Weekly Reading Round-Up : 02/03/2019 – 02/09/2019, Four Firsts

It feels like it’s been awhile since we looked at “Wednesday Warrior” stuff in our Weekly Reading Round-Up, but given that I sampled four new series this past week, now’s probably as good a time as any to steer the focus of this column to the LCS new release racks —

The Girl In The Bay #1 is another “something old, something new” creative team combination of the sort Karen Berger and her protege, Shelly Bond, throw together for their imprints. Dark Horse’s Berger Books line is the imprint in question this time out, and the team is veteran (and consistently undervalued) scribe J.M. DeMatteis and relative “newbie” artist Corin Howell. The premise is intriguing — “hippie chick” gets murdered in 1969, comes back to life 30 minutes later, finds it’s 2019, and  that she didn’t actually die at all but is living out a fairly picturesque dotage in the Long Island suburbs. This is vintage DeMatteis, you can tell right off the bat, a skillful combination of weird mystery, strong characterization, and some Eastern mysticism on the margins, and Howell is an absolute goddamn revelation, serving up gorgeously detailed imagery reminiscent of Bryan Talbot’s finest hours but with a smoother, more fluid line. Probably the single-best comic I read this week, maybe in the last several, and well worth its $3.99 price tag. At only four issues, no long-term commitment is required, so pass on this at your peril.

Vindication #1 is the latest topical mini-series from the one-man “idea factory” that is Top Cow “suit” Matt Hawkins, and for this one (published, as always, under Image’s auspices) he’s “farmed out” the actual work to a trio of new creators of color, writer MD Bright and artists Carlos Miko and Dema Jr. The basics seem solid  enough : DNA evidence clears wrongly-accused black convict, but racist white cop doesn’t buy it, and when a murder similar to the one the target of his ire (and harassment) was charged with happens within days of his release, he’s gonna do anything to pin it on the poor guy. I liked the art fine, it’s got a crisp and polished look, but the script was so poorly-paced and deliberately OTT, and the dialogue so clumsy and heavy with info-dumping, that no amount of good intentions or pretty pictures are up to the task of saving the day. This book looks good, but reads like an “amateur hour” submission, so you’re better off hanging onto your four bucks.

Female Furies #1 seemed to piss off all the “comicsgaters,” so I figured it must be doing something right — and, indeed, it does several. I never imagined Kirby’s Fourth World to be ripe for re-purposing as feminist metaphor, but writer Cecil Castellucci proves me wrong in this tale of the Furies’ struggle for recognition and respect within the Apokolips war machine, with Granny Goodness taking center stage as sci-fi suffragette. Some of what she and her charges are subjected to is admittedly and brazenly satirical in nature, but much of it is downright horrifying, so the notion that this book is “throwing shade” at its source material by somehow turning it all into a comedy is a very hollow one, indeed, and mostly seems to be coming from a bunch of limp-dick (and, for that matter, alt-right) incels, anyway, so who the fuck cares? Artist Adriana Melo is channeling her inner George Perez in all the best ways possible, and the end result is a timely, relevant, smart read with seriously stunning illustration. $3.99, in today’s market, for work this thought-provoking (if unsubtle, but who has time to beat around the bush in the midst of Trump’s American Nightmare?) represents what passes for “value,” so this is another one I can safely recommend jumping on with more or less no hesitation.

Daredevil #1 is yet another Marvel re-launch bearing yet another $4.99 cover price, but writer (and backup strip artist) Chip Zdarky packs his script pretty densely with dialogue and detail, and Maro Checchtto’s art is perfect for the sort of “gritty urban crime drama” that’s on offer here. Apparently Matt Murdock’s recovering from some very serious injury or other, but the specter of Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. The Kingpin, being the new mayor of New York is more than enough to convince him to give the costumed vigilante gig another go, and that’s completely understandable — what’s not understandable is the utter lack of dramatic tension in Zdarsky’s wordy story. He does a great job of introducing all the cast, particularly a new supporting player who looks poised to take on a large role, and everyone sounds like an actual human being, but the cliffhanger is in no way particularly enthralling, nor is the standard-issue series of events that leads up to it. I dunno, I wasn’t really expecting much here, but that’s also precisely what’s delivered, so you might be better off sitting this one out and waiting for the next inevitable DD re-boot in a year or so.

All in all kind of a mixed bag, then. Two definite “winners,” two flawed “also-rans.” That’s probably about the best “batting average” you can hope for in any given week when it comes to mainstream titles, though — and that’s why I mainly stick to the small press.

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