Captain Kirk’s Weekly Comic Review – 11/27/2019

Ever feel like you’ve got too much to do? Yep – me too. The great thing about fiction though, is that we can love the fact that so do our heroes, but for some reason, they get it done!

That’s the theme we are looking at for this week – despite the odds, the number of tasks, somehow our heroes get it done. So, let’s get to the list for this week!

DC Comics

Freedom Fighters #11

I’ve loved this book, but I honestly just can’t see how they can wrap this story up in only twelve issues. Already it seems like a Herculean task.

Still, it must be a labour of love for both Robert Venditti and Eddy Barrows to look towards the completion of this book. I know I have looked forward to reading the title every month and perhaps I’m just worried about the twelfth issue ending on the proper note.

There’s too much for this story for it to just be a mini-series. Black Condor’s lifespan has been suddenly reduced because of his ingestion of the Plastic Man formula, the Nazis are finally experiencing some resistance after fifty years of complacency and with this issue ending on a cliff-hanger, we need to see much more of Earth X.

In today’s age, the threat of a Nazi Dystopia looms even closer than we care to think about. In fact, a good chunk of the American population seems to tolerate the racist overtones in the present government. American ideals are under attack on a daily basis and even if you are an American who doesn’t share that sentiment, then half of your country’s population does, and to me, that alone signals that something is wrong.

Barrows’ art is the type of pencilling I love; clean and clear lines, excellent definition and a zest for action sequences that work with a combat-driven story like this one. However, his gift for emotionality is very reminiscent of Alan Davis’s work. When Black Condor acknowledged his diminished life -expectancy, you can see in his expression that it was a price that he was willing to pay.

Venditti has clearly loved redefining this occupied world. Earth X has more stories to offer and it’ll be a shame to see it all end after Issue #12.

Image Comics

East of West #44

I can’t believe this book has been going since 2013. I mean, that’s a work of art and it’s still in progress. How does Jonathan Hickman manage to find time in his schedule of rebuilding the mythology of the X-Men to continue to pump out scripts for this incredible redefined world?

East of West is one of those stories that a reader has to go back and study. Hickman’s conceptual storytelling exists on so many levels: the alternate future, the science fiction involved in this new world, religion and mythology intertwined with political diaspora of intrigue and treachery. It’s mind-boggling to me that a writer can think like this without going insane.

The House of Mao is currently locked in combat with the Confederacy, and the balance constantly seems to tip in each side’s favour. The son of Death is in the grips of the other Horsemen of the Apocalypse and Death himself bargains with the Oracle to gain advantage for him, his son and plans that have not yet been made manifest.

It’s a book that has many moments and that’s a difficult task to undertake. There was so much going on in previous issues, but eventually Hickman whittled down the factions so that there were only the Endless Nation, the People’s Republic of America and the Confederacy left standing. Like I said, a very busy story, it never fails to amaze me that Hickman can keep it all together.

Nick Dragotta’s work is poetically fitting for this story. It conveys subterfuge and betrayal while also emphasizing the right sort of emotional intensity. It is interesting to note though, that when the characters are moral, idealistic, or clearly stand for something, they are well-defined, like Wolf or Death. But characters like Archibald Chamberlain (the current president of the Confederacy) are drawn with less emotion and with more exaggeration. It’s somewhat of a tell in recognizing the characters’ motivations but definitely a style hard to ignore or hard to dislike.

A wonderful labour. It’s a testament to skill and dedication and I look forward to meeting these gentlemen and having them sign my collected hardcover editions.

Lazarus Risen #3

Another fantastic title from Image Comics. Greg Rucka and Michael Lark have outdone themselves with this dystopian view of the world, with the wealthiest of families (cleverly representing the 1% of the population that controls most of the world’s wealth) dividing the world into family corporations each championed by the technological speciality each family is known for.

If there ever was a time-consuming task that could dominate one’s time, controlling the world would be it.

But this is the tale of the Carlyle Family Lazarus – Forever, who not only can regenerate from the virtual point of death, healing all wounds a’la Wolverine, but she also has been cloned in case she ever experiences a catastrophic encounter that she would be unable to recover from. The new challenge, in addition to marshalling her Family’s military forces and maintaining their dominant place in the world. Is to come to terms with this knowledge and how to greet her clone as a part of herself, perhaps a sister instead of replacement meant to supplant her.

The atmosphere of this world is one of intrigue and betrayal, but from within as well as from without. The Family keeps a close eye on Forever through drugs, constant medical scans and invasive monitoring. Still, she has managed to secure for herself a small degree of autonomy. While her dedication is primarily her family, and despite the morale breaker to her family’s forces her loss would cause, Forever has to take back some privacy for herself.

The challenge in reading this book is to realize that there are multiple battles fought that extend into the personal, political, physiological and psychological levels. Rucka is a clever storyteller who can write stories that effortlessly weave in and out of these realms, constantly forcing the reader to re-evaluate his or her own principles.

Michael Lark’s work ranks as one of my favourites. Truly. It communicates power and resolution – the things that stand out in Forever Carlyle’s character. It must be a dream for Rucka to see his ideas transformed into image.

This is a story that conveys a struggle well-worth watching.

Marvel Comics

New Mutants #2

There’s constant work, but then there’s constant fun. Another of Jonathan Hickman’s efforts to bring Mutantkind back into redefinition, I can’t remember when I’ve laughed and enjoyed reading the New Mutants more than this issue!

Thinking that their compatriot, Cannonball, needs their help, Sunspot manages to convince core members of the classic team (with a couple of extras) to hitch a ride with the Starjammers into space, get abandoned by said Starjammers, get arrested by the Sh’iar Imperium and then wind up in a – for lack of a more concrete term – ‘space prison’.

Rod Reis’ work is not the type of work that I usually am fond of; pastel colours and fuzzy definition, it lacks energy and action. It contains wonderful renderings of characters and scenes, but it has a quality to it that seems more suited for still images.

However, it works. it has the right sort of energy necessary for the humour that Hickman manages to instill in this story. It’s a surprising quality that I don’t normally associate with Hickman’s work. I’m more used to Hickman’s gift with dealing in the ephemeral realms than I am in his humour and direct relationships.

But this was like reading a copy of the New Mutants as I remember them from the 1980’s. It contained the same sort of Chris Claremont humour and playfulness that made the New Mutants fun and entertaining to read back then. That not only takes a great deal of dedication to the book, but to the entire Marvel Mutant Universe. It shows commitment to redefining the X-Men by giving this title a special degree of recognition that marked this book different and apart from the X-Men in those days. It’s also a note of irony that the first issues of The New Mutants were a direct result of the X-Men’s adventures in Sh’iar space. Declared missing, the New Mutants were to replace the X-Men. In this story, the New Mutants are the ones who are missing and find themselves in service to the Empire.

Whatever the case, this was a fun book to read. A different pace and taste from Hickman’s usual faire, but no less enjoyable.

IDW Publishing

Star Trek – Picard: Countdown #1

Impossible tasks are epitomized in this book, another television tie-in to the new Picard series in 2020, but when faced with the impossible, the notion that brings one through is hope.

That’s what helps us all get through it. Hope is about knowing that there is an end to all things, good and bad. Eventually, you will come through the end of a trying experience, and hope fuels us through our journeys.

In this inaugural issue from none other than the “TV-Tie in Team” themselves, namely Kirsten Beyer and Mike Johnson, we see this book heralding what we can expect from the new Picard show. Taking a retrospective approach to his days as an admiral, we see Jean-Luc Picard remembering his attempted rescue mission of the Romulan population. With one of the suns in the Romulan Empire about to go nova, it is up to the Federation to offer aid to the Empire to save its population from extinction. The conflict in this book isn’t one of starship combat and galactic conquest, it’s one of ideals.

Instead of embracing the Federation’s offers of aid openly, the Romulans are suspicious and wary of a Federation trick. Not only does this impede the Federation efforts, but when Picard finally meets a Romulan willing to accept his help, he still has to deal with a disparity of appreciation when it comes to species.

There is an overt theme of racism present in this story that Johnson and Beyer deftly use to remind us of why we are such fans of Jean Luc Picard. If Kirk’s dominant quality was his bravado, then Picard’s is his adherence to idealism and the unwillingness to stray from the principles that he has defended for his professional lifetime.

That’s what the book is about and it’s clear to see what we can expect from the television series.

Angel Hernandez is the veteran artist on this book. Hernandez has a long history of pencilling Trek with IDW and his work is always enjoyable for fans of this franchise to see.

However, with the notion of the impossible task that Picard has in front of him, what compels us to keep reading is the notion of hope; hope that Picard’s dedication to the ideals will no doubt prove to be the support that he clings to in order to accomplish his task.

But, given the amount of Romulans to evacuate, will he be able to? It spawns the question: will this be the time when Picard’s idealism fails him? Picard is not meant to succeed and that’s the hidden purpose for this story.

The conflict of ideals is the background for this story and clearly will be the driving principle from the show. It’s a wonderful appetizer and the value of comics as a supplementary medium to support the primary medium – as I mentioned last week – is clearly demonstrated in this book and underlies its importance.

This book is definitely my pick of the week. Not only is it set amidst the backdrop of impossible goals, but it is the notion of these impossible goals that make the story truly interesting. How will Picard fail. But more importantly, how will he deal with this failure knowing that it is his reliance on principle and ideals that have caused him to fail?

There’s more to this book than is apparent. But it’s the skill of Beyer and Johnson who can prep an audience with this book for the show that needs to be recognized. IDW is developing a more sophisticated working relationship with CBS in developing stories with books that can fill in the gaps the show will be unable to address. It’s been done with characters like Harry Mudd, Pike and L’Rell and these stories help to bring the show back into the canonical continuum it has been accused of abandoning.

That’s it for this week. May your next week be filled with many accomplishments!

Pick of the Week:

Star Trek – Picard: Countdown #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.