Captain Kirk’s Weekly Comic Review – 06/03/2020

A wise friend of mine just said that he still believes in the power of comics – our new mythology, to teach us the difference between right and wrong; to uphold the standards and ideals that we were taught to keep us on the enlightened path to peace and success. As far back as 1961 when Stan Lee gave us the phrase “with great power, comes great responsibility” (Amazing Fantasy #15) began the tutelage of comic readers who learned about morals, values, and above all, that right must overcome wrong. I learned my ethos from comics, and I’m sure a number of you did too.

The events of the last few days have been … unbelievable. I am taking this chance to say that I am on the side of right. A person is a person based on the dictates of their heart, not on the basis of their skin, their beliefs, their identifications. I hold a person accountable for the wrong that they do and for the right that they accomplish. I defy racism in all its ugly forms. I stand with peaceful protesters and applaud them for their actions because they learned from heroes.

I’m looking for the heroes who do what is right in this week’s comic run. Let’s get to the list and find those characters who inspire us because we surely need them this week.

DC Comics

Shazam #12

I’ve never really given this series a fair shot, to be honest. However, there was something about this story that really appealed to my search for a hero this week.

Issue #12, titled “World’s Finest” is written by Jeff Loveness and drawn by Brandon Peterson, I think this story really captured the essence of Billy Batson. He’s a kid, with great power, and he needs to find a justification for it. The goodness of his heart qualifies him for the talent, but the inexperience of his youth denies him the knowledge he needs to do good in the world.

So, he seeks out a hero to teach him, namely the Batman.

I found this to be a delightfully simple and elegant hero story as Batson learns that it isn’t just super strength and a hyper-resistance to damage that makes a hero. It takes guts, it takes smarts but most importantly, it takes a choice.

I loved the art in this book. The definition, the action and most importantly, how it magnifies the essence of the character that makes the message of this story come through. Peterson really knows how to display character emotion. I particularly loved Captain Marvel/Shazam’s smug expression at the end of the book.

Read it … enjoy it. It’s definitely worth your while this week.

John Constantine: Hellblazer #6

Titled “Quiet”, this issue is written by Si Spurrier and drawn by Aaron Campbell; colours by Jordie Bellaire, I might add, whose career has been on that I’ve been really pleased to see develop in the last few years.

Constantine isn’t a typical hero. I mean, he knows right from wrong, but he’s prepared to do wrong to accomplish right. He’s the quintessential anti-hero and he uses friends, allies and all sorts of contacts to accomplish his goals. However, even though he uses the weapons of the fallen, he’s on the side of the angels … despite how much they may despise him.

He ranks as #3 in my top ten list of favourite characters.

Spurrier does a great job in illuminating all of the fundamental drives in this character: a friend of his calls him in; he absconds his formal knowledge of the magical arts to simply deal with the supernatural forces at work at face level – a good “chin wag”, as he calls it. He also manifests Constantine’s British heritage, which is a difficult thing to employ, as both a source of pride and a reason for why the supernatural creature should exist. In short, it’s a piece of storytelling that projects the character in its truest form, but also becomes relevant for today’s issues.

Aaron Campbell’s work is ephemeral … definitely fits in with the spiritual milieu of the story. The events that happen have to have some degree of paranormal interpretation, and the personifications of hate definitely come out strong in his work.

Hate can be conquered by simple acts of love. It’s so simple that it gets overlooked and discarded as a choice of action. Holding hands, offering a drink, an embrace, or even just the knock on a door with a beer in hand to say: can we talk? That’s what I got form this story. A simple act of compassion is enough in most situations, even in the supernatural realm.

Great story that lives up to the legacy of John Constantine.

Marvel Comics

Avengers of the Wasteland #5

I feel like I’ve neglected this series, but in my own defence, it’s been difficult to read with the minor irritance of a global pandemic.

This issue is the realization of a heroic ideal achieving success.

I know that sounds like a platitude, but I liked the resolution of this story from Ed Brisson and Jonas Scharf. There are choices that the characters in this book have to make. They are the legacies of the real Avengers; they hold heir powers, wear their costumes and use their names but the real mark of a hero is if they are prepared to hold the same ideals as their predecessors.

That’s the same sort of notion that’s going on today. Our grandparents and great-grandparents fought in the bloodiest conflicts the world has ever seen. They were asked to deprive themselves of food, comfort and in my father’s own case, of their homes. However, they never lost hope, or at least steeled themselves to a level of endurance that bordered on nobility.

It’s the same sort of situation in this book. Despite the odds, the inferiority these characters may feel, they still have hopes of the same dreams of peace, right and wrong and that violence does not achieve anything save in defence.

Ed Brisson does a great job in writing these characters who are worthy of this notion. They show it in this story by demonstrating resolve to fight, to defend, and in mercy.

Definitely the issue you want to read right now.

IDW Publishing

Ragnarok: The Breaking of Helheim #5

I’m trying to find a way to type a Norse, Ancient Anglo-Saxon grunt of assent to this title, but without enough mead, it’s proving difficult!

I love Laura Martin’s colours. I have a list of colourists and I have now gotten to the point where I can pick her work out instantly. She’s talented and I can see that.

I’m a Simonson fan from way back. His work was a fundamental part of my waking comic-reading experience and in my later years, is a fundamental part of why I love reading comics today. Simonson manages to evoke heroism out of lost causes in this story and despite his history of success, it’s his love of Norse lore and its application to this story that fuels my admiration.

Thor is a shadow of his former self. But, his devotion to his family, discovering their outcomes and still trying to make sense of the post apocalyptic Nine Realms is his quest. His dedication to the Aesir, the provinces his father was supposed to govern form the basic undercurrents of this story. Thor cannot reverse what has happened, but he can somehow make it right. The discovery of that is what makes this story. even though things have literally gone to hell (in this story), he still tries to make it right.

I don’t want the world to be in this situation – where we are picking up the pieces of the disaster that has gone before. But this is a story of a hero who has hope, and hope is what we need right now.

Star Trek: Year Five #11

Then we come to my quintessential definition of a hero, who has an entire galaxy of obstacles in front of him and still manages to make the decision that we can all agree with. If it’s about loyalty, common sense, and dedication to duty, in my mind the hero who has always defined that has been James T. Kirk.

I know … I’m biased. I was born with the last name of Kirk; all my life I grew up with the nickname of “Captain Kirk” but it was accentuated by the frustration that my name was actually supposed to be “James T. Kirk”.

… It’s a true story. Sit me down in a pub and I’ll gladly share it with you.

But Kirk has always been that hero for me. In this story, we see the return of TOS fan-favourite character Gary Seven – formerly thought to be an ally to the USS Enterprise, those who remember their TOS episodes well enough. However, Gary Seven, and his shapeshifting accomplice, Isis, seem to have greater aspirations in mind than just the sublimation of the Enterprise; he’s out for its destruction.

This is the culmination of what writers, Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly have been working towards for the last eleven issues when we initially saw a shadowy figure hold a gun to Kirk’s head as he sits alone in his command chair on the abandoned bridge of the Enterprise.

After emerging from a coma, from the last issue, Kirk awakes and has to address Spock’s command during his incapacitation. While Kirk, of course, defends his friend’s actions, we also see the Kirk that we know will hold to his ideals despite the fact that he may be somehow reprimanded for the actions of an officer under his command. He will willingly take the responsibility, stand by his friends, and regardless of the odds and situation, will defend his crew and ship to the end.

Stephen Thompson’s art is exemplary. If there’s a weakness for comic art that I have, it’s Star Trek. This is a guy whose work I’d love to have displayed in my office. Crisp, clean and detailed. When reading a franchise-based book, you need an artist with the skills to evoke the visual sense of the original work the book is based on.

This is the Kirk that I have always believed in. Kirk is not a racist, nor is he someone who will willingly obey a superior if the orders are wrong. He accepts and holds true to his friends and to the ideals of the Federation, but he interprets them according to his own moral conscience.

I think Lanzing and Kelly acknowledge this. Even though Kirk is a creature of the 1960’s, he has core values that are borne out of the era of the civil rights movement. Those values are eternal and are so needed in this day and age. We need to have heroes who have such solid adherence to their values.

Heroes are heroic because they achieve something in the service of the greater good with the odds against them.

This comic is my pick of the week. It could be easily accepted as my moniker is “Captain Kirk”, but to be frank, Captain Kirk was always my hero. what we need right now is a hero, and if I were to envision a heroic character to come to our rescue, it’s hard for me to dismiss a figure without his characteristics.

I think this is the hero we need to come to our rescue. Someone with boldness, a clear sense of what is right and wrong, experience in the command seat and above all, someone who has epitomised leadership in its various incarnations.

I can think of an American president who has demonstrated these values, but I’ll leave it up to you to decide who I’m thinking about.

Regardless of who I have in mind, rather than who the current president is, you can see what’s on my mind. In this case, I’m looking for a comic hero to lead us. I fall back on those ideals I read about in comics in my youth – the television shows, science fiction and the fantasy stories that reinforced the ideals of combating ignorance to help people recognize the simple difference of right over wrong.

If you need a list of what is right over wrong, read this and let me define it in terms of values I learned from Star Trek:

  1. Racism is wrong.
  2. Poverty is wrong
  3. Violence is wrong
  4. Intolerance is wrong.
  5. Healthcare is right.
  6. Caring is right.
  7. Upholding governmental/constitutional ideals is right.
  8. Protecting your population is right.

Kirk holds no racial prejudice about his crew’s diversity. In the future of Star Trek, poverty has been eliminated. Violence is not a thought unless in defence of his crew or ship. There is tolerance evinced in the acceptance of the Tholian (“Bright-Eyes”) aboard their ship. The crew’s medical welfare is paramount and dictated by the Chief Medical Officer. Each crew knows that the Federation ideals are paramount, as demonstrated by their acceptance of newcomers. Kirk’s crew is always the first priority in his mind.

That’s the hero I needed to read this new comic book day.

Until next week, my thoughts are with you all.

 

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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.