Captain Kirk’s Weekly Comic Review – 08/02/2017

My God, there’s a lot in this week’s list to get excited about.

There’s an overwhelming amount of talent on display – enviable talent, and one of the problems I encounter in writing this column is that it’s easy to be stunned by that talent. After all, these are people who are more talented than me, and what more, they are published – to get published in this industry is no mean feat. Whatever I say about them has to be prefaced by the fact that they are also more successful than me, and kudos to them.

Oni Press

Dead of Winter #1

Who doesn’t love a good zombie story, especially when it’s injected with a healthy shot of humour to make a stale genre about rotting corpses feel… well, fresh again? Throw in a cape-wearing, zombie-killing superhero dog and what’s not to love?

I have to say that Dead of Winter really caught my attention with its quirky art and unexpected humour, given the serious atmosphere of the board game that it’s based on. And speaking of the game, if you’re a fan then you’ll not only enjoy looking for all the Easter eggs but you’ll also get a vicarious thrill out of imagining what could be the gameplay equivalent of the events in the story. Of course, the limited edition of the comic which comes with a Ruckus Burley character set is also a real draw for players of the game. Writer Kyle Starks and artist GABO need to be commended because it’s one thing for Dead of Winter to be fun and popular as a board game; it’s another thing entirely to turn that game into a comic that works. I imagine it’s a feat that’s difficult to do well, though with the increasing number of comics based on board games coming out (IDW Publishing recently released CLUE, also based on the classic game of the same name), I expect this will become more of a trend. But if that means more comics like Dead of Winter #1 then this is one trend I’m game for.

DC Comics

Batman #28

‘The War of Jokes and Riddles, Part Three’ has a distinct vibe to it, definitely reminiscent of the Zero Year. Perhaps it’s the ambiguous time frame, but this part of the arc definitely emphasizes the toll that the conflict between upper-villains takes on the civilian populace, and collateral damage is the focus here.

The Riddler and the Joker don’t have super powers. They were products of the 1940’s when being the boss of a crime syndicate was about as much super power as a 1940’s audience could imagine. Tom King takes us back to an age where logistics and organization are skills that can be twisted and warped as mind control or explosive blasts.

I’m really starting to become a fan of Mikel Janin’s art. It’s very crisp and leaves nothing to doubt and I have to say, when I’m reading a comic, I want as much visual information as I can get. I don’t want to struggle to appreciate the artistry and I really like that about this artist.

It’s a wicked combination and this is a story arc that is really something to watch unfold. It has a beautiful pacing and little features like “come in your undies” really adds to that distinct vibe.

Superman #28

The History teacher inside of me wants to love this, but at the same time, it’s hard for the comic geek inside of me to reconcile the notion of Superman flagrantly risking his secret identity so many times in this story.

However, the adult in me is saying ‘shut up, and enjoy the story’, and I kinda have to go along with the mature and grown-up perspective that reminds me that comics are fantasy and that we need to look for the higher purpose in the book. Peter J. Tomasi gives the reader a great deal of American history in this second part of the arc titled ‘Declaration’ and it really is what every middle-class American should do: explore the history of their country because it is a fairly prolific and colourful one. Speaking as a Canadian, I learned something too, and if I could learn something, then anyone could!

It’s a relatable story with a lot of honesty and decency behind it. Let’s leave it at that instead of critically analyzing it to death.

Jack Kirkby: New Gods Special #1

You know, it’s funny, but I was never a really big Jack Kirby fan. I know that comes as sacrilege, but while I revere him for his original creative participative role in establishing the modern heroes we have today, I actually found that a lot od his original stuff got improved upon by latter creators, particularly the Marvel stuff.

Except for his Fourth World.

I loved Jack Kirby’s New Gods. This was a stage in his career when he walked away from Marvel; he strode out on his own and walked into DC with a brand-new concept that I regard as his greatest work.

This special takes us back to the essence of the New Gods. With an original New Gods story pencilled an written by Shane Davis, we see a classic match-up between Orion and Kalibak in the most basic New Gods story possible. We also see another tale from Walt Simonson that carries the spirit of Kirby’s storytelling. Finally, we see reprinted submissions by the master himself in a third set of short stories.

An interesting aspect of the Simonson story is that we see the same colorist and lettering team that Walt has been working with on his current Ragnarok project with IDW Publishing. Laura Martin and John Workman contribute to Walt’s storytelling making this story very familiar to recent readers of Simonson’s work.

Still, Davis really takes the honours for this special. His story is not only classical Kirby but also classical New Gods. Orion and Kalibak make for a perfect match-up and it’s a real joy to see these two arch-rivals go at it. I think Kirby would have loved to read this too.

Image Comics

East of West #34

I always wonder what surprises Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta have in store for me with each new iteration of this comic. I’ve stated this before and I guess I’ll state it again, but how long can this story last?

Of course, with the storytelling this good, why should I care?

This was a more concentrated story than I have read in the last few issues. While Hickman likes to go off on tangents and allow us to explore this new twisted world he and Dragotta have created, sometimes it’s difficult to place all of the characters and the central storyline because of this incredible diversity. At times, I find I have to go back and look up previous issues just to keep pace with the current issue’s storyline.

However, that IS why I have I’ve said that this series would make a great hardcover collection, and, not to sound hypocritical, why I have the recent hardcovers in my collection. It’s just that something so immense and detailed like this story needs to be collected in one resource. I think this story is too good for 22-page episodes.

This particular issue looks at Xiaolian Mao and even takes us back a little bit to remind us of the pertinent details – that was something I appreciated. Highly visceral and emotionally charged, the build-up to the shocking conclusion of this issue was definitely something that did manage to surprise me. That, and the notion that Archibald Chamberlain can, indeed, be hurt. It was a very satisfying read and it makes me wonder how long Hickman and Dragotta can sustain this.

Elsewhere #1

Wow! What a memorable fantasy story! Using a relatable and historic figure like Amelia Earhart has given Jay Faerber a character that is an instant hit with readers. Everyone knows about Earhart’s disappearance but nobody knows what ever happened to her. Using one of the greatest mysteries of the twentieth century is an inspired notion that literally begs a story to be made about it.

A very enjoyable story but it was also a chance to see emerging Turkish artist, Sumeyye Kesgin’s work. Her work is very solid and very pleasing.

Of course, there are a few other surprises that Faerber has in store for us. You’ll see one at the end of the issue, but if you take a chance to read Jay’s afterword, you’ll read that he hints at a few more to encounter in this story. I’m definitely interested in seeing what he has in store for us.

Ghost Station Zero #1

First of all, kudos to Antony Johnston for turning Baboushka into a film sensation. If you haven’t seen Atomic Blonde yet, then there might be something wrong with you. It’s a wonderful adaptation of his graphic novel The Coldest City and Ghost Station Zero is another chapter in this 1980’s super-spy’s adventures.

I love the concept and the story-telling. It’s vibrant, dynamic and this is the female action hero that a lot of geek-chicks can get behind. However, the issue I have is with the thick inking in the artistry. I’m not sure if Shari Chankhamma does her own inking or what, but I found that it made the art seem very clunky to appreciate.

It’s a great story, and if you don’t share my perspective on the art, you’ll absolutely love it to pieces. It’s a real 21st century look at a 20th century pulp story.

Injection #14

The problem I have with this amazingly imaginative story by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey is its irregular publishing schedule. I really need it to be more consistent because I completely forget what has happened in the previous issues and I’m left to scavenging through my longboxes to remind myself of what has gone before.

Perhaps a summary at the beginning of each book is in order? Just a suggestion.

But here’s the upshot: basically, an artificial intelligence spawned in the Internet is interested in the Other World. Yeah – the Other World of myth, magic and all sorts of legends and seeks to break those borders in order to migrate into it. Of course, that means that the regular world has to be placed in jeopardy, but, what the hell, right?

There’s a great deal of reckless danger in this book that the Injection incidents threaten to unleash upon the word. But it’s a combination of individuals who are schooled in mystical lore and modern-day technology and other skillsets who step up to defend the world, and it’s the combination and variety of these characters that really set this story apart from other books.

If you’ve ever read Warren Ellis’s Planetary then you know how skilled he is in establishing an immense backstory and intricate cause-and-effect, and Injection is no different in its enjoyability. But, like I said, the only problem I have is its irregularity. It’s a great candidate for a hardcover as well, but for now, I’ll just take it as it comes.

IDW Publishing

Star Trek New Visions #17

It’s hard for me not to love this book: original Star Trek storytelling from one of my comic legends? As John Byrne does not draw this book, we aren’t treated to his legendary skill at pencilling, but he’s been very busy in learning how to portray art in a new form through photographic modification of images of the original cast and scenery from the 79 episodes of the classic series.

What’s really interesting though, is that in the last few issues, Byrne has also been learning more about computer-sourced graphics and actually creating new objects and characters from scratch using software. If you go on his forum, he is very eager to discuss his new techniques and entertains questions about them. If you like what he does with this book and have some curiosity about his technique, then it’s worth a visit.

This one is titled “All the Ages Frozen” and has an engaging cover image of a partially desiccated Spock and a choking Kirk trapped in what can only assumed to be some sort of a cryogenic coffin (as suggested by the title) with a very scary high-priestess figure standing overhead. Yeah, it doesn’t look good for our favourite Star Fleet officers.

This is a very intricate story – more than what I’ve seen in Byrne’s photomontages and I’ve read ‘em all. It keeps to the spirit of the original show and Byrne’s layout seems to somehow replicate the pace of an original episode.

In this issue, we see a lo more of Byrne’s original computer generated work. He creates new images of a Federation science station, a hologramatic person and even a new robot. Speaking of robots, if you look very carefully at the kitchen area of the science station, you may see another familiar robot from one of the original episodes. Look very carefully.

The upshot of this story is that the Enterprise is responding to a distress call of a seemingly abandoned science vessel in orbit of a frozen planet. While one party examines the ship, another landing party explores the surface below and discovers the science station to be empty and that begins the mystery.

It’s a classic story and while there may be a couple of loose threads in this story (I’ll eave you to discover them), it’s actually very good and probably the closest one will get to recreating the original series.

Star Trek: Waypoint #6

This book has had a rough beginning. An anthology-styled book that looks to tell stories from all incarnations of Trek, it’s been a bit of a tough sell for me, and as a rabid Star Trek fan, that’ saying something.

The first of two stories in this book is titled “The Rebound Effect” and is set in the original series. Written by Corinna Bechko and drawn by Christopher Herndon, I had to say I had a real problem with the art in this book. The hair styles alone were enough to make me raise my eyebrows and have them set to stunned. The layout was a bit confusing and distracted away from the storyline and overall, I really had a hard time getting into the story.

My overall impression of this story was that it had an unbalanced set of storytelling priorities. The backgrounds were very fuzzy and really didn’t lend to setting the scene very well. I have to say that I really didn’t enjoy it.

The second story had a very interesting setting as it was supposed to be set in the “Phase Two” version of Star Trek, which loyal fans will remember as the series that was to succeed Star Trek and yet never got off the ground.

Titled “The Fear”, this is drawn and written by veteran artist, Gabriel Hardman.

…and it’s brilliantly executed and gives us a look into what could have been. The Enterprise has been refitted to look like the one we see in the Motion Picture, and while the crew keeps the same uniforms as the original series, there are different backgrounds to contend with as well as new characters.

I think what really sets this story apart is the amount of research and extrapolation Hardman had to do in order to give this story not only a sense of fandom verisimilitude, but also acceptability. Hardman has really thought about the story, its appearance and has also clearly kept the fans in mind in putting this together. In fact, it’s this story that gives me hope for this title. Put more talented people like Hardman on it, and it will fly.

There isn’t really a lot of ‘Phase Two” stuff out there. This was unique and really well done.

And it’s time for the Pick of the Week.

This is getting to be too repetitive but Tom King and Mikel Janin’s Batman #28 has to be the choice for this week’s round-up. It’s clear that King has a natural affinity for Batman’s character. Whether it’s King’s military and own logistics background coming into play or perhaps he’s always wanted to be a superhero growing up, I don’t know; whatever it is, the man knows his capes and shadows.

But there’s also something that transfers over to the villains about his writing too. I’ve had difficulty with the Joker in the past but King’s take on him seems to be spot-on and the fact that both the Joker and the Riddler have such genius aptitudes when it comes to the allocation and dispersal of their forces, making Gotham, yet again, another battleground, makes them perfect Batman foes.

King understands logistics. His storytelling style revolves around procedure(s), forethought and projecting what would be insanely-detailed planning. Plus, adding bits of humour thrown in at various interludes, conveys an almost casual attitude in which the readers are meant to believe that this took him no effort at all.

Like I said, I write about more talented people than myself. King is one of those folks who may modestly decry this talent but there is no doubt that it’s there. Yes, I confess to a degree of envy, and let’s face it, wouldn’t you be envious? So, in the meantime, let’s all just agree to appreciate it and patiently wait for our next fix to arrive.

Until next week.

Pick of the Week: Batman #28

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.