Captain Kirk’s Weekly Comic Review – 11/06/2019

I’m all about completion. While I admire quality in pursuing one’s craft, I am also about getting the job done. Depending upon the situation, sometimes I would settle for just getting the job done to a level of acceptability than to a point of perfection.

That happens in writing. Creators have deadlines, multiple goals to pursue and sometimes, it’s too much to keep it all in line.

But the goal should always be excellence. So, without any further delay, let’s celebrate work completion in the pursuit of excellence. That’s how I’m feeling that way. So that’s what the theme is for this week is, so let’s get ‘er done!

DC Comics

No DC Titles this week. I really wanted to review Legion of Super-Heroes in time for New Comic Book Day, but the window of opportunity just wasn’t there due to DC’s new stringent reviewing guidelines which makes it inconvenient for reviewers to access the advance review comics. Sad, but hey. Sometimes people just have a job to do and that applies to not just the people who make the comics, but the people who are in business of publishing them. Too bad.

IDW Publishing

Locke and Key: Dog Days – One Shot

I love the ethos of publishing at IDW. Great talent, great titles and a fantastic attitude. Locke and Key was an amazing series that captured readers’ imaginations with a gripping and dynamic story and that should be the goal of every comic publisher.

Locke and Key was an amazing franchise that captured the imaginations of its readers in a dynamically entertaining way that somehow managed to emphasize the human drama of the Locke Family while still existing in a fantasy setting. It was a fantastic story that I never grow tired of re-reading.

Too often a North American audience cries for a sequel or a new take on a previous franchise out of a sense of recapturing that original story. This has the effect of diluting the enjoyment of the previous story and has a feel of cheapening it.

Not so with this story. In this book we get two delightful stories that seek to add to the value of this wonderful franchise rather than supplanting it or replacing it with another story like it but with a slight twist needed to justify the re-visitation.

The first story is a delightful, childhood romp in which, through the magic of another key, a faithful pet is transformed into a human friend. Though this new friend has the power of speech, it still has the expressive sentiments of a dog and these are expressed in a humorous way.

Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez (note the correct spelling of the name?) know just what is enough. A short story, it is still a wonderful addition to the Locke and Key saga by going back in time to a golden age of the house’s history when the keys were benign and were used harmlessly and playfully.

I love Rodriguez’s art. It has a gritty quality to it that underlines this quality of human drama that I mentioned earlier. Stubble, pimples, warts and all, we are shown the personalities of the Lockes and their friends and enemies. In this book, Rodriguez manages to perfectly capture the children’s playfulness as they engage with their newly bipedal pal. It’s an excellent example of how art lends itself to tone and emotions communicated in the story.

Joe Hill is a talent all to himself. The second story is mostly art-driven, but its limited amount of words are the right ones. The reconstruction of the Key House is made possible by its very nature, and the punchline is the perfect statement to reflect the entire story in a matter of a few pages.

I love a job well done, and this book is a wonderful reflection of that statement.

Marvel Comics

Daredevil #13

Speaking of work, Chip Zdarsky definitely has completed a work of wonder in this continuation of the “broken Daredevil”.

There is a lot of work present in this story. The first is Daredevil’s task to rebuild himself and his former love, Elektra is the perfect taskmaster for the job. I like how Zdarsky sees this as a task and he the relationship he crafts between Daredevil and Elektra breaks down the tasks into priorities and goals.

While this may seem to be a pale reflection of the “Born Again” saga, arguably the greatest Daredevil story ever written, it has a more modern twist in that this is a story of self-doubt rather than an engineered plot on the part of the Kingpin. This is a story of personal re-discovery; one that sees Daredevil learning more about his own weaknesses and how he can become a better person.

I am enjoying Zdarsky’s take on Murdoch’s introspection and unlike “Born Again”, it won’t last for long.

However, the other side to this is the examination of the Kingpin’s own self-discovery. After killing a bully out of rage, the Kingpin realizes that he is still an emotionally insecure being, still prey to his own self-image. The more he wishes to leave crime, the more difficult it is for him to leave the behaviourisms crime has instilled within him behind. I particularly loved the ruthless manner in which his attaché, Wesley, takes over the situation in a cold and methodical manner.

Of course, then there is Detective North – rattled by his inability to properly handle the Daredevil copycat situation and properly understand how to handle Wilson Fisk, he needs to take time off to properly re-evaluate his own values. He no longer understands how to be a police officer in a world where the heroes are hunted and the villains are in charge.

There’s a lot of character development work in this story and it’s good work indeed.

Hats off to Marco Checchetto for his own amazing work. While he has a sharpness in defining the human form, I love the counter-balance of his backgrounds. For instance, when Daredevil is practising with Elektra in the abandoned warehouse, the structural work of the metal supports above him is amazingly detailed. It’s rewarding to see an artist who puts as much effort into his background scenery as his foreground action.

Fantastic Four #16

Then there’s the loving work of Dan Slott. Slott’s storylines always have character in them. They resonate a sense of caring not only between the characters but also between the story and the reader. This takes a tremendous amount of thought and effort on Slott’s part, but it’s a work that deserves full recognition, at least in my opinion.

As the name of this book suggests, more than any other super-hero team, the Fantastic Four dwell more in the realm of fantasy than any other team. Not only do they have an origin that is chaotically imaginative and extreme, but it is essential stuff that comic stories are made of.

I think Slott knows this more than anyone. After reading his stories, the reader comes away with a sense of inspiration and genuine wonder, and in my humble opinion, that’s the quintessence of comic reading.

The Fantastic Four have managed communications with their captors on the planet Spyre – a planet forever changed by their first failed visit in their ship, the Marvel. It was foretold that the Fantastic Four would return to conquer Spyre and so the people prepared themselves accordingly to battle the returning superhumans when they re-created their fateful voyage in the Marvel-2. However, they learn of an unsettling secret that they cannot reconcile with and that puts them once more, into conflict with the planet’s leaders.

Part Three of “Point of Origin” is a story of opposing values. Once more, Reed Richards and the rest of his team manifest their heroic nature in the face of an authoritarian regime that forces its will upon their people in the name of the public good. When the secret is revealed, the Fantastic Four cannot help but be a force for good in this new world, regardless of its alien nature.

Divided into “Hightown” and “Lowtown”, the main city of the planet sees its population marked by the after-effects of this decision. In essence a society of “haves” and “have-nots” is created by this governmental edict and it falls to Ben Grimm to champion the plight of the “have-nots”, as we would expect a good hero to do.

Sean Izaakse’s work manages to accurately depict the states of these characters. The Hightown dwellers are people with all the advantages: super-powered, beautiful and in charge of their society, they represent the privileged in Spyre’s society. The Lowtown dwellers are twisted and deformed, outcast from their society and very easy for someone like the Thing to empathize with and lead in defiance of Spyre’s social structure.

It’s a story that brings out the heroic virtues in this classic super-hero team; virtues that we not only expect to see, but value as a product of genuinely caring hard work.

New Mutants #1

While I appreciate good work – I like play even more.

That’s what this re-visit to one of my most beloved comic franchises of all time felt like: play. In his new envisioning of the X-Men franchise, Jonathan Hickman, along with Ed Brisson, bring us a story that reintroduces the New Mutants to the Krakoan present.

… and they’re still a bunch of goofy kids trying to understand their place in the universe.

In this story, quite literally, as the New Mutants decide to make a road trip to Shi’ar space to reunite with team-mate, Sam Guthrie. As they hitch a ride with the Starjammers, the New Mutants experiment with their powers, engage in sporting wagers with their hosts and then eventually learn about being betrayed and getting in over their depth.

It’s a perfect coming-of-age story about young people making stupid decisions in life and having to pay the consequences. All in a hard day’s play.

I hate to reveal anything specific about this story as it works in well with Hickman’s overall vision for the plight of the mutants. However, I will say that it does manage to recapture that original playful spirit of the original run of this comic. It’s definitely worth picking up and reading about this other part of Hickman’s grand unified Mutant theory.

Rod Reis’s work is very reminiscent of Sienkiewicz’s, with close-up views on characters’ faces and specifically highlighted subjects. There are also other effects that long-time fans of this franchise will recognize. That goes far in establishing that nostalgic feel of the book.

All in good play, right?

Image Comics

Undiscovered Country #1

This is a job well done.

Actually, there is a Latin phrase that might be more appropriate and that’s magnum opus. Charles Soule, Scott Snyder, Giuseppe Camuncoli (aka: “Cammo”) and Daniele Orlandini have created an ambitious work that is truly unique and deserves a degree of appreciation that quite frankly, I don’t think I can deliver.

Still, I’m going to give it my best labour and try.

The premise: America has cut itself off from the rest of the world about thirty years prior to the current time of the story. the rest of the world is prey to all sorts of virulent plagues and diseases and in the midst of all this chaos, there comes a message from the walled-off United States offering to re-establish diplomatic relations and hopefully to offer a cure to the world’s illnesses.

An international delegation is quickly assembled and sent to the fortress nation but when they get there, as one might expect, it is not the nation they once knew over thirty years ago. The sender of the original message is nowhere to be found and the delegation is on its own, prey to the unknown dangers of this changed country.

First of all, it’s a work of complete fantasy that beggars the imagination.

Second of all, the few pages in which we get to see the interior of the changed USA is enough to not only tantalize but demand that a reader puts in an order for the second issue of this series.

Finally, if Snyder’s comments about the creative inspirational work of this book are read, one gets the sense that not only was this a product of gifted creativity, but that the collaborative efforts of all of these creators is the real thing to be marvelled at. In fact, the descriptions of the visits to the CIA and DARPA are not only fascinating but needed way more description. I would have bought the comic just for more of that enticing and wholly interesting background.

The warped and twisted interior of this new United States is a caricature of the “shining beacon on the hill” that common America historical ideology espouses about its origins, which is something that is very deeply ingrained into the heart of America. That America could be vulnerable enough to warp it from that role is jarring to any American reader of history and fiction. That’s one of the amazing effects of this book.

Today, America is no longer the leader in this world; that is a sharp truth. It shares the burden of leadership with is world partners and in this book, and that is a sharp reality to Americans in the 21st century. But along with no longer leading, its leader is an empty promise to the world that depends on America’s role in world government. In this book, the visitors from the outside world arrive and discover that change, it’s a bit of an allegorical reminder of what once was in both senses.

This will probably prove to be a work that Snyder, Soule and company will be remembered for and for this review, it’s the pick of the week.

I love getting the job done, but in the same light, this is not only a job well done, but an example of excellence in storytelling. We should all be so lucky to see such dedication to good work.

May you find your own works equally satisfying this week!

Pick of the Week: Undiscovered Country #1

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.