Captain Kirk’s Weekly Comic Review – 01/20/2016

It’s report card time in Toronto and all over the city, many teachers are scrambling around to provide valid and objective assessment on their young charges.

That’s what I try to do when I’m reading my comics. I look at the structure, the story, the believability and the context of the comic before I make an assessment. It’s hard sometimes, because it’s someone’s creation and I want to respect the artistic effort that went into the creation of the book. Hey – I haven’t published a comic to my name. I respect the achievement.

I want my criticism to be accepted in the spirit in which it’s given: respect. That’s why I have criteria. In the same light, that’s what I tell my students. I can’t effectively give them a respectful, valid assessment of their work unless I’ve provided them with an understanding of what it is I’m looking for in their work.

So, respectfully, here are a few criteria that I look for in a comic: is it entertaining, is it sellable, and does it fit into the continuity of the publisher’s universe or does it violate the accepted premises of the subject and/or universe? There are others but they have to be gauged in respect to the artist’s vision or the contextual purpose of the comic. At the same time, I also have to ask if I liked it. It’s not everything, but it matters!

Well, to me.

Let’s get to the list.

Image Comics

Wayward #13

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I’ve never really had an appreciation for Japanese comics. However, Wayward has changed that. However, I think it’s safe to say that it really isn’t a Japanese comic; it’s a comic about Japanese subject material crafted by non-Japanese creators and this is a good thing. While the book has a Western pacing, it really pays reverent homage to Japanese cultural mythos and popculture in a way that makes it accessible and fully comprehended by a non-Japanese audience.

You know, like me.

It’s made a fan out of me. Jim Zub and Steve Cummings have really done an excellent job on this book. I especially love reading Zack Davisson’s essays on Japanese culture and history. They give me insight and learning into a culture that I’m not overly familiar with.

This was a particularly action-packed issue with a clash of the old gods against the new, so to speak. However, this new generation of mythological heroes has some obvious flaws; the most apparent one is: they like their power. I’m reminded of the adage “absolute power corrupts absolutely”, and sure and there’s a penalty to be paid, I think our young band of neo-yokai are bound for a reckoning in future issues. Have a read and see if I’m right.

Pencilhead #1

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This is a new book as well as a new creator for me. Written and drawn by Ted McKeever, it’s definitely an eclectic parody of the life of a comic book artist. For my part, while I found the art fairly simplistic, I had to forget that and concentrate on the satirical viewpoint.

For the life of me, I honestly couldn’t get the point. It’s weird and it has some humour to it, but the first in this five-issue series has eluded me.

Still, I think what I did find interesting was the insight into a comic creator’s life. Granted it’s an exaggerated caricature but there’s some truth to the intensity of being creative under a deadline. Plus, working in isolation can have a numbing effect on the mind. I’ve spoken to comic artists who say that the self-imposed isolation, the need to shut out the world is essential to the creative energies required to create a book before the month is up. Imagine if you’re working on several at once?

It’s no easy vocation, but it’s one I respect.

DC Comics

Batman #48

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Again … another non-Batman issue. I’m sorry, but for me, getting into a Batman comic a few years back was a monumental joy, give that I am not a Batman fan. Now I’m starting to fear that I may lose that claim.

Ah well, existence is suffering.

However, you have to respect Capullo and Snyder; they’re doing their thing. They have vision and they pursue it to the fullest limit of their craft. That’s what keeps me holding on though – the fact that if they got me hooked the first time around, they’re bound to pull something that will make the waiting all worthwhile.

But …

This was the one worth waiting for! Wonderful lead-in – amazing structure with the past represented in a choice meeting of characters at a midpoint of oppositional choices! Capullo and Snyder, you magnificent Ba … Batmen!

Secret Six #10

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Meanwhile, in another part of the DC Universe, an assortment of the most unpredictable characters accept the task of saving the planet from mystical super-beings from another dimension.

Sure ain’t Gotham.

A bit of an abrupt ending to this arc, but an ending nonetheless. This has probably been the most entertaining arc of this book yet. I have to confess though, I love that Dale Eaglesham art. Seriously – this guy’s in Ontario. Why don’t I see him and Wolfie in Toronto any more? If you don’t know, Dale and his wife Wolfie are the most amazing pair to talk to. They form the perfect team – introvert and extrovert – supreme.

But I digress – great writing from Gail Simone and I’m looking forward to the next arc.

Vertigo Comics

Astro City #31

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Kurt Busiek was in hospital, possibly for kidney stones, a few days ago. With any luck he’ll have recovered by now and he’ll be reading these positive words about his latest work and it’ll perk him up a bit.

Well, that’s the theory.

Another emotional gem. This is a story about redemption and one that can be fully valued by all of us. After all, who’s perfect? There are mistakes that we wish we could undo or somehow redress. It’s a good lesson and definitely a story that is easily appreciated. That’s the thing about this series: it strives to access the commonality between hero and regular folk.

This series has definitely provided a great deal of entertainment. It’s the single perspective story telling that really intrigues me. Maybe it’s the narcissist in me, but I find it to be a simple but remarkably emotional way of appreciating a good comic story. It’s a powerful technique and Busiek has demonstrated his mastery of the technique time and time again. It’s a great series and I look forward to reading a new incarnation of this wonderful place every month.

Marvel Comics

Star Wars #15

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It’s got Obi-Wan on the cover – I’m sold.

Great story by Jason Aaron excerpted from the journals of Ben Kenobi. Amazing stuff and even adds to the tapestry of the series with insights into Ben’s hermitage on Tatooine and relationships with Luke’s uncle. It’s a great story and Mike Mayhew’s art provides a delightful interpretation of these classic characters in their youth.

Clearly this is a filler story before the next major arc begins, but wow … if this is what passes for filler, then this comic is bound for more greatness. It’s been fifteen issues, but it just feels like it’s gone by so fast.

These are the best books Marvel has to offer, bar none and Jason Aaron must be sleeping like a well-fed bantha at nights.

The pick of the week has got to go to:

Batman #48

There’s just so much I want to say about this book, but I fear I’ll be dumping spoilers in your backyards. If you’ve been following my column, then you’ll know what I’ve been wishing for from this comic in the last four or five issues. Well, read and enjoy.

But it’s the imaginative discourse between characters that really caught my eye. There’s a real emotional layer that Snyder taps into that literally bubbles to the surface of this book. Moreover, set against the backdrop of Mr. Bloom terrorizing Gotham, this emotional content is intensified which creates a real need for sacrifice.

I loved it and this is why I loved this book from the beginning. Snyder and Capullo – if you’re ever in Toronto, the first round’s on me.

And that’s respect.

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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.