Captain Kirk’s Weekly Comic Review – 01/17/2018

It’s a Battle Royale between the two titans of comic publishing in this round-up. This week’s list is comprised exclusively of titles from DC and Marvel – well, with some collaboration from Dark Horse Comics. It may seem predictable but if you look at the top ten leading titles for 2017 on Comichron, you can see that despite a disappointing year-end sales for comics in general, DC and Marvel are locked in competition.

Even in the world of comics, we are all beholden to the Almighty Dollar.

Of course, it made me wonder about the relationship between talent and top dollar figures. Tom King is definitely happy with Batman #36 and #37 holding positions #4 and #5. Geoff Johns’ Doomsday Clock has the number one spot and the only comic outside of DC and Marvel in the top ten club is Image Comics’ The Walking Dead. However, when you consider the talent behind all of those books, is there any wonder?

Still, I’d love to get a breakdown of the talent in the top 500 books listed for 2017 and see who’s behind the majority of sales for 2017. Guess my weekend is cut out for me.

Let’s get to the list and see who stacks up for this week.

Marvel Comics

Doctor Strange #384

A good old-fashioned donnybrook by none other than Donny Cates! You know, in terms of talent to keep an eye on, this is one of those guys who’s going to either revolutionize comics or control them. He has a great deal of talent and not afraid to try new ideas. However, what I really enjoy about his work is that he carefully resuscitates canonical items from a comic’s past and brings them into his stories in very innovative ways.

In this issue, Strange has obtained the power of the World Tree from Asgard and can now face Loki on even terms. It’s an exciting and cathartic combat and quite frankly, I have to admit that I was looking forward to it. Of course, Strange’s notorious bad luck manifests itself in an unexpected way. Again, Donny Cates, Master of Surprise manages to win me back to reading Doctor Strange on a regular basis. I think you’ll find this story entertaining and worthwhile adding to your own list.

After all, since Donny Cates has taken over this title, it has managed to make it into the top 500 list of titles sold in 2017. That’s actually pretty good considering how late of an entry it was. Cates has got talent. Watch for more of this title.

Star Wars #42

I found the last issue a tad dull, but I called it as a filler issue and it certainly sets us up for an incredible story by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca. This is Part 5 of “The Ashes of Jedha” arc and it’s an exciting one that falls back on the basic charm of the original trilogy: the relationships between Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker.

In this issue, the Star Warriors have to infiltrate a massive war machine, using diversionary tactics, an untrained crew and the element of surprise.

Sound familiar?

Of course it does, but that’s why this issue works so well. Sometimes telling a story in a familiar way is the safest yet most acceptable way to go. Look at “The Force Awakens”, for example. It’s the same basic formula and while it’s a little blatant, no-one can say it failed to do its job. In contrast to “The Last Jedi” though … well, I think I’ve made my point without going into too much controversy.

But this is a book that is built upon the most acceptable film of them all: “A New Hope”. It’s at a time when the Death Star has been destroyed and prior to “The Empire Strikes Back”. This is Star Wars at its best and Gillen has admirably acquitted himself in the past that we can forgive him a blip of a story that sets us up for this wonderful episode.

Star Wars has also managed significant numbers this past year too. Issues #27, 28 and 38 have managed rungs just outside of the top 100 ladder. While this may somewhat lackluster, it’s a consistent performance and given that this is a re-invented forty-odd year franchise, I think that’s pretty good.

Salvador Larroca has captured a picture-perfect Leia. More mature and confident, there are some scenes when I have to stop and stare in amazement. Like many adolescent fanboys, Princess Leia was my first film crush and Salvador Larocca delivers beautiful images of our favourite space-princess that can only make you relive your most nostalgic memories of Carrie Fisher. The artwork is absolutely stunning in this book and must be seen.

X-Men Gold #20

Another perennial franchise and an old love of mine. The X-Men were my favourite Marvel titles and I would buy anything associated with them. Mini-series, spin-off titles, you name it. If Claremont wrote it, then I usually bought it. However, it got to a point when there were too many mutants, prompting the massive culling by the reality-warping powers of the Scarlet Witch and her famous phrase: “no more mutants”.

I never thought I’d buy another X-Men title again. But here I am reading X-Men Gold written by Marc Guggenheim and drawn by Diego Bernard and getting a familiar vibe that my fourteen-year-old self used to get when reading titles by Claremont and Byrne.

Guggenheim clearly has a reverence for the canon of the X-Men. While he incorporates characters from the present melange of mutants, X-Men Gold sees familiar relationship dynamics between old favourites like Kitty and Colossus, Storm and Nightcrawler and the presence of albeit Old Logan. It’s almost like going back in time when the stories of the X-Men revolved around a familiar group of characters instead of desperately trying to corral all of the newly-developed mutants in the world today.

In this issue, the X-Men find themselves on an alien planet in the Negative Zone. While the story may seem a little simplistic in nature, it’s the fact that these beloved characters are together again in an adventure that could have come from the 1980’s. It was very much enjoyed and definitely contributed to the cadre of Marvel’s titles for 2017.

DC Comics

Batman #39

Careful – spoilers abound here.

The flagship of DC’s fleet and one of their “golden goose” writers; Tom King gives us another poignant and extremely introspective tale of Batman and his life. Of course, this one may have a few repercussions attached to it.

Batman winds up going with Wonder Woman to an otherworld dimension to relieve a guardian known as the Gentle Man from his unknown years of defending our world from dimensional terrors known as the Horde. Time moves differently there and while they do not age, he and Wonder Woman are the only people there and temptation is something that all men may feel, regardless of their oaths and promises.

King has a knack of taking a simple premise and expanding it into something captivating. However, in this case, this story may prove to be more contentious and contrary to the previously romantic tone of the “Superfriends” arc. This is Part Three and we have a little more to go, but I like the way that King has manipulated me into feeling protective over Catwoman.

Catwoman. Bat-shit crazy (forgive the joke) but clearly devoted to Batman. I’d honestly hate for the Dark Knight to do anything to ruin the respite and happiness he clearly feels with her.

Wow … I’m a softy. Who knew?

Wonder Woman/Conan #5 (With Dark Horse Comics)

Continuing with more swords and sorcery, Gail Simone gifts us with this “otherworlds” adventure in collaboration with Dark Horse Comics.

I enjoy seeing Wonder Woman reveal some of her mythological origins and when you consider that Robert E. Howard set Conan in a forgotten time, then why can’t an amazon from a mythological island of warrior women encounter Conan the Barbarian of lost Cimmeria?

Aaron Lopresti does a staggeringly good job of bringing both these warriors the artistic glory they both deserve. The artistry reminds me of George Perez’s work on Wonder Woman, which is certainly appropriate.

One of the most enjoyable comics I am reading. But, Gail Simone is such a talented writer who generates a great deal of passion in her characters that how can anyone not enjoy her work?

Super Sons #12

A great ending to the union story between the Super-Sons and the Teen Titans. The last installment in the “Super Sons of Tomorrow Arc”, this is a heartwarming tale of an originally begrudged friendship. While Robin may be a few years older than Superboy, and he might be cynical beyond those years, he’s still Batman’s son and he has some honour. Sure enough, it reveals itself as he stands by Superboy.

While I wasn’t too keen on this arc, I have to say that the ending was actually quite fitting. It was a bit of a surprise ending but also showed some real relationship potential in this embryonic partnership.

Plus, I also admire that Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason are bringing comics back to kids with this book. It’s one that you don’t have to worry about censoring and it provides a good example of what a friend should be.

Superman #39

Superman and friends make the day for childhood cancer patients in this heart-warming story titled: “Goodnight, Moon”.

Okay … full disclosure here. My daughter is a cancer survivor. She had a five-year battle with leukemia. It feels like yesterday when she was one of those emaciated, bald-headed children staring out of the window so artfully and compellingly drawn by Barry Kitson.

I, uh … I have tears in my eyes writing this right now.

Kids are still kids, regardless of their physical state. I remember when my kid was grateful for any type of distraction to break up the monotony of the stays in the hospital, the chemo, the transfusions. Every day when something different happened was a blessing.

I showed this book to my daughter. She offered this in response: what cancers did they all have?

It was a valid question. The stereotypical image of childhood cancer patients is the image of the bald, skinny and pale kid with dark shadows under their eyes. We looked carefully and saw that Lateef, one of the cancer kids, was in a wheelchair. He was the only one that differed from the other fairly similar kids. She wanted to know their stories.

One in five cancer kids will die from their cancer, which is the number-one disease that kills kids. It’s a harsh thing to watch your child suffer in front of you for an extended period of time so this book really struck a nerve with me.

I don’t know what inspired Patrick Gleason and Peter J. Tomasi to write this issue. I hope I find out. These kids fight cancer every day for various lengths of time. It could be four months to five years; it could be eight years of constant relapses. They also fight different cancers: solid tumours, leukemia, brain cancers, bone – you name it. They face their own super-villains with nothing but their own grit and childhood optimism. The more experiences that happen to them in their suffering, the more their optimism grows. They deserve to have a comic about them.

My kid is my very own superhero. After five years of her treatment course, she was deemed “cured”. Yet too many childhood cancer survivors experience – 60%, I believe, experience post-treatment side-effects. These could be damaged organs, cognitive impairments, possible sterility in adulthood and even a secondary cancer. She knows this and for the sake of all her friends who are still fighting their nemesis, she advocates to the leaders of our country for greater funding and research into treatments for them.

I have stories about her own battle but I’ll keep those to myself for the time being.

I’m declaring this issue the Pick of the Week out of my reading list. It’s unbearable for some people to watch and so they wish the kids well but turn away. In this day and age, we can devote resources to fighting this horrible disease. Cancer is terrifying for anyone but it is far more savage when it strikes a kid in the beginning of her life. The more attention we can bring to this issue, the better.

It was a brave story for Tomasi and Gleason to write; brave for Barry Kitson to draw.

Congratulations to DC and their editorial direction for this week. This was an extremely compassionate issue that really touched me. It’ll touch you too.

Here endeth the list. Now go out and read them and boost up those comic sales figures for 2018.

Pick of the Week: Superman #39

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.