Captain Kirk’s Weekly Comic Review – 02/28/2018

It’s important to know who’s there for you, and likewise, to let those people in your lives that you are there for them.

Relationships are not only clearly important in life, but they are key in writing a successful comic. The chemistry between characters is of paramount importance in order to keep the reader coming back every month to her LCS and pick that comic up again. It’s necessary for vibrant dialogue and essential in conveying a sense of believability in the characters.

I think that’s why a lot of novelists switch to writing comics. In my humble opinion, realistic dialogue is a lot easier to achieve in comics. There isn’t as much exposition to communicate the characters’ mindsets and the visual aspect of comics goes far in communicating subtext, emotionality and expression that isn’t strictly reliant on a novelist’s need to create description.

So, I’m looking at the importance of relationships. Let’s get to the list and see what we can find this week.

Image Comics

Rat Queens #8

The definitive All-Girl Adventurer D&D title. Leader of the party, Hannah, finds herself imprisoned after being convicted of a cataclysmic offense that spells the death of countless of innocents. Her incarceration only serves to underline the sense of abandonment she feels. Lost in a dungeon whose keepers seek to rehabilitate her only heightens her chaotic nature as she typically offers the middle-finger to the society that she wronged yet feels slighted by.

But she’s really raging against her friends.

Kurtis Wiebe and Owen Gieni write and illustrate this issue, titled, well, it doesn’t have a title. While it effectively captures the spirit of a D&D team, I don’t find it representative of a typical D&D team. It’s clearly meant to offset the traditional notion that only guys play D&D, and I totally buy into that. But sometimes, I find that this message gets a little too preachy sometimes and the characters’ wild and reckless nature is a little forced and overdone.

I love Hannah’s impetuous nature, but in this issue, it clearly gets the better of her causing the uncounted deaths of citizens of the nearby town. It’s hard to find any empathy or understanding of this character when her self-destructive nature seems to be the consistent theme of this book No wonder her friends turned their backs on her. Maybe we’ll see some change in this story.

Rednecks #10

There’s a sense of loyalty in Donny Cates’ presentations of the vampires of the Deep South. While they may claim ancient ancestral vampire lore is the fundamental glue that bonds them together, it really is a sense of twisted honour that can only be found in the backwoods of Hick Country, USA. Rednecks – the usual variety – may be uncouth and uncivilized but they have an unwritten code that they adhere to and those who don’t face being ostracized or shunned by their society.

This isn’t so much a vampire story, but more a dramatic reflection of this society. It’s hard to overlook the supernatural element in this comic, but for me, this is more of a case of culture clash – with fangs.

DC Comics

The Terrifics #1

Well, this is an unlikely band of misfits to form a team but I have to say, in the wake of Dark Knights: Metal, it’s a good one.

I like the easy give and take between Mr. Terrific and Metamorpho, but joined with Plastic Man, adds a level of humour that makes for an entertaining story. An unlikely combination but I’ve always liked Mr. Terrific, Metamorpho and Plastic Man. This book is like a home for lost superheroes and that’s pretty much what these guys are. The unexpected addition of fourth member, Phantom Girl is also a nice touch. It’s interesting how she manages to turn up unexpectedly in various stories. I remember when she showed up in the L.E.G.I.O.N. books in the 90’s. Here she is now and these four function as an effectively entertaining team.

I guess there’s a sense of fraternity amongst misfits.

The Silencer #2

Another family title. The Silencer has found herself out of retirement and having to lie to her family about her past history while fending off violent attacks from previous colleagues or villains. The bottom line is: what would you do to preserve your family and your better way of life?

It’s a good thing. The juxtapositioning of family life and secret super-powered mercenary work are completely oppositional but carefully illustrates the Silencer’s motivation. It’s a relatively simple premise from John Romita Jr. and Dan Abnett but one that definitely fits within the context of relationships and shows how easy it is to make a story out of developing them.

The Motherlands #2

Definitely one of the weirdest sci-fi environments I’ve seen in a long time. This story from Si Spurrier and guest artist, Stephen Byrne, really pushes the creative limits of extra-dimensional concepts. Set in the milieu of a strained relationship between mother and daughter bounty hunters hunting a wayward son, it’s a great idea to see how one reconciles a distant and unsupportive parent with the adult he or she has become and how this compares to their present-day relationship. I love stories with this sort of element but to see it in really cool sci-fi setting just makes me want to follow it more.

This style of storytelling reminds me of the 1980’s Vertigo approach from DC back in the late 1980’s. though it isn’t an anthology, the characters are very similar. They’re offbeat, don’t fit into the regular DC Continuum and definitely eye-catching.

Action Comics #998

A father and son team – except this time, the relationship is on the other side. Yup – who would have thought that General Zod would have had a son just as bad as him? Well, Dan Jurgens did. To be honest, I like to see the father-and-son motif on the side of taking over the galaxy. It’s refreshing to see that evil can appreciate family as well as the next decent superhero.

But I also like that two houses are also warring with each other – the House of El is being attacked by the House of Zod and the Kryptonian rivalries that were present thousands of years ago before Krypton was destroyed have still managed to survive. When you think about it, General Zod is not only Superman’s enemy, he’s also his father’s. What sort of hatred can not only survive the destruction of a planet light years and a historical epoch away, but also extend itself down the generations? Zod has lasted this long, which says something about the everlasting nature of evil in this existence.

Whoa … that was deep. Too bad that villainy overrules all.

I loved Will Conrad’s art. I’m not overly familiar with his work; all I know is that I enjoyed it immensely.

But the family hatred aside, I have to say that Jurgens’ portrayal of the loyalty that Booster Gold has for Superman – even to the point of violating one of the rules that he forbade Superman from observing – says a lot about the relationships we choose to develop instead of what nature puts upon us. This is good, believable relationship building.

The Hellblazer #19

This is the start of the arc titled “The Good Old Days”. Nothing piques my curiousity more than a retrospective; especially into a history as rich and exciting as John Constantine’s. Let’s face it: this guy’s got a history that would entertain us for years. Just make sure there’s a good bar and plenty of whiskey. If there was ever a guy who could destroy a good relationship, it’s this wanker.

First off: I can’t say I was a fan of Davide Fabri’s art stylings. It was a little too blockish for my tastes and while I’m sure the guy’s work is appealing to many, it just didn’t do it for me.

But Tim Seeley’s appreciation of detail – right down to Constantine knowing the name and backstory of one of the most eccentric vampires to chase a girl in London’s dark alleys is downright respectable.

The backstory in this is rich. Seeley digs down in to Constantine’s bastard soil and delivers us a deliciously sorrowful tale of the evil that this magician has done for the sake of the good. I loved every page of this and it reminded me of when the Hellblazer was REALLY good.

Basic magic, exorcism, famous priests and then a surprise appearance from a novel new take on a previously established superhero – I have to say: I really enjoyed this issue and it’s worth picking up.

Marvel Comics

Doctor Strange #386

Donny Cates rides again.

Part one of the story arc titled “Bleeding Neon” from Donny Cates. Pencilled by Niko Henrichon – whose work didn’t really send me – this is a story that looks at professional relationships. Let’s face it, recently having his status of “Sorceror Supreme” returned to him, Stephen Strange has encountered all sorts of beings in his career, including the dread Satan-wannabe, Mephisto.

With Las Vegas under his spell (and a clear and shameless tie-in to the mini-series, Damnation), Mephisto is the guy that you don’t want to encounter in your work and unfortunately for Strange, he’s that guy. Mephisto is a jerk, plain and simple, but he has virtually unlimited power of the nether regions at his disposal and now he seeks to extend that influence into Earth.

Strange realizes his responsibility in this and has to confront him. Does he like doing it? No. but that’s Donny Cates’ approach to this character: Stephen Strange is no longer a metaphysical being as he was prior to the 2000’s. Now he’s a fallible human being with a massive ego and more humanity that was previously attributed to him. He has humour, senses irony and uses sarcasm as a primary interface for communication. Sometimes he’s a jerk and the fact that he lost the mantle of “Sorceror Supreme” but managed to regain it just shows how fallible he can be. It’s a continuous struggle of humanity versus cosmic awareness and this book not only illustrates the familiarity Strange has with denizens of the other planes, but also his own humanity.

… Can’t say I liked the art, but loved the writing.

Invincible Iron Man #597

Brian Michael Bendis: you know he’s over at DC, right? One of his final rides, and this one still includes the involvement of his biological mother.

Given Bendis’s own family situation, the influence of adoption is clear, but I have to say, I don’t know if it’s good for the legend of Tony Stark. After all, Howard stark was a rebel and a genius inventor, it’s in Tony’s blood. But whether nature or nurture rules out, well, I guess that’s up to the individual reader. I, for one, can’t say I like the retcon.

Also, as an educator, I also am uncomfortable with the fact that while MIT might welcome Riri back and say that all her work is her own and they’ll be happy to sign it back over to her -yeah, I don’t believe that at all. So, this storyline doesn’t ring true with me. Hey – professional relationships, and this is an area where I feel pretty much an expert in, I can see the foreshadowing a mile away.

While I love the fact that Madison Jeffries is making an appearance in this issue, I wasn’t aware that Tony had a brother named Arno. Did I miss something?

There are a lot of relationships in this issue: Mary Jane Watson as the new loyal Girl Friday; the barely referenced biological mother, Riri as the unacknowledged heir to Stark Tech (which I heartily disagree with) and the fact that now Doctor Doom is claiming the title of Iron Man. Too many relationships and too much focus on extraneous ideas. Doctor Doom is NOT Iron Man and really, neither is Riri Williams. Yes, I know she’s Ironheart, but can we bring the focus back to Tony Stark? I know he’s missing, but this issue was about everything BUT Tony Stark and was thoroughly unenjoyable. Let’s wrap this up, people.

Moon Knight #192

Love Jacen Burrows art and the fact that Marc Spector has to deal with the reconciliation of his family. Wow – so poignant and such a visceral background to a story.

Marc now had to deal with the fact that he has a family. Literally, a dependant with the mother of his child kidnapped. I like how Max Bemis manages to integrate care of a young child into the weird, twisted cranium that is Marc Spector’s head.

But the extension of the conflict to the … metaphysical (?) level was a little confusing. I see the strained relationship between Khonshu and Ra but fail to see how it gets in the way of Spector defeating Ra’s own champion when it involves nothing but fantasy.

Yeah – I wasn’t too keen on this one, but I am hoping that everything works out for that little daughter that Spector didn’t know he had.

Legion #2

It’s difficult to find some degree of empathy for a character like David Haller who is so seriously flawed that he has to deal with his own internal demons before he can look outside. This isn’t much of a hero if he can’t control his internal demons and needs to find a garden-variety psychologist to help him deal with them.

Peter Milligan and Wilfredo Torres have been handed the harsh task of reconciling this character to the heroic world and unless they can get this psychologist character to help David Haller to conquer the internal demons of multiple personality disorder, he really isn’t going to be a successful character that people are going to want to buy into.

David Haller is the son of Charles Xavier and it’s this loyalty to that epic Marvel character that is going to want to make readers pick up this book. Unless Haller can prove himself worthy of reading though, it is going to be a touch sell. I hope that they can make this character worthy of being a comic hero.

Lockjaw #1

As a diehard reader of Marvel comics from the seventies, I never really saw Lockjaw as a character worthy of deserving his own comic. I mean, he’s the Inhuman royal family’s pet, for God’s sake; nothing more than a steroidal bulldog with teleportation powers and an overblown sense of protectiveness.

Look, I’m in my forties – I get to play “grumpy old man” every now and then.

I fail to see the overwhelming cuteness I was expecting with this issue. It’s not like I’m NOT (ick … double negative) a fan of Lockjaw, but this comic seemed to revolve around the hapless hero known as D-Man, who’s hit rock bottom and is now subject to the pities of his former sister-in-law and his elderly neighbour, who has her own thirty-year old bulldog.

Hmm … coincidence?

I just had a hard time getting into the first issue of a book that signaled cuteness. Sigh – the relationship of pets and their owners can be so convoluted.

All-New Wolverine #31

Okay – I am not a big fan of Laura Kinney replacing one of my all-time favourite super-heroes, and more so when this clone has a younger clone of her own.

But I couldn’t stop laughing, reading this book! For that and the weird sort of positive relationships present in this story makes it the Pick of the Week.

The unlikely relationship between Laura’s clone, Gabby (aka: Honey Badger), her pet wolverine, Jonathan and the Merc with the Mouth, Deadpool, is a combination of relationship chemistry that I never would have taken as hilarious material but Tom Taylor pulls together a child’s story of animal revenge that is laced with humour and though this is expected from Deadpool, I like that he isn’t so over the top and that a lot of the humour is from Gabby – or even the wolverine for that measure.

But the relationship factor is strong in this issue, which is why it’s my pick of the week. It’s the note I was looking for this week, and there’s friendship, pet ownership, family and yeah, even a sense of historical legacy, while might be misguided, is still difficult to resist.

This book brought me a load of happiness, relevance and on a Wednesday, that’s kinda important! Especially when it has to do with the mindset of a child just trying to figure out what’s right or wrong. The fact that Deadpool can immediately graft to this concept just adds to the innocent sense of justice that’s present in this story.

It’s fun. It reminds us of the importance of those relationships and the loyalty to those relationships in our lives. Hey – what can be more relevant and fun, especially on Wednesday – aka, the hump of the week?

Catch you next time, loyal readers!

Pick of the Week: All-New Wolverine #31

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.