Thursday, May 26, 2016

Comic Shop Comics: May 25th

Afterlife With Archie #9 (Archie Comics) Oh yeah, Archie Comics publishes a mature readers horror comic by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla about a zombie apocalypse breaking out in Riverdale...and it's an ongoing series! I completely forgot, given that the previous issue was...let's see...May 6, 2015?! Huh.

I really appreciated the recap page in this issue, because I needed it.

Earlier in the day, before I had a chance to go to the shop, I noticed that Mike Sterling had tweeted "Every issue of AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE gives me something I thought I'd never see in an Archie comic, and this new issue is no exception." He's right. Even once you get past the undead feasting on the living aspect and the necessary violence and gore, this series has remained an incredibly surprising one, when it comes to horror, emotional content or, as in the thing Sterling was referring to here (page 8, panel 5...but you would have recognized it when you saw it yourself), simple, everyday things that one might expect to find in a realistic comic book about teenagers but, you know, this is an Archie comic.

Even nine issues (and God knows how many years) in, there are still genuinely shocking things like that...and something else, I kinda want to return to in a moment, as it's a spoiler of sorts.

This issue, entitled "The Trouble With Reggie," is narrated by and focused on Reggie Mantle. In it, we learn that Riverdale's resident jerk isn't just a jerk, but a genuine, honest-to-God sociopath, and we learn a secret about how he inadvertently kicked off the events of the book. Not only did he do something cruel and callous, but he apparently did it on purpose in an act of genuine evil...and while Aguirre-Sacasa sets Reggie up to try and do something truly noble in order to atone for that sin, it doesn't look like we've seen the last of Reggie.

This will sound like I'm kidding or being hyperbolic, kinda like any time I try to explain that Tom Scioli's Tranformers Vs. G.I. Joe is the best comic book being produced today, but this was one of the best comic book stories I've read so far this year.

Not only is it an engrossing portrait of one of comic book history's greatest villains–who is here actually a villain, rather than just a rival or foil to our hero–but is full of surprising twists and turns.

And that's just the script! Francavilla's art and colors are as masterful as ever, and those last six-pages are a damn tour-de-force of unexpected, fantastic horror imagery. Hopefully we don't have to wait another 54 weeks or so for #10, as it promises Josie and The Pussycats!

Okay, now let's return to the second "I never thought I'd see that in an Archie comic" scene in the book. So if you haven't read it, just scroll down until you hit the next comic book cover.


They gone? Okay, so page 11, and the first three panels of page 12. Midge calls Reggie to Pop's and says its an emergency, and they have a really intense conversation and, well, is she asking Reggie to help her pay for an abortion? They never use the word "abortion" or even any sort of euphemism, but that's what I assumed they were talking around. I even asked my friend to read the scene, without sharing my reading, and asked her what she thought they were talking about.

Am I crazy? Midge is totally asking Reggie to lend her $500 to get an abortion, right?

In a way, that seems even crazier than the panel on page eight. Part of me wonders why Aguirre-Sacasa wasn't explicit with the subject of this scene, and why Archie didn't publicize it in some way, as that's a pretty hot-button topic and its presence in an Archie comic, even this Archie comic, seems like it would generate mainstream media attention.

On the other hand, Archie Comics probably doesn't want the attention. I know they say there's no such thing as bad publicity, but I bet some of those in positions of power at Archie would disagree.

Batgirl #52 (DC Comics) It's the much-sooner-than-I-would-have-liked conclusion of Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher and Babs Tarr's 18-issue run on Batgirl, and only co-writer Fletcher stuck around to the bitter end (Stewart and Tarr bailed after #50, although Tarr does provide the cover for this issue). Fletcher is joined by artists Eleonora Carlini and Minkyu Jung for "Turning The Page," the second half of a two-part story in which Batgirl teams up with the new Birds of Prey (who are actually only the new Birds of Prey in this book; they won't be in the upcoming, Fletcher-less Batgirl and The Birds of Prey comic) to take on Gladius in the library of Gotham Academy.

As I said of the previous issue, this allows Fletcher to tie up every single last loose end, so that Batgirl has now teamed with pretty much all of her allies to take on pretty much every villain she's faced over the last 18 months, and, after the requisite fighting, there's a surprisingly touching scene where Barbara attends a going away party and bids a temporary farewell to all of the friends she's made during this too-short, 18-issue run.

In a scene that parallels the one from the first issue of the run, in which Barbara's photographic memory is used to retrace the events of a party in her new apartment, spread out over a two-page splash, here she visits briefly with each of her friends, while recalling dramatic moments from her relationship with them.

It's a pretty great send off. I'm really sorry to see this team leaving the character and the book (you can catch the creative team reuniting at Image Comics soon, though), as if Stewart, Fletcher and Tarr had to leave Batgirl, I would only want them to do so in order to launch a new Birds of Prey featuring Barbara, Black Canary, "Operator", Bluebird, Spoiler and Vixen, but, well, that aint' happening.

DC Comics Bombshells #13 (DC) After the last two issues of Marguerite Bennett's surprisingly good comic book series based on a stylish but silly line of collectible statuettes featured most of the cast in a gigantic battle in Europe, we get a one-issue return trip to the home front to check in on The Batgirls.

These characters, you may recall, are a team of Batwoman-inspired teenager girls (and two boys) who fight crime in Gotham City with baseball bats. Many of them have the names of past DC Comics Batgirls or Batgirl supporting characters or allies.

In this issue, drawn by Mika Andolfo and Pasquale Qualano, they find themselves targeted by Gotham City Mayor Harvey Dent, who has teamed with The Penguin, Killer Frost and Hugo Strange for a...well, their exact plan doesn't make too much sense to me, and I spent most of my time trying to figure out why Bennett used Strange instead of Dr. Psycho, whose M.O. seems to fit Strange's goals here better than Strange does. Anyway, the Batgirls have plenty of allies of their own, including Maggie Sawyer and some new/familiar faces on the Gotham City Police Department, and Lois Lane.

You can see Lois on the cover. Given the Bombshell Lois Lane statue's particular design, which is more paperboygirl than reporter, I was wondering how Bennett might use her in a story, and it turns out that she does so by making her 17 and intent on becoming a reporter.

There's a lot of fun stuff simmering in this comic book, like the idea that The Batgirls are a modern day answer to the boy gangs who used to star in comic books of the Golden Age, or that Lois Lane and her allies' decision to make their own damn newspaper to circumvent the mainstream media gives a Golden Age superhero comic book echo of the 1990s riot grrl movement/scene and their zines.

Technically, it could be much better made, as there's still some disconnect between what the words sometimes say and what the pictures show, and the particular motivations of some of the bad guys are pretty damn nebulous. Regardless, Bombshells is still a very fun book.


Although I do wish the 'girls would get a team uniform. Right now, each character has their own uniform, each with their own colors, that makes them look like they all play for different teams, and kind of defeats the purpose of their baseball team motif. I think there are plenty of ways to distinguish the individual characters' looks while at least having them wear the same color scheme.

DC Universe: Rebirth #1 (DC) I decided to write about this comic in a standalone post that I published last night, if you want to read my thoughts on the depressing, semi-controversial book. It's technically as well-produced as what one might expect, it begins to fix most of the worst problems of the post-Flashpoint New 52-iverse (or at least demonstrate those fixes, in the case of the character designs) and it is mostly just depressing in its strategy of restoring the previous universe by adding another layer of changes rather than un-doing any changes and extremely gross in its incorporation of some characters and motifs from a certain 30-year-old comic book series that, for some reason, writer Geoff Johns and DC Comics as a whole just can't. Let. Go.

I was chagrined to note that just about any big change that was made in the 2011 New 52-boot is changed back here. I didn't note this in that long-ass piece of mine, but it dawned on me later that the "Rebirth" era is completely free of any and all WildStorm characters, which was one of the things Flashpoint explicitly changed, smooshing the DCU together with the WildStorm Universe and a Vertigo Universe (the only Vertigo characters to be seen are, of course, John Constantine and Swamp Thing, who Johns himself had re-introduced into the DCU before he re-re-introduced them into the DCU in Flashpoint).

If you did read my piece last night, and still want to hear more of people talking about Rebirth, might I suggest this roundtable at Comics Alliance...? It's terrifying–but accurate!–headline? "Everyone Is Hawkman." Yikes!


David said...

I don't know why you'd suggest that CA piece. Everyone in the round table is too far up their own ass with personal politics to actually discuss the comic at hand.

The fact that they'd spend one paragraph bitching about "white mentor to minority legacy" Ted and Jaime and the next bitching about the displacement of the new Wally West (Who will still be Kid Flash and has so far been the kind of minority stereotype they complain about.) pretty much shows that they don't actually read DC. I really loved learning that all nostalgia is inherently racist, and if I make a statement like "I miss going to Blockbuster to browse videotapes." I'm homophobic because gays had less rights in the 80s.

On the topic of the ending, I seriously doubt that anyone in the DCU will come into conflict with Manhattan in more than the metaphysical sense. From Johns' interviews, his issue isn't with Watchmen so much as the people who learned the wrong lessons from it. For all we know, the one infecting the DCU could be a flawed protege rather than Manhattan himself.

Besides, Watchmen is a sacred cow that needs slaughtering.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Caleb: I did notice that there were no WildStorm characters, but I think that, except for Midnighter, they've all been gone for awhile. I would have liked to have seen more of Pandora (Rorshach) being killed by whomever (Perhaps Dr. Oz(ymandius)?, to explain why she was a pawn. Because, of course, this throws off why she, Phantom Stranger, and the Question were even created.

Have you ever noticed there is always a female throwaway character to kick off most DC events. The woman in FINAL NIGHT warning about the Sun-Eater. We never see her again. Maybe we'll see her in a flashback scene. Who knows with these guys.

The one thing I enjoyed out of the book was realizing how totally shitty the last five years of DC's output has been.