wars tie-in, which means nothing here is ever going to actually matter unless it does. Sam Humphries is a great writer, though, which should make the meeting between 616-Star Lord and AoA-Kitty Pryde interesting. It’s a meeting that probably won’t matter later! Yay! Secret Wars is nearly over!

 

 

 

Sons of the Devil 003Sons of the Devil #3

Why You Care: Cults are scary, and cults that think that you’re important to them are scarier still. A man born into a cult and believed by that cult to be their savior has no idea that they exist, but they’re tracking him, insinuating themselves into his life, and there may be something to what they have to say… always nice to see psychological horror done right.

 

 

 

TMNT - Casey and April 002Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Casey & April #2

Why You Care: Casey and April realize they can’t fight the foot, not directly, so they flee New York in order to look for some other truths – truths connected to a personal favorite of this office, the Rat King~! What IDW has done with TMNT is craft the best iteration of these characters, period, expanding on the mythos and rendering everything into the best possible version. This is going to be amazing.

 

 

Uncanny X-Men 035Uncanny X-Men #35

Why You Care: Does anyone read the solicits for these anymore? They’re always wrong. And, look, you’re not reading them for the solicits, you’re reading these comics because Brian Michael Bendis is writing and the man has an unholy talent for building character and making sure you care whenever he gets around to finishing a story. You read for the pay off, but the journey? The Journey is pretty great.

 

 

Weirdworld 002Weirdworld #2

Why You Care: Jason Aaron is one of the best writers in comics, with a track record of excellence that’s difficult to match. If Secret Wars gave us anything, it gave us this: a chance for him to flex his imagination and do whatever the hell he wants. Case in point: a barbarian king is captured by an underwater civilization of apes whom serve Morgan le Fay. How can you not read this?

 

 

 

Wolf 001Wolf #1

Why You Care: Urban Fantasy is sort of hit-or-miss when it comes to comics. Hexed does it perfectly and Constantine is becoming a good go-it, but this is a genre that needs more love. Wolf is about a hard-boiled detective who is bound to protect a girl that might be the key to kick-starting an apocalypse. Like you do. It’s a good enough by-line to be worth looking at, so we’ll see how it plays out.

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2067

God of Comics – Hawkeye

Books & Writing, Culture, God Of Comics, Reviews

July 16, 2015

Hawkeye is one of the strangest comics to ever come out of the big two.

This isn’t a knock on its quality – we’re doing a full-on God of Comics on this title, and we’re doing it because this comic is amazing – but that doesn’t dismiss the fact that this title did a lot of things that were very strange to Marvel or DC Comics style thinking.

It’s hard to imagine a comic where people share a name, for example. There’s been various comic stories based on the battle of identity, and that’s not even the first place this title diverges from everything else. Hawkeye stars two people that claim that name, presented as equals for the whole of the series.

hawkeye 002

Total equals. Yep.

Clint Barton and Kate Bishop are both presented as equals, Clint with more experience and Kate with her life much more together. Both call one another Hawkeye and playfully riff on one another for the whole twenty-two issue run. Their relationship as friends and partners without a hint of romance does a lot to tie the whole book together, and is a large part of what makes these comics as good as they are.

I’m coming at this disjointed, but with purpose – Clint Barton is a disjointed man in these pages, and this comic confronts that head on. He’s an archer and tactical genius who is skilled enough to hang around with super soldiers and genius millionaires and gods. He’s a child who ran away and joined the circus and made a good run of things, and this comic is all about what he does when he’s not an Avenger.

Which turns out to be crime, mostly, perpetuated against criminals.

Clint steals the rights to his apartment building from an East-European Mafia, which goes about as well as you’d expect. They keep coming after him, which gives him a constant enemy that, while not-superpowered, never stops being a threat.

Hawkeye 006

“Seriously, bro. Seriously.”

He does this to save the people he lives with, and ends up becoming the building manager on top of everything else. Half the comic feels like community building, with the reader becoming familiar with the people Clint hangs around with that are just folks, and when one of them dies about halfway through the story, it’s horrifying. We know that character is never coming back, that the price of that character’s life was bought because of who Clint is.

And who is Clint? Clint is a mess, a man thoroughly invested in the moment who is not good at long term planning or weighing the consequences of his actions. He’s very much about who he is and what he’s doing right now, and he figures whatever is coming can wait until he gets there.

Hawkeye 005

They’re good for each other.

Likewise, Kate Bishop has her own and equal arc, tied into not only Clint’s special brand of madness, but her maturation as a hero, detective, and person. She comes from an estranged rich background and we get to see the crux of that strangeness, a thing that Kate herself doesn’t understand at the beginning but will fully embrace by the end.

Kate also earns herself an archnemesis in the form of Madame Masque, a terrifying woman best known for putting Tony Stark through the ringer. We get to know some more of Masque as a person and see just how much influence she has over the underworld, ranging from the Kingpin to the various wealthy elite that creep around the shadows of the Marvel Universe.

She takes Kate’s existence personally, the things she tries to do are chilling – and Kate’s ultimate victory over her is both thrilling and hilarious and perfectly in character. She’s learned a bit too much from Clint, really, and his personality and viewpoint is affecting her as much as hers is affecting him.

Also, there is pizza dog.

Hawkeye 000

An entire detective story is told from Pizza Dog’s perspective, and it is glorious.

Here’s where we start looking at the trick of his story; at it’s heart, Hawkeye is a coming of age story, a man-child and a young woman both fully coming into their own through sheer talent and stubborn determination. There’s a host of writers that could have told this story and done it well, but this is a series of comics that excelled.

The question is, how? The story is good, certainly, but it isn’t anything new or groundbreaking. X-O Manowar got the God of Comics treatment for the breadth of theme that it embraces and then digs deep within, and Coffin Hill was recognized for the complexity of its narrative flow. Hawkeye does something completely different by making the style of the story an extension of the substance.

A lot of writers look at style as flourish, something to add spice to the meat of what it is they’re working on. Comics are unique in that their storytelling relies overmuch on style, which is to say art, which makes them a visual medium that is quite unlike anything else. Never in the history of comics has their been a title that played with that concept quite like this one.

The second issue, for example, looks at what it’s like to be an archer. Take a look:

Hawkeye 001

This one simple page allows us to understand what it’s like for Clint and Kate whenever they have a bow in hand. It gives us a sense of time, motion, and breath. We can begin to understand, on a visceral level, that the way both of them view the world is fundamentally different from how we view the world, while still being imminently relatable.

Hawkeye 007

“Aw, Coffee, no.”

Writer Matt Fraction had to have a world of trust for his artist, David Aja, to explain that with nothing but artistic presentation. It plays with moments, with heartbeats and words and body language, and it turns two people that look strictly human into people that deserve to be hanging shoulder to shoulder with super soldiers and genius millionaires and gods.

That gimmick used once would be enough for most comics, but Matt and Dave aren’t willing to stop there. We get into the silliness and utility of gimmick arrows, an entire episode from the point of view of a dog, a recap issue that is also a Christmas special cartoon, an entire issue in ASL when Clint goes deaf.

I’ve sold people on this comic just by telling them that Clint is deaf and uses ASL to communicate from time to time. Parents of deaf children will buy this comic just for that, so that their kids have someone to look up to and inspire them.

Hawkeye

They did an entire comic like this.

The amount of creativity at play in this book, the noirish elements, the inherent silliness of two archers standing strong against every possible odd while being pretty odd themselves is every kind of win. The sketchy art allows for a surprising amount of depth and detail, and there’s more to discover in expression and body language every time this comic is read.

It’s charming and the building blocks for one of the best buddy-teams in comics. It’s spawned a Deadpool / Hawkeye crossover that had some of the best moments in any modern Deadpool comic (which is saying something) and inspired a spin-off series by Jeff Lemire (and we’ll be getting back to him sooner rather than later). It’s been one of Marvel’s best comics for the past few years, a frequent winner of our weekly Top 5 Comics, and it deserves all of your attention.

Hawkeye is magic. It’s everything that comics can be, that weird nebulous region that embraces the inherent strangeness of the medium with some superhero elements and some noir elements and some heist elements, drawing from all without ever being clearly defined as anything but itself.

Hawkeye stands on its own, on its own terms, and we cannot recommend it enough.

Hawkeye 008

End the stand off. Read this comic. It will make you a better person.

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1307

God of Comics 2015-07-15

God Of Comics

July 14, 2015

 

Ant-Man Annual #1Ant-Man Annual #1

Why You Care: Before Secret Wars cut everything short, Ant-Man was one of Marvel’s new line of sleeper hits, a story dealing with a hero who failed upwards while hiring supervillains for his security company. There was something great about it, and Scott Lang teams with Hank Pym for the first time here. Marvel annuals tend to be awesome little one-shots.

 

 

 

Black Canary 002Black Canary #2

Why You Care: Brendan Fletcher’s take on Batgirl and his work with Gotham Academy has been one of the things that has informed the thematic structure of the whole DCYou. Black Canary moves that whole thing forward, adding a punkish element to what’s already working – insane amounts of story, bright art, and easily accessible characterization.

 

 

 

Book of Death #1Book of Death #1

Why You Care: It’s a Valiant title being written by Robert Venditti, the man what writes the Best of All Comics. It’s also the next big Valiant event, a self-contained story that will have larger impacts on all the other Valiant titles to come out after this story concludes. If you’re looking for a jumping on point for some of the best comics, this is it.

 

 

 

Dead Drop #3Dead Drop #1

Why You Care: This is an utterly unique comic, featuring the a-list heroes of the Valiant universe dealing with a group of people that are using their home turf to smuggle things out of sight. It’s weird and energetic, handing out details about what’s going on in small morsels while keeping the tension ramped up.

 

 

 

 

Death Head #1Death Head #1

Why You Care: Because Coffin Hill is done and we like horror comics? Dark Horse tries to translate the tension and pacing of a slasher flick into comics form. Also, I’m a total sucker for the plague doctor thing, and have one of those masks, so the idea of someone running around butchering people in one? I’m in. Take my money. Gimme.

 

 

 

Doomed #2Doomed #2

Why You Care: It’s the incredible Hulk by way of a slacker kid who turns into Doomsday – as in, the monster what killed Superman that one time. He, of course, would like to be a hero with his power, but he’s about as good at it as Hancock, plus he can’t communicate as Doomsday and has to fight the genetic urge to murder everything. Oddly fun.

 

 

 

Fathom - Blue #2Fathom – Blue #2

Why You Care: Because Reva from Nerdcouver keeps pushing Aspen Comics and I’m looking for a way to get in. We’re two issues in, so this should be easy enough to get into. It’s also about a group of underdogs punching way above their pay grade, which usually makes for an amusing story. Looks like a lot of fun, and the art is so very pretty.

 

 

 

Fiction #2Fiction #2

Why You Care: Because the first issue blew our minds. Basically, a group of adults have to deal with the trauma of childhood, where they stumbled across some books that sucked them into another world. They lost a friend as kids, and now, when they no longer believe, the books have come back for them. Incredible artwork just caps it off. Win.

 

 

 

Harley Quinn #18Harley Quinn #18

Why You Care: Harley has become one of the funnest books DC Comics is publishing, this sort of mad commentary on the comics industry as a whole and the world in general, and it is utter batshit lunacy with laugh-out-loud moments, adorable characterization, and brilliant social commentary. Also, you know, Harley herself is a non-shark jumped Deadpool.

 

 

 

Hawkeye #22Hawkeye #22

Why You Care: Matt Fraction has written the definitive Hawkeye, capturing the heart of two different characters under the same name and placing them within the framework of a larger universe. You could compare this to the Miller run on Daredevil or the Ennis run on Punisher or the Simonson run on Thor. It’s that good, and some of the most creative storytelling in the whole of the medium. Tremendous.

 

 

 

Jem and The Holograms #5Jem and the Holograms #5

Why You Care: The art features different body types! The writing features fully formed characters with unique personalities that feel like actual people! There’s so much complexity in this that it’s insane, and it’s all brightly colored and captures the insanity and freneticism of the cartoon. Perfect in just about every way.

 

 

 

Long Walk To ValhallaLong Walk to Valhalla

Why You Care: This column is called God of Comics for a reason; we’re thoroughly invested in Norse mythology, and so are the rest of you, whether you realize it or not. This is a slower, thoughtful look at what that mythos has to offer, and it’s all the stronger for it. One of those comics that shows exactly the sort of quality storytelling the medium is capable of.

 

 

 

Mantle #3Mantle #3

Why You Care: Ed Brisson matured into one of the best up-and-coming writers in comics with Sheltered, which was a masterpiece. Between this and Pisces, he’s moving into cementing himself as one of those writers that forces you to pay attention. This is a subversion of the superhero mystery, the sheer insanity that comes of heroism, and you know the twist is coming.

 

 

 

Moon Knight #17Moon Knight #17

Why You Care: There is no comic more haunted and haunting that Moon Knight right now, and we’re so happy that this title has somehow managed to avoid the idiocy that is Secret Wars. The whole point of this is the cost of faith, and what happens when someone has a direct line to a divinity that is, by any mortal standard, completely and utterly mad. There is no set up like this title in comics, and the tenants of it make even merely good writers great.

 

 

 

Oh, Killstrike #3Oh, Killstrike #3

Why You Care: Every now and again you get some comic narrative that is so meta that you just kind of have to stare and ask ‘what?’ This is that comic. A nineties comics superhero escapes into the real world and is traveling with the son of his creator to find his missing and estranged father. This is so goddamn weird that it bludgeons its way into hopeless engagement. Weird excellent.

 

 

 

Red Sonja #1973Red Sonja #1973

Why You Care: Gail Simone is rocking this character like nothing else, adding a level of depth and subtext to this character that has made her more interesting that she’s ever been. Now, Dynamite is bringing in some of the best modern comics writers to take a turn, and the promise of this is irresistible. I’d be reading this just for Cullen Bunn and Gail Simone; the rest are just icing on the cake.

 

 

 

Secret Six #4Secret Six #4

Why You Care: Speaking of Gail Simone, she wrote some of the best books DC Comics ever published back before the nu52 happened, and got to resurrect one of her old titles towards the end of that mistake and into the DCYou, which has been so much better. Secret Six is villains are mercenaries, and the title runs on mystery. It’s black comedy gold.

 

 

 

The Sixth Gun - Valley of Death #2Sixth Gun – Valley of Death #2

Why You Care: And then the other name we mentioned in Red Sonja, Cullen Bunn, created one of the deepest mythologies in comics. The other creator of that series adds to the depth and madness of the line, looking at some of the non-main characters as the world comes to an end and prepares to reborn in the image of someone monstrous. This whole series is addictive. Read only if you like expansive levels of awesome.

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1014

God of Comics – Coffin Hill

Books & Writing, God Of Comics, Reviews

July 10, 2015

There’s a rather good book called Wise Man’s Fear. In it, a musician plays an incredibly difficult piece of music while acting as though it’s nothing particularly taxing, then plays a very simple piece of music as if it were an impossible accomplishment. It’s a performance on multiple levels – those that appreciate music can listen to the tune and enjoy it just for that, but any other musician is going to look at this and know exactly the sort of skill they’re getting to witness.

I’m a writer. I’ve got a novel over here, and a bunch of others that’re raring to go. And I do this whole thing about qualitative storytelling, and enjoying good stories, and looking at why some stories work and some don’t. It’s one of the reasons we do a weekly top five comics over on twitter, so that we can spread the word on comics you might otherwise miss.

With all that in mind, we need to point out exactly what Caitlin Kittridge has done with Coffin Hill.

On the surface, this is a very simple story. An evil witch is burned at the stake, then uses magic to haunt the town that burned her through a bloodline curse. It’s nothing we haven’t see before – Hocus Pocus did this as a comedy, for example – but it’s the way in which this story is told.

What does your family tree look like?

What does your family tree look like?

We start with Eve Coffin, the latest of the descendants that have come to be known as the Coffin Witches, but we don’t join her at any particular point in her life. No, that would be too easy. Instead, we join her at three points in her life, drawing parallel narratives between her as a teenager, as a cop, and as a burn out.

The writing is good enough to give each narrative thread a unique feel, from the rebelliousness of youth to the hope of escape that comes with being a cop to the sense of crippling despair that follows that inability to escape. The art follows the writing, investing a manic energy into the first threat, a staid hyper-reality in the second, and a sense of resignation in the last. It’s in every line, the body language and inks that are used from one panel to the next, except when we need one thread to bleed into another or something otherwordly happens.

And otherworldly stuff does happen. Eve doesn’t know what she’s getting into when she’s young, and her dabbling ends up costing her so badly that she flees her home and goes to become a cop. Think about that for a moment; this is a young woman who is so badly frightened that police work in a slum, facing drug dealers and serial killers, seems like a safe alternative. And as we come to understand what happened to her, we agree with her decision.

She thinks if she can trap herself in the mire of the worst normality has to offer, she’ll somehow escape the curse she was born into. She can’t, of course – she’s drawn into a serial killer investigation that needs her to succeed, because the killer they’re hunting is something of a witch, too. She needs to draw on the power she’s forsaken not just to catch the murderer she’s hunting, but to survive the attention that is drawn to her because of it.

We know she catches the killer, and we know the cost. We can see it in her face in the future, the irrepairable damage that is caused by running away from your problems. She’s drawn back home, where she has to face the consequences of her actions, and finds that they’ve only grown worse in her absence.

Running away solves nothing, not really. Whatever you’re running from is either going to catch you when you’re finally exhausted, or grow more powerful without you there to stop it.

This is only the first arc.

It’s maddening, how complex and how well this story is told. Snippets of information revealed in one thread of time that give weight to the others, going both forward and back. We can see where hubris and disbelief leads to, and we can see what it takes to refind faith not in magic, but in self. It’s some of the best writing you’re going to find in a horror comic, and, yes, this is horrifying.

There’s a sense of dread that hovers around every character in this book, regardless of when they are. Terrible things lurk just out of sight, and it’s hard to tell who has it worse – the people that almost know what’s going on or the ones that are entirely ignorant. There’s no escaping what’s just out of sight in any event, so the question is would you rather not really understand what’s coming for you or live, unaware, until whatever is coming, comes. Both options are terrible, but they’re the only ones available.

We get inversions of common horror tropes, examinations of escapism and empty faith and the cost of belief. We look at love in all its permuations, as friends and family and lovers, and we see how love can be corrupted and used as a weapon, but also how it can heal and make people stronger. There’s balance here. Everything feels real, regardless of how insane the events might be.

As the story goes on it becomes more complex, again and again and again. We delve into more points of when, following the childhood of Eve’s estranged mother and coming to understand why she’s become so aloof and crippled and the distance that separates the two of them. We see what the original Coffin Witch did to kick this whole thing off, and the terrible vengeance she’s enacted on the town that bears her name, the town she cursed before she died.

She also made a really creepy house for her kids.

On the plus side, she made a really creepy house for her kids.

It’s an incredible piece of work, and here’s the trick: it looks simple. The way it flows from one point in time to the next, the way the story handles revelation and character building is so easy to follow that you could swear you’re reading a child’s primer. There’s no hesitation, no confusion about who you’re following or when you’re following them even as the story spirals ever deeper into history and characterization.

Think about that for a moment. Think about how much time and thought had to go into building the structure of this narrative, to measure out information and when to dole it out for the most possible punch. It’s heady and thought-provoking and a goddamn masterpiece, but it’s so easy to follow that you don’t even notice how complex it is until you take the time to think about it.

If you’re just looking for a good horror story, you can read this and put it down and be done with it. It’ll give you the chills you’re seeking, give you engaging characters and that slow creeping fear that the best horror stories craft and the worst try to replace with jump scares. It’ll come across as really good, great campfire material maybe, a story on par with the old Clive Barker or John Carpenter movies. Hellraiser. Prince of Darkness. That sort of thing.

On the other hand, if you are Clive Barker or John Carpenter, you can enjoy Coffin Hill on an entirely different level. You can look at this story and pull it apart, take a look at what was done where and understand why. You can appreciate this tale the same way you might appreciate a gourmet meal, something crafted together with care and thought and diligence. You can internalize the why this story is told and apply some of the devices to your own writing, and become a better writer for it.

And the artwork…! This is a comic carved from shadows. I remember hearing about a cartoon where the artwork started with black backgrounds, and added color. That’s what this artwork feels like: Inaki Miranda and Eva de la Cruz started with absolute darkness and added the bare minimum of color needed to drive everything forward.

This gives the impression of light being terrified of what’s happening in these pages. This isn’t to say that the artwork is dark or hard to follow. It isn’t. It’s lush and vibrant, almost a rebellion against the terror writ large on every page. It’s just as complex as the writing demands it to be, and it’s a large part of why this comic is as powerful as it is.

In brief? This is one of the best horror comics of the modern era, a complex look at the cost of bloodline curse and the horrors that come with it, framed by gorgeous artwork that does everything that it can to enhance the power of the narrative.

Coffin Hill is as enchanting and haunting as the best grim faerie stories, and we can’t recommend it enough.

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1599

God of Comics – X-O Manowar

God Of Comics

July 2, 2015

 

For almost four years, we’ve called X-O Manowar the best of all comics.

We’ve done so on the weekly twitter feed, we’ve done so in reviews, we’ve done so in casual conversation and while making recommendations. There’s a very simple reason for this: it is the best of all comics.

Originally, X-O Manowar was part of the first Valiant line up back in the early nineties. Those comics were fairly decent sci-fi fare, and pretty decent for their time, but I wasn’t a fan. Solar: Man of the Atom, Shadowman, and Magnus: Robot Fighter were my go-to Valiant books back in the day. X-O was just kind of there.

Back in the mid-nineties, Acclaim – the failed video game company that practiced many of the same sound business tactics that EA seems to like – bought Valiant and relaunched their comics. The less said about the comics that came out of that era, the better. Seriously, there’s a reason Acclaim went bankrupt.

For example, there was a crossover video game in the late nineties, X-O Manowar / Iron Man. It was terrible. It was a thing I sneered at – along with every reviewer of the era! – and that was the last I expected to see of the character.

Enter 2012.

The world was supposed to end in 2012. The Mayans predicted it, but what people don’t understand is that the Mayans didn’t predict an ending, they predicted a change – something so radically different that they could not explain or express it.

Valiant Comics relaunched in 2012, and they started with X-O Manowar.

It was a good choice.

It was a good choice.

I remember walking through Emerald City Comic Con that year, and meeting the new Valiant Crew. They had trades for Harbinger, Bloodshot, Archer & Armstrong, and X-O Manowar. We’ll get to the former three later, because they are all excellent books, but it was X-O Manowar that immediately caught the eye and imagination.

The set-up was simple: a viking from sixteen hundred years ago named Aric of Dacia mistakes aliens for Roman Legionairres and attacks them. This tells us a few things about him right away: that he is brave and he is an idiot. He is abducted by these aliens, taken to an alien world and made a slave, and there he leads a revolution that should doom him and those that stand with him – but instead he is chosen by the living armor that those aliens worship as a god, and becomes as a god himself.

Let us take a moment to step back and consider that. This simple story marries low-concept fantasy to high-concept science fiction, effortlessly. We don’t see earth for a while after Aric is taken. Instead, we see how he suffers, how he is tortured and does not bend. He refuses to break, refuses to stop, and his stubbornness inspires those around him.

He is a simple but noble man, born into a violent era and a perfect example of the best sort of person to come out of that time and place. We see this in those early stories, the price of not having a home, of being at war all the time, of never being able to stop. We see that his people have families, that they struggle to lead the best lives they can, but are crippled time and again by the evils of imperialism.

That’s some pretty impressive themes to explore, and everything described so far is nothing but world building. I’ve just brushed across the first six issues of what is now thirty-eight issues strong, and getting stronger by the chapter: more character depth, a further exploration of mythology and ethics and morality, of the temporal context that informs those worldviews handled with a careful respect.

We often say that Valiant Comics has the market cornered for mature storytelling, and X-O Manowar is the perfect example for that: everything that happens in this book has weight, reason, and consequence. Every decision made matters, and everyone evolves.

Not really understanding what has happened, Aric accidentally teleports back to earth. He’s not aware that sixteen hundred years have passed, so when he attacks Italy it’s a major world problem. Eventually, he’s made to understand that no one even remembers his people, that no one could even find Dacia on a map. He refuses to punish the modern world for the sins of the past, and finds himself without purpose.

To be fair, his battle with Italy was entirely one-sided.

To be fair, his battle with Italy was entirely one-sided.

Various world powers try to make contact with Aric, who is wildly disinterested in the modern political landscape and, truly, is incapable of understanding it. He does, however, find proof of alien infiltration among the people he does have contact with.

The same aliens that took him have infiltrated human society and have helped shape it for the past dozen centuries. The aliens on Earth get in contact with the home world, recognizing the suit Aric is wearing as their deity, and this leads to a serious religious schism. The distant aliens launch an invasion of Earth, which goes poorly for them, as the aliens of Earth throw in with Aric and try to defend their new home.

Back in space, the religious aliens enter into conflict with their military, who try to destroy Aric and the armor that has chosen them. Aric goes to free his people and lays low the military of this alien place, and here’s where we see how much Aric has grown: instead of destroying the aliens, or enslaving them the way they enslaved him, he helps the defeated aliens rebuild. He ends their empire and helps them make a better society, then takes his people and goes home.

And here’s where his ignorance of the modern world again cripples him. Yes, he’s powerful – powerful enough to conquer an alien civilization all by himself, powerful enough to bludgeon his way through nearly anything – but he has no means of understanding the world in which he finds himself simply because it’s more alien to him than that of the world he was taken to.

So, when I say he goes home, I mean exactly that: he returns to where Dacia was and settles his people there, starts them farming, and the world reacts erratically. There’s different nations and different political powers in play, and all of them have something to say about how this situation is handled. Many of them don’t understand what’s happening, and Aric isn’t very forthcoming. A world war, which is a concept Aric can barely grasp, nearly erupts around him because of his decisions.

Look at how much we play with here: personal and cultural alienation, the corruption of the global political theater, the interplay and evolution of moral bias on a cultural level through the ages… there is no other comic that manages to touch on so many concepts with as much depth and consistency as this one does. It’s a conversation starter, with every issue and storyline being fodder for deeper issues that effect us all in real life.

And if that isn’t your thing, there’s still a viking in space armor running around blowing things up with lasers and melee weapons made of energy.

The artwork is what we’ve come to call Standard Valiant, which tends to be a spec or two above the standards of other companies. Body types of different kinds are portrayed and given a sense of density and motion, body language and facial expressions are carefully considered and conveyed. This feels like a whole other world, one we’re lucky enough to get a glimpse into, a place with enough variety to be more than the paper that it’s printed on.

How strong is X-O Manowar, as a comic? Strong enough to base an entire line of comics on. Entire characters and teams have gotten their start in the pages of X-O Manowar, like Ninjak or Unity, and even Imperium owes as much to X-O as it does to Harbinger. Aric showing up anywhere is a sign that things have gotten serious, because everyone in the Valiant line of comics knows who he is and what he represents.

Strong enough to cause Valiant's version of the Avengers to happen, and then end up on the team.

Strong enough to cause Valiant’s version of the Avengers to happen, and then end up on the team.

Interesting and evolving characters and mythologies? Check. A real world basis for the various things that happen in the book? Check. A book with enough depth to handle tragedy and comedy, pathos and ethos, considered violence and attempts at pacifism? Check, check, and check. The sheer scope of the comic promises that nothing here will ever end, because it can’t.

Aric’s story is an epic, following a warrior, a slave, a wanderer, and a king. It speaks of the responsibilities owed by a nobility that is worth following. It is a tremendous piece of work that we cannot recommend enough.

And this is why it is the best of all comics.

 

If you’re looking to get into X-O Manowar, you can find the first three trades here, here, and here.

If you’re interested in titles that came out of X-O Manowar, here’s Ninjak, Unity, and Imperium.

If you’re interested in titles like X-O Manowar, there’s the Jason Aaron run on Thor, including God Bomb and God Butcher.

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God of Comics 2015-06-17

God Of Comics, Reviews

June 18, 2015

This Week: Archie vs. Predator #3, Birthright #8, Black Canary #1, Bloodshot – Reborn #3, Doomed #1, Dr. Fate #1, Fiction #1, Ghostbusters – Get Real #1, Giant Days #4, Harley Quinn and Power Girl #1, Hexed #11, Infinite Loop #3, Ivar – Time Walker #6, Lazarus #17, Mad Max Fury Road – Furiosa #1, Magneto #19, Manifest Destiny #15, Moon Knight #16, Ms. Marvel #16, Oh, Killstrike #2, Old Man Logan #2, Prez #1, Rick and Morty #3, RuneLoveKill #3, Southern Bastards #9, Stumptown #6, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Casey and April #1, Thors #1, Wonder Woman #, X-O Manowar #37

 

 

Archie vs. Predator #3

Archie vs. Predator 003The violence continues…! Sabrina’s aunts pack up, and now it’s time for Dilton’s super science to try and save the day – which works out about as well as you’d expect, though there’s some interesting character moments throughout this book. Like Afterlife with Archie, this is way better than it has any business being. I need this team on a Sabrina book.

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Birthright #8

Birthright 008Hey, guns are dangerous. It’s one of those things that gets lost in translation a lot of the time, so it’s nice to see that addressed in a comic that, really, is all about consequences. The artwork is stunning exactly where it needs to be, differentiating the real world from the fantastic one in all the right ways. This is one of our favorite inter-office comics.

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Black Canary #1

Black Canary 001This is one of those comics that’s going to get better as it goes. It’s pure punk rock, Black Canary picking up the pieces of her life from Batgirl and trying to build something new, but there’s aliens and a band and maybe a bunch of spies and everyone is not after who you’d think they’d be after. The chaos of the artwork works really well with this story.

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Bloodshot – Reborn #3

Bloodshot - Reborn 003One of the more interesting underpinings of this story is one of owning who we are, regardless of origin. Bloodshot excised the nanites that made him who he was, but the consequences of that was that the nanites have turned other people into homicidal maniacs. As he kills them he reclaims himself, adding an element of horror to an already excellent comic.

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Deadpool’s Secret Secret Wars #2

Deadpool Secret Wars 002Secret Wars is awesome! By which I mean the thing back in the mid-eighties was awesome! This modern one is… well, it’s a thing. The concept is decent, and we’re getting some good stories out of it based on the quality of the writers involved, but, well. This series puts Deadpool into the old classic Secret Wars, and it’s as fun as you’d expect.

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Doomed #1

Doomed 001This is an interesting mix of Spider-Man and the Hulk, mixed with the absent-mindedness of someone that should know better. A smart but foggy kid gets exposed to chemicals that turn him into Doomsday some of the time, but he keeps his intellect as he gets Doomsday powers… so far. This is a cute introduction. We’ll see what DCYou does with it.

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Dr. Fate #1

Dr Fate 001I like sketchy artwork when it fits the narrative of a story, but this… okay, this is a bit of a mess. The dialogue feels like a throwback to the old John Byrne / Chris Claremont era of the X-Men, and the art is just a little too sketchy to work with the concepts of ancient Egyptian gods running about New Jeresy. I want to like this a lot more than I actually do.

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Fiction #1 – Top 5 Comics

Fiction 001Ye Gods. Okay. This is my pick of the week – if you’re going to pick up just one of the comics on this list, make it this one. A group of kids discover a box of books that force you to read them aloud, and doing so steals you into the worlds of fiction. It’s all fun and games until one of them gets lost, which ends their childhood friendship and tears them apart. As adults, they’ve lied to themselves about what happened to them just to get by, but the books are not done with them yet and are hunting them down. Another one gets nabbed, and now there’s only two left. The art, dialogue, and pretty much everything else is spot on. Simply incredible.

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Ghostbusters – Get Real #1

Ghostbusters - Get Real 001So, there was thing called Turtles Forever where they crossed over the original TMNT cartoon with the late nineties TMNT cartoon and it was fun. This crosses over the Ghostbusters comics with the Real Ghostbusters cartoon, and it hits every note perfectly: everyone is in character and curious and great, and the villain looks like fun. Really damn cool.

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Giant Days #4

Giant Days 004This. This. This is the reason I decided to do Nerdcouver, other than the chance to hang out with friends. Learning about really cool comics that I had no idea existed. This is a slice of life comic about different women growing into themselves while the people around them do likewise, and it is adorable. Tight writing and characterization. I swear I know some of these people.

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Harley Quinn and Power Girl #1

Harley Quinn and Power Girl 001Cheesecake and comic-trope commentary galore! This is a continuation of the epic team-up between Power Girl and Harley, back when Kara was partially amnesiac and Harley convinced her they were partners. They end up in a strange dimension and need to team up to get home, and things go… well, they go really weird. Which is par for the course, really, but there’s a seventies-style warlord being held captive by a puri-tyrannical villain and this is great.

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Hexed #11

Hexed 011You know it’s a good week for comics when Hexed doesn’t make the top five. That’s not a knock on Hexed, which keeps building on the excellent character building and gorgeous artwork that this comic is built on. There’s a host of tragedies here, starting with hubris and ending, appropriately, with a horrible sense of loss. There isn’t anything else like this comic, not anywhere, and I need this world to keep going, to keep expanding, to keep becoming more.

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Infinite Loop #3

Infinite Loop 003I’m a sucker for high concept comics, and this is definitely that – a look at time travel that is just as complex and eye-opening as Ivar (see below), but takes the philosophies and ethics of time travel in an entirely different direction. This is an incredible work of fiction that touches on a lot of hot-button topics with a casual respect that is impossible to turn away from. Pretty art combined with good story is going to get me hunting down the back issues.

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Ivar – Time Walker #6

Ivar - Time Walker 006The time travel hits a whole other thing, when the villain gets the hero, who is her younger self, to invent time travel. She does it, but does it in a way that doesn’t suit her future self, who demands she try again. That leads to an epiphany that might shift the time line, because wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff. Also, Ivar and his brothers flail uselessly.

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Lazarus #17 – Top 5 Comics

Lazarus 017Does Greg Rucka ever work on anything that isn’t outstanding? It feels like everything he touches is just excellent, and this is some of the sharpest writing you’re going to find in the medium. Hell, some of the discussions in the letters column are worth the price of admission, as Greg explains how the world of Lazarus evolved from our own. The comic itself is bound by concepts of intrigue, family, and sacrifice, all rendered with a stark and unforgiving art style. There’s a vicious efficiency to this story, and it’s merciless in the world it’s created the places it decides to show you. Rucka can do that when he wants to, and he has the art team to support him. You really should be reading this.

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Mad Max Fury Road – Furiosa #1

Mad Max- Fury Road - Furiosa 001Mad Max’s world is an interesting one. It is full of fury and fire and death, as narrators like to warn us; it is the ideal of toxic masculinity it all its horror, forced to confront the consequences that go along with that philosophy. Here we get the flipside: what could make a person in that world want to be better, and the dangers of dreaming and education. Subversive, dangerous, and just about perfect.

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Magneto #19

Magneto 019The blueprint for Secret Wars was very clearly the Age of Apocalypse, which did give us some very good characters – among them, the Sugar Man, who puts in appearance here. Erik has always been a man at odds with the weight he shoulders, and we see here how far he’s willing to go for his people, and we get hints of the greatness to come. Personally, I love what Cullen Bunn has done with this character throughout this run, and I hope this title survives this idiot event.

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Manifest Destiny #15

Manifest Destiny 015We get our fist taste of non-violent sentience out of the Louisiana Purchase, and a differing view as to the politics of gender expectation at this point in time. This comic is exceptionally good at making small details important, and it makes the series as a whole that much stronger. Pick up the trades and then buy this comic. It’s worth it.

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Moon Knight #16

Moon Knight 016This comic and character skirt the edges of madness. Mr. Knight is completely dedicated to his deity, and that deity has consumed his life. He doesn’t call out or beg for attention, though, not like the others that strike in this comic, and there’s a simple and profound truth to be learned from this comic, about divinity and sacrifice and purity of purpose. Brilliant, which is exactly what we expect.

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Ms. Marvel #16 – Top 5 Comics

Ms. Marvel 016I was worried about this one. You might have noticed it didn’t get brought up in the GoC twitter feed, and that’s simply because I’m trying to avoid as much Secret Wars nonsense as possible. The simple fact of the matter is, I know nothing that happens in this crossover is going to matter; whether I like something or not, it’s going to be rebooted. I picked this up mostly out of habit, then read it, and then read it again: this comic is outstanding. Ms. Marvel knows she’s not the hero that’s going to save the world, and doesn’t try to be – instead, she keeps her head and keeps her friends and family and community protected as best she’s able, and gets to meet her hero in the process. This is everything that superhero comics can be, and everything they should aspire to, and I cannot recommend it enough.

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Oh, Killstrike #2

Oh, Killstrike 002Oh my Gods… okay, a nineties comics hero escapes from comic-space into the real world and goes on a quest to help a middle-aged comic writer find his estranged father, who was also a comics writer, and the meta is so meta that it ascends to a whole new level. This is bizarre and violent and oddly touching. We could all use a life coach like Killstrike.

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Old Man Logan #2

Old Man Logan 002See, this is a clever use of the Secret Wars concept. Heroes that don’t know what’s going on are forced to confront a larger truth than the one they’re used to, and as a result try and work things out while the villains they normally find themselves at odds with just mindlessly attack. This is clever and fun; it’s a shame the art isn’t all that great.

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Prez #1 – Top 5 Comics

Prez 001Wow. Okay. I shouldn’t be surprised – DC Comics is the company that grabbed the writers that came out of the Thatcher Era, so it’s not surprising that they’d return to brilliant political and cultural satire. This is the company that published V for Vendetta and the Invisibles. It’s just the fearless nature of this story, the unblinking eye with which it stares at and then lampoons where we are as a society is humbling and terrifying. There’s horror to be found on every page of this comic, the grim meathook real-politick that makes all the grimdark of the nu52 look like as silly as it truly is. This is mature storytelling, writ and drawn with perfect clarity on every page, and those of us that get it are going to love it. I cannot wait to buy this in trade, and this is the comic-of-conversation around the offices this morning.

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Rick and Morty #3

Rick and Morty 003I love how spectacularly badass Summer is for no reason at all. Yes, she’s living in a weird family situation, but every now and again she flips a switch and becomes incredible. This is one of those moments. Morty and Jerry fight as Jerry dooms his family with his utter confidence and subsequent lack of competence. Can Rick save them? Of course he can.

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RuneLoveKill #3

RunLoveKill 003This is going to be so much better in trade. We finally get a little background – why Raina went rogue, who she went rogue from, and why they’d be after her. The art is weirdly detailed and mingles well with the story, but this is one of those tales that you know is going to be much better when you can read it all at once. As single issues, it’s just there.

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Southern Bastards #9 – Top 5 Comics

Southern Bastards 009We learned how bad this small southern town had gotten in the first arc. We learned why it got that bad and more about the man that made it that way in the second. And now, in the third, we get to learn more about how that corruption has influenced ordinary people, and the taint that keeps good men from doing nothing in the face of evil. The heat from this book drips off every page, the blistering art an unrelenting warmth that inspires dread and sweat, while the writing shows how easy it is to destroy a life, whether it be someone else’s or your own. The core colors here are orange and red, but the darkness that permeates this book will haunt you long after you stop reading it.

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Stumptown #6

Stumptown 006Greg Rucka is one of those writers who can make anything interesting. Case in point: this is a high stakes escort story about a few pounds of rarified coffee beans. I had no idea that this was a thing until I read this comic, and now I want some. The art is what you expect from Stumptown, and so is the writing. If you like downbeat noir, look into this.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Casey and April #1

TMNT - Casey and April 001One of the more interesting characters that the IDW version of TMNT has introduced is Kitsune. We know little about her, other than she’s been helping the Foot Clan for centuries. It’s been hinted that she’s more than she appears, and that there are others like her – others such as the Rat King. Casey and April leave New York to follow a lead and spend some time with one another, but they’re entering the desert, in more ways than one. Incredible relationship development with good art and an increasing understanding of the mythos being built. Good stuff.

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Thors #1

Thors 001Jason Aaron takes the best possibilities offered by this whole Secret Wars thing to explore the idea of Thors – basically, God Emperor Doom has his Space Marines, only it’s a bunch of Thors. Here, they’re treated like cops investigating a case, and the implications worked into this are beautiful. The art and story are great, and the imagination on display is just about perfect.

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Wonder Woman #41

Wonder Woman 041Want proof that the DCYou is doing things right? This comic is it. Yes, there’s an armor redesign, and that’s all fine and dandy. What’s more impressive is the heart of this comic, which touches on some of the key philosophies and themes that make up Wonder Woman, notably the ideas of truth and mercy. This is a really good start to a series I’m now reading.

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X-O Manowar #37

X-O Manowar 037Nothing happens in a vacuum. There’s a thing materialists don’t get, that the meaning of a person, place, or thing, is tied to the context of how that person, place, or thing fits together with the world around it. Nature and nurture both play a roll in that; by stripping away identity to create a vacuum based identity, one loses meaning, context, or, really, anything worth living for. This is the truth we get in this issue, wrapping up one story and moving onto the next, and it’s one of the reasons that this title continues to be the best of all comics.

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