When does cynicism over-ride critical judgement? It’s a question that I consider very carefully as sometimes I’m not the right reader for a certain comic. But given my enjoyment of the medium I think sometimes I mistakenly believe that I will enjoy every comic. When I don’t, it tends to activate my cynical circuits.
I can’t read every week’s comic offerings – as much as I’d love to, it’s impossible. So I have to pick and choose samples from different publishers. The criteria is based on a mix of personally preferential subject material, writers and artists I enjoy and industry favourites. It’s a tall order to make a selection and review these titles all within an evening, but somehow, I make it happen and for the most part, I enjoy what I read.
However, sometimes I miss titles. It happens – mea culpa, right? Still, I find it very enlightening when I get emails about titles that I could have added to the list. After all, there’s a great deal of enjoyment in discovering a new treat! So thanks for those emails everyone who sent them in!; the insight is definitely appreciated.
Let’s get to the list for this week.
Citizen Jack #2
I tend to stay away from politics, but the recent events in the American Republican primaries is so appealing. It’s a total monkey show with extreme perspectives from candidates like Trump, Carson and whatever. It’s scary to see how people with such obvious flaws can get the attention of an entire nation.
I guess that’s the appeal of Citizen Jack from our good friends at Image Comics. I looked at the first issue last month and it seemed like a book out of left field, but I was reminded of how weird American politics can be and this comic just solidifies that point of view. How else could a failed minor league school hockey player get the attention of the voting public unless some sort of supernatural power was behind his bid for power?
Yup … it’s a classic Faustian tale, but it’s just so quirky and contemporarily relevant that it’s enough to get my attention … and enjoyment. Definitely worth a look at if you’re into reasoning why some people become political candidates! Sam Humphries and Tommy Patterson have crafted a compelling storyline in which this gets answered. Marlinspike is definitely a cool modern-day interpretation of a satanic influence and he uses his influence to bring Jack Northworthy, like the comic itself, seemingly out of nowhere.
East of West #22
“A Moment of Silence” is the title for this issue. An incredible display of a graphic storytelling. Very little dialogue until the very end, which punctuates the adventure perfectly. This is an example of a comic crafted in the right way with a perfect moment in a character’s existence which, in turn, lends itself as representative of the comic as a whole. This is what elevates comics to the status of literature.
Johnny Red #2
There’s a flavour of historical authenticity in this story. The original Johnny Red was a completely far-fetched notion: the fact that a British Hawker Hurricane could survive in the harsh climates of the Russian winter without any proper maintenance or service to perform active combat roles is truly the stuff of fiction. But that’s what fiction is about, right? It’s a perfect fantasy and completely dramatically heroic.
I loved this story when I was a kid but I think that Garth Ennis has done a beautiful job of carrying the fantasy one step further by injecting the note of realism into it. Of course, the aircraft wouldn’t have been able to survive and we see hints of this even in the second issue. Ennis has captured the original enjoyment of the story but managed to make it uniquely his own for a new generation to enjoy.
I think this represents an area that Titan needs to exploit more often. They have a wealth of British science fiction and other adventure comics from the last forty or fifty years that could be readily adapted for new audiences overseas. It would require careful talent sourcing, but it’s something that they should really consider. It’s clearly a success with Johnny Red.
Doctor Strange #3
I just can’t get into Chris Bachalo’s work – I feel so guilty in stating this. I love the comic – Jason Aaron has definitely re-written a new Doctor Strange for the 21st century. In Aaron’s version, he’s vulnerable, insecure and doesn’t come across as this all-knowing, pretentious prat. He’s human and he has a responsibility.
Bachalo’s pencilling definitely receives a lot of help from Tim Townsend’s inking. It reins in his sketching and gives it a lot of clarity. I really enjoy this book but think that someone like Mark Texeira might be a better choice.
This issue sees the beginning of a really interesting story arc and an enemy that isn’t Strange’s but rather the existence of magic itself. Definitely fun and worthwhile picking up.
Invincible Iron Man #4
Really … how many times can Mary Jane Watson grace a cover in the same stereotypical way? I really wasn’t impressed with the fact that as Peter Parker becomes a millionaire entrepreneur much like Tony Stark, now Tony Stark seems to have access to Parker’s former wife?
This smells of post Secret Wars dystopia and given that the Secret Wars event’s final issue has been pushed back to January now, we’re not going to figure this out for another few weeks.
I’m not even crazy about David Marquez’s cover rendition of Mary Jane either. She’s a super model, yet Marquez seems content to draw her in some sort of girl-next-door fashion. In fact, I find she’s a little too reminiscent of Pepper Potts, but the interior version seems somewhat truer to form.
However, what did tug at my heart strings is Stark’s commitment to visit the kids at St. Jude’s. As the parent of a kid who had cancer, this type of thing really does strike a chord in me. In fact, even the inclusion of Max, a kid with haemophilia and a port in his chest (like the one my daughter had during her cancer treatment) that looked like Iron Man’s chest power reactor, into the story was a really sweet gesture. That saved the book for me.
Star Wars #13
The VADER DOWN event continues. Marvel + Disney + Lucasfilm has to be the best combination since someone dropped a chocolate bar into a peanut butter jar.
Seriously, even Christmas is losing ground to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
The appeal of Star Wars still holds strong, even after thirty-eight years. I have students who are still transfixed by this film made before they were born and Marvel has done such a great job of merging the classic tales with new characters like Dr. Aphra. To see Darth Vader reduced to fighting for his survival brings down his mystique and makes him a more attainable character for a new generation. That’s what will make or break The Force Awakens, in my humble opinion.
I’m not one for crossover events, but this one is not only well-paced, it’s a perfect introduction point for those holdouts who haven’t seen any of the new Star Wars titles. I mentioned this some months back, but Marvel has brought its A-talent to bear on these books and has done the franchise due respect.
The cover itself is just enough reason to pick this book up. You’ll see what I mean when you get to the end.
The choice for the pick of the week has got to go to Johnny Red. It’s a comic like this one that disperses the cynicism I was alluding to earlier and reaffirms my love of the medium. As a teacher of both History and English, it’s so satisfying to see some of my worlds collide: History, Literature, Education, but it’s also affirming to see one of my childhood stories find new expression in the 21st century.
What’s really cool about this issue is the extracted dialogue between Garth Ennis and Editor of the UK weekly comic (and one of my favourites) Battle from 1975 to 1979 about his role in the development of Johnny Red. It’s not only the twist of historical fiction that grabs the reader’s attention in this particular issue but also the actual history behind the comic book.
Seriously … the guy lives where I was born. We need to visit a pub together, or something.
It’s this type of thing that makes me really enjoy comics. I love it when old stories are renewed properly and we see this with Doctor Strange, Star Wars and Johnny Red. Re-imagined titles done right – which means maybe the answer to cynicism is just the right dose of nostalgia.
Huh … who knew?