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176

God of Comics: X-Men Gold #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

April 5, 2017

X-Men: Gold #1 (Marvel Comics)

Kitty Pryde is back to lead the X-Men for reasons and we should all be excited~! It’s mandated by the Marvel editorial board, the same people that made Nazi Captain America and will soon be bringing you Nazi Holocaust Survivor and Jew, Magneto~!

Different writing team, thankfully. Marc Guggenheim has been quietly writing some rather good X-comics for the past year, making the most of what crossovers Marvel has thrown at him. He also did the rather neat Squadron Sinister and is doing the criminally under-appreciated Agents of SHIELD comic, so he’s got that going for him.

It’s just that the X-Men have not had a very good decade: they were ignored when they tried to warn everyone what a bad idea registration was, they tried to leave the world that feared and hated them to go live in peace only to be invaded, then were nearly wiped out because the Avengers couldn’t handle their shit… and it doesn’t end there.

Wolverine and cyclops had a very messy and public divorce and Cyclops was cast as the villain despite saving the world from its own mutant hating technology when it was turned against humanity. Then the Avengers didn’t listen to him when the Phoenix force came, resulting in him getting possessed by a cosmic entity because the Avengers kidnapped a traumatized sixteen-year-old girl – possessed Cyclops then killed Professor X and got blamed for it when the Avengers were all “dur, we goofed,” and released the sixteen-year-old girl, allowing the Phoenix to restore the balance.

More recently, Marvel has been trying to make the Inhumans happen and had the X-Men be the villains in a story where the Inhumans released a gas that covered the world and killed mutants. The X-Men were to be viewed as villains for not lying down and dying. Seriously. That was the story.

If it sounds like Marvel is trying to shit on the X-Men it’s because they are. Marvel bankrupted themselves with their glut of idiot crossover events back in the late nineties and saved themselves by selling the film rights to the X-Men to Fox. They figure if they devalue the comics that Fox might sell the film rights back – which isn’t going to happen – and every now and again the X-Men get a writer who loves them and we get good comics where the mutants aren’t cast as the villains.

Marc Guggenheim is one of those writers. I actually am excited about Kitty being back with the X-Men, though I had hoped she would keep her Star-Lord outfit and cosmic power-up. She’s decided that it’s time to stop running and just deal with things, which means moving the X-Men into the open and forcing people to acknowledge that the X-Men save the world as much or more than the Avengers, and lack Tony Stark locking up, cloning, and betraying his friends or Captain America being a Nazi.

The team line-up is intriguing – Storm, Old Man Logan, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Prestige (who is Rachael Summers wearing… something). There’s a lot of history to draw upon there and I’m curious to see where it goes, and I really, really, really do not want to see the mess people call Colossus get back together with Kitty. None of that, please.

Ardian Syaf is handling art and we got a taste of what this creative team is capable of last week and that was pretty great. Here’s hoping Marvel has just decided to do good comics with these characters again. Fingers are crossed.

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105

God of Comics: Penny Dreadful #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

April 5, 2017

Penny Dreadful #1 (Titan Books)

Please tell me you watched this series when it was on. It was three seasons of absolute and terrifying magic wrapped around Eva Green giving the sort of performance that should define a career.

Hunt this down. It’s worth it.

A brief recap: Malcolm Murray is the absent father of Mina Murray. She’s gone missing, his son is dead, and his wife wants nothing to do with him because he’s a terrible husband and father. He’s adopted Mina’s childhood best friend, a woman named Vanessa Ives who is also a witch and maybe knows where Mina has gone. They have a conflicted relationship and recruit some people to help them fight the Evil that has taken Mina, including an American Werewolf in London and Hipster Dr. Frankenstein. Also Dorian Gray sort of maybe is involved.

Terrifying things happen for three whole seasons and the story ended when Vanessa died. It was heartbreaking and necessary and there was no way for the show to continue afterward, but that didn’t mean that most of the stories were resolved: the werewolf has a new home and father and Malcolm has a new furry son, but Dorian is still out there, Frankenstein and his creatures are still out there, there’s monstrous things haunting London that need killing.

Here’s the story we get, the continuation into a dark world that is defined by the old penny dreadfuls of the Victorian era and is savvy enough to know them by name. Here’s the haunted aftermath of Vanessa’s death, the world after Dorian betrays those that loved him and murdered most of the women his undead lover liberated. Here’s the bitter and broken doctor, having conquered death and lost the will to live. Here’s the monster, having found his family and lost them all over again.

The thing about fighting back the darkness is that, if you’re good at it, the darkness notices you and never stops coming, never goes away, never leaves you in peace. It will kill you or shatter you or make you a part of it and it stretches off into forever, your presence just a glimmering star in the empty void that lies between them.

Penny Dreadful’s characters are only too aware of their fragility and mortality. They have been played with and mocked, destroyed and abandoned, scattered and put upon. They raged and fought against the dying of the light and they won the battle and lost everything they lived for. The comic continues their fight, shows them struggling to find things to live for, and that is intriguing enough to get us invested.

The question is whether or not writer Chris King and illustrator Jesús Hervás can keep our attention. Chris is the co-executive producer of the series and has plans to pick things up six months after the season finale. Jesús is the artist behind the rather excellent visuals on Sons of Anarchy, so that’s promising. We’ll see where this goes.

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God of Comics: Harley Quinn #17

God Of Comics, Reviews

April 5, 2017

Harley Quinn #17 (DC Comics)

This is one of our go-to comics, one of the ones that (like Batgirl) defines what the rest of DC Comics does.

It’s weird. This character was supposed to be a one-off, a throwaway moment of “wouldn’t it be funny if Joker had a female sidekick?” tossed around in a production meeting for the old cartoon. This was when DC Comics did original cartoons and not rehashes of pre-existing (and often flawed) stories, or took classic stories and animated them (while adding flaws), and the enduring presence of this character and her popularity shows how emotionally powerful those old cartoons could be.

Harley needed to be justified, world-wise. It’s a Batman, so she couldn’t just be a simple villain – she needed a backstory and a reason to exist, and what we got was an abused but brilliant woman who had been psychologically and socially destroyed by the Joker because he thought it was funny. It made her terrifying and sympathetic and eventually led to a much more complex character, all while making the Joker more terrifying still. It was a brilliant piece of work that led to the character’s introduction to comics in the late nineties.

But, as the nineties came to an end, Harley broke off from the Joker and started living on her own. We say her struggle to become someone better while dealing with her issues, and she explored the addictive nature of abuse and the war for identity, all while maintaining her own essential madness and brilliance. It was light-hearted and heavy-handed and was the epitome of what mature comics could be: meaningful and exploring dark subject matter while still having the courage to be silly. It was fantastic stuff.

She expanded into Gotham City Sirens and things were looking good until the nu52 happened (and every time I write those words I keep hearing them read as “and then the fire nation attacked…”). Harley was taken to some very dark places, the more interesting portions of her character stripped away to fill the quota of nineties-era bullshit and extreme and edgelord darkness until Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner took over writing and started moving her back towards what DC Rebirth would become.

The stories definitively veered towards the silly, with Harley trying to live her life and be a good person despite being thoroughly cracked. She made mistakes but got over much of her trauma, got a day job, became a hero, and started teaming with A-listers like Power Girl. The comics were twisted but fun, dark comedy that veered into lighter shades while mocking the grimdark sensibilities of the nu52 and providing a way out of that selfsame grimdark.

If Batgirl defines where DC Comics is, Harley Quinn provides the blueprint.

Or, perhaps, Harley is the therapist that DC Comics needed.

Either way, the comics continue to be a ridiculous amount of fun and regularly lampoon the craziest stories we’ve gotten in comics over the past sixty years without anyone needing to know anything about those stories in order to enjoy them. We get aliens being ground up into hot dogs and turning people into zombies, we get well-meaning imposters trying to force her to love them, we get a Deadpool-a-like jumping the shark and showing up in these comics because why not? It’s fun, right? It’s amazing.

This issue has an evil clone/twin/something named Harley Sinn going after Harley by targeting people she’s lost and loved, and that sounds fun… but it’s the back-up story I’m really looking forward to. An early look at the original relationship between Harley and the Joker, as penned by Paul Dini… one of those people responsible for her creation in the first place. Add in the art stylings of Bret Blevins and John Timms and we’re good to go. Don’t miss this.

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God of Comics: Giant Days #25

God Of Comics, Reviews

April 5, 2017

Giant Days #25 (Boom Studios)

I read a lot of web comics. I started with Mega Tokyo, Life of Riley, and 8-bit Theater, then graduated to a host of others that I’ve either kept up with or got bored with as the years went by. My current reading list is Sinfest, Something Positive, It’s Walky, Questionable Content, Gunnerkrigg Court, The Punchline is Machismo, Order of the Stick, Oglaf, Philosophers Under the Bed, Granted, Wasted Talent, Snailogy, and Dresden Codak. Somewhere in there I discovered Scary-Go-Round and loved it for the weird slice-of-life comic that it was – a city somewhere in England where weird things happened and everyone just kind of went about their lives.

A character in a role-playing game I ran was pen pals with one of the characters in the comic. The player kept showing me notes between the two of them where they’d compare important points in one another’s lives and offered advice. “The dragon drank all the coffee and burned down a sushi restaurant.” “Ah. Maybe get him to try tea? It’s calming. Our mayor-to-be was assassinated with the insides of a McDonald’s Pie.”

I dare you to figure out which one of those came from the role-playing game and which came from the comic.

Scary-go-Round became Bad Machinery, which was just as good and just as strange. The characters aged, grew up, went about their lives and moved on. It was interesting watching these people grow, some of them becoming respectable while others became despicable monsters and others retreated from the public eye. The weirdness they grew up with was just a part of who they were and a part of their lives, not something to be feared but certainly something to be handled.

Giant Days is a spinoff of that comic, where three of the young ladies from that weird town have moved into the larger world and are going to college and dealing with things not being so magical. The problem is that they’re used to magic and they’ve brought a little bit of the weird with them, and the situations that they find themselves in – looking for student housing, dealing with relationships, even going dancing on weekends – tends to get strange because they, themselves, are strange and utterly relatable.

It’s that last part that makes this comic so good: despite the madness around the characters they remain people that resemble ones you’ve probably known or likely are, and the situations they find themselves in are ones that you’ve probably dealt with. This leads to some heartfelt moments, both laugh-inspiring and tear-worthy, and as this comic enters its third year, Boom Studios is treating us to an oversized issue where one of the girls is going home for the holidays to deal with family drama. It should be great.

Written by John Allison (who also did Scary-Go-Round and Bad Machinery) and illustrated by Liz Fleming (who also does Stephen Universe and Regular Show for Boom), Giant Days is quirky and adorable and great. Give it a chance; there’s a good chance you might like it.

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God of Comics: Street Fighter vs. Darkstalkers #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

April 4, 2017

Street Fighter vs. Darkstalkers #1 (Udon)

I have a personal and long-standing belief that the person that created the mythology for Street Fighter thought they were writing the backstory for a role-playing game and started to cry when they realized it was for a fighting game.

There’s high drama here, folks: an American soldier and former POW on a mission to avenge his best friend and the man he was tortured with, a man who died when they tried to escape their captor. An Interpol agent investigating the man who killed her father, an evil dictator who runs an international drug empire out of his country. That same dictator having tapped into the life energy of the world and perverted it for his own ends and his desire to be re-incarnated as a woman.

Yes, that is a thing. Cammy White is a clone of M. Bison and was created to house his soul when his body dies. That’s four characters out of… there’s a lot of characters in Street Fighter. Some are tragic, some are funny, some are ancient and they’re all effectively gods.

Some of them are monsters, at least metaphorically.

Then there’s the Darkstalkers, and the Darkstalkers are literal monster-gods. Created by the same company, they have the same depth of mythology and character despite also being a fighting game. It’s ridiculous: the back drop for Darkstalkers is of a monster civil war, where an exiled vampire king is trying to lay claim to a nation protected by a sleeping something and his succubus… something. Oh, and the succubus was so powerful that it needed to be split into two entities.

Udon comics has done an impressive job of realizing the insanity and putting it on the printed page, often doing a better job with the lore and the characters than Capcom themselves, so watching them mash these two things together… well, it should be all kinds of great. Udon’s got Ken Siu-Chong handling writing and he’s done well by both these properties in the past, and Udon’s Edwin Huang is likewise one of the best for both these worlds.

This is definitely going to be weird but there’s a good chance it will also be awesome. We can’t wait to find out.

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103

Marvel, We Need to Talk

Fail, God Of Comics, Opinion, Reviews

April 3, 2017

Oh, Marvel. Your comics were doing so well.

I mean, sure, you’d accidentally turned Iron Man into a villain with Civil War and spent the better part of a decade trying to fix the damage you did there only to finally give up and hit the cosmic reset button on your whole universe. Or the time you had Doc Ock turn into Spider-Man, which wouldn’t have been nearly so bad if the writing wasn’t terrible and your editorial board hadn’t doubled down on no, guys, for real, this is what we’re doing going forward. It wasn’t, we knew it wasn’t, and being lied to in the age of internet is kind of a turn-off. Mind you, that’s not the worst thing you’ve done with Spider-Man (hi, One More Day!), but you seemed to have things under control with your side comics: Spider-Gwen, Moongirl and Devil Dinosaur, Mighty Thor, Unworthy Thor, Ghost Rider… you’ve got a lot of good going on.

And then…

“What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity. They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not. I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales. We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against. That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.”

This wonderful little bit of what comes to us from David Gabriel, the VP of Sales over at Marvel Comics. He then followed up by adding that the aforementioned female minority characters are popular and some of their best sellers but that they’re not going to be doing more of them because people don’t like them.

Wait, what?

Have you been to a comics convention? We just got back from Emerald City Comic Con, where 90, 000+ people showed up to show their love of the medium. Here’s a link where you can check out photos of the event, and you should be able to see a good cross section of obvious minorities, David. That doesn’t even take into account the non-visible minorities; the people that look like the cis-white males you think you’re catering to but are actually somewhat else.

We look white, Christian, and male, but we’re a Jewish agender asexual and we’ve been reading your comics since we were a child. We’ve got boxes full of your comics, shelves full of trades we proudly display. Might there be some other reason, particularly when titles like Saga, Injection, the Woods, Divinity, Lazarus, Giant Days and others are doing so well while being full of the diverse characters you say people aren’t interested in…?

A while ago we posted our (rather discombobulated) thoughts about Captain America being turned into a Nazi by a writer named Nick Spencer, who has since gone on to defend Nazism on twitter and write a black man apologizing to a white supremacist for mentioning the centuries of systematic oppression that African-Americans have endured. Our response then was driven by gut-level anger and we reworked it and expanded our thoughts and think that might be a little more sensible.

Nazi Captain America sold 36,610 copies last month, though, and was the fifty-fifth top selling comic of February. Okay. Literally ten more copies than Iron Man with the new African-American female lead, a thousand less than Doctor Strange, and seventy thousand or so less than Star Wars: Darth Maul. That’s not good. If you’re going to tell a story on the ashes of six million dead Jews and eleven million dead in total, all from living memory, you might as well get some kind of sales bump, right?

We guess that’s what you’re hoping for with the upcoming Secret Empire event, and this… well, this is what we want to talk about. See, it’s not diversity that’s killing you, Marvel: it’s your stunt writing and your constant idiot-event comics. Especially your big dumb event comics. We’d like to elaborate on this point, Marvel, because it’s important and we want you to do well.

Your movies are excellent and other than a few stumbling blocks in Age of Ultron you guys are riding high. Someone in comics must have realized that and your editorial board has tried to capitalize by making the comics more like the movies. A big push to do that came and was finalized with Secret Wars, wherein you guys also fixed the editorial mistakes of the past decade. Remember when Civil War turned Iron Man into a villain and how you spent ten years trying to fix that and failed? Well done. A shame you’ve just done the same to Carol Danvers.

Since Secret Wars ended last year, you’ve had nine major crossovers: Avengers Standoff, Spider-Women, Apocalypse Wars, Civil War II, Dead No More, Death of X, Inhumans vs X-Men, Grounded, and Monsters Unleashed. You’ve got at least another four coming: Secret Empire, Til Death do Us, Weapons of Mutant Destruction, and Edge of Venomverse. That’s a lot of comics to buy and a lot of story to keep track of.

Here’s the trick, Marvel: when you do one of those crossovers it touches on every other comic involved with it, so even if you don’t want to read about how Captain America is a Nazi now, your crossover is going to make it impossible to for us to avoid those stories and they’re going to interrupt the ones we’re already invested in. You’ve given us a visceral level of disgust when it comes to Steve Rogers, Marvel, and any comic that he appears in is one we’re going to drop and not pick up again.

That same logic applies across the board to comics we might be invested in when characters we don’t care about show up and we can’t finish the story or understand the comics we like when the continuation of the story is in a comic we might not be interested in or able to afford. We like the X-Men. We don’t care about the Inhumans. When the X-Men are set up to be the villains in another shitty crossover that makes the heroes instead because shitty editorial mandates are shitty, well.

The fun part is that the X-Men are being cast as the villains as a result of the same shitty editorial mandates, ones that nearly drove you into bankruptcy twenty years ago, Marvel. You guys were putting out so many crossovers that no one could follow your comics anymore and readers left in droves for companies that weren’t so scattered. The only way you saved yourselves was by selling the film rights to your most popular characters in perpetuity to other people: Sony got Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, Fox got all the mutants, and you were stuck with what was left.

Iron Man was a B+ player until the movie made him an A-lister. The only reason Iron Man got your first real movie was because there were no mutants, no Spider-Man, and no Fantastic Four. People who watched the movie, though, and might have been interested in trying the comics were subjected to Civil War-era Tony Stark, which turned people off in droves. Your comics have been mostly about heroes fighting heroes, which is depressing and something very few people are interested in.

For proof, let’s take a look at the top five selling comics of February 2017: Star Wars: Darth Maul #1 (105 177 copies) is about a Sith Lord fighting the forces of good, Batman #16 (102 096 copies) features good guy Batman fighting bad guy Bane, Batman #17 (99 637 copies) continues that story (and suffers from DC Comics putting out two issues of everything every month), Justice League of America #1 (93 494 copies) featuring the best heroes fighting the best villains, and Super Sons #1 (90 345 copies) has the next generation of heroes fighting the next generation of villains.

Do you see a theme here, Marvel?

We’re done with heroes fighting heroes. DC Comics learned this and so, after their latest reboot, they started focusing on stories about hope and heroes fighting evil and heroes being happy and now they have seven of the ten top selling comics for February 2017, while your only two entries on that list are both Star Wars spin-offs which are about – wait for it – heroes fighting villains (and, notably, villains that were inspired by Nazis).

Your first non-Star Wars comic on the top selling list for February 2017 is Amazing Spider-Man #24 (61 953 copies), and that comic features a massive supporting cast of minorities and deals with Peter Parker fighting the forces of evil as a hero, as a man, and as the CEO of a corporation. That’s interesting. I want to read that. I would totally read that except that Spider-Man is definitely going to be a part of at least seven crossovers this year and I’m done. His story is going to be interrupted so many times that we might not even remember what it was before the event, so what’s the point?

If a character has no impact on their story then we do not care about that character.

And that’s why your sales are flagging: stunt writing bullshit (ooooh Magneto is a Nazi now, a Holocaust survivor is a Nazi, how edgy… no, wait, fuck you) that we all know won’t stick and will be retconned while you guys talk about how, no, this is the new normal, and endless fucking crossovers that mean nothing and will be retconned out of existence because they are generally awful.

To your point, David, about female and diverse characters failing when published: Marvel doesn’t reach the top-selling charts again until spots sixteen and twenty with IvX #4&5 (56 969 and 53 348 copies, respectively), twenty-four with the Clone Conspiracy (48 780 copies), then Unworthy Thor (46 006 copies), and then it’s Elektra (44 310 copies), Star Wars: Doctor Aphra (43 475 copies) and Mighty Thor (40 175 copies). That’s three minority-driven books.

Nazi Captain America placed fifty-fifth.

Those titles that do work for you and have constant numbers? Miles Morales, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Gwen, and Moon Girl? Those are ones David mentioned by name. Also, Mighty and Unworthy Thor? They avoid or do damage control on all your big dumb events, pull in consistent numbers, tell good and complex stories, and have readers who are invested in them. Maybe instead of doubling down on the practices that nearly killed you, Marvel, you could instead just tell good stories?

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100

God of Comics: X-Men Prime #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

March 28, 2017

X-Men: Prime #1 (Marvel Comics)

Oh, Marvel. Oh, the X-Men.

There’s something wrong at Marvel, a company where they do small things amazingly well and large things badly. This is a company that’s turned Captain Marvel into a Nazi for short-term sales that will do long-term damage to their brand. Iron Man wasn’t a Nazi in Civil War, but he became a default villain for a decade after that event. Civil War II has done the same to Captain Marvel. And as for the X-Men…

Here’s the trick: about twenty years ago Marvel went bankrupt. They went bankrupt because they were doing too many crossovers and their readership revolted and left because of their revulsion. They sold the film rights to their a-list characters, which is why the MCU started with Iron Man and not the X-Men.

Now Disney owns Marvel and the company is making money hand-over-fist with their movies and video games and cartoons, so the comics can afford to do idiot things like make a Holocaust survivor a Nazi. They’ve also been devaluing the X-Men in the comics in hopes that Fox Studios will give them their characters back, but Fox just recently learned that you can make good movies with superheroes in them and make money doing it, so that’s not likely to happen.

Because some of the editorial board has a questionable capacity for thought, they’ve decided throwing a tantrum is best for business and have made the X-Comics less and less readable for years while threatening to replace the X-Men with the Inhumans, using the same process that got them into this mess in the first place.

So, with all that said, why am I looking forward to this comic?

Marc Guggenheim has a lot to do with it. He wrote the Overwatch novel, co-developed the Arrow television series and wrote twenty-seven episodes back during the first couple of seasons. He also co-developed and wrote some episodes of Legends of Tomorrow, and you can see the exact moment in the series where he got involved. Comics-wise, he helped create the Young X-Men comics and wrote the X-Men Origins: Wolverine video game.

He’s done some cool shit, is what I’m saying.

He’s also responsible for the Green Lantern script and the disastrous second Percy Jackson film, but Hollywood writing credits are often deceptive and so we should take that with a grain of salt.

As mentioned earlier, Marvel turned Iron Man into their number one villain for a decade with an idiot event and recently managed to undo it by rebooting their whole universe to undo the damage caused by a handful of writers and, again, the questionable long-term planning of the comics editorial board. Part of this led to the off-panel divorce of Peter Quill and Kitty Pryde, and the latter is going back to the X-Men to see if there’s any pieces to pick up after their idiot war with the Inhumans and the death of Scott Summers.

Maybe she can ask Rachael Grey Summers what the hell she’s wearing? Just… no. That’s a bad costume, but at least it will look nice with Ken Lashley on art. The man does some incredible things with his pencils and inks and draws in a style that is distinctively modern – you can see his art and echoes of it through Marvel and DC Comics, and you can bet he’ll bring his a-game to this title.

Really, I just want these comics to be as good as they could be and I have faith that this time can do it. Fingers crossed.

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God of Comics: Ninjak #25

God Of Comics, Reviews

March 28, 2017

Ninjak #25 (Valiant Entertainment)

Okay, take the best parts of Batman and James Bond and combine them, through in some nihilistic Buddhism, throw them in a blender, and the end result is Ninjak.

Ninjak is Colin King, a wealthy Brit who works as a spy after his parents died and he was left in the care of his abusive butler, a person so loving the Colin spent most of his childhood haunting the grounds of his estate rather than deal with the man.

He lends himself out to British Intelligence, combining all sorts of skills, gadgets, and wealth to take on the most dangerous assignments anyone can think to give him: in the past he’s been tasked with stopping alien invasions, assassinating X-O Manowar, and regularly hangs out with the Eternal Warrior. He’s a Badass Normal in the Valiant-verse, and so writer Matt Kindt gets to play with the full weight of this sort of character.

The end result is a comic that started slow and got progressively better, to where it’s now one of Valiant’s best but weirdest. There’s a lot of strange philosophy here, centered around a character who is effectively an adrenaline junkie with a death wish and enough skill to keep from dying. It’s blockbuster material.

At the start, Colin was investigating the Shadow Seven, a group of high-tech weapons dealers who dealt with cutting edge technology and weapons of mass destruction. Since then, he’s started working with them to fight off a larger threat: Master Darque, the Shadowman villain who beat his hero by recruiting him and is the background bad guy of the whole Valiant Universe, a literal god-made-flesh.

Shadowman was the weakest of the opening salvo of Valiant comics, a meandering tale that couldn’t come to terms with its hero or concept but who did have an immediately engaging villain. The protagonist faded and Darque has since plagued the Valiant Universe, causing massive destruction on a handful of occasions, and he’s one of those villains that wins even when he loses.

Back in the strongest issue of the old Shadowman series, we were given an origin story for Darque and that story has entered and currently haunts Ninjak in the form of Sandria Darque, a relative and another mysterious god-made-flesh who is clearly up to something, helping Ninjak for reasons of her own, reasons that have never been revealed, reasons that we just might learn this issue.

Artist Stephen Segovia is doing some interesting things in this book with panel layout that give an interesting illusion of movement while also making infodumps interesting. Writer Matt Kindt is Matt Kindt, so you know the story is going to be good and head in directions you might not expect – which is perfect for this title. If you like Batman and want to try something different you really should give this a look.

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176

God of Comics: Lazarus #26

God Of Comics, Reviews

March 28, 2017

Lazarus #26 (Image Comics)

Our world is at a tipping point, where a handful of futures are possible provided we somehow manage to avoid global annihilation to satisfy the greedy death cult that has taken control of world politics. It’s tragic that the most likely one, right now, is that of a corporation-based oligarchy…

… especially given that this comic has spent years explaining why that is a terrible idea.

So, here’s the set-up: America dissolved into corporate city-states as government (whose function is to care for people )was replaced by corporations (whose function is turn a profit). We don’t know how this happened in the world of this comic, but it’s likely a mirror of how it happened here: the people behind corporations bribing politicians to recognize corporations as people so that they can make legalized bribes turning towards the corruption of first one and then both political parties to a revolving door of corrupt profit at the expense of anyone not caught in that loop, all fed by a purchased media that acts as a propaganda mouthpiece of those same corporate interests.

As people get voted into government with the stated reason of proving that government doesn’t work, those same people kill their countryfolk, corrupt religion, and turn profits for themselves and their friends while ignoring the dead and dying outside their country estates.

That’s happening all across the world right now. It has happened in this comic. The families that control corporations have divided the land and the people (whom they call the waste) and rule like feudal lords. The least worst of them is probably the Carlyles, who are still pretty awful to other people and one another. Their family politics would make the Lannisters from Game of Thrones proud.

Because physical warfare against other corporations doesn’t turn a profit (that only works when you can sell two or more countries into fighting one another and get the corrupt politicians to foot the bill on behalf of those countries), the corporations of this world have each created a unique Lazarus – inhuman representatives that represent the highest advances in cybernetics and genetic manipulation.

The best of them belongs to the Carlyle clan in the form of Forever Carlyle, a cloned warrior woman who has been led to believe that she is part of the Carlyle family and basically cannot die. Problem is, she discovered what she is while another corporation (probably the worst of them, imagine Kinder Morgan or Walmart without the pretense of government regulation) has stolen some of the Carlyle’s technology for themselves.

All of this has led to a war that is plaguing the Carlyle clan from within and without, and the corporations that they nominally work with are now circling them and looking to take them for all that they are worth. It’s all pretty horrifying stuff and the world is as deep and complex as you’d expect from someone like Greg Rucka.

The art will probably draw your attention, too, the muted colors and heavy inks of Michael Lark being pretty much perfect for this book and giving Lazarus much of its weight. This is one of the most politically complex comics being published today and something that everyone should be reading.

Hunt this down and read all the trades. It is well worth the hunt.

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God of Comics: Jem and the Holograms #24

God Of Comics, Reviews

March 28, 2017

Jem and The Holograms #24 (IDW Publishing)

Kelly Thompson has been quietly writing on the most inclusive comics ever published. This needs to be explored and needs to be read. Let’s get the obvious Jem and Holograms is outrageous out of the way before really digging into the guts of this thing, because these are some pretty impressive guts.

Okay, we’ve got outrageous out of our systems? Great. Four young women who live together discover their father left them an artificial intelligence that can project holographic images into meatspace that appear real. This is good because they are a struggling band and their lead singer, Jerrica, is shy, so with the AI they come up with an alter ego for her: Jem.

They’ve got fame now, having deposed the Misfits with some pretty light writing, by which I mean everything that has happened so far has been because of character and character development; there’s not a single issue where you can feel the sledgehammer of plot, not a single moment where you might think self, the writer is trying to force things along.

It’s a feat that would be impressive with four characters and an artificial intelligence, but we have the main four, their AI, a reporter, a spy, two different bands that have their own unique members with unique goals, business managers… everyone has a voice, everyone is either up to something or wants something, and none of it ever takes itself seriously which allows for this comic to cover some pretty heavy issues.

Contract negotiations, for example. The difficulties of dating outside of cis-normatives when you’re famous. The difficulties of dating someone your friends consider a rival… from both sides of the relationship. The price of fame. The power of music. The mania that comes with obsessive art. The cost of devoting yourself entirely to an art form. The splitting family when people feel the need to pursue their own dreams. The power of family to heal, even when that family is dysfunctional, and how artists need to put ego aside if they plan on getting anything done.

Did I mention the different body types? Because no two anyone looks alike. You can tell who these people are from their silhouettes, and the comic does go into the horrors of fat-shaming and eating disorders and how some people hurt themselves or suffer because of societal expectations. The entire thing is amazing… and that’s before you get into the songs.

Yes, it’s a comic about a rock/pop band, of course there are songs. Splash pages that hint at movement, at tune, that give you just enough that you can almost hear the tune, almost hear the words being sung. It’s an amazing accomplishment that makes the comic hard to put down, this weird slice-of-life comic that deals with epic and small moments with equal aplomb. It is, really, everything the movie wasn’t.

Anyways, Jem and the Holograms are heading to Hawaii for some sorely needed rest and relaxation after rival band the Misfits nearly spoiled a performance with a zany scheme that could have gotten people hurt or killed, and from the creepy stalking of another rival band, the Stingers, whose lead singer is obsessed with Jem herself in a creepy stalker way.

Oh, except the Stingers have rented the cabin next door to where Jem is staying. Because that’s not creepy or stalkery at all.

Kelly Thompson continues to write and amaze and Gisele Lagace is on art, and this comic’s art is gorgeous. If you’re looking for something that is insane and good and dayglo that exists outside of the superhero set, this is your title. It’s one of the best comics IDW is publishing, which is saying something given how great some of their other comics are (I’m looking at you, TMNT). Highly recommended.

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