Captain Kirk’s Weekly Comic Review – 01/16/2019

The theme for this week’s curated collection of comic titles is the re-creation of decades-old properties for new audiences – or audiences who are interested in seeing new ways that their well-known heroes can be re-imagined.

It’s the intention behind the reimagining that makes the quality of the project. If it’s done cheaply or out of spite, then forget about it. But if it’s done with real reason that proffers proper respect to the canon, then I’m okay with it. I’m pretty reactionary in my respect for canon but at the same name, I respect innovation.

Let’s take a look at the list.

DC Comics

Hawkman #8

Robert Venditti and Bryan Hitch re-imagining Hawkman as having a greater role in the DC universe is a hard task to tackle, but it looks like Robert Venditti and Bryan Hitch have a good handle on the notion.

If you haven’t been following this book, the idea is that Katar Hol, or Carter Hall, is more than just a space cop from the planet Thanagar, masquerading as an archeologist; he’s even more than a reincarnated Prince from Egypt who has had access to nth metal … he’s a perpetually reincarnated force of universal justice that accommodates all of the origins this hero has had – including the aforementioned ret-cons, and re-establishes a new perspective to look at Hawkman.

Hawkman moves through the known universe, incarnating himself into a variety of different identities that include the ones I’ve mentioned before, in an attempt to stave of a cosmic blight known as the Deathbringers. The Deathbringers threaten the end of the universe with an adherence to a strange religion that’s a bit detailed to get into here.

In this issue, Carter Hall is still learning of all the different identities he has had in preparing for his fight against them. He has stashed caches of information that are designed to lead his present incarnation to a state where he can prepare for this eventual invasion of Deathbringers. Well, that last part is my speculation, but the joy in reading this is to see all of the incarnations that Katar manifest. This time, it’s Catar-Hol from the planet Krypton, prior to its destruction, learning about the weapon that can stop them.

It’s a very straightforward storyline but it’s novel in the way that Hawkman is portrayed. It’s a sustained one that retains its novelty for all of the issues. This works … and it’s fun. It was a lot of effort to come up with this reimagining … and it’s worth it.

The Batman Who Laughs #2

Scott Snyder and Jock give us a reimagining of the Batman from the most recent multiversal crisis. This is an other-dimensional Batman who not only recognizes the futility of being the Batman, but after being hit with a dose of virulent Joker venom in his world, now embraces the futility but applied it to t

This is also a forced reflection of all our different personalities. The one aspect that can fail and fears failure; the one side of our personalities that gives up because it’s tired and then there’s the other side that keeps wanting to fight despite the odds and only listens to the stubborn urge to keep on fighting. We all have these different parts of our own character which makes this new iteration of a Batman story so captivating.

I’m actually tense as I read this book. For whatever reason in his personal life, Scott Snyder knows fear very well and if you’ve caught any of his other haunting work, then you’ll get a familiar flavour in this story. I think he pairs well with Jock, who has an ethereal quality to his artistry. Wytches (from Image Comics) was one of my first introductions to their collaboration and it’s a real treat to see.

Batman can fail. This is scary, but it builds upon the innate fear that we all share. I mean, who doesn’t have at least one of these personas inside themselves? We fear and Snyder takes advantage of that innate fear in that we can so easily relate to the Batman’s struggle as he contests with this new nemesis who not only knows the Batman as well as he knows himself, but he also can draft the assistance of other warped versions of the Batman from other dimensions and employ them against this one.

Enter the Grim Knight.

Each dimension has a warped version of the Batman origin and Snyder uses these twisted Batmen to inform the plot and bring more fear to his story.

What can I say? It works. But it’s the sense of failure that’s scarier than any fanged and rough-trade version of Batman that Snyder and Jock and bring to a comic. It’s a trip – and you should read it.

IDW Publishing

Star Trek vs Transformers #4

A strange combination of properties, but it’s a really cool combination that appeals to a duality of generations of fans. And hell … why not? Mike Jones and Phillip Murphy work well together in recreating the styles of art and dialogue of both the animated version of Star Trek and the Transformers. Though the two franchises are separated by a decade or so, there’s a lot of fun to be had in the reading of this book.

Murphy knows the animation style of the Animated Trek series well and recreates it perfectly. Remember M’Ress and Arex? Yeah … they’re here. Starscream, Megatron and even old Soundwave. It’s a chance to have fun with characters that mused us and when it comes down to it, that’s what this book is about. The combination of two franchises isn’t about adhering to the canon of either, it’s just a chance to see what it would be like if they met.

All in all – it’s just pure fun.

Judge Dredd: Toxic #3

As an ex-patriate Brit whose first comic character he ever read was Judge Dredd, then this is a book that I can’t help but pick up and read.

I’ve always felt that American incarnations of Dredd seem to miss their mark for some unknown reason. It could be the native British sense of humour that I felt is an inextricable part of the Mega City One experience. After all, the Brits have always known how to laugh at totalitarianism and other brutal topics. Why should a sci-fi cop be any different?

However, for the first time since re-reading the Eagle line of North American reprints in 1984, I have fallen completely for this Judge Dredd book by Messrs. Paul Jenkins and Marco Castiello. Jenkins has the right touch for dialogue in this new series that deals with Mega City One’s latest environmental crisis. The sewer system known as the Spillover has been critically damaged by anti-alien extremists, hunting for beneficial off-world life-forms called Blenders. With the pollution control system down, Mega City One is in for a literal shit-storm, threatening to poison the entire population.

The creative geniuses at 2000AD (the British comic where Dredd first appeared) first included Carlos Ezquerra, John Wagner and Pat Mills. These guys were my first comic hero creators at the tender age of six. I loved Dredd, which must say something about my childhood that is surely psychoanalytically worthy.

One of my favourite storylines back then was the melting of the geothermal utility plant that provided power to the entire city. The “Power Tower” was actually a side story based off a central storyline of the Robot Rebellion. However, what I always liked about this universe was that there was so much to it that these side stories could happen.

The best were the ones that threatened the delicate balance this post-apocalyptic society had established. After all, with something like 500 million people crammed into a space meant only for 10 million (or something like that), little crimes had big consequences and only the rigid and totalitarian nature of the judges could keep the balance in check.

Jenkins perfectly captures this sense. It brings me back to the days of discovery when I was first introduced to the power of comics and the length and breadth of imagination, they could give a reader. I learned how to read form comics – following storylines visually when vocabulary failed me or anticipating plot endings. He follows the same patterns of story development that Mills and Wagner developed and that I grew up on.

But while Jenkins gives us a completely new storyline, he doesn’t create it at the expense of the work that has gone before him. This book is probably one of the best examples of reimagining a property or telling a new story with it but being totally respectful of the canon it came from.

Marvel Comics

Uncanny X-Men #10

A true epic conflict issue that long-time readers of The Uncanny X-Men would expect to see. As Nate Grey, or X-Man, marshals his forces against every former member of the X-Men Jean Grey can lay her mental hands on, we wind up with a massive battle sequence that ends with …

Ah, I can’t give that stuff away.

Suffice it to say that Ed Brisson and Matthew Rosenberg have ended this storyline and are setting us up for another one that matches Matthew’s memories of reading his brother’s X-Men books when he was a kid. These guys have an excellent historical sense of these characters and know their dialogue responses, their habits, the way they’d behave in certain situations. They do good work in presenting the X-Men that now exist in line with the ones they – and we – remember.

The challenge with this franchise though is that in the course of their existence there have been many incarnations, comic titles and a lot of hands at the wheel. Remember when Chris Claremont wrote the X-Men for about 18 years? Yeah, there was the measure of consistency and interpretation.

Rosenberg and Brisson have their hands full with trying to reconcile all the changes that have transpired in the last 30-odd years from the days of Austin, Byrne and Claremont. It’s a tasking responsibility to balance the wants and needs of thousands of canonical fans (like me) and to present the X-Men in a new format that would be acceptable to all the new readers who are unaware of the history in the franchise.

Still, this is a fun read. As I mentioned before: these talented writers are setting us up for a new story that will feature the return of Cyclops back to the X-Men fold. After all, if Wolverine can do it, then surely Scott Summers can as well.

The Return of Wolverine #4

… and speaking of which, let’s look at Wolverine. Here’s the thing about this book: I am overjoyed to see the return of one of my all-time favourite characters, but at the same time, I can’t help but be protective over any changes that would affect the historical canon of him.

Sigh … that’s the challenge, isn’t it? I want to see these characters grow and succeed because they were special to me in my formative years. But, like all things in life, they have to change in that process of growth. It’s a very difficult thing to reconcile, but I’m sure it has something to do with growing older.

For me, I deal with growing older in the same way that my personal fictional hero – Captain James. T. Kirk did in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It was tough at first, but yeah … in the end, he accepted the changes in his life and was able to come to grips with them. I tend to take the same perspective towards my fandoms. If I don’t like present incarnations, they change and I have the solace of the previous canon to enjoy as well as the talents of other like-minded folks to entertain me.

First of all, Charles Soule is a gifted talent. Likewise, as Declan Shalvey. I’ve met both and I have art from the latter (it’s an Enterprise-A … heh). I thoroughly respect both their abilities.

Second … this is a really short story. Sure, we get a little bit more information behind the radical changes that have brought about the reappearance of our good friend, Logan; but we also get some information about his newfound allies, who Wolvie has been escaping the island with for the last two issues.

I have to admit to a sense of disappointment to the truth behind Ana, but at the same time, I recognize that it was necessary for the plot to move along. I also have to accept the way in which Soule manages to remove Wolverine from his teammates who were there to rescue him. However, at least it has been established that they are aware of his presence and will have to come to his relief at some point.

Still, Soule and Shalvey have to come to the point when we learn the full amount of the truth behind Wolverine’s return and when he will be integrated back into the regular universe. I’m anticipating great things from this book an am looking forward to its conclusion.

Conan the Barbarian #2

I got tingles from reading the first page of this book. We see a quote from the fictious Nemedian Chronicles then followed by a map that outlines the locations of the historically evident Picts alongside the territories of Cimmeria, Hyborea, Asgard and other mythical places. The thirteen-year old inside me was excited.

I have always loved Conan. He’s the ultimate underdog who overcame all! Robert E. Howard’s creation has lasted far beyond his own years and still has appeal for a variety of generations of geeks who not only love fantasy, but also love heroism, daring and the appeal of a sharpened blade in their hands. Yeah – this is a type of adventure that ignites the fire within a hero’s blood, and thrusts him into a quest that sees rewards only that the Gods could dream!

Okay … I may have gotten a bit flowery there, but that’s clearly Jason Aaron and Mahmud Asrar inspiring that degree of fandom response. I miss the pure Swords and Sorcery stories and Jason Aaron has the chops to be able to reach down into the depths of this fandom and pull out a story that not only rejuvenates this character for the 21st century but does so in such a manner that holds true to the original precepts of Howard’s creation and shows the character’s values to a new audience.

Shakespeare’s longevity is based on the fact that despite the circumstances and situations, the one constant is that people never change. Sure enough, the determination of Conan to find his own kingdom, his own success by his own hand comes out strongly in this story. He finds acceptance amongst the Picts – a savage race that matches his own “uncivilized” nature. Of course, “uncivilized” simply means meeting life and all its challenges on your own terms, and that’s what Conan does – and Jason Aaron certainly understands that. It comes out in this story so clearly and that’s the way to maintain a property in modern times: emphasizing the original values that remain eternal for every generation and that’s why it’s my pick of the week for this comic list!

You know, we don’t have to like what’s done with established properties. I like to listen to the words of Shakespeare: “For never is there anything amiss if simpleness and duty tender it.” It’s important to pay attention to the intention, if it’s discernible, that is. I think if it’s done well, looks like a lot of respect went into the work, then accept it. You don’t have to like it, but we have to respect it.

Until next week, may all you enjoy your week’s reading and re-living those fandom memories!




About Captain John K. Kirk

Captain John K. Kirk
John Kirk is an English and History teacher and librarian in Toronto, Canada. In addition to the traditional curriculum, John tries to teach his students to make sense of geek culture. And with the name "J. Kirk," it's hard for him to not inject "Star Trek" into his lessons. Comics, RPGs and the usual fanboy gear make up his classroom resources.