Thursday, June 18, 2015

Comic Shop Comics: June 17

Archie Vs. Predator #3 (Dark Horse Comics) The penultimate issue of the most unlikely crossover ever has probably the best (regular) cover so far; in fact, I'm pretty sure I gushed about how much I loved Gisele's cover for this issue (and the story it suggests) last month. Looking closely at the credits, I see that the variants for this particular issue are by Paul Pope and Kelley Jones, two of my favorite artists. Damn it. This may be the very, very rare case where I buy both the single issues and the trade, because I couldn't wait to read the story and I want to possess all of the covers. Damn you Archie and Dark Horse, for making such an irresistable comic book series!

So in the previous issue of Alex de Campi, Fernando Ruiz and Rick Koslowski's fairly bonkers story, the teenaged Predator who has come to Riverdale did away with most of the cast. There's a neat scene in this issue where about half of the remaining cast is like, "Eh, he's obviously after you guys, so we're out" and just leave the comic. Only Dilton, Jughead, Betty, Veronica and Archie are left to face the wounded Predator, and, by the end of the issue, their numbers have shrunk to just three.

With most of the cast–and a substantial percentage of the small town's population–dead, I'm not sure exactly how a sequel to this series might work. Unless they just start over, and do something more akin to the stories suggested on some of the covers, like Predator replacing Reggie as Archie's main rival for the affections of the girls, or maybe a female Predator transferring to Riverdale, and setting her sites on Archie Andrews, as all the girls in school seem to (And I mean sites metaphorically, not the actual siting mechanism of her shoulder-mounted plasma cannon).

But why get so far ahead of ourselves? We've still got one more issue of this series to go.


You know, I just re-read a bunch of Predator crossovers in the last few months, and one thing I've noticed about this series that's in sharp contrast to the others is that Archie Vs. Predator is set in its own little world, where anything can happen, and it doesn't really matter if the Predator kills Reggie or Kevin Keller or whoever, because they'll still be alive in the other Archie comics. In, say, Batman Vs. Predator II: Bloodmatch or Judge Dredd Vs. Predator and so on, the Predator conflict is set in the home continuity of the alien big game hunter's opponent, and thus not only does Batman and Judge Dredd or whoever survive (as one would expect, given that they're the protagonists), but so too do all of their supporting casts.

AvP has seen pretty much everyone but the title character and a small handful of other players get killed, but in all of Batman's matches against Predators (two good ones, three more not-so-good ones), it's not like Commissioner Gordon, Alfred, Harvey Bullock, The Huntress and Robin all get their spinal cords torn out of their lifeless bodies or anything.

Black Canary #1 (DC Comics) The creative team for this new Black Canary title–her first ongoing solo title in a very, very long time–is as perfect as the premise for the series is unusual. It's being written by Brenden Fletcher, the co-writer of both Gotham Academy and Batgirl, the latter of which this is a kinda sorta spin-off of. And it's being drawn by Annie Wu, the artist who drew the Kate Bishop portions of the Matt Fraction Hawkeye comic (and essentially helped keep the book from going completely off the rails when whatever happened to its scheduling started happening).

Wu's art is extremely well complimented by colorist Lee Loughridge, who uses bright pinks and yellows to separate the action and music scenes from the rest of the comic.

Which brings us to the premise. While most of Black Canary's past adventures have been about her as a supporting character, partner or team member–Green Arrow, Justice League of America, Birds of Prey, JSA, Green Arrow/Black Canary–they've pretty much all revolved around her being a kick-ass ass-kicking martial artist, crimefighter and superhero. Here, she's the frontwoman for a band, which is called Black Canary (As for Canary, she's now going by "D.D."). During her appearances in the Cameron Stweart and Fletcher-written run of Batgirl, she learned that her meta-human voice could do more than just tear shit up as a sonic "canary cry" attack; it could also be used to sing rock music.

We join her and Black Canary as they are already on tour in support of a debut album that hasn't yet been recorded, but already has label-backing. Unfortunately, they're being dogged by regular attacks from various attackers, earning them the reputation as "The Most Dangerous Band in America." Things get weirder than usual at one show, when the seemingly meta-human guitar playing of mute bandmember Ditto reveals a few people in the audience aren't people at all, but some sort of inky black creatures. D.D. beats them up, using her microphone as a whip and then canary cries them.

What exactly is going on? As one would expect from a first issue, there are a lot of clues and questions, but no definitive answers. I felt a little lost in terms of Black Canary history, as I honestly don't know anything about the post-Flashpoint Dinah (she was not in the Justice League, she was in Team 7 and hung out with the Birds of Prey, I don't know if she's ever even met Green Arrow, etc). Fletcher doesn't make any knowledge about our title character prior to the first page of this issue mandatory or anything, but I still get a sort of uneasy feeling about essentially meeting a character I used to know so well for the first time. That said, it's refreshing to see a writer taking advantage of the reboot to tell a story that could only have been told post-reboot: This just plain would not work in-continuity pre-Flashpoint, when Black Canary was a world-famous superhero.

This is a fantastic-looking book, and the premise is so different than any other take on Black Canary–more Jem with the slightest of dashes of Scott Pilgrim–that it is automatically interesting. I love the way Wu dresses her characters, in addition to the way she draws them. This is definitely a new DC series that's going on my pull-list.

Doctor Fate #1 (DC) Wait, shouldn't this be Fate, Pre-Med instead? Our hero Khalid isn't a doctor; he hasn't even started medical school yet, but he's about to when the events of this first issue begin to unfold.

I don't have any particular affection for any of the many various Dr. Fates that have existed over the decades, nor for the character in general (I like the Kingdom Come design best, though). I do like the artwork of Sonny Liew quite a bit, however, and he's the reason I picked up this series. Liew, one half of the creative team of the recent-ish Shadow Hero original graphic novel for First Second (the other half is currently writing Superman), is exactly the sort of artist DC should be pursuing...and actually should have been pursuing when they sought to relaunch and rebrand their superhero line way back in late 2011 (In general, these "Divergence"/DCYou books all seem like the sort of comics DC should have launched when they did their post-Flashpoint reboot).

Liew is drawing a script by Paul Levitz, maybe the ultimate DC insider, and thus not exactly the sort of fresh new voice one would ideally want a book introducing a brand-new Dotor Fate drawn by Sonny Liew, but hell, no one can say Levitz doesn't know how to write a comic book script.

This issue begins a bit awkwardly, however, as it seems to pick up right where the eight-page preview that appeared in the back of the month two Convergence tie-ins left off. Oddly, some of those were standalone introductory stories, while others were the first eight pages of the first issue, as seems to be the case here (you can find it and all the others online, if you hunt around a bit).

It's raining cats and dogs in Brooklyn, which is all part of the plan of Egyptian death god Anubis, who has taken the form of a talking, emaciated, size-changing jackal to oversee the humanity-drowning deluge. Anubis is opposed by Bastet, taking the form of Kahlid's family cat. She leads him to the helmet of Fate and he eventually, reluctantly dons it (If there's any connection to the previous Doctor Fate, the one who appeared in Earth 2, it's not mentioned; I'm assuming that Doctor Fate died like so much of the cast of Earth 2, as he didn't appear in Convergence at all, but I'm not sure; interestingly, both of these new, post-Flashpoint Fates have been named Khalid–although their surnames differ–and both have been of Egyptian descent).

I'm not crazy about the costume design, which is essentially just the same old cool helmet and medallion affixed to Khalid's street clothes, but then, this is just the first issue. While several of the elements of the comic–well, all of them, actually–are pretty derivative of many other comics, with Liew drawing them in his own, highly expressive, you-can't-mistake-his-work-for-that-of-any-other-artist style, it all looks fresh and unique.

This one is going on my pull-list as well, although I'm not quite as excited about it as I was Black Canary...or the first issues of any of the three mini-series I've tried so far (Bat-Mite, Bizarro and All Star Section Eight).

Ghostbusters: Get Real #1 (IDW Publishing) Please see Robot 6 for my review. Please note that this cover, the only one they had at my shop, is dumb and I hate it.

Lumberjanes #15 (Boom Studios) My God, is that a lot of cats on the cover of this month's issue of Lumberjanes. Just look at all those cats! How many cats is that? I lost count after 50. Was Brooke Allen paid by the cat for this cover? Is this the most cats ever drawn on a single comic book cover? Does anyone keep track of this stuff?

There are many fewer cats inside the comic, which Allen is also drawing. In fact, I only saw one, the kitten belonging to Barney, The Scouting Lad helping the 'janes find the missing Jen. In this issue, we learn a little bit more about the history of the Lumberjanes, in the form of cryptic references and mysterious clues. So I guess we don't learn much, just that there is a mysterious history to the Lumberjanes, and their true purpose.

Also, Jen's rescuer goes monster-hunting, for the biggest monster ever, apparently, but she doesn't quite catch up to it by the last page, so we'll have to wait at least a month to get a look at this monster.

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #11 (DC) This issue of the Wonder Woman anthology series features a single 30-page story by writer Josh Elder, pencil artist Jamal Igle and inker Juan Castro. Entitled "Vendetta," it involves Wonder Woman's efforts to put a stop to a brutal civil war in a fictional African country, both by suiting up (in a pretty cool-looking original costume that blends the basics of her classic costume with some Bronze Age battlefield accessories) and fighting the fighters, and trying to mediate a meeting between the leaders of the two factions. She's basically serving a role akin to the blue-helmeted United Nations peacekeeping forces that are also on the ground.

It's a pretty basic Wonder Woman story then, one that tackles her confused "fighting for peace" mission head-on, and makes a decent attempt at making sense out of it (she still strikes me as a little too kill-happy when she's fighting lizard men, even if she's lecturing them about how they shouldn't mistake her desire to avoid vioence for the inability to deal it while stabbing the hell out of them). She gets a more easily punch-able threat in the form of Ares, who Igle draws in George Perez's design, who answers the prayers for war he heard emanating from the country, and marches on Wonder Woman and the U.N. with an army of lisping lizard people.

In terms of continuity, or era of Wonder Woman history, this is set quite squarely in the George Perez era...although I guess it could also work in the Greg Rucka era, too. It's a pretty straighforward superhero story, although one quite specific to Wonder Woman's milieu and her unique-ish place among corporate superheroes, and I thought there were a few cool moments, like Steve Trevor ordering a missile strike on Wonder Woman to save her from a horde of lizard men ("She can take the hit--they can't"), or her mention of mutual submission as a foundation for an enduring relationship. That last bit seems straight out of William Moulton Marston's philosophy for the character–and hey, it's nice to read a script by someone who seems at least as familiar with the "real" Wonder Woman of Marston's creation and comics as the dark, alternate future version from Kingdom Come–although Elder lists submission as one element of a lasting realtionship, part of Wonder Woman's last-page, peace treaty-sealing efforts (Compromise and willingness to forgive being the other two elements).

It's far from the most fun comic in Sensation so far, but it's definitely one of the better ones, and maybe the best of the straight stories.

The cover, by Stephane Roux, is no damn good. I'm not entirely sure why DC didn't just commission Igle and Castro to draw a cover of their Wonder Woman in her costume fighting Ares or something, unless DC just has a ton of generic Wonder Woman art in a file somewhere that they've already paid for and have to use somewhere. I'm not entirely sure if Roux's sleepy-eyed Wonder Woman on the cover has just released a dove from her hand, or if she's about to snatch it from mid-air in her hand.

SpongeBob Comics Annual-Size Super-Giant Swimtacular #3 (United Plankton Pictures) The theme for this year's Swimtacular, as revealed by both the cover image and blurb, are futuristic science-fiction-esque stories starring our porous protagonist. There's a fine framing device by writer Derek Drymon and artist Ramona Fradon, which takes us behind the scenes of SpongeBob Comics' creation on a pirate ship, run by Captain Pencils The Pirate. Between scenes of Pencils, we get five stories, by the usual impressive line-up of comics creators, some of the best in the business: Kaz and Raul The Third (presenting the most alt-comixy looking comic in the comic book), Drymon and Jacob Chabot (who usually do the most "straight" take on SpongeBob, but here look to Soviet Era propaganda art for inspiration to a visually stunning, conformist dystopia), James Kochalka, Drymon and Hilary Barta (a Mermaid Man tale so obvious I figured out the twist in panel 5, not to brag or anything; but hey! Hilary Barta art!) and Jay Lender.

All in all, this summer's Swimtacular is spectacular.

Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe #7 (IDW) Oh man, I barely have words to describe this series. This is easily the best issue of the series so far, no easy feat, given how awesome the previous seven were (it began with #0; I do know how to count). It's highly reminiscent of the two-part "There's No Place Like Springfield" episode of the original G.I. Joe cartoon where Shipwreck finds himself having his head severely fucked with, to the point he believes he's just a run-of-the-mill guy with a cool beard, and that his adventures with G.I. Joe never happened (That was some weird-ass, extremely upsetting shit to lay on a grade-schooler, let me tell you).

Here it's Scarlet, I mean, "Shanna," who is being treated by a doctor who looks an awful lot like Dr. Mindbender to deal with her strange delusions regarding being a member of the G.I. Joe team embroiled in a battle with giant, alien robots...apparently, she believes the toys, cartoons and comics are real, and she's a part of them.

She gradually fights her way out of Mindbender's mindfuck, helping rescue the other similarly mind-wiped Joes, and they fight their way out of Springfield–but not before Scarlet slits the throat of her fake husband, maybe kills her kids (it's implied she does in a rather shocking two-page sequence, although a few pages later we find out they were actually just robots, and not really alive), kills Dr. Mindbender (in a fantastic sequence that includes both a lovely homage and subtle diss of one of the most famous Mindbender scenes from the cartoon), and has an awesome battle with herself.

There is so much cool stuff in this issue, I could just sit here and say, "Hey, did you see when that happened? Wasn't it awesome? How about that thing in the next panel? That was awesome, wasn't it?" But that would probably get boring fast.

This comic book though, Jesus. There are times–like, all the times–that I can't believe Hasbro and IDW let Tom Scioli and John Barber get away with the stuff they get away with here, and it has such a profound impact on how I see other comics. Like, as good as Ghostbusters: Get Real #1 might have been, for what it was, it seemed lazy, uninspired and pointless compared to the sheer volcanic insanity of this book from the same publisher.


David page said...

secret six 3

If what i think the reveal of who this big shot character is turns out to be true and not some swerve then i am in genuine shock

Marc said...

There are some great-sounding comics in this post. I can't wait to read Archie vs. Predator in trade, although I can't wait to read a sequel series even more if they use some of your story ideas!