Captain Kirk’s Weekly Comic Review – 07/12/2017

I’m beginning to feel the pangs of comic-con deprivation.

Yup … it’s that time again and, you’d think that I’d have grown accustomed to not being a part of the near-religious fervor that is San Diego Comic-Con, yet after being there last year, I have to say that I now know what I am missing.

California is truly the place to be if you want to do anything related to pretty much everything that I write about.


Let’s get to the list for this week.

Marvel Comics

Before I get into the Marvel selections for this week, I think I need to point out that my Marvel coverage is not a widespread as it could be However, to be fair, that’s Marvel’s fault. Unlike its competition, Marvel does not have a review copy policy to reviewers like me. Now, I don’t know if that applies to any of the larger comic outfits, but I do know that my coverage is not only extended by the site – or sites – that I write for, but also by own social media influence.

Which, I was quite surprised by, to be honest. People are actually reading what I think about comics (pause for background applause) and there’s more than I expected. So, open comment to Marvel: get with the 21st century modality of marketing; your competition is.

Rant over.

Doctor Strange #22

Written by Dennis Hopeless and drawn by Nico Henrichon, I have to say that I think this title is on a bit of an upswell from the last time I read it.

First of all, I am not in love with the notion of Captain America as a secret HYDRA agent. In fact, it immediately turned me off as soon as I heard of it. However, now that I know that it’s an effect of the Cosmic Cube, I’m a bit more taken with the idea. In these trying times for America, the last thing it needs is for one of its icons to fall from grace. Yet, the idea that it is an artificial notion, and not one that is inherent to Captain America, well, I can kinda live with that notion. After all, it’s the essence of hope within a story that keeps the reader going.

Which is ironic that this story is written by a guy named “Hopeless”. With New York surrounded by a Darkforce bubble and Baron Mordo in charge of the city, we see a still-depowered Doctor Strange, along with Ben Urich and Spider-Woman and a surprising ally in the form of the Kingpin of Crime escaping some of Mordo’s minions and trying to find a cache of magical items for the weakened Sorceror Supreme to resist Mordo’s machinations.

There’s a lot of alliteration in this book, and sadly, I think I just contributed to it.

While I think that Hopeless may have be missing some of the nuances of Kingpin’s dialogue, and I am still pining for the days of Strange’s own alliterative incantations, I found I enjoyed this issue more than I thought I would. Henrichon’s art is passable, though it isn’t my favourite, I must confess. But I have to say that this book is getting better.

Star Wars #33

I found Jason Aaron’s story of Luke and Leia marooned on a sea planet’s lonely island to be very reminiscent of the Alan Dean Foster Star Wars novel, “Splinter of the Mind’s Eye”. One of my all-time favourite non-canonical (now) works and one I’m sure that Aaron has come across in his reading.

I have to say that I absolutely loved this story. It had the Foster vibe to it but it also illustrated the deep, subconscious connection shared between Luke and Leia at a time before they became aware of their kinship. Not only do they work well together in terms of survival, but they also plan well and fight well also. It’s a brilliant story and one that shows Aaron’s solid understanding and familiarity with the franchise.

Salvador Larroca’s art is top-notch and needs to be commended for not only its likeness accuracy but also for its photo-realism. It’s simply beautiful and definitely can’t be ignored.

IDW Publishing

Dread Gods #1

This is an interesting and novel offering form Ron Marz and Tom Raney. It gives very little away as to its setting, but in some futuristic location, humanity has the chance to plug into a virtual world and either become or observe the lives of the ancient Greek Gods and their struggles.

While I’m little hesitant to commit to this book on the basis of not having enough information, at the same time, I’m curious to find out more.

I’m going to keep an eye on this one and see how the story progresses.

Micronauts: Wrath of Karza #3

It’s a tie-in to all the other titles that IDW publishes within the Hasbro Universe! My God, it’s like the toys of my childhood have all united to form a story that only my 12-year-old self could understand – or write!

Though, the one thing that stands out in this book is the fact that Cullen Bunn and Jimmy Johnston have managed to create a working story out of all of the Micronauts playkits that I used to have. I love the eclectic and surprising nature of this book and how these writers manage to weave the themes of the toys into an entertaining story with unexpected twists.

Andrew Griffith and Ron Joseph share credit on this book and I have to say that I enjoy the art in this comic.

Wait until you see who the guest-stars are at the end of the issue!

Image Comics

Rose #4

Things are really beginning to heat up with Meredith Finch’s classic swords and sorcery tale about the last of the guardians of a magical land struggling to find her identity and hopefully bring down an evil queen.

In this issue, Rose feels the connection to her khat, Thorne as he has emerged from his hiding place. Her powers have not yet fully awakened and she needs to be reunited with Thorne for them to manifest. However, the Queen’s evil minions are at her heels and the question is: will she and Thorne finally be united?

Finch describes her writing style as a “slow burn”. It’s true, but my feeling in this is: what’s the rush? I enjoy seeing characters develop and the more we see of them, we greater our familiarity with them. I enjoy classic fantasy and clearly, so does Finch. I think illustrated fantasy is in short supply (though for some reason, Image is probably the leading publisher with fantasy titles to its name) and I think we need more of it.

Ig Guara’s art is lovely. It’s evocative and his style clearly fits the milieu. Ig broke his drawing arm some time back. He just sent me a note to say this week that it is all healed and he’s ready to go! I’m sure he’ll be drawing around the clock to catch up with the issues that Finch has scripted in his recovery, but I’m looking forward to more of this book as the story unfolds. In fact, I can’t wait for the hardcover.

Divided States of Hysteria #2

Somehow, DSOH#1 slipped past me last month. I am annoyed by this because this promises to be one of Howard Chaykin’s most daring stories.

Now, Chaykin will never read this, because he does not care to read anything about him, either positive or negative, on the Internet. Which, of course, gives me a great deal of latitude in what I can actually say about this book without fear of recrimination.

Have you ever spoken with Chaykin? I have on several occasions and it is one of the things I look forward to in going to a comic-con. You see, Chaykin has no sense of filter and he’s the type of person you accept at face value and not take anything he says personally. I mean, this is a guy who refused to sign my Star Wars Omnibus #1 (over $100 and I carried it from Toronto to San Diego last year) because he hated the cover. He’s an event unto himself and his opinions, while extreme in some cases, are damned entertaining.

And so is this book. Of course, #1 drew a great deal of controversy with its graphic cover, but again, that was deliberate. Now that has buzz has gone away, people can focus on the story and what it posits: the absolute vulnerability and meltdown of the USA, and if there’s anything Americans cannot abide, it is a demonstrated sense of vulnerability.

America is a creature that lives in a culture of fear and Chaykin has simply peeled away the outer layer of skin that covers that culture and revealed it for the world to see. It’s a brilliant premise – America reeling from a catastrophic terrorist attack on a level that can only be imagined and now needs its worst to preserve it from more terror. Chaykin knows what he’s doing, in that he taps American nationally repressed fears as well as its own insecurity and turns around to the reader and says: “don’t buy my book”.

If anything, Chaykin is bold and I can’t help but respect him for it.

DC Comics

Action Comics #983

Revenge is certainly a word shouted in the cold.

When the match-up between the Superman Revenge Squad and Superman’s assortment of allies (though I have to confess to a pure and unfettered distaste for the Hong Kong Super-Man) is set up by writer Dan Jurgens and artist Viktor Bogdanovic, the battleground of the Fortress of Solitude in the cold Artic is completely apropos.

A great battle book in which we see the tactical genius of General Zod take the premier position on stage while Superman is dealing with his blindness. The fact that he has allies is definitely well-placed in this story but the ending left me with a definitive and grave sense of uncertainty as to the future! A perfect and plausible cliff-hanger that is highlighted by the fact that Superman’s family is also at risk during this conflict. It’s an exciting story to read!

Detective Comics #960

As a student of History, I love it when comic writers decide to insert pseudo-religious themes into their stories, and the idea of Azrael as an angelic servitor in the Order of St. Dumas fills me with an inquisitive glee.

James Tynion IV … again. I mean, seriously, what is it with the relationship between Batman books and great writers?

In this book, we see a bit of personal history between Zatanna and Bruce Wayne. It’s cool to see that Zatanna had a crush on the young Wayne, but what’s even more cool is to see how that relationship has grown into one that the older Batman can exploit.

Historical backstory is just as cool to invent as a new story altogether. When writers create new history that is completely in tune with the nature of the character, it can create completely new story angles for other writers. When Tynion inserted this little episode of history between Batman and Zatanna, it filled me with a completely new perspective on Batman’s development. Of course he needed to know about magician’s tricks from the great John Zatara! He was building a life of study to become the greatest detective in the world! This is the type of backstory that not only lends itself to the immediate story at hand but to the character in perpetuity.

Plus, this was the first time I’ve ever seen Alvaro Martinez’s work and I was completely blown away by it. Absolutely lovely and this is an artist who I would love to request a commission from, should he ever find his way to a convention where I’ll be at!

Dark Days: The Casting #1

Wow – DC has pulled out all the stops for this prelude book to the much-anticipated METAL Event that is in the works. Just the credits list on this book alone should fill you with nothing but the greatest of thrill-shivers before you even turn the pages!

For writing duty, you have none other than James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder, but on art, you have Jim Lee, Andy Kubert and John Romita Jr. Klaus Janson, Danny Miki and Scott Williams perform the inking – it’s a cavalcade of quality in one book and that alone should make you want to pick it up.

It’s the connections that make this book such an entertaining read. The way that Tynion and Snyder manage to weave all the various origin stories of notable heroes into the lives of different immortals who are influenced by the eight and ninth metals – it’s quite a feat of literary legerdemain to reimagine these things, not just from the perspective maintaining the integrity of a good story, but also within the confines of the DC Rebirth.

We’re seeing a real transcendence in DC Comics here. It just isn’t a re-invention the DC Universe as we’ve seen, but a fundamental change in the publishing direction of the entire company that makes comic not just relevant to the 21st century but relatable as well.

With as much history as I do in the DC Universe, I can see the connections and I marvel (Heh – no pun intended) at the way that Snyder and Tynion have deftly intersected all the relevant elements from the heroes in this book into a coherent and compelling story that demands that any serious comics reader make sure she knows her crap. It’s amazingly complete, but even if you don’t have a complete knowledge of the DC Universe from the last thirty years (okay – who has the “Who’s Who in the DC Universe?” complete run still in sealed bags? Yeah – this guy.), this is still a story that you can sink your teeth into and come away wanting for more.

… And the more is Metal.

… And that’s why it’s the pick of the week for this week’s round-up! What an amazing convergence of talent, lore and artistry. DC has really got its act together on this event and I am so whole-heartedly looking forward to its arrival.

But, it’ll be from Toronto. If you’re going to Comic-Con – heh, any Comic-Con, do me a favour and make sure you really appreciate it! Until next week!

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.