Captain Kirk’s Weekly Comic Review – 01/25/2017

The theme this week is dynamic creativism. That’s just a fancy term I’ve made up to, quite simply, describe the relative levels of creativity that I’ve seen this week – and there are some really good examples.

Image Comics

Wayward #20

Wayward is a comic that really taps into the mythological vein. It’s an example of real creative innovation in that it takes one mythos and attaches it to another. It seems a very simple premise but when you read the book and see the nifty way that Jim Zub has connected Japanese mythology with Irish lore, it’s actually very sophisticated writing.

I’m not a Japanese comics fan, but when I interviewed Zub last year and read the first volume of this awesome comic, I was immediately entranced. It’s not so much that Zub simply writes a story that has elements of Japanese culture; he has created a new application of Japanese mythology for a modern story that is based on a solid academic foundation. It’s more than just anime, it’s authentic.

The latest iteration of this book sees Rori Lane, half-Japanese and half-Irish, leaving Japan and returning to the land of her father to discover that the supernatural representatives of Ireland are aware of her and her compatriots. There is a new order of Supernatural figures emerging and the Irish mythos are wary.

What I appreciate about this book is the intelligent treatment of the legendary aspects that Zub includes in his writing. The essays that feature in the back of the comics are not only entertaining but incredibly informative. There’s a tremendous amount of knowledge that goes into this book and it needs to be appreciated.

It’s an entertaining and scholarly treatment of legends and I can foresee that more people are going to appreciate it like I have.

DC Comics

The Kamandi Challenge #1

This is a pretty novel idea. It’s a challenge mini-series with each writer of the first series trying to stump the next writer. With Keith Giffen doing the intro and Dale Eaglesham sketching the first issue, you can’t really go wrong. Plus, it’s a contest of sorts – a reality challenge comic for DC creators to test their mettle against each other. Basically, it’s a new way to enjoy comics.

Dan Didio is the brainchild behind this nifty notion and I have to say, I really enjoyed it – and there were a number of reasons.

First, I loved the homage to Jack Kirby and his DC seventies sensation – Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth. It was contemporary genius for its time and I don’t it got enough acclaim in its day. After all, with films like Planet of the Apes, The Omega Man and so forth, the world was considering its demise via weaponized technology. Kamandi was well-placed and Kirby immediately saw the niche for a post-apocalyptic story of his own creation.

There is a retro-vibe to this book that might be lost on today’s audience of readers. The Cold War feeling of impending nuclear holocaust is but a memory to those in my generation, and try explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis or the television series The Day After or describing the feelings those 20th century hallmarks to the millennials today. It is an alien set of concepts.

Still, its alien-ness just might be what just sways them; particularly when you see the range of talent in this book. Dale Eaglesham is no stranger to this column; he is a favourite and his crisp, clean lines are a welcoming delight to any serious comic devotee. His work is seen too infrequently in my opinion. If anyone could make the threat of yet another nuclear holocaust in the ruin of a post-apocalyptic world wholly apparent, it would be him.

I love the re-visiting of characters of Prince Tuftan and Dr. Canus. Dan Abnett is a gifted writer who knows not only to respect the creations of a legendary creator like Jack Kirby, but to also impart his own distinct sense of identity into the characters. It’s a careful balancing act, but Abnett pulls it off with ease and aplomb. It’s a brilliant testament to the work of Kirby and I look forward to seeing the next issue with great anticipation.

Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #6

I liked it.

Yeah – pretty generic comment, I admit, but I have to say, this not only sustained itself as a solid, independent storyline but it also worked really well the regular titles it was meant to support. Both the Justice League and the Suicide Squad titles worked really well with this storyline and there weren’t any inconsistencies, gaffs or any other awkward moments. Joshua Williamson needs to feel a degree of pride here; it’s a great story that has a great sense of longevity while doing its job and supporting the other main titles. He’s the anchor writer here and I found it to be a great book. In fact, I’d be on the look-out for other books by him in the future.

Suicide Squad #10

The humanism apparent in this issue is actually quite poignant. I’m not overly crazy about Guiseppe Cafaro’s art, but that’s subjective and who am I? It’s quite solid but there’s something about it that I can’t exactly identify; like a carelessness every second or third page. If you look for it, you’ll see a lack of definition and it seems somewhat carefree. Still – who am I?

But Rob Williams and Si Spurrier have identified Amanda Waller’s price for being Amanda Waller. She’s lost her family, her identity as a mother and her values. To safeguard the country she has given up her rights to be the mother to her children. When she uses the tools at her disposal – the Suicide Squad, then she immediately identifies the type of person she has become. It’s extremely impactful when her children tell her that they haven’t seen her in two years. Williams and Spurrier have definitely contributed to the identity of Waller in this issue.

Action Comics #972

Huh … a point in time when Lex Luthor can actually believe in Superman. I never thought I’d see the day.

I haven’t really paid much attention to Superman. I mean, I’ve read All-Star Superman and watched the animated specials, but actually read Superman? No – but Rebirth has changed that. In the same movement that’s caused a lot of readers to look at the old stand-by titles, I’ve been caught up in that wash and sure enough, I’ve found something of interest.

The fact that Superman and Lex Luthor can ally with each other really reminds us about the strength of Superman’s character. He’s just being himself but Luthor ascribes his actions to either tactical actions or behaviour that would satisfy the objectives of the current situation. It’s a pretty insightful treatment of both characters by Dan Jurgens – of course, with a creator of his experience, would you expect any less?
Perhaps this should be a welcome reminder to DC Comics? Even though they are in a pretty open-minded attitude right now, why not take it one step further and bring more experienced writers into the fold? After guys like Kurt Busiek or Ty Templeton have a tremendous amount of experience to bear on new directions. This book just emphasizes that point.

IDW Publishing

Star Trek Green Lantern  Stranger Worlds Volume 2 #2

I usually devote more time and attention to Star Trek titles on another site, but suffice it to say, that IDW is making the most out of its Star Trek license. This is also an example of the excellent relationship they have developed with other publishing houses like DC Comics. It is an example of fine collaboration – a literal creative nexus point combining the properties and talents of three dynamic idea factories. If you think about, this comic – while fun and entertaining in its own right – is an example of what other creative companies should be doing with their properties.

But oh wow … how much fun am I having with this title? Somehow Mike Johnson makes the two properties work seamlessly. Kirk completely respects Jordan’s impulsiveness and Carol Ferris’s relationship with Montgomery Scott is completely feasible? Mike has made permutations of the character relationships so possible that I never would have predicted.

So when a fateful villain arrives unexpectedly at the end of the book, released by Atrocitus, the leader of the Red Lanterns of rage, I was completely taken by surprise.

Of course, that particular incarnation of the villain is a tender spot with me, but damn my eyes, if Johnson doesn’t exploit it well for this particular storyline. I need to sit on his shoulder and watch him create. It would be a lesson, that’s for sure.

Marvel Comics

Star Wars #27

Wow – what an incredibly imaginative and unique piece of Star Wars storytelling. Jason Aaron brings his A-game to this property.

There’s a vibe that emanates from this book. Salvador Larroca and Aaron have this wonderful synergy that not only shows off their skills but also brings a new perspective to Yoda. I’ve never been much of a Yoda fan, to be honest; when he was first introduced in Episode V of Star Wars, I found him to be a bit of comic relief and sensationalism. Even his appearance in the preludes did little to dispel that.

But he’s a character who is to have a lot of gravitas because of his rank and age. He is a Master Jedi. To see him investigate a strange occurrence in the Force, to interact with lost, feral children made him come alive in a really new way. Aaron’s gift with dialogue makes this interaction a truly fascinating tale, as re-told via Obi Wan Kenobi and through Luke Skywalker again, through Kenobi’s journal. It’s a very creative way of presenting the story to us as well and also makes these legendary characters more realistic and accessible. This definitely had to be one of the most fun reads for me this week so it gets my honourable mention for sure!

Doctor Strange #16

A diminished Dr. Strange has to fend off Dormammu with Baron Mordo in the background. The story promised too much and in the end, I can’t say I overly enjoyed it, as much as I usually love Jason Aaron’s work.

A decent enough story, but far from the incredibly creative efforts I’m used to seeing from Aaron. Still, everyone deserves to have an off-day. But, Dormammu has to be put down in order for the other threats to be dealt with, like Misery. Eventually though, Aaron will have to contend with Strange regaining his powers at some point. I’m curious enough to see where that will go so I’ll keep reading this book.

It’s interesting how much the Marvel comics are growing to resemble their cinematic counterparts. Eventually it will get to the point where it will be up to comics scholars to mark the historic point of emergence.

Even Jason Aaron isn’t beyond this. His stories are rich and unique, but it’s almost as if there has to be a required “house style” feature of writing comics for Marvel. On a side note, I also think it’s interesting that when it comes to Marvel, the only comics I’m reading from them are by Jason Aaron.

Lots of examples of creative innovation this week, but I’d definitely have to go with DC Comics’ The Kamandi Challenge for my Pick of the Week!

This is a great example of bringing new life to a classic character and making it attractive to a new generation of comic readers. It’s also historical in that it introduces these readers to Jack Kirby and gives them a bit of insight into his creative genius.

I also like that it’s a cavalcade of different talents working on the same book, but with a fun twist that sets their creative imaginations against each other in an entertaining contest. I’m giving Dan Didio props for this idea – it’s definitely the type of creative dynamism that I was talking about from the very beginning. Enlisting incredible talent like Dan Abnett, Keith Giffen and Dale Eaglesham are also excellent decisions.

I love to see creativity emerge in the most unexpected way and Didio really deserves to feel good about this. Comics are fighting to stay relevant in the age of electronic information and a good-natured contest between comic creators is an excellent way of improving their appeal. I think other publishers should jump on this concept.

That’s it for this week. Stay creative.

… Yes, I saw the irony there.

Pick of the Week: The Kamandi Challenge #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.

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