Weekly Reading Round-Up : 11/17/2019 – 11/23/2019

Another interesting assortment of new “number ones” this week, beginning with a Ditko redux, followed by a Kirby pastiche. Shall we step through to the other side and have a look? Let’s do that —

After kind of a staggered roll-out to the line, DC is hitting us over the head with one Black Label comic after another these days, sometimes with two or three books bearing the imprint’s logo coming out in a single week. The latest is  The Question : The Deaths Of Vic Sage #1, featuring a return of the “classic” iteration of the character, set in his home turf of Hub City. It’s just plain great too see Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz teaming up again on pencils and inks, respectively, their stylish noir as gritty as ever, and Chris Sotomayor’s colors are good enough to fool you into thinking they’re not fucking computerized, but damn, was Jeff Lemire an atrocious choice for writer on this project. Yeah, Sage is as rigid and hard-charging as ever, but in this really milquetoast, non-ideological way that sees him going after corruption at city hall while taking a pass on covering a story about the cops shooting an unarmed black kid. So much for “there is right and there is wrong and nothing in between” — I mean, love Ditko or hate him, at least you knew where he stood. But with Hub City a powder keg of racial tension about to explode, its supposed “moral conscience” is off on a metaphysical bender with Richard Dragon in a lame hat-tip to Dennis O’Neil’s “zen warrior” interpretation of the character — and it also doesn’t help matters that the big cliffhanger to issue one is “spoiled” in the title of the series itself. Sloppy move,DC editorial. But I’m still gonna buy this thing for the art because it’s just that great, and the larger format afforded by the Black Label — errrmmm — label really gives it room to shine.

Long one of the most consistently-interesting — and consistently-late — writers working in the comics mainstream, Curt Pires is back, this time at Image with a project called Olympia, co-written with his father Tony while the latter was undergoing chemotherapy. We’ve seen this kind of thing before — awkward kid’s comic book hero turns out to be real, but the same magical portal that brought him through to this world also let the villains in —but there’s a lot of heart in the approach the senior and junior Pires boys are bringing to it, plus a bit of a Spielberg vibe to the whole thing not unlike that found in Paper Girls or Stranger Things, and artist Alex Diotto does a nice job turning in Kirbyesque pages with a modern indie comics sensibility vaguely reminiscent of Ben Passmore on the margins. Plus, you get a lot of comic for your money here, as this debut installment is a double-sized book at the standard $3.99 price. Count me in for the whole five-issue run.

And while we’re talking about artists who are doing stuff that looks a hell of a lot like other artists, sublime cartoonist Maria Llovet does her best Anders Nilsen impersonation with Boom! Studios’ Heartbeat #1, which marks a 180-degree shift from the Paul Pope-influenced stuff she was doing on Faithless for the same publisher. Here’s the thing, though — if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Nilsen should be very flattered, indeed, as Llovet shows an intuitive understanding not only of his style, but of the ethos and philosophy behind it. Set in a Japanese girls’ school, the story appears to be fairly standard vampirism-as-metaphor-for-sexual-coming-of-age-stuff, but at this stage is so oblique and/or unfocused (depending on how charitable you’re feeling) that, who knows? It could actually veer off into a number of interesting directions. I’m cool even if it turns out to be pretty average, though, as the art is just plain gorgeous and worth double the $3.99 asking price in and of itself. We’ve got a major talent on our hands here, folks, and as she continues to find her own voice narratively and artistically, odds are she’s only going to get better.

Lastly, we’ll close things out with a clunker as Marvel goes back to the 2099 well with 2099 Alpha #1, a one-shot that kicks off a two-month spate of vaguely interconnected books culminating in, you guessed it, 2099 Omega #1. Viktor Bogdanovic turns in his first-ever work for the co-called “House Of Ideas” with this one, and it’s pretty solid super-hero stuff as far as it goes, certainly plenty dynamic and well-executed, but Nick Spencer’s revisionist take on the world of the future feels pretty flat and lifeless and he bobs and weaves from one character introduction and/or re-introduction to another with little by way of connective tissue to hold the whole thing together other than them all, ya know, living eighty years down the road. It’s not at all clear what’s going on or how it involves all these various and sundry personages, and for a tie-in “event,” that’s pretty much a prerequisite for capturing anybody’s interest, so I’ll be comfortably giving the other titles in this short-term relaunch a hard-earned pass.

So, there’s your week at the comic shop. Or mine, at any rate. But I’m not quite done as it’s incumbent upon me to remind you good folks that this column is “brought to you” every seven days by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. Subscribing is the best way to support my ongoing work out, so help a jobbing freelancer out by directing your kind attention to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse



Weekly Reading Round-Up : 04/07/2019 – 04/13/2019

Welcome to another Weekly Reading Round-Up, where first issues aren’t just a job, they’re a way of life. Here’s another four, from this Wednesday last —

Faithless #1 comes our way from Boom! Studios and the writer/artist team of Brian Azzarello and Maria Llovet, and it’s kind of hard to get a handle on what this one’s even about, much less where it’s going. A kind of occult take on the “erotic thriller,” I guess, revolving around an amateur practitioner of the magick arts named (big surprise) Faith, who makes herself a mysterious new “special friend,” gets pretty intimate with her pretty fast, and then — well, shit gets weird. Azzarello struggles to write youthful characters with any kind of authenticity, and he also struggles with the balance between erotic and prurient, so the whole story ends up feeling more than just a bit “off.” Boom! is going all-in on the variant cover hustle to move units with this one, one of which is an opaque-wrapped number by Tula Lotay, but Llovet’s vaguely Paul Pope-influenced art is strong enough on its own for no gimmicks to really be necessary — unfortunately, it’s wasted on a substandard, confused script that provides nothing so much as further evidence that Azzarello just ain’t what he used to be.

Orphan Age #1 is another Aftershock debut, this one from Ted Anderson and Nuno Plati, and while it didn’t knock my socks off or anything, it seems at least reasonably promising, even if its central its central premise seems like a riff on Liz Suburbia’s Sacred Heart, only this time the adults didn’t all split, they died. Now it’s 20 years later, and the kids they left behind are all grown up and trying to rebuild civilization. An outfit known as the New Church has risen to fill the power vacuum, and it looks like our protagonists make up a makeshift resistance movement against the rising tide of religious totalitarianism. The story here is fairly well-paced and involving, the art has a pleasing animation cel look to it, and the core concept is fairly wide open, so what the hell — I’m game to give it a few more issues and see where the whole thing goes.

Fairlady #1 marks the start of a new fantasy/adventure series from Image scripted by Brian Schirmer and drawn by Claudia Balboni that offers a complete, self-contained story in each issue with plenty of backmatter material at the end fleshing out their imaginary realm of The Feld. The art brings to mind Scott Godlweski’s work on Copperhead and is just as as good, and the story, centered on a private eye by the name of Jenner Faulds, is a fun and smartly-written yarn that grabs you from the first page and doesn’t let go until the end. I really love the idea of each installment telling a full tale with a beginning, middle, and end of its own, I dig the intricate “world-building” that’s going on, and there are some relevant feminist political messages under-girding the action that have clear and obvious real-world parallels. Count me as being along for the ride with this one.

She Could Fly : The Lost Pilot #1 is our “saving the best for last” entry this time around, as Dark Horse/Berger Books take us back into the world created by Christopher Cantwell and Martin Morazzo, picking up some months after the first series as Luna returns home from her stay in a mental health facility and tries to re-integrate into her school while solving the mystery of the flying woman that she just can’t shake. What’s up with her grandmother? What’s up with her dad? And which one of our cast members from last time comes to a sudden and violent end? There are intrigues galore in this comic, Morazzo’s finely-detailed art is gorgeous as always, and Cantwell does a nice job of weaving his larger points about mental health into a very solid, expansive storyline. One of the best mainstream books of last year returns, better than ever.

And thus we reach the end of another week loaded with new number ones. Which leaves us with the usual item of “housekeeping” at the tail end of things, your constant reminder that this column is “brought to you” by my Patreon page, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, in fact, it’s been a lot of politics. Your patronage there not only helps keep things going, it also ensures a steady supply of free content both here and at my trashfilmguru movie site. I would be very pleased to have your support, so if you feel so inclined, please take a moment to check it out and consider joining by heading over to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse