Captain Kirk’s Weekly Comic Review – 01/31/2018

I have a firmly established tradition of hating that non-essential, utterly insignificant placeholder of a day called Tuesday. Save me, comics.

For instance, yesterday’s morning consisted of discovering that the water bottle in my laptop bag was unsecured and flooded it along with my students’ marked work. We had a large snowfall last night, making the commute somewhat challenging and a dear friend’s welfare is weighing heavily on my mind.

However, I did see this morning that George R.R. Martin announced he would be instituting a scholarship for fantasy writers at his writing workshop with the assertion “that these days the world is in more need of wonder than ever before.” No truer words were ever spoken. It’s a scary world out there that is all-too real at times.

Friends, colleagues, the guy who cuts you off in traffic and fixes you with a stare that communicates that this is his road – these are among the people who disappoint you with their reality. Sometimes even family can let you down.

Of course, this is not a permanent state of being, but in times when it gets too much, that’s what fantasy is for. A pleasant little escape hatch into another dimension to enjoy that which sometimes eludes us in real life: justice, validation, or even relief. Sometimes I want to be rescued, and my weekly comic binge-reading is what I need to break past Tuesday’s hated borders into Wednesday and be saved.

Let’s look at the list:

IDW Comics

Star Trek: Boldly Go #16

I have to start with Star Trek. It’s my first destination of escapism. Hey – I’m a Kirk

Mike Johnson and Angel Hernandez make an incredible team. Hernandez’s art definitely has captured the spirit of the infinite variations of the crew of the Enterprise. Of they’re all stuck in this one planet where realities intersect and even the behaviour of the different variants of the Star Fleet characters we have come to know can’t be predicted.

I really enjoy the concept behind this story. I’m a glutton, to be honest, and I can honestly say that it’s really difficult for me to settle for just one reality when I can have so many. So, for fans like me, that’s exactly what Mike Johnson does. He gives you everything you can handle.

If you want to escape to a variety of realities, then this is your book.

Marvel Comics

Defenders #9

It’s a grand old donnybrook for this issue! In confronting Diamondback, Brian Bendis has not one, but three super-teams get together to put down his nefarious drug-pushing influence. Lots of combat – simplistic story basis and enough of a cliff-hanger to get me interested in picking up Issue #10.

There’s a “made-for-TV” vibe in this issue that flows really smoothly. The dialogue is reductive and falls very easily into simple patter and one-liners. Lots of rescue/cavalry incidents in this story and that’s always a positive note of a book. Hey, we all want to be saved, right? It’s not a complicated book at all and with these characters on Netflix, that’s an understandable direction for this book to go. Really, it’s a case of the book supporting the television show and that’s not unreasonable.

I can’t fault the art in this book. David Marquez is a seasoned artist and his stuff is very easy to look at it. In short, the major sell of this book for me is its digestibility.

Invincible Iron Man #596

More Bendis. I’m curious to see how this story ends up. One of the downsides to comics is that sometimes the delivery structure of its storytelling fails to reveal the quality of the story as a reader is forced to look at it one segment at a time. That’s the case with this issue.

I can’t find any fault with the overall story, but this issue was somewhat frustrating because it ended way too soon and left too much to wonder. Of course, that’s the nature of a serial story, right? However, this is a time when I really want to see the collected tale in its entirety to enjoy and ponder as a whole.

I’m not a fan of Alex Maleev’s art and the tagteam structure between his work and Stefano Caselli’s was somewhat distracting. Caselli, however, is fast becoming one of my favourite creators and I look forward to seeing more of it.

I do like the presence of AI personalities as they help Riri and Stark’s birth-mother locate just exactly where Stark has hidden himself. But for the sake of the story, which is titled “Iron Man”, I’d have actually liked to have seen more of Iron Man in it. After all, he’s the one who really needs to be rescued and it’s about time we get to that part of the story!

Dan Slott will be taking over this title, as I believe he mentioned on Twitter recently. I’m very excited to see his take on it.

Jessica Jones #16

And yet – more Bendis. What is Marvel going to do when this guy leaves?

Wow … talk about trying to solve your own problems, having it all fall apart round you as well as an overwhelming sense of guilt and self-pity. I was looking forward to the continuation of this story from the viewpoint that how do you really defeat a nemesis? This is a sophisticated way of dealing with an enemy other than the traditional comic book approach to simply thwarting their plans. When someone hates you, how do you get them out of your system?

The problem is, sometimes the person hates himself. In this case, maybe Kilgrave really is becoming aware of his inadequacies and is actually seeking redemption? People can grow.

Kilgrave takes control of an entire crowd and pits them against each other. His power really does represent a grave danger to the public well-being. But he also takes control of Captain Marvel and potentially has her power at his disposal as well. Will Jones’s attention be enough to satisfy him?

Jessica Jones’s Achilles Heel is her perpetual sense of doubt. Her insecurity is a post-traumatic symptom after being brutalized by the Purple Man for so long. She has no sense of confidence about her ability to help others, particularly when it comes to Kilgrave. He really is her poison and it’s hard, even for a super-powered being to come back from that sort of emotional corruption.

He’s her Tuesday.

Moon Knight #191

I love Jacen Burrows’ solid style of art. It’s clear, defined and imparts a resolution to the characters’ motivations and purposes with his ability to cleanly render expressions.

Max Bemis. I enjoy how he has managed to integrate the religious aspect of Moon Knight’s origins with his history of mental illness. The two are balanced perfectly and play off each other. Spector’s multiple personalities are all avatars of Khonshu and serve as additional characters. While I may not have agreed with the portrayal of Spector’s daughter – she seemed far more mature than the way she was drawn – I have to confess that the humour in this issue was rich and dark.

This is a good direction for this comic to go. Khonshu is less judgemental and manipulative in Bemis’s presentation. He acts more benevolent and guiding – what you would expect a patron god to be, particularly as Moon Knight is a hero, seeking to protect the weary those who travel at night. It’s a more enjoyable and welcoming take on the character.

Phoenix: Resurrection #5

Gotta rescue Jean Grey.

I can’t get enough of this title … but that’s the way to do it; that’s the way to finally reconcile Jean Grey with the power of the Phoenix. It’s a primal force of nature and Jean Grey is simply a mortal woman. It had to end this way and it’s the story that makes sense.

Perhaps it ended with a whimper but after seeing what the Phoenix is capable of, it’s a mercy. We already have multiple original X-Men from the strange decision to keep the time-travelling younger versions around when they really should have been sent back to their time in order to keep the continuum safe, and to keep Marvel writers from scratching their brains out in frustration. This way, the threat of the Phoenix has been contained for future stories in a completely and humanist way. I can relate to this, not simply out of a story dynamic, but also out a of a respect for the creators who gave it to us.

Matthew Rosenberg has done a phenomenally good job of bringing a Jean Grey to long-time X-Men fans who they can nostalgically appreciate, and a historical overview of the character to new X-Fans. It’s no simple feat to encapsulate a character with so much history into such an appreciable summary.

I also can’t leave out Lenil Yu and Joe Bennett; beautiful art, definitely the way I’d like to see these respected icons of the Marvel franchise represented.

Punisher: The Platoon #5

Some people escape trauma by reminiscing and reliving these bad memories with friends who were there. They share with each their pain because only they can understand it in each other. It’s very common for veterans to suffer PTSD.

This book looks at the historical development of the Punisher, who, as a kid, I remember being completely scared of when I saw his first appearance on the cover of The Amazing Spider-Man #129. This history completely validates my younger self’s impressions.

Garth Ennis is a complete military history encyclopedia. He’s the perfect choice for describing Frank Castle’s origins. His writing is thoroughly detailed and I’ve become a big fan of Goran Parlov’s artistry.

This story is rich, dynamic and so realistic you could actually believe these were actual veterans relating a story about a real former commanding officer.

Actually, it’s so real that it’s not much of an escape into fantasy after all.

DC Comics

Motherlands #1

Wow – what a trip this one is! From Si Spurrier and Rachel Stott, this is a totally out-there sci-fi story that uses string theory, alternate realities and ungrateful family members! The idea is that Tabitha Tubach, a retriever is forced to team up with her retired, aged and spiteful mother, a glammed-up retriever from “the good ol’ days” with a penchant for show biz and exhibitionism.

It’s very hard to describe this story, save that it’s a completely unique science fiction story that is very easy to lose oneself in, if you’re not careful! I read it about three or four times, just to get a feeling for the rhythm and the beat of this book is unpredictability.

Anything goes and of course, that means that the sky is limit for Si Spurrier to introduce any sort of wild and weird creation he wants to fit into this nexus of universes. It has humour and some farcical elements but at the heart of it is the theory of interdimensional travel and interpretive realities.

You’d have a hard time coming back from this if you tried to escape into this comic! Of course, who’d want to?

An awesome premise and a dazzling first issue. I am looking forward to reading this again.

Silencer #1

I’m not sure where this offering from John Romita Jr. and Dan Abnett falls into.

Part of “The New Age of Heroes” – which to be frank, I’m still not completely clear on its relationship to the mainstream DC Universe – this book looks at a retired mercenary who now has a family and she has done her best to escape the life she used to lead.

Known as “the Silencer” for her trick of creating a zone of no-noise around her as she fights, Honor Guest is surprised by elements of her past – including a friend all-too familiar to Batman fans. Like I said, I’m not sure how this line of books falls into the mainstream of the DC continuum but it’s got some linkages.

In any event, a fun book to read. Good to see Romita, Jr. in action and Dan Abnett is a longtime favourite writer of mine too.

Dark Nights Metal #5

Not looking good for the members of the Justice League. Escape is NOT an option for these heroes and the only course of action is to double-down and face Barbatos on his own turf. Of course, they’re doing that and the situation is dire in this nail-biting suspense. We are getting to a real climax with this issue. Greg Capullo never fails to disappoint with his artwork and, of course, Scott Snyder is never a disappointment.

Definitely one to keep an eye on, but I can’t help but feel it would be better appreciated in reading it in its entirety. Looking forward to the hardcover compilation when it comes out.

Astro City #50 (Vertigo)

A poignant and completely plausible scenario of a city where superhero events happen on a regular basis. It makes sense that normal people would eventually become innocent bystanders and suffer some sort of traumatic event during an epic hero-vs-villain confrontation. Titled “Aftermaths”, this is another story of survivors and people unable to cope with their own reality, needing a place of refuge and escape.

I’m not an expert on trauma, but I do suffer from it. This story touched me deeply, when I consider that there are people out there who truly do need help, or even just a bit of human contact to get through their day. Real face-to-face contact too – not just distanced email or through social media. People hurt and sometimes the best escape is a friendly face.

But sometimes that’s rarer than a superhero.

The main character in this story – Mike – is one of those people who gets that. His support group – “Friends of Miranda” is about the simple desire to help, listen and be supportive. He’s not a licensed therapist nor is he trained. He just has that simple urge to help – not fix – but be there. Sometimes, things can’t be fixed and the problems that we either face or will face are beyond the capacity to repair. All we can do is comfort.

To fix issues is a natural human response. Whenever someone says “just keep positive”, “spoil yourself” or “whatever doesn’t kill you just makes you stronger’ are all platitudes that mean nothing but represent some vague and token effort at trying to quickly fix someone’s problems and be done with it. After all, you have your own problems, right? You can’t afford to let someone else’s baggage get you down.

Kurt Busiek has touched on a very important topic with this story. Mental health is a real issue in our society that goes mostly unnoticed. We tell ourselves to embrace the British axiom of a “stiff upper lip” but it really does nothing for the real issues inside. However, if we allowed someone in need of help the opportunity to just talk, all we have to do is say, “I can’t fix, but I can listen and understand.” Advice is usually never good, unless you know of something that will make a visible improvement in the other’s suffering.

Mike has his own demons, but helping others helps him to escape them. Which makes sense as the best way to deal with your own reality is to concentrate on someone else’s.

I’m declaring Astro City #50 my pick of the week for this week’s list. It’s real, it’s relevant and more importantly, it’s about saving someone who needs it.

Thanks for saving me this week, Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson.

Pick of the Week: Astro City #50


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.