Captain Kirk’s Weekly Comic Review – 01/10/2018

There’s a theme for this week’s collection of titles.

I’m a hierarchical type of thinker. I tend to think in patterns, trends or in some sort of thematic way. That formed the basis for this week’s list and it was fun pulling it all together. See if you can figure it out before I reveal it at the end!

Oh … a couple of personal things I wanted to add: first off, very excited to see the comic by my pal, Scott Tipton, along with his brother David and artist extraordinaire J.K. Woodward from IDW Publishing – Star Trek: The Next Generation – “Mirror Broken” receive two nominations for Best Comic of the Year and Best FCBD Comic of the Year. The announcements in the Diamond Gem Awards from Diamond Comic Distributors. I’ve been a big supporter of these guys, so it’s very gratifying to see them get their recognition.

Also, BACK ISSUE is nominated for Best Magazine of the Year. As a contributor to BACK ISSUE, I’m very excited to be a part of their success as well.

I hope you’ll join me in wishing these talented people the best of luck!

DC Comics

Mr. Miracle #6

How does one rationalize the fantastic?

Well, you’d have to ask Tom King that … Mister Miracle #6 is rife with contrast between the domestic and the bizarre as Big Barda and Scott Free go to make their appointment with Scott’s executioner on New Genesis. Of course, we all know that’s not going to happen, but given that this is probably the biggest trap that Scott Free has ever had to face, the question remains: how is he gonna get out of this one?

Well, have you ever heard of compartmentalizing? That’s the tack that King is taking with this story. Scott Free’s mind has to contend with reality-shifting, the loss of Izayah the former Highfather – an absent father and coming from an abusive childhood; the fact that his present family now wants him dead – it’s no wonder that Mister Miracle is just trying to get by in this story.

Mister Miracle and the other New Gods have held a particular nostalgia for me. Not only was it one of Jack Kirby’s most unique creations, it also has a historic place in DC’s stable of properties. Villains like Darkseid not only have been the object of so many great stories in its mythos, but have had tremendous implications on so many other titles and heroes. These characters are historical and of great value to DC – and to readers like me who have seen their growth from the latter days of Kirby’s creations to their modern incarnations.

There’s a dual-track structure to this story that is underestimated by the simplistic nine-panel style. The intensity of the action doesn’t match the dialogue, which is basically the type of domestic conversation any husband and wife may have. It’s endearingly sweet, if somewhat predictable, but that doesn’t lessen its enjoyment. It’s clear that King is channeling some of his own domestic experiences into this relationship, which adds realism and a sense of the concrete that makes it possible for us to believe and accept the story while also providing his characters with a basis for motivation.

It’s a wonderful balance. Mitch Gerads must be having a hell of a time drawing this story. The action is tightly focused, very easy to follow and is an excellent example of sequential storytelling. The deceptively simplistic structure sets the reader up for a complete shock at the very end when … well, far be it for me give this one away. But trust me … it’s fun, and the fact that this story is built upon the shoulders of characters of other stories I read in my hey-day of reading comics makes it even more fun. What a great legacy that King and Gerads have inherited.

Ragman #4

Even though issue #3 clearly marked this as a mini-series, I seemed to have missed that. It looks like the Ragman, his spiritual companions and his demonic costume are only a few issues away from ending. That’s a shame; the nostalgic attachment to the title aside, I was actually enjoying this story, especially now that Etrigan has joined the scene.

I’ve always been fond of the rhyming demon. He was a daring character back in the 60s and his agenda was constantly a mystery. Guardian or opportunist – he was a demon and that element transfers to this story quite well. We have a mystery wrapped up in an enigma in this book and it’s definitely a lot of fun to guess not only where Rory’s suit comes from, but also to figure out what Etrigan’s game is.

But the Ragman was also a character from the 70’s; far simpler in his earlier incarnation, to be sure, but didn’t demonstrate a degree of longevity. I remember first reading him in a Batman title as a child, but he didn’t have any of the mystical powers he has in his costume now. It was just simply a costume made out of bits and pieces by Rory’s father from the various articles of clothing around their shop.

Later, in the 90’s, the character was resurrected and retconned. But I’m afraid that a lot of that original history has been lost. He was created by Bob Kanigher and Joe Kubert as I recall, so I think I’m going to have to do some research into this one.

But that’s the fun of reading comics with a history. I hope this one continues. For Ray Fawkes sake, I’d hate to see the Ragman disappear into obscurity for another decade or so.

Action Comics #995

From the frying pan and into the fire is pretty much the idea behind this story from Dan Jurgens and Brent Booth. The art is classic and the story involves one of the under-rated comic-relief characters from the 1980’s. Booster Gold has always been a favourite of mine, though I confess more with his legendary partnership with the original Blue Beetle.

But Booster serves as a pretty good sidekick to the Big Red “S” in this one. When Superman has a lapse in judgement (as we saw last issue) and wants to go back in time to the time of Krypton’s demise in search of his father, it’s Booster who serves as conscience and risks his own neck to stop him. However, in the process, Superman learns more about Booster’s origins. While Booster may not be the hero that Superman approves, he recognizes that he’s the hero that he needs.

This is a title that brings back another nostalgic character. Lots of fond memories – including the epic phrase: bwa-hah-hah. Veterans: you know what I mean.

Image Comics

Kingsman: Red Diamond #5 (of 6)

As I was born in Britain, it’s always something for me to see British culture appear in North American literature. This is pure James Bond escapism tinged with working-class sentimentality. It’s an easy theme, but stories like these always bring back that pang for the homeland in my blood.

The art seems tighter and more concise in this issue compared to the last one. Not that I’m complaining about the last issue, but I noticed that there was a lot more detail and precision in Issue #5.

This is a great story; fun combined with excitement in the same flavour as the James Bond/Pygmalion story as the original. I’ve gained a great deal of respect for the way that Rob Williams and Simon Fraser have taken to telling this story. It’s true to Mark Millar’s original vision of this character and they deserve full credit for continuing the tale.

But … the last page is definitely one that will drop your jaw and widen your eyes – definitely … cocky.

Rose #7

I really respect Meredith Finch’s creative vision. It’s not easy to write fiction, in any medium, but the fact that she has her own successful own title that has already received a great deal of acclaim shows that she knows what she’s doing.

In fact, Meredith was just tagged to write Xena: Warrior Princess with her husband, David, providing the talent for the cover. To my knowledge, I’m not sure who’ll be drawing the book.

But if there’s a subject Meredith knows to write about, it’s a strong female protagonist. Wonder Woman, now Xena, how should Rose be any different?

Well, Rose belongs to Meredith – that’s how. Rose is a character who has experienced a great deal of growth. She’s graduated from helpless child to symbol of a revolution; developed magical powers and a bond with a legendary creature of her land’s lore. Sorcery, high fantasy and a theme of rebellion are all wonderful elements to combine into a great story.

I’m an easy mark for stories like these. They’re familiar, comforting and as someone who grew up reading books by Brooks, Donaldson and other fantasy greats, this is a book that I’m very happy to read and I’m betting other readers do too.

Marvel Comics

Star Wars: Darth Vader #10

Part IV of the arc, “The Dying Light”, Vader has cornered the former Jedi Temple Archivist, Jocasta Nu – a better librarian than warrior. She has gone back to Corsucant to the former Jedi Temple to find a data-disk of force-sensitive children whom she can find and teach back at the new hidden school she has built to teach a new generation of Jedi.

But she’s got to get past Vader first.

This book is set between Episodes III and IV. It marks the rise of Darth Vader as Palpatine’s apprentice and it illustrates an idea that I’ve believed as well – that the new Star Wars stories should have relied more on the canon that supported Episodes IV, V and VI and strengthened the connections between them and the prequels. I think Star Wars: Rogue One is an excellent example of this and many believe it was a far superior film to Episode VII and I daresay, even The Last Jedi. You don’t need to invent something new to make a franchise better – just provide fans with more of the same sort of material they are already familiar with.

This comic also exemplifies that idea. We know that Vader is Palpatine’s last Jedi – or do we? There have got to be other survivors like Obi-Wan and Yoda who survived the General Order. It’s fun exploring those ideas and those make the best stories.

The ending to this arc is certainly one that would be wholly acceptable to Star Wars fans and it’s clear that Charles Soule is definitely one of these fans.

Phoenix Resurrection #3

Just … take my money! And if you had any love for the Phoenix Saga, you’d be shouting the same thing too!

This issue is a bit of a filler issue – a connector to the rest of the story. It introduces some notions of where exactly Jean Grey is hiding, but she can’t stay hidden from the Phoenix Force for long. I also have to remark how deftly Matthew Rosenberg has woven the various elements of Jean’s past throughout her “oasis”. It’s nothing short of expert and it makes for an excellent review of the different episodes in the X-Men’s career – particularly for those die-hard fans like myself who have been around the X-Men since the 70’s.

Old Man Logan #33

Ed Brisson and Mike Deodato … can you get any better than that combination of talent? Well, this book not only has a high pedigree of talent, but also a great pedigree of stories going back to the Uncanny X-Men issues #118 and #123 when Wolverine was first enamoured with Mariko Yashida.

This line: “You are nothing more than a pathetic old man, clinging to something that never was.” Gotta be honest, that one really hit me in the feels. Logan is old now – but I’m growing older too. Not too far in the future, I’m going to be pretty close to Old Logan’s current age and it’s a bit scary.

When do I have to stop talking about comic books? For that matter, do I have to stop liking Star Trek, Star Wars and all the other geeky stuff I have pretty much loved all my life? I mean, I’m getting to the point where I’m actually having reactionary opinions on stuff that isn’t real!

Mariko Yashida is sixty years away in Logan’s memories. In a heartbeat though, he is immediately forced to confront her, not as a lost love but as an enemy. As much as I wasn’t too keen on the idea of a Logan come back from the future, I have to say, there are a lot more possibilities to this storyline than I allowed myself to imagine.

Well – perhaps I’m not too old after all?

X-Men Gold Annual #1

I was both tickled and happily entertained into a zen-like trance down memory lane by this wonderful work by Marc Guggenheim and Leah Williams. Drawn by Alitha Martinez and inked by my pal, Craig Yeung, I have to say that while the story was entirely an adventure of what I would have expected the ex-crew of Excalibur to experience, it was the art that managed to perfectly capture the essence of Alan Davis.

I fell in love with Excalibur back in the day. It was a fully worthy successor to the Uncanny X-Men in the late 80’s and early 90’s who were going through such wide and systemic transformations that I was no longer able to recognize them. Sadly, the comics of the mid 1990’s and I had a parting of the ways and it wasn’t until about eight or nine years later that we managed a reconciliation. Excalibur and I are long-ago lovers.

This is a commission of Captain Britain and Meggan from the MI-13 days. This is drawn by one of my all-time favourite artists, Leonard Kirk. It’s hanging in my basement office.

Captain Britain is in my list of top five favourite superheroes. Why? Because he’s British – yeah, it’s that simple. But he was the hero of 1980’s Britain – and the 1980’s were also my decade; when my comic-reading was at its most memorable. This is a title that automatically wins my favour – not simply because of the pleasant nostalgia it brings, but because of the recognition that things like franchises or properties don’t need a lot of change in order to be relevant. (Hey … Star Trek?) The fact that the Braddocks’ child is … unique, to say the least, is the only change that we need for this reunion to be relevant to today’s audience. It’s a great read and I loved every page of it.

Too often writers of today fall into the trap of changing and playing with canon to “make their own mark” on a series. The excuse is that the story needs to be relevant to today’s audience. However, that discounts a great amount of people, like me, who want to be reminded of those great times, with just enough of a change to mark the passage of time. I was very pleased to see that Guggenheim and Williams did not fall into this rut. It even had the same sort of delightfully playful humour that I remembered from the 80’s. I’m sure Chris Claremont would have loved reading this.

It was more of an homage than a new story. I thoroughly enjoyed Martinez’s work. Yeung’s inking was a delicious cherry on top of the sundae. It was a thoroughly valiant effort that yielded overwhelmingly successful results.

For me, this is the pick of the week. If you haven’t already guessed my theme – my basis for selection this week, it’s one of nostalgia and pleasant memories. I moved around a lot as a teen and young adult, but comics were my anchor. I can remember every place I’ve lived on the basis of what comic title, issue and story arc I was reading at the time. This title takes me back to a happy time – as do all the titles in this week’s selection.

It’s been remarked that smell is the most powerful sense that evokes emotion. For me, it’s always been reading. I tend to re-read a lot of my favourite stories, including comics. But when I get a chance to read new talent that builds upon and reveres the foundation of the great stories that I loved in the past, then there’s nothing that brings back those pleasant memories more.

Do yourself a favour: start reading some comics and build your own memories. Until next week!

Pick of the Week: X-Men: Gold Annual #1

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.