Captain Kirk’s Weekly Comic Review – 02/21/2018

I hate having to do things I have to do. But it’s a necessary part of life, and let’s face it, we all have tasks that require us to grit our teeth, roll up our sleeves and just get ‘em done.

We see that sense of the imperative in comics, but on a far more glamorous and exciting level than that of our own mundane, dreary lives. We also don’t have to experience the stress and emotionality that goes along with the necessity of completing work of that nature. Also, the stakes seem to be more valuable and yeah, sometimes the work is its own reward. So, this week’s list looks at the idea of just getting sh*t done, because if our heroes don’t, then why should we?

Let’s get to the list.

Image Comics

Infidel #1

Damn terrifying.

I have to read this book because it’s my job, but damn my eyes if reading this story didn’t give me goosebumps and shivers in the process.

What an astonishingly good debut from Pornsak Pichetshote. It’s a story that enlists general and specific fear in the forms of the supernatural and racial prejudice. When a Muslim woman moves into a building that already has a frightening reputation, she soon learns that the xenophobia her neighbours have is fuel for the restless spirits that also dwell there.

Aaron Campbell provides the art that also reinforces the shaky and unnerving feeling one gets when reading this book. As one who already finds the notion of racism disturbing, having it attached to a supernatural element is more than enough to send me screaming into the night. Definitely a book worth picking up.

Marvel Comics

Defenders #10

These are the sleeve-rolling stalwarts I was thinking of when trying to imagine the heroic way of working for a living. Justice on the streets, calling in favours or just simply paying attention to the still, small voice in side your head that manages to overpower your own base instincts and simply do the right thing.

Sometimes, despite its diminutive nature, it’s the voice that overpowers us. The right thing to do is not diminished by the feeling; in fact, it only makes it more valuable by its precious nature.

In this story from Brian Michael Bendis – this final story nonetheless – our heroes actually get thanked for the job that they do.

Moreover, as the Defenders finish their story in this book, it ends with the promise of its continuation in other pages elsewhere.

It makes sense, of course. Bendis is off to other pastures with DC Comics and there is already a plethora of titles with these characters. So, this is more of a consolidation than an ending. It’s a reflection that the job needs to get done with the new “Heroes for Hire” moniker in a franchise operation that will obviously rear its presence in these other titles.

Yet, it was a great finish to this title with the sense of shared camaraderie involved in completing the work. Pick it up and see what I mean. I think you’ll enjoy the ending.

X-Men Gold #22

The X-Men haven’t been so enjoyable for me in a long time. I truly appreciate Marc Guggenheim’s approach to these perennial characters. His job is to understand them and restore them to the level of fascination they held in their heyday of the 1980’s. It’s a job he clearly takes very seriously and performs extremely well.

Even Psylocke’s original costume gets a reprise in this book and even though I hated its gossamer pinkishness, I was still tickled … pink (sigh) to see it in its resplendent softness.

But Guggenheim is that rarest of Marvel writers who understands the value of continuity, holds it in trust and looks for ways in which to tell new stories with it that don’t devalue its historicity. He’s a careful writer and I truly respect the careful way in which he treats this franchise.

The return and re-valuing of Mesmero is simply brilliant. Back in the sixties and seventies he was nothing but a hypnotist. But Guggenheim has souped up his powers (along with the expected development of other writers’ contributions) to make him a master villain worthy of the X-Men. Along with the newly defined Avalanche and Pyro in a rebirth of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, they find themselves snared in a carefully scripted trap that brings the X-Men back down to Earth.

It’s funny, but even though we want our heroes to be victorious, we also want to see them struggle. The fight has to be worthy of their desire to overcome the opposition. It’s like good works are their own reward and we see that ethic in Guggenheim’s presentation of these characters.

“Brotherhood” Part Two is a wonderful read, excellently pencilled by Diego Bernard and a return to those X-Men values that fans love. Good work, gentlemen.

DC Comics

Batman #41

This is the type of job that Batman hates: the one that only he can do.

I am staggered by how Tom King almost effortlessly allows Poison Ivy to pounce on us unexpectedly. It’s a simple device of a story that belies the hours of stress and worry that went into creating it. Poison Ivy is a glorious villainess. Batman and Catwoman start out at an extreme disadvantage. In this story, not only does she already have everything, including all 7.6 billion people in the world, but that includes all of Bruce Wayne’s friends and … secrets.

Mikel Janin’s art is superb in communicating Ivy’s ethereal beauty, connected to the Green in a deeply spiritual way. I’ve always had a weakness for redheads, but in this case, Janin makes Ivy a figure the whole world can fall for.

However, Part One of “Everyone Loves Ivy” is a sneak attack of a story that heightens anxiety and ramps up the necessity factor in Batman and Catwoman’s day. This will be a fun one for readers to follow.

Superman #41

Look … up in the sky. It’s a bird, it’s a plane – it’s … a planet that is okay with its own destruction and Superman not doing anything about it.

Well, given the fact that this is a job that nobody will thank Superman for, I’m okay with him and Super-Boy taking off and leaving the planet to its own eventual outcome. In Part Two of “Last Days”, James Robinson presents us with the idea that this is a planet that engulfed in religious zealotry in that its death is acceptable to the majority of the population.

So why doesn’t Superman just leave? Because one of these people wants to preserve his species in a variant of Superman’s origin. It’s definitely a task that not only Superman has to do, he can’t ignore.

This is a deceptively clever story. Just when you think it would be about protecting a planet’s population from a fate that would have emotional resonance for Superman, it’s actually about the pervasive nature of religion and when it challenges our sense of social obligation – and challenging religion is a job no-one wants to take on but sometimes has to be done.

Wonder Woman / Conan #6 (of 6) – (with Dark Horse Publishing)

Aaron Lopresti’s artwork is an absolutely stunning delight. Clearly, it’s not just a task for this guy; it’s a labour of love.

Gail Simone knows fantasy, and given that she knows these characters equally well, it’s a match made in … a time long ago, known only to the dustiest of archivists who dwelt in halls surrounded by tablets and scrolls long-forgotten to humankind.

Sorry, I got caught up in the tone of the book.

It’s a fantastic ending to a glorious tale of legend. This is the type of job I love: reading exceptional fiction in this particular medium. I envy Gail Simone for the grandeur of her language but the ease with which she writes belies the difficulty of her task. She is, simply, a sorceress who transforms work into fun.

Now THAT’S a super-power.

… and that makes this book, truly the Pick of the Week.

I’d like to take this chance to thank Gail for the gift of her words. Though this book is for sale and this is how she makes her living, wordcraft, like any other form of artistry is a work that is wholly undervalued in our society. Yet the people who toil at their laptops, etching stories for our amusement, need to do this work. It is as necessary as breathing. Though it may seem odd to thank someone for doing something that only comes naturally to them, it is a privilege to witness the act in motion.

I like to see a job well done, but I love to see a comic done well even more.

See you next week.

Pick of the Week: Wonder Woman/Conan #6

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.