I think the most worthwhile thing about writing this column is that I’m not restricted to reading one milieu. Variety really is the spice of life and it’s what makes life interesting. I read a variety of comics and while I enjoy the super-hero genre, I also enjoy comics that make us reconsider life in its many incarnations or just simply something that can distract us away from its challenges. Comics can either rub reality in our faces or allow us to escape from it.
Let’s get to the list.
Southern Bastards #17
A real slice of small-town living. I don’t pretend to understand this culture, but for some reason, Jason Aaron knows it intimately well. When something as small as football becomes the largest thing in a person’s life, then that becomes an aspect of life that needs to be examined.
It’s visceral and it’s brutal and it says something about the human condition. Coach Boss scares me because he is the type of small-time thinker who can make something tiny mean so much to so many people – and that becomes a form of control. That’s reflected in the penetratingly harsh art-style of Jason Latour. He makes this comic come to life with his brutal edges and emotionally vivid pencilling. It matches the intensity of the story and really strikes deep into the reader’s imagination.
In this story though, we see Boss lose some of that control. Perhaps this small-minded man manages to expand his perceptions somewhat, but will it be enough? It’s worth checking out. Make sure you do.
Star Trek: The Next Generation – Mirror Broken #3
I’ve been waiting for this cover for what seems to be the longest time. It’s the complete antithesis of what Star Trek should be when you have an evil Wesley Crusher perfecting his agonizer booth under the watchful supervision of his mother. It’s just a staggering cover by J.K. Woodward and really needs to be seen up close to be appreciated.
This is the issue where we see the takeover occur. The first two issues have been building to the moment when the plans have come to fruition. Everyone’s favourite hated starship captain (and if you don’t know who that is, then you’re not really a TNG fan, are you?) is up for betrayal and the true captain of the Enterprise-D is ready for takeover.
The re-envisioning of Wesley Crusher is definitely a lot of fun in this book and the level of his genius is darkly disturbing. He is clearly intellectual but his devotion to his mother also comes out in this incarnation. The Tiptons are certainly having a lot of fun with this story and it’s evident.
Also, when you look at the ISS Enterprise in its entirety, there are details that make it a fully realizable battleship as opposed to the one we know from the television show. That has to be the biggest reveal of all. When you see the ship, you’ll not only feel a pang of nostalgia but an awesomely inspiring sense of “kick-ass”.
Is it wrong that I like the Next Generation in this universe better?
Locke & Key: Heaven and Earth
If you’ve never read this series – and this is a hint to do so – then you might lose the relevance of these amazing stories.
Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez deliver a wonderful collection of stories that take the reader to different emotional extremes. However, at their hearts – like the comic series before this anthology – lie the simple theme of family ties. It’s amazing how Joe Hill can write stories that are really quite basic yet are glossed over by the window trappings of the supernatural. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise given he is Stephen King’s son.
I’ve read all of the Locke and Key stories and I’m the primary audience for this book. There’s even a photo insert at the end with Rodriguez, Hill and Chris Ryall at Boston Comic Con in 2013 as they explore the Massachusetts countryside looking for the areas that the fictional place of Lovecraft is based on.
But this is a book for the fans of the series. You need to get out and read them before you can truly appreciate how much fun this book is.
Dark Nights: Metal #1
This is simply an astronomical book. In terms of scope, ambition, detail and intricacy in its main storyline, it’s a crossover event that seems to have a tremendous effort dedicated to the central storyline. After you read this, you get a real sense of the epic nature the event promises.
The first of two stories see the core of the Justice League in armour that not only negates their powers but also gives them protection as the undergo a gladiatorial bout of combat against some of Mongul’s creatures – designed by Toyman. The second story shows us more of the history of the Nth Metal storyline that’s been building in previous teaser books in the last few months.
I’m staggered by the immensity of the story. I’ve been following this event as it’s developed – even got a chance to look at a preliminary cover with Greg Capullo, and there’s a lot of thought that’s gone into its planning that really needs to be seen to be fully appreciated.
But it’s Snyder – let’s face it: can you expect any less? Snyder has a gift for intricate planning and partnering him with Capullo makes this a book that has to be read. Their run on Batman re-ignited my enjoyment of the Batman franchise and to have that type of magic in a comic again is a rare thing.
Astro City #46
I think it’s fair to say that I really didn’t understand this issue. Usually I enjoy Kurt Busiek’s work but this issue was an exaggerated example of breaking the fourth wall. Even the seemingly endless soliloquy didn’t seem to go anywhere. Perhaps there was something I missed from not reading the previous issue or that there is an impending transition about to occur, but I have to say I couldn’t get into it and that bugs me.
The start to The War of Jokes and Riddles, Part Four is a truly stunning one. Not only is Bruce Wayne smack dab in between two of the Batman’s worst enemies, but he’s sharing a dinner table with them. It’s a beautiful setting – not dinner – and there’s a good story about to unfold.
I’m really enjoying Tom King’s work. He has an underlying purpose envisioned in this arc and his way of unfolding the story a bit at a time works for the comic medium.
However, in the unfolding of this tete-a-tete between the Joker and the Riddler, Bruce Wayne finds himself in the unenviable position of acting as go-between for these two mastermind killers and as the conference is set within a traditional nine-course dinner, there is an elegance to the affair blunted by the cold-blooded nature of the villains as revealed through dinner conversation.
That’s a hallmark of Tom King’s writing style – as I’m learning. He marks the absurdity of banal situations by placing them within contexts that are either fantastic to the imagination or horrific to comprehend. It’s as if extremes become more extreme when set against something as harmless as dinner. The irony in this story is so rich though. After all, the man both the Joker and the Riddler want to kill is secretly their host, using the occasion to gain information on the two of them.
King is eking his way into my heart as one of my favourite writers.
This is Part One of “A Minute Longer” by Keith Champagne and penciled by Doug Mahnke.
It hits on two things that are very close to my heart – my kids and the fear I have for them. Not to get too personal, but my oldest child is a cancer survivor and the fear that I associate with her is something that never goes away. Champagne has touched on that – at least for me.
In this story, we are shown a scenario of Superman trying to help parents of missing children. Not only are them away from their parents but they have been taken by an alien presence – a familiar one, as it turns out, particularly if you are Green Lantern fans. Of course, it’s up to Superman to get them back to their loved ones but when something has seized your child, it’s not an easy thing to fight against.
This was a bit more visceral for me to read than most people, but if you have children, I think you’ll be somewhat affected by it too.
Yeah … this one, guest-starring the Teen Titans, hit the cute factor in a way that as a dad, I can not only appreciate but endorse.
Patrick Gleason and Peter J. Tomasi have their fingers on the pulse for this one, that’s for sure. Whether it’s a case of channelling their own inner children or they have a really good idea of what kids would like to see in a super-hero comic book, the result is the same: a really entertaining book that should not only win awards for kids’ literature but should also entice kids back into reading comics.
The dynamic between young Superboy and Robin is a parody of the grown-up one of their fathers. It has all of the social awkwardness that young people experience but it also has the beginnings of a great friendship.
Like I said: adorable.
We’ve done the full range of variety in this week’s selection, but now it’s time for the pick of the week and for this week, the honours have to go to:
You know, I’d gladly go with Tom King’s Batman #29 – yet again – but there is this thing called “variety” that I’ve just been harping on for this article. I’d also love to go with J.K. Woodward and Scott and David Tipton’s Star Trek: The Next Generation – Mirror Broken #3, but with a name like “Kirk”, that would also be wholly predictable. However, I can’t let this article go without giving these two worthy titles their due recognition, so I have to give them at least honorable mentions
The choice for the Pick of the Week is going to go to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Dark Nights: Metal #1.
While there’s been a lot of hype about this project, at the same time, you have to acknowledge the talent and the build-up to it. It promises a lot because of the level of talent it has backing up the promise. It’s like having Richard Branson guarantee a loan for you. You know you can trust the backers here.
Snyder and Capullo are definitely a team that has a lot of chemistry. Not only do they work well together, but they have an inherent level of respect for each other as well. It’s the friendship that guarantees the excellence of their storytelling. If you’ve ever had a chance to hear Capullo talk about his working relationship with Scott, there’s a great deal of camaraderie described in the conversation.
But you can see the level of detail in this story. Beginning with a panel that has the description, “50,000 years ago” the epic nature of the story is hinted. Then as we arrive in Mongul’s War arena to see the Justice League suited and armoured up for gladiator-style combat, after the build-up of a tribal history that spans fifty millennia, the reader is given a sense that an impending story built upon a foundation of considerable and immense precision is about to reveal itself … and with Metal #1, it happens.
I love variety but at the same time, I love craftsmanship as well. Excellence triumphs over variety any day of the week but in a sense, that’s a delightful discovery this week as well.