Thursday, March 12, 2015

Comic Shop Comics: My Friend's Pull-List for March 11

Last Wednesday night, my lady friend stopped by after her trip to her comic shop in order to borrow my copy of the new issue of Saga, which she reads in trade rather than serially. She was very excited about the comics she had bought that week, and her excitement reminded me of my own back when I was her age, back when the average Marvel comic was just $2.99, when the words "the new 52" simply referred to that week's issue of the weekly series 52 and when I used to spend about $40 at the shop each week on a healthy pile of comics, calling this feature "Weekly Haul" rather than "Comic Shop Comics" (I changed it when I stopped going to the shop weekly in about 2010, and reduced my number of purchases of comic book-comics so sharply that "Haul" didn't seem accurate either).

I had made an off-handed remark about how maybe instead of reviewing the books I buy at the shop every week, which tend to the same handful (especially since two of them are weekly series), I should try reviewing her pull-list one week, for a change of pace. She was very enthusiastic about the prospect, and we decided to try it this week, since I only had three books on my own pull-list—this month's issue of SpongeBob Comics, plus this week's issues of Batman Eternal and Futures End—and wasn't planning on making the 15-minute trip to my comic shop on a weeknight for so few books.

So here's what she bought at her shop this week, and what I read and will now proceed to review...

Ms. Marvel #13 (Marvel Entertainment) This is easily the easiest book to read and review, as unlike (almost) every other book on her pull-list, this is a title I am reading. But I'm not reading it in trade rather than serial form, and so far Marvel's only published a single trade, No Normal, collecting the first five issues of the series).

In this issue, artist Takeshi Miyazawa joins writer G. Willow Wilson for the first part of a three-part story entitled “Crushed” for…well, it’s not referring to something being literally pulverized or destroyed.

The book opens with Kamala Khan, whose origins were revealed to be tied to the Inhumans and their Terrigen Mist bomb or whatever—which adds on further layer of identity to the many societal identity signifiers she already has to balance—is taking advantage of the Danger Room-like facilities at New Attilan, based in the Hudson River (I thought floating above New York was a cooler place for an Inhuman city, but whatever). Medusa and Lockjaw look on.

From there, Kamala meets the son of her parents’ best friends, a boy who she hasn’t seen since they were kids (“That kid who used to pick his nose?!”) and, wouldn’t you know it, he turns out to be not only dreamy, but absolutely perfect for her…and he just gets more and more perfect as the issue progresses. Surprisingly so, actually, as of the last panel.

Wilson’s Kamala hasn’t gotten any less affable or adorable since I last saw her eight issues ago, and Miyazawa’s artwork has only gotten better since I’ve last seen it. While it’s somewhat unfortunate that Wilson and Ms. Marvel haven’t had a stable artistic partner, but Miyazawa’s a perfect fit for both of them.

Shutter #10 (Image Comics) You know the old comic book adage, usually credited to Stan Lee, that everyone’s comic is someone’s first? Well, this is my first…issue of Shutter, anyway.

And, um, the tenth issue is probably not the best place to start. There is a brief couple of sentences about what happened previously, meant to catch-up new readers like me, I suppose, but it appears on the back cover of the book, and therefore I didn't read it until after I had read the entire contents of the book.

The work of writer Joe Keatinge and artist Leila Del Duca, this is a comic book about…a lady? In a suit or uniform of some kind? And another lady? And they go into a dream world place of some kind, with big pink crystal formations all over. And argue. And it turns out the whole world is actually relative of the first lady, and it takes on an anthropomorphic form with a big pink crystal beard…?

The art is fantastic, and brilliantly colored by Owen Gieni ("brilliantly" as in both "smartly" and "brightly colored"). The story end of things is…I don’t know. Maybe I’ll check out the first nine issues at some point and get back to you on that.

I was fairly disappointed by this issue, however, as I was told there was a cat character shaped like one of those old cat clocks that look a bit like Felix The Cat, with a swinging tail and moving eyes, but there was no such cat character in this issue.

Spider-Gwen #2 (Marvel) Writer Jason Latour and artist Robbi Rodriguez continue the story of Gwen Stacy...the Gwen Stacy from another world or universe in which Gwen Stacy is not only not-dead, but was in fact the person who got bit by the radioactive spider and thus go the spider-powers instead of Peter Parker.

Putting on a pretty cool costume with a lot of white and pink in it, colors you don't see employed too often in superhero costumes, she’s the amazing Spider-Woman!

This issue, my first exposure to the character—who I understand was introduced during the "Spider-Verse" arc in Amazing Spider-Man and several dozen confusing tie-ins that are difficult to distinguish from one another—finds her having just survived a drop from a great height (for a change), and hallucinating the presence of Peter Porker, the Amazing Spider-Ham (Who Rodriguez draws to resemble a real pig in a Spider-Man costume, and with a nose that doesn’t look quite as much like Spider-Man’s face as usual), as a sort of imaginary friend.

His chatter is pretty amusing, as he tries to talk Gwen through some difficulties involving her friends/bandmates, and while his appearance seems so off, more closely resembling that Geico spokes-ping than any Spider-Ham you may have previously seen, its an interesting look, and one I enjoyed seeing over and over in different environments.

Oddly, this reads an awful lot like a somewhat weak Elseworlds, as we meet not only an alternate version of Gwen, Mary Jane Watson ("Em Jay"), Captain Stacy and Jean De Wolf and The Vulture, there are a bunch of other "name" characters who show up, some of them in radically different roles or forms from their normal Marvel Universe roles, and seemingly only to take advantage of this setting as an alternate universe. So Captain Stacy is working with a hardcore policeman named Frank Castle, and the Kingpin's lawyer Matt Murdock is also the Kingpin's enforcer. It's odd to see all of t his so early in a story—this is only the second official issue of this series, after all.

Rico Renzi provides the color art, and it's really great, as is letterer Clayton Cowles balloons, which are distinctly shaped compared to those of every other Marvel comic I've read. It's a quite competently well-written comic, and I can see why people might like it, but it's the visuals of the thing that really makes it sing.

That, and a pretty killer, slightly silly title, of course.

The book also has a way with an asterisk, as when Spider-Ham uses the phrase “sadder than The Smiths” and editor Nick Lowe chimes in via an editorial box that says “The Spider-Office Doesn’t Endorse The Smiths," and a double asterisk in his blox leads to another bos in which Clayton says and “The Letter Does.”

Star Wars #3 (Marvel) Hey, artist John Cassaday is still here! That's three issues in a row! Maybe this will be his last, as it seems like the premature end of an arc in which little other than some action occurs.

Jason Aaron continues that fairly simply A Plot, as our split-up rebel heroes try to escape an Imperial weapons factory they've sabotaged before Darth Vader can catch and kill him...which of course he can't, because this takes place between the first film and the second, and thus wrier Jason Aaron only has so much room and flexibility (although decades of Star Wars comics, novels and other media have proven there's a lot of stories that can be slotted between films).

Han, Leia, R2 and a bunch of rescuees attempt to fight their way out of the factory complex in an AT-AT while Darth Vader hacks at its feet with his light saber (just use The Force, man!), Luke flies around on a speeder bike and Chewbacca attempts to rescue Threepio and get the Millennium Falcon up and flying.

There is no B Plot.

Cassaday draws Chewie's fingers in one panel,and they really, really weirded me out. Hairless, clawless and black, they looked somehow wrong emerging from his fur, but I guess I've never really seen what his individual fingers looked like (not in the films, or my Chewbacca action figure). I just didn't think they'd look so human.

Despite the fact that this comic consists of almost nothing but a long action sequence, there is a pretty dramatic tease in the last few pages, presented cinematically, as a "camera" slowly zooms up to and through Obi Wan's abandoned Tatooine dwelling, and comes to rest on something unexpected, but full of potential for future stories.

I suppose it's better, faster-paced and more action-packed than the Brian Wood-written comic with the same title and the same focus, but it's a pretty light, fluffy read. These were the characters I knew the best, and the story I had followed the closest, of any of the comics on my friend's pull-list, but it was probably the least enjoyable or remarkable of the books (except for Shutter, which I found impenetrable...but even that had more interesting and exciting art).

Thor #6 (Marvel) Wow, issue six of the series, and there's a cover reading "Who Is Thor?" on a comic book that does not provide the answer. That’s a $32 investment in not knowing who the new lady Thor is! Given that the book was rolled-out and sold on the back of that character, I'm assuming it's frustrating that they're keeping it a mystery...and for so damn long. Hell, I don't even read this book, and that annoys me. (Thor also makes reference to the fact that Nick Fury whispered something to him that rendered him unworthy during the climax of Original Sin. I forgot that particular mystery existed; has that at least been revealed in this series?)

Oddly, this is still a Thor comic—meaning original, male Thor rather than mysterious masked female Thor—at least if this single issue is any indication. It follows male Thor around, and the lady Thor only appears at the end, for about three pages. Suspects—Jane Foster, Thor’s mom—get a little more panel time, and a lady Thor suspect who is also a SHIELD gets discussed for a few pages, but this issue is mostly male Thor's investigation into female Thor.

Russell Dauterman’s art, colored by Matthew Wilson, is pretty incredible, and the book takes on the same sci-fi meets fantasy feel of the set and art design of the second Thor movie; similarly, many of the characters have taken on a sort of amalgated appearance of their Cinematic Universe and Marvel Comics Universe selves (I honestly couldn’t tell Heimdall’s race by looking at his darker-than-the-others skin color, for example).

In addition to familiar characters from the movies—Thor, Heimdall, Volstagg, Odin, Thor’s mom, Jane Foster, Malekith—this issue also brings The Destroyer in (For what it’s worth, Volstagg and Malekith are straight from their comics appearances, untouched by any filmic influence…which is cool, particularly in the case of Malekith, who has a striking appearance here, but looked generic and uninteresting in the film).

I loved the third panel on page 15, in which the business man and the evil elf come to their agreement. That was awesome.

I like the new log an awful lot, too.

1 comment:

SallyP said...

Nice reviews. It's fun to get out of a comics rut and read something different once in a while!

I too, am getting a bit frustrated with the whole Thor identity thingie going on.