Captain Kirk’s Weekly Comic Review – 12/06/2017

When thinking of the dominant theme in the selection of comics for this week’s round-up, I am reminded of how solitary the act of reading comics is. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m lamenting my lot to read every publisher’s books on a weekly basis or issuing a call to arms for comic readers everywhere to suddenly band together in a show of being social! I’m actually celebrating the great deal of joy derived from the act of reading and comics are not exclusive to that.

I think there’s an extra sense of happiness in being able to share and celebrate the visual appeal of reading your favourite comic characters in action and to appreciate the skill and artistry of creators with friends. That’s when respectful relationships come to light. Friends shouldn’t let friends read comics alone. There’s a lot to celebrate here but if there was a theme that really stood out in this week’s list, I noticed one of camaraderie and respectful friendships. Thoroughly appropriate for the holiday season, I think, but also good for the whole year round.

Let’s take a look at the list for this week.

IDW Publishing

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Mirror Broken #5

Absolutely unbelievable. What a great start to reading and an amazing treat to see Star Trek: TNG re-envisioned this way. What I love about this series from the Tiptons and J.K. Woodward is how authentic this story is. This could be a script for the Next Generation and it’s a measure of the fan love these creators have for this franchise.

This crew is untested and the ship is brand-new. But it’s Picard and his officers who manage to hold the line. Though this is the Mirror Universe, they still manage to work towards each other’s strengths and accomplish the impossible. Still, you can’t really say that this is a “bonding” story – it is the Mirror Universe, after all, and this iteration of Trek is supposed to be the “evil” one, remember?

The artistry is absolutely superb. Woodward has always been an incredible talent but the level of detail he adds to his work can only come from a source of true devotion to Star Trek. When you see his Picard stand up and adjust his uniform tunic in the exact way that Patrick Stewart does in the television show, then you know this is an artist who pays great care to represent his subject in as detailed a manner as possible. This level of care adds an exponential degree of quality to this book.

But Scott and David Tipton need to be commended for the level of action and intensity of their story. This is a five-issue origin story that really does more than its fair share of justice to this re-imagined crew of the ISS Enterprise. This is the Mirror Universe Story Star Trek TNG fans were missing and it should be included as canon for not just the level of authenticity but also the sheer joy of experiencing Trek on another level of fun.

I’m looking forward to the eventual hardcover with great anticipation.

Marvel Comics

Black Bolt #8

Re-establishing ties of family and friendship is definitely key to appreciating this book by Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward. I have to say, I wasn’t too crazy about Ward’s artwork, but Ahmed definitely has my attention in exploring how Black Bolt is going to restore his crumbling kingdom.

With the Inhumans though, that’s pretty much always the plot. But the hurdle is how relevant can you make it for the reader? Family is always tough to deal with, so the trick is to hit as many popular themes that all families share to get a sense of popular acceptance. Of course, what makes it tougher is that you have a protagonist who can’t talk – unless he wants to take out a mountain.

Still, this theme always works for me; I’m a family guy, and I’m sure there are others out there like me.

Dr. Strange #382

Restoration – how do you replace what you’ve lost?

Donny Cates asked not to reveal the ending to this one. I never do anyway, but in this case, I can see why he wanted to keep as tight a lid on this as much as possible. I’m not one for revealing spoilers in any event but trust me: you will be completely gobsmacked when you see what I’m talking about.

But, as you already know, Loki has the mantle of Sorceror Supreme and Stephen Strange is a veterinarian. That’s a great deal of humble pie to swallow, and that partly answers the question. Someone is going to have to eat a bit of crow in order to either replace the loss or accept the fact that whatever it is that’s gone wasn’t worth it in the first place. If the latter is the case, then it just means that everything leading up to it was a lie.

However, if it was valuable, then something drastic has to happen to salvage it.

And that’s what Strange decides to do. His title, his responsibility and his friends are in the hands of someone who doesn’t deserve them. Even though the decision is one that will surely come back to haunt him, I loved this issue simply because of the motivation behind it. Nice going, Cates. You’ve definitely come up one hell of a shocking solution.

… But that’s because you understand the value of what Stephen Strange has lost.

Star Wars: Darth Vader #9

Complete sense of betrayal tinged with a bit of isolation. There’s no hope for Jocasta Nu – the former archivist of the Jedi Temple in this story from Charles Soule. She’s on her own and not only does she face the Grand Inquisitor – a former student of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, but she has the Lord of the Sith on her heels as well.

Oh – and though she’s a fully trained Jedi, remember she’s also a librarian. Yeah – you might say she’s a bit outgunned.

Vader is the malignant force (no pun intended) that embodies both the betrayal and isolation in this book. On Jocasta Nu’s side? She’s trying to do the right thing. However, Vader doesn’t care about that. He craves power and seeks to put down the Jedi who he felt suppressed him in his own studies. He serves his master and the Dark Side of the Force now.

I feel for Jocasta in this story; of course, you’re supposed to. But it illustrates the cost of trying to do the right thing in the presence of unchecked ego, which is usually the cause of why someone has been betrayed or isolated!

The human condition writ large … is there nothing that Star Wars cannot teach us?

DC Comics

Superman #36

Hmm. Patrick Gleason and Peter J. Tomasi present to us a rather elaborate way of Superman ending his relationship with Lex Luthor. I like the idea that Superman is bringing a sense of hope to Apokolips, but I really wish that it had a more relevant ending. In fact, this could have been easily tied into Mr. Miracle that Tom King is working on with Mitch Gerads. Of course, who am I to bring that up?

But it is interesting how we see Luthor’s resentment and insecurity with Superman rear their ugly heads once more. Another typical male relationship trait, right? Instead of taking comfort in your own abilities and achievements, you find disparity in jealousy, and that’s how you end a friendship, folks.

Jealousy sucks, but we need Luthor as a villain and Doug Mahnke gives us a perfect rendition of a smiling Luthor fully comfortable with his own perceived inadequacy.

Batman: White Knight #3

I’ve never been a real fan of Sean Murphy’s art but I can’t dispute the quality of his storytelling.

This is an immensely entertaining story that demonstrates a great deal of intricate planning and detailing. Not just on the part of Jack Napier, but on the part of Murphy as well. It’s been three issues and I’m astounded by the reveal in this leg of the story. Everything has been remarkably well-hidden from the reader by a combination of actually wishing that Joker IS cured, conflicting dynamics within the Batman team and a clever set of distracting tactics by the Joker. I also enjoy that Commissioner Gordon can still turn to Batman in his moments of doubt and be honest about the Dark Knight’s tactics in this story.

Then there’s Alfred. Man …

Murphy has earned a great deal of my respect for the sophistication of the plot. This is probably the best planned Joker operation I’ve read in a long time.

DC Holiday Special #1

A real throwback to my boyhood comic-reading days! I am a sucker for an anthology but there’s something particularly celebratory about a holiday-themed one and I was eager to read this one!

It’s a pricy one, but from the very get-go you are treated to an Andy Kubert cover. We get a real treasure chest with this book; selections by Greg Rucka, Dan Didio himself, Jeff Lemire and even a throwback to Mike Friedrichs and Neal Adams. The shining jewel in this showcase has got to be Francesco Francavilla’s and Tom King’s Sgt. Rock story, Going Down Easy.

For ten bucks you get an amazing assortment of holiday-themed treasures that are a sheer joy to read. Even if you’re one to celebrate the Christmas spirit, then at the very least, the simple combined message of cheer and good will to all folks should be endearing at the very least.

I don’t care how much of a schmaltz factor I get accused of having – I’m just about celebrating the good in people and if it takes a ten-dollar comic to remind folks of that, then take my money.

Batman #36

I don’t think there could be a comic story that effectively describes the stereotypical male inclination towards pigheaded stubbornness. Only a married man would be aware of this, because his significant other constantly brings it up. This is the archetypical story of men not knowing what’s good for them.

Titled “Superfriends”, we see Superman and Batman – no scratch that; we see Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne not wanting to talk to each other because of something that’s come between their friendship. Each refuses to call each other, despite the fact that their loved ones are urging them to clear it up. What is this thing? It’s Catwoman – she’s the new development in their lives and given that Lois and Clark are a matched pair, shouldn’t Bruce and Selina be?

But she’s a criminal. However, if Bruce Wayne can come to terms with his relationship with her, why can’t he bring himself to talking about it to his best friend?

Each friend recognizes the good within each other and why they are so admirable. Yet the engagement stands between them because it wasn’t brought up. They’re friends but they’re also typical men in that if there’s a problem, they won’t talk to each other about it. So, it falls to their wives to bring them together.

It’s a completely heartwarming tale and very human. This is what I love about Tom King’s writing: he brings the concept of super-heroes to a level we can appreciate yet doesn’t reduce the fantasy.

And again, that’s why Tom King – once more – gets the vaunted distinction of being pick of the week for his completely thoughtful and introspective Batman #36.

If there was a money prize that went along with this honour, King would be bankrupting me by now. I think he’s the one writer who’s had more of this recognition than anyone else I’ve reviewed. But talent speaks for itself, I guess.

But there’s a real foundation of humanism in his writing that needs to be explored and it also marks a departure from traditional Batman storylines. Unlike a lot of other writers of the Dark Knight, King makes Batman’s strength his relationships to his family and friends. In the past, Batman has always kept to himself, in the shadows. However, lately, we’ve seen Batman develop stronger relationships with his son, with his surrogate father and now a fiancée. His focus on Bruce Wayne’s engagement to Selina Kyle is a real departure from the traditional character we’ve seen in previous stories.

In fact, this issue even sees an exploration of Batman’s friendships and what Wayne is prepared to do to either keep them or keep them in perspective. It’s the focus on these relationships that make Wayne more accessible and relatable.

Tom King – humanist. It’s said that men who have established friendships and hang out in groups at least once a week live longer and deal with stress better.

Maybe that’s the real super power behind the “Superfriends” and the source of King’s talented writing style.

… He and I need to have a beer some time and talk comics.

Pick of the Week: Batman #36

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.