Captain Kirk’s Weekly Comic Review – 08/08/2018

As I head to another comic convention (Fan Expo Boston), I forget how much of a business this all is.

Sometimes, it’s an escape into Fantasyland, but there are real-life considerations that impact both fans and creators alike, and usually it falls in the grey area that lies between both of these parties: the organizers.

As a writer, I get to travel to all three of these domains. I’m a fan boy who knows his material; I’m a professional who knows that there’s a job that needs to be done, but I also see the effort and energy it takes to get audience and creator together. Sometimes there is disappointment and other times there is pure, unadulterated bliss.

I have my own excitement – and my own disappointments. But it’s because whereas each of these folks have their one job to do, I take on three. I am audience, creator and organizer in one middle-aged package.

It’s a business alright, and my job is to be aware of it in all of its various facets.

Let’s get to the list for this week.

DC Comics

The Sandman Universe #1

One has to wrestle between the joy of re-reading Neil Gaiman’s Sandman in a new incarnation and the fear of being mired in the throes of nostalgia at the appearance of this title. While I’m very happy to see the Sandman make a triumphant return to the hallowed halls of Comic-dom, I need to ask the sadly unpopular question, will it make the splash that DC is hoping it will make?

I think The Sandman was the best comic to come out of the late 80’s, early 90’s. It definitely set the tone of comics going into the 90’s and Gaiman was the new English darling after Alan Moore made his dramatic split with DC.

We are re-introduced to the bulk of the supporting characters in this issue. Dream is missing and his realm is fracturing. It’s up to the supporting cast of Lucien, Cain, Abel and others to keep the realm from further disintegrating until their master can return. Matthew the Raven is sent out to locate him, and we are given a birds-eye refresher tour of the realm in his search. However, when Matthew fails to return with Dream, then we learn that something is not right within the kingdom of the Dreaming.

The Sandman was designed to be something new in the comic medium in 1989. Readers were given an esoteric and exotic view of the metaphysics behind sleep. Metaphor and symbolism were highly utilized by Gaiman in his presentation of the Sandman. It was experimental for its time and I just don’t know if the book’s charm can succeed in the jaded comic universe dominated by Millennial readers who are used to this approach. It won’t be anything new for them; in fact, it’ll be pretty standard faire.

Still, I enjoyed it. I mean, why not? For me, this is a trip down memory lane.

Hawkman #3

Hawkman has become my new pleasure from DC Comics.

I have to say that I’m enjoying the extended paradigm of not only reincarnating Carter Hall (Katar Hol – whatever you want to call him) across time, but now across space. This makes Hawkman a more cosmic character who now has a greater range of story opportunities open to him. It’s a writer’s treasure box that holds a promise of different story twists on a traditional, staple character.

Bryan Hitch and Robert Venditti have a winning story with this one. Carter Hall also gets to visit these previous incarnations of himself through time, so it’s a new dimension in exploring one’s past history when you also get to interact with your prior selves.

Seeing Hawkman take on a tyrannosaurus rex in the first few panels though is a great way for any comic to begin. Dinosaurs always make a story better.

Image Comics

Hey Kids! Comics! #1

Howard Chaykin – blunt as usual, pulls no punches in this deliciously ironic examination of the literal underbelly of the beast that is the comics publishing industry.

In all honesty, this is probably the driest subject material that Howard could have chosen to build a story around, yet, with contemporary books like Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story orbiting within the zeitgeist, this is actually a fascinating, relevant albeit hardbitten version of American comics history.

While the sequence of the story may seemingly jump wildly from decade to decade, this is a compelling look at the character of those in the industry as determined by the customs of the time, social morales, and the callous core of publishing that limited the artistic expression of the medium.

Comics were aimed at any market that would buy them and this unholy capitalism was the only light in which this medium could grow.

However, by the time the 21st century rolled around, the expanse of the audience grew to include the saps who grew up with comics as their most readily accessible art form. Regardless of its shape, art speaks to truth, and that’s what Chaykin is known for, though he will address said truth through a blustering megaphone and then proceed to use it as a bludgeoning instrument to ensure that you get the point.

The characters in this story are caricatures of famous industry characters. One may recognize a “Stan Kirby” or a “Jack Lee”, if you catch my drift. The challenge for any serious comics historian is to match the characters up with their historical counterpart. It’s hardly subtle, but it is definitely fun to read. But the decades-old recognition from creators who disregarded their own work as something simply needed to pay the bills now find themselves surrounded by the younger generations whose lives were permeated by this culture are now realizing its value. But the challenge for them is to understand how they can control it again.

Chaykin is a satirist who is definitely ungentle in his approach. I, for one, have always enjoyed his work. Sometimes society needs a loud person who will tell it as it is, and in this case, Chaykin’s shotgun storytelling definitely finds its mark on the reader. This book has the makings of another fine Chaykin masterpiece.

IDW Publishing

Dungeons & Dragons: Evil at Baldur’s Gate #4

Always fun. I like seeing Jim Zub write about Dungeons & Dragons. He enjoys the medium and I think he does his best storytelling here. Given that D&D is making a huge impact upon the Millenial Market, then this is something he definitely needs to foster more.

But who couldn’t love Minsc and Boo?

It’s a “feel-good” D&D story with post-Ravenloft ramifications. When one of the adventurers is infected with lycanthropy, it’s up to the other members of her party to come to her aid and somehow remove her of the beast within her.

Ramon Bachs provides the art for this book and his art is new to me. I have to say that I enjoyed it immensely; it was crisp, clean and straightforward.

Fun story. Good book.

Marvel Comics

Fantastic Four #1

A lot of hype over this story from Dan Slott and others. It’s a three-story issue, but I think the most important one to focus on is the first story “Signal in the Sky”.

It’s the comic’s first issue, so I don’t think it’s a spoiler if I talk about the return of the Fantastic Four. Of course, the mystery of how Slott engineers this triumphant return is the fun of reading the book, so I’ll keep that to myself.

Sara Pichelli’s work is amazing in this story. Simone Bianchi provides art for the second stary, but it’s Pinchelli’s art that really finds ground with me. It has a degree of hope in it and that’s what we need for the return of the long-lost FF.

I think the overwhelming aspect of this book is its emotional intensity. I don’t think I realized until this moment of how much readers have missed Marvel’s First Family. I found myself very emotionally touched by this book. I think the Marvel Two-In-One issues that preceded this book had a lot to do with this feeling, but it felt good to see the return of the Fantastic Four.

If you’ve ever met Dan Slott, he’s a very warm and sociable guy. He’s clearly one of those folks who you’d tag as “the nice dude” and you can feel the emotionality he put into this story. I got that very clearly and I think you will too. I mean, the bond between Johnny and Ben really came through in this book and it was refreshing to see them getting closer as opposed to constantly bickering.

Did they reveal enough? No … I think more could have been revealed, particularly in the first issue. But that’s the Shahrazad principle at play, right? Gotta keep you coming back for more.

Old Man Logan #45

Again, Ed Brisson strikes a real chord with those loyal Wolverine fans as the older version of Logan still tries to do the right thing, despite his crippling age.

Bullseye is definitely rabid in this story. In fact, he seems even more crazy than in previous other renderings and I’ll be the first to admit that I liked it. I’m not one for change, and while Bullseye is definitely a sociopath, Brisson makes him manic on a near par with the Joker. Of course, the only difference with Bullseye is that he actually has a superpower, which makes him a more dangerous threat.

Hey, crazy with a gun and henchmen is one thing, crazy with superpowers is another.

But it’s about Old Man Logan who still pushes himself to do the right thing despite the odds stacked against him. I think this book has a real X-Men vibe to it. After all, it’s not like Logan asks these things to happen; they just do, and he chooses to do the right thing despite the cost to his arm, his eye and the fact that his healing power just isn’t up to healing him as well as it used to. What’s a mutant to do?

The right thing.

Star Wars: Darth Vader #19

My favourite villain gets a bit of a bonus with the assistance of the Inquistors as they search for more elusive Jedi Knights.

But when he threatens a baby? Now you know that Vader is truly evil.

I love this book. It has everything you want in a villain’s story: true evil intent, no depths too low for him to sink and finally, not a chance of redemption. Of course, we know, as loyal Star Wars fans that Vader’s redemption doesn’t come until much later in the franchise, but for now, that means that he can – and will – do everything as depraved as possible in the name of the Dark Side of the Force.

Which also means that his followers will do the same thing.

It’s the corruption of evil that holds my attention. After all, it’s one thing for a villain to master all of these things; that’s expected. But when he is able to extend that corruption to those who willingly follow him? Well, that’s a truly evil gift and it’s actually a metaphor for what we, as good people, need to be on the alert for.

There are corrupting influences all around us: the sensationalist media, self-interested politicians and even jealous friends. These are all things we need to be wary of and to never take for granted.

Evil is able to accomplish things when it is in numbers. A bully is made more dangerous when he has followers, for instance. But when you remove those followers, he is weaker and that is the secret of defeating evil: halt its influence. Darth Vader is a force in his own right, make no mistake about that, but at the same time the influence he holds over his followers is also a weakness that can be exploited.

Charles Soule has the touch for evil in presenting this character and Giuseppe Camuncoli knows how to draw him. It’s their job and they know how to do it very well.

This has to be the pick of the week for this Wednesday run. It’s the corruption of evil that can spread to others that really struck me this in this selection of comic pulls. Evil can only be as powerful as people let it; at least that’s what I’ve learned in my short time of existence. When people allow others to influence their decision-making, then you can see how twisted they can become.

It’s like someone refusing to associate with another person because their evil master won’t allow it. Or, repeatedly demonstrating how depraved they are and then lying, proclaiming their innocence, despite video and audio evidence to the contrary that clearly shows their orange evil.

Sorry … meant dark evil. Freudian slip.

But, when someone has the power to corrupt another’s perceptions about who they should attack, who they should fraternize with, or who they need to impugn with lies and falsehoods – that’s evil.

But it makes for a dramatically entertaining story, am I right?

That’s why this business is the greatest business in the world. There’s nothing like creating a story that can reach an audience on such a widely human level. We can relate because It’s important to know evil when we see it but more important to know to stop it from spreading.

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.