Captain Kirk’s Weekly Comic Review – 03/01/2017

How do you measure commitment in a comic? To me, it’s a reflection of the level of detail in the character-creation, the word-building or the story’s intricacy. Comic story-telling has a greater level of commitment because of its visual dimension and sometimes the teamwork needed, unless you’re a writer/artist.

But, it’s work I really admire. Let’s take a look at the list for this week and see the variety of commitment in this week’s pulls.

Image Comics

Rat Queens Vol2 #1

I hate to say this, as I was such a devout acolyte of this book in its beginning, but it’s lost its appeal for me.

This is a new cycle for The Rat Queens and while it suggests a new adventure is about to begin, it’s a little dull and fairly predictable in its execution.

I really can’t put my finger on it; perhaps it’s that it’s the same routine in every story arc: the extreme manifestation that it’s female adventurers instead of male adventurers – I mean, we get it, but it’s a little worn by now. But can we just have an adventure without gender identity entering into the story? I really just want to see the characters try to solve quest riddles or solve dungeon puzzles without the issue of ‘girl-power’ issues entering into the plot.

The characters are well-defined in this book but the problem is that the motif is old news. I want this book to succeed, but I just couldn’t get into it this week. Maybe I’m just being reactionary, but I found the allure of this book has gotten a little old. I really am sorry to say that too, because this book is a labour of love but as I’m a die-hard D&D adventurer, I’d rather see swords and sorcery instead of suffrage and solidarity. I hope it picks up.

Royal City #1

New title – thought I’d give it a go.

This is another scripted and drawn work by Jeff Lemire. I’m always eager to showcase the creative works from a fellow Torontonian, I’ve just never been a fan of Lemire’s art. Plus, there’s always the realm of the esoteric in which Lemire tends to embed his stories. Still, I figured I’d give this one a go, out of civic pride and all that.

Lemire has a stop-motion feel to his visual storytelling. When his characters want to make a statement, he devotes an entire frame to the sentence. It’s very halted and imparts a “clunkiness” to the story that makes you feel like you have to focus on the statement regardless of its importance to the storyline. Often, the statement that character makes doesn’t have a lot of bearing on the main plot, so it can be misleading, but Lemire is a multiple published writer and artist with DC, Marvel, Image and various other publishing houses, so who the hell am I to criticize him? But when I read his work, I feel like I’m always being paused for no real reason. Maybe this is just when he’s without an artist co-piloting his stories?

However, there’s a real creepiness to this book that emerges very slowly. When you start reading it, it stealthily sneaks up on you and completely takes you by surprise – a surprise that I wasn’t prepared for, to be honest.

If you’ve ever met Jeff Lemire, it’s actually a surprise how little he wants to talk about his work, yet in this initial first issue, he includes a personal essay about this book. It’s very open and has a vulnerability to it that also took me by surprise. I am not an ardent Lemire fan, but I truly sensed the commitment behind this book and after being creeped out by the end of the book, I think I can endure his art to keep reading this story and actually determine what is so special about Royal City and why this family is so central to its being. If he’s interested, I’d like to sit down with him and get some more insight into this story – after all, he lives down the street from me.

Am I going to continue reading this? Yeah, I think so. I honestly would like to see another artist on it, but the story is enough of a draw that I want to see what happens with the Pike Family. You should too.

Extremity #1

You know, from all aspects and initial appearances, this just looks like a typical sci-fi/fantasy “heavy Metal” knock-off of a story, but when you read the personal essay by the creator, Daniel Warren Johnson, you get a real sense of the viscerality and emotion that went into the creation behind this book. There is a real sense of the creator’s impetus behind this book and while it is easy to dismiss this book as simply as a revenge story, I have to confess that my barbarian Scottish nature is open to this type of tale. After all, if you’re descended from a culture that has a legend about a king attempting a battle eight or nine times after being inspired by a spider in a cave, then revenge pretty much fits into your perception of life.

I admire resolution. I admire a sense of dedication in writing and storytelling and I think that’s what I really got from this book and I wholly support the creator’s initiative in telling his story. I appreciate his resolution and let’s face it: how many comics have I written? No, I admire the sense of honesty behind this book and I look forward to following it to its resolution.

IDW Publishing

Judge Dredd Annual #1

I honestly didn’t want to read this through to its finish. I am a Judge Dredd fan from his very first days and this just seems to completely deviate from the original inception of Dredd as a lawman and is attempting a post-apocalyptic version of Dredd. To be frank, I thought the Mega-City Zero storyline was over by now, much less than putting it into an annual and the other stories just seemed out of character with the Dredd that I’m used to.

Marvel Comics

Dr. Strange #18

In a very short summation: Jason Aaron – good, Chris Bachalo – not a fan. However, Patrick Brown’s cover art was pretty cool to look at; I definitely enjoyed that.

This is a good, old-fashioned revenge story. It was fun to see what Mr. Misery can come up with to torment Dr. Strange, but as I’m not a fan of the re-invented Thor, it seemed like a bit of a contrivance to get her in front of the audience. I’m curious to know about sales numbers on that book, come to think about it.

Star Wars #29

Again … Jason Aaron; one of the most prolific and successful writers out there. You want to talk about commitment, then look no farther than this guy. The other thing that strikes me about him is that he can easily work with a variety of different artists, and in this case, he gets to work on Star Wars with Stuart Immomen. Immomen’s art is always superb but he really does effectively capture Yoda in this book. If you look closely, you can see the age spots and wrinkles on Yoda’s 800 year-old skin or the threadbare fabric of his robe. It’s this attention to detail that adds accent to Aaron’s storytelling.

This is a really entertaining and heartwarming storyline. I enjoy these tales from Obi Wan Kenobi’s journal. we know they are things that happened in the collective past of the Star Warriors, but as they can’t really affect the outcome of the main story, they can’t do much to harm it either! Definitely a lot of fun to read, and I’m pleased that it adds some more Marvel representation to my list!

DC Comics

The Fall and Rise of Captain Atom #3

This is a very engaging title. I’m curious about the re-invention of this original Charleston Comics character to fit the new Rebirth model, but I’m also intrigued by the variety of twists and turns in the story that we’ve seen in only three issues. It’s quite the draw but the human drama aspect of the story is also a bit of a surprise.

You see, I’ve always wrestled with the idea that Nathaniel Adam, a being of immense power, was also subservient to the US Government with only his sense of patriotism and duty as a controlling influence. I just never bought it and always felt that was a flaw in the design of the character that subsequent writers were also limited by.

Cary Bates has an impeccable track record of working with characters that break their previous boundaries. He has done amazing work with Valiant Comics’ Man-o-War XO as well as writing Captain Atom between 1987 and 1991, if I’m not mistaken. If there’s anyone who can redefine this character, it’s Bates. Very enjoyable and definitely worth adding to your pull list as well as going back and picking up the first two issues.

Batman #18

The Bane storyline continues with an epic confrontation between these two legends. Tom King’s comparative storytelling approach is an exceptionally vivid one, particularly mirrored by David Finch’s superior art. This is certainly that is not to be missed, especially when you consider that this is an insight into Bane’s background that has probably never been revealed.

King makes this character his own and while Batman may have the title, it’s Bane who gets our focus in this story. After all, we are talking about the villain who cracked Batman’s spine in two prior to Rebirth– will that happen again? Who knows? But it’s exceptionally important to keep that in mind as the two characters square off against each other, both physically and mentally.

In fact, it’s the mental dimension that really takes foreground attention in this struggle. Batman is more cerebral than Bane, but I like that King manages to weave his background into the confrontation. When the reader gains a sense of Bane’s childhood and his rise to prominence, King then manages to impart a real appreciation of how much force of will Bane is bringing to this struggle. Combined with the past issue’s near-death toll and hostages in this issue, this is more than just simple donnybrook between two comic characters; this is a clash of willpower between two diametrically opposite personalities in every sense of the meaning.

It’s an intense atmosphere as well. Both Bane and Batman are unwilling to back down and this is a case where even Batman’s superiority and strategic mind is challenged. He is obviously shaken and death appears to be around the corner. It’s hard to imagine any sort of positive outcome for the Dark Knight.

… Which is exactly how the reader is supposed to feel. It will take an intense amount of gifted storytelling to bring this to a positive conclusion. On that basis alone, it’s the Pick of the Week – again. This is a story arc that is clearly bound for … hardbound edition and will make an incredible addition to anyone’s library. Mark my words, this is the book that DC will be publishing in an Absolute Edition as soon as they can.

The intensity that King and Finch are delivering in this book is the type of commitment I’m talking about. It’s memorable and fresh in a reader’s memory as soon as the page is turned. The fact that these creators can keep up the same intensity level over a series of months is definitely admirable. Like I said, this has to be on DC’s radar for the next batch of Absolute editions and will be on my order list for sure. Until next time, stay committed.

Pick of the Week: Batman #18

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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