Captain Kirk’s Weekly Comic Review – 01/24/2018

Decisions, decisions decisions. This week’s comic list includes titles that are about looking back with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight and examining the nature of the decision-making in the story.

There’s nothing like the tangy flavour of regret to make a story palatable, is there? But choices are integral to a story; it gives the characters the veneer of reality. It also establishes the foundation for good storytelling. In fact, I’d love to see a writing contest based solely around the concept of a single decision, good or bad. What a great mix of stories that would provide! However, these stories are more. They are examinations of flaws or successes in process and definitely provide for entertaining tales of the characters or character arch-types we know and love too well.

Let’s get to the list.

Image Comics

Redneck #9

Donny Cates delivers us a tale of vampires who make decisions from their gut rather than from years of established vampiric lore and tradition. There is nothing formal about the cadre of undead in this story – they are unrefined, prone to mistakes and make no apologies for their choices of action. In fact, they are tragically flawed to the point where chaos is an unavoidable side effect of their existence.

As the title implies, Redneck is the continuing saga of a family of vampires in the deep South of the US. It just makes sense for a species that wants to stay hidden should hole up down there. Little population, the traditional disdain for redneck culture – all contributes to a believable premise for a vampire book.

But the entire decision-making process of the characters is the story here. It is within the scope of the book that these particular vampires would not have traditional lore or training to serve them in their undead lives. Every story that comes out of this saga is one based on short-sightedness, impulse and a complete abandonment for typical vampire fiction. It’s a twist that keeps me picking it up.

IDW Comics

Star Trek Discovery #2

Mike Johnson shows his proficiency with the elements of the latest television series of Star Trek in the second issue of this comic. Co-written by show writer, Kirsten Beyer, we also get to see more of Tony Shasteen’s excellent pencilling.

In short, it’s a good choice to pick this book up today, or should I say: “it is a good day to read!”

I don’t know if Discovery’s Klingons say that in this iteration of Star Trek.

Subtitled “The Light of Kahless”, we get the chance to learn more about T’Kuvma as his story is related to Voq by L’Rell.

T’Kuvma’s choices are fuelled by his religious fervor and adamant belief in the teachings of Kahless. It’s a historical insight into the motivations of a character that we only get to see twice in the first season of the show as he is killed by Michael Burnham, starting the Federation-Klingon war.

I have to respect choices that are made out of faith. Personally speaking, I hold deep reverence for people of genuine faith and admire their tenacity to cling on (heh … Klingon, get it?) to their beliefs even in times of dire hardship and emergency.

It’s great backstory writing. It fills a gap in the show that is apparent. In order to appreciate these new Klingons, we need to understand them more and grow more accustomed to their new appearance. However, one question nags at me: with Beyer writing, will this story become canon and referenced in the new show?

Marvel Comics

Legion #1

I had a great deal of aspiration for this title. I’m a New Mutants fan from way back and I was a major fan of the Legion storyline. It was a heart-rending story arc with the discovery that this poor, tortured mutant mind is actually Charles Xavier’s son.

People’s youthful years are historically filled with rash choices. David Haller – Xavier’s son – was born out of one of those youthful impulses.

I’m a sucker for those sorts of stories. I guess, at heart, I’m a sentimentalist. David Haller’s powers rest upon his insanity – his multiple personalities all have mutant powers but he can only control them when he can control his various personas. I have always wanted to love this character because of his origin but much like loving someone with a mental health challenge, it’s a difficult thing to do. Legion is a very complicated character to write and I can understand Peter Milligan’s level of challenge to present this character for the first time. Still, he acquits himself admirably in presenting Haller’s frustrations and need for help.

I can’t say I thoroughly enjoyed Wilfred Torres’s art though. I did like the fact that he kept the image of Haller true to the Sienkiewicz model, there was just something just didn’t appeal to me.

Phoenix Resurrection #4

Amazing piece of writing. I am loving this return to the original X-Men model and a revisit to a storyline that not only respects the integrity of the Phoenix Saga but also presents us with detailed and in-depth presentations of the X-Men characters that I have not seen in a long time.

Matthew Rosenberg – you’re my hero.

The entire Phoenix Saga rests upon the fundamental battle of choices between Jim Shooter on one side and Chris Claremont and John Byrne on the other. Shooter simply couldn’t have Jean Grey live, not after the Dark Phoenix destroyed an entire star system. It’s still probably the most emotionally-driven storyline in Marvel Comics’ history and one that made a deep impact on my comic-reading development.

Rosenberg doesn’t treat the return of the Phoenix lightly. It is a highly-sensitive and fundamental cosmic force and it fills my mutant-lovin’ heart with delight that he writes the characters in this story with the same sort of appreciation.

Ramon Rosanas also gets some serious love here. His artwork is absolutely splendid and in a classic style that matches Rosenberg’s reverence for the original story fabric. It’s a beautiful comic and I’m solidly enjoying the return of the Phoenix and am hopeful for it to be inserted into mainstream X-Men stories in the future.

Star Wars: Poe Dameron #23

Arguably the worst decision-maker in the entire Star Wars franchise. I mean, look at the thought process in the last film: he decides to sacrifice waves of bombing crews to destroy one capital vessel, tries to mutiny against a seasoned and heroic commanding officer and then risks the entire escaping Resistance Fleet on a harebrained scheme that still sees some of the Resistance killed. Oh, and let’s not forget the fact he got slapped out by Princess Leia.

Why would there be a comic about him?

Well, Charles Soule is a very entertaining writer so he manages to make Poe look good in this story. Poe is heroic, thoughtful and everything that he wasn’t in The Last Jedi.

As you can tell, I wasn’t overly impressed with the film. I accept it as canon and move on.

But really, it’s the Black Squadron and the supporting characters that make this story. I really don’t see Poe Dameron as having the same sort of heroic stuff that the original Star Warriors had. As much as I enjoyed reading this book, I just can’t see Dameron as a character worthy of deserving his own book.

Marvel Two-In-One #2

Talk about cool choices.

I love that Chip Zdarsky makes this about the reminiscence of the way that Ben Grimm and Reed Richards were friends when they were young. Too often in Fantastic Four stories we see Ben always dejected about the transformation into The Thing and the blame he attached to Richards. It’s good to see a reminder that they were the best of friends in University. It’s a good memory and a great choice to base a story on. My hat is off to Zdarsky on this one.

The interaction between Ben, Johnny and Victor von Doom is characteristically what I would have expected and it’s a real testament to Zdarsky that he can evoke that same spirit from the original Fantastic Four dynamic – and then he throws the new and improved Doctor Doom into the mix!

Or should I say, the New and Improved Infamous Iron Man?

However, despite the palaver, Ben makes the decision to lie to Johnny Storm about the nature of the device they are searching for. Reed and Sue are gone and Johnny is grief-stricken. In order to buoy his spirits, Ben tells him that they could use it to find Reed and Sue. It’s a story that has the elements of the original Fantastic Four but also has some real pathos behind it.

The first issue was a little shaky for me, but I confess I really enjoyed this one, and Jim Cheung’s pencilling really seals the deal for me. It’s a good read and definitely worthy of adding to your pick list today.

DC Comics

Raven: Daughter of Darkness #1

The sense of generational guilt. Raven has always been a complex character from her first appearance in the early 1980’s but she also majestic and had a sense of the regal about her. In this book, even though it’s written by the character’s creator, we see a new Raven, thoroughly defined for this generation. I have to give Marv Wolfman credit: he knows how to stay current.

In the interval between Wolfman’s initial tenure over the character ‘til the present day, Raven has diminished in character and age. Now she is a – forgive the expression – shadow of her former self. At least in my opinion. Raven is now the picture of an insecure millennial youth whose hair has changed to Goth purple and now desperately tries to fit into modern culture and find friendships.

While all of this has made her more palatable to the readers of today, it has cost her origins. But like I said, Marv Wolfman knows how to stay current and as the original creator, who else can decide how to interpret her for a new generation?

This wasn’t a bad introduction. We still see the shadow of Trigon in the background of this story and I am glad to see that he hadn’t changed in power or stature. But I see Raven as more of a supporting character. Perhaps we might see a visit from a former team-mate in the future. Raven should be part of an ensemble.

Action Comics #996

Time travel stories are fundamentally about decision making. As with time travel, there lies the capacity for changing outcomes and reversing bad choices.

As Booster Gold and Superman continue their association as the “Time’s Finest”, this is a very entertaining romp into an alternative future world when and where General Zod and his army of Eradicator androids (probably the worst villain to come out of 90’s comics) have enslaved the inhabitants of a backwards planet for Zod’s thirst for conquest.

But the dual storyline with Lois Lane parachuting into the developing nation of Logamba is the real winner here. Dan Jurgens has written a beautiful side-story that I think really steals the comic for me. It’s about the decision Lois makes to rescue her father from execution by infiltrating the tiny nation. While she jokes that she was glad that she made the decision to come alone and is grateful that her son, Superboy, is still in the States, the real joke is that he followed her.

I’m loving it for simply the structure. Jurgens’ experience really shows itself in this book in crafting the story. His dialogue is authentic and it’s just a great story.

Doomsday Clock #3

A truly staggering homage and answer to the original Watchmen.

I enjoyed the triple-layered structure in this issue. Rorschach beginning an uneasy alliance with the Batman, laced with stiff, yet acceptable humour; Ozymandias encounters the Comedian in an unexpected rematch and Mime and the Marionette make their way through the unfamiliar Gotham City in a world not their own.

Each adventure has its own mini-resolution that promises more exciting discoveries as the search for Doctor Manhattan continues. This is a story of the need for redemption and it’s the only way that there could ever be a sequel to his historic series.

Of course, the naysayers out there will decry that there didn’t need to be a sequel to The Watchmen. I’d more than likely have jumped on that bandwagon myself, but the reality of the matter is: these stories don’t belong to the fans; they belong to the copyright holders and this is DC’s intellectual property. If you want to stop at The Watchmen, no-one is being forced to read Doomsday Clock. However, I gave it a chance and have fallen completely under the spell of the work of Geoff Johns and Gary Frank.

Adrian Veidt – considered his world’s “smartest man” – had a moment of doubt in the original series. There’s a moment that begs for a story to continue. Even the fact that Rorschach’s back-up diary was left on the slush pile of the New Frontiersman office just needs to be explored. I was around when this series was first published and that’s something that’s always bugged me.

This is the pick of the week for me this week. It’s a story of nagging self-doubt that has been long-overlooked. It’s taken since 1987-1988 for this regret to grow into a story and Frank and Johns have crafted a worthy successor. Painstaking details have been applied in terms of the construction (including the news stories and articles in the back of the comic or the imaginary product placements) to give readers of the original Watchmen the sense that this is a seamless continuation of that story.

It’s virtually indistinguishable from the prior series in terms of delivery, save that the boundaries between the two comic-worlds have been pierced and now the heroes (and villains) of Earth One have now met denizens of the Charlton Comics/Earth Four ilk.

I’m glad I made the decision to buy it.

See you next week.

Pick of the Week: Doomsday Clock #3

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.