Another satisfying Christmas has passed and I find that this is the time for reflection of the past year’s events. What have I done, I suppose, if I were to quote John Lennon.
I’m pretty pleased with the way that this column has shaped. We’ve covered a lot of titles, made great relationships with publishers and creators and have brought a lot of attention to developing talents while recognizing the skills of established industry professionals.
But 2017 has seen a lot. I was at several cons this year and had a lot of privileges accorded to me for which I was truly grateful. My comic highlights for this year included:
- Getting hugged by George Perez.
- Having lunch and then later drinks with Greg Capullo and Todd McFarlane.
- Having Tom King tell my kid that her dad was awesome.
- Interviewing Howard Chaykin.
- Interviewing Kirstin Beyer.
- Moderating panels at three different cons this year for celebrities and creators from all walks of fandoms and franchises.
For me, the overwhelming and repetitive characteristic of 2017 is how grateful I am for all of these experiences and the ones I haven’t listed. Adam Kubert, Mike Johnson, Donny Cates – all of these creators and more have given me a sense of hope for the next year and a feeling that it’s going to surpass this one.
Let’s get to the extensive list for this last comic reading week of 2017.
Star Trek: Boldly Go #15
“Who says every unexplained intertwining of realities can’t be fun”? That’s a line from the gaseous version of Montgomery Scott in this issue where all sorts of Star Trek realities have mixed. Of course, they’re all versions of the Kelvin Timeline, and that’s a striking feature of this book that doesn’t escape me.
Yes, I know that this title is a Kelvin Timeline book, but if it’s an alternate timeline of the main timeline, then the main timeline should get a little bit of recognition in this story too. It’s not a criticism, just an expectation.
I get introduced to a new artist on this issue. Tana Ford takes over from Megan Levens, which was a bit of a surprise for me. As I was just getting used to Levens work (who, in turn, took over from one of my favourites, Tony Shasteen), Ford arrives and has very big shoes to fill.
Johnson is a gifted writer but in this issue, he seems all over the place trying to assimilate (pardon the verb) all of the various Trek incarnations we meet in this issue, in addition to the ones we have met before. We still have a lot of questions to be answered: ie: where are they, who is the mysterious voice that only the Kirks can hear and why are they on Risa?
I don’t know how long Johnson has to complete this arc, but I know that this book will end in 2018. It’s a shame. I was enjoying Johnson’s work on the Kelvin Timeline and his adventures were making it fun for me.
But that’s part and parcel of seeing where life takes you, I guess.
Invincible Iron Man #595
Part three of “Where is Tony Stark” and even though I’m not fan of the new character, Riri Williams, I have to confess I didn’t mind her at all in this story. I’m not sure what it is bout Riri that I don’t like. Am I just being a judgemental reactionary? Possibly … it’s a trait I’m trying to do away with.
I have to also confess that it’s more important to get everything I can out of Brian Bendis’s last few stories with Marvel before they run out.
I think this is the sweet spot of this arc. I imagine it’ll be wrapped up by next issue, but there is something pregnant about this one. Not only do we have AI’s hacking each other, but we get a guest spot from a redemptive Doctor Doom and possibly a hint into the elusive Tony Stark’s plans. Where I hate to give anything away but while its eclectic collection of perspectives may be a tad confusing to someone just stepping into the arc, there’s still a sense of penultimatism in this issue that gives the reader a sense of impending resolution. I enjoyed it in the same way that I like “The Return of the King” in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, if that makes any sense. However, Tony’s not looking so healthy in it, I will say that much.
I can’t lose Tony Stark; I’m too much enamoured of the billionaire playboy-turned-altruist character arch-type to say good-bye to it. It’s always been one of my favourites and Tony ranks as my Number One.
Jessica Jones #15
The phrase “oh shit … oh shit … oh shit …” kept repeating itself in my brain when I read this issue. Another Bendis issue and when we left Jessica and Kilgrave the last issue, they were meeting face-to-face to chat.
Bad enough that he had taken control of her daughter to arrange the meeting, but this time he wants it personal and the only way I can analogize this is meeting the creepy ex who knows all of your intimate secrets, oh, and he turned out to be a manipulative rapist.
… at least, that’s how I’d imagine it.
But every loyal Marvel reader must know that the Purple Man isn’t going to put himself into a situation where he doesn’t have something up his sleeve. While he goes through his narcissistic monologue, Jessica pulls a fast one on her nemesis. But does this put the Purple Man down? Wait until you see what he comes up with.
I like Bendis’s work and it’s great to see one of his creations prosper so well.
Moon Knight #190
This is part three of the arc titled “Crazy Runs in the Family” and writer, Max Bemis inserts a lot of disrespectful attitude in this story that is so craft-fully illustrated by one of my favourite pencillers, Jacen Burrows. (I have a Cthulhu of his on my office wall.)
When you consider that the rivalry between two Egyptian gods and their earthly avatars has been raging for the last few millennia, there’s a great deal of modern trash-talking and mockery going on. I don’t know if that particularly fits the theme of the book, but it’s good for a few laughs.
Slapstick has its merits though. Perhaps Bemis is tired of the mystique that has followed previous incarnations of Moon Knight in the past? If so, then he has done a very good job of distancing himself from that model. Though, to be honest, the scene where a meditating Marc Spector argues with himself in a public park, frightening an old lady off is definitely hilarious.
In this issue, marc has to come to terms with all of his personalities. While it may seem inappropriate to make a joke out of a mental illness issue, there are those who would argue you have to find the humour in anything to make sense of it sometimes. Hey … I still make cancer jokes with my friends. It’s a tricky type of humour, but Bemis does it fairly well and Burrows knows how to pencil dark humour.
Actually, Jacen Burrows is the perfect choice to bring humour to a weird situation. If you’ve ever seen any of his stuff with Avatar Press, you’ll know what I mean. The man definitely has a gift for illustrating black and, at times, even gruesome humour.
But there’s a serious resolution at the end of this story that really hits you in the feels. It’s particularly striking and will make you want to pick up the next issue, for sure.
Phoenix: Resurrection #1
Yeah … I’ve been waiting for this one. I’ve always loved Jean Grey, but I also fell in love with Rachel Summers. I’ve always thought it was a foresighted idea of Chris Claremont to bring Rachel back from the alternative timeline that was averted. Remember that one? Uncanny X-Men #141 and #142? It was tough to figure out where she could go, so Paul Smith had to keep drawing her in dance-outfits. It wasn’t until Excalibur that she found a home, but I digress.
Matthew Rosenberg is the writer on this one. I can’t say I know his work all that well. Lenil Francis Yu is the penciller and his work I know very well.
In his endnotes, Rosenberg says that he was just a kid and that he never got to mourn Jean Grey. I was a kid and I did get to mourn her. I was around, reading Uncanny X-Men during the “Dark Phoenix Saga” and remembered shedding a tear when she said her final good-bye to Scott in Uncanny X-Men #137 and I have to say, I much preferred the alternate storyline where she simply is stripped of her powers. Yet the consensus of Jim Shooter, EIC at the time, was that for her crimes as the Phoenix, she had to die.
I don’t know about that. Jean was a powerful female character in my young reader days who had a lot of influence in my adolescent years. Hey, she was probably responsible for my weakness for redheads. I think I could have forgiven her for the death of an entire star system. It wasn’t her – it was Dark Phoenix! Am I right?
I like the reverence that Rosenberg brings to this story; there definitely is a sense of apprehension that one can read between the lines. It’s clearly a thoughtful story in execution and has a great deal of promise.
But Rosenberg also promises this to be both a eulogy and a birth announcement. He admits that it’s a “little blurry” right now; it’s too early to make any sense out of what’s happening, particularly with previously-thought dead characters also coming back to life, but it’s definitely a story that’s got my attention! I’ll be keeping a very close eye on this story as it develops.
Punisher: The Platoon #4
Garth Ennis displays his considerable talent for military history in this comic as he reveals the hidden history of Frank Castle’s Vietnam experiences through the mock-documentary style of interviewing his former platoon.
It’s nothing short of gifted work. Like I said, Ennis knows military history, but he also knows superheroes. This combines history with the best aspect of a super-hero story: the origin. It’s not just enough to know what a super-hero is, but what he used to be and what made him into the character we love to read about.
I’ve really grown fixated with this issue. If you’re not reading this, then you’re missing out.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Storms of Crait #1
What’s this? Jumping on the bandwagon of the latest Star Wars installment, Marvel has given us this prequel during the time of Episode IV that ties into Episode VIII. The question is: does it make sense?
First of all, brilliant artwork by Mike Mayhew. He really captures the likenesses and living expressions of the characters we love in this franchise.
Second, the premise. Written by Ben Blacker and Ben Acker (very hard NOT to remember those names), we get an idea of how Crait was chosen as a Rebel repository for the Resistance in Episode VIII.
… Though I still have difficulty in understanding how the Rebellion won, became the New Republic and then wound up getting screwed over to become the Resistance. But, Star Wars is a fantasy; we don’t ask those questions. Simply, we just accept.
But this one-shot is actually the story of The Last Jedi I would have loved to have seen. As much as the characters have grown older, this book manages to capture the spirit of the original trilogy. To any fan of this franchise, it’s a tale of great beauty as it mashes up elements of the original three and Episode VIII.
It’s probably one of the best Star Wars tales I’ve read. Definitely a winner in my book.
The Kamandi Challenge #12
Touching – humorous – fun. But there’s also a loving sense of history clearly associated with this book, obviously in homage to the immortal Jack “King” Kirby. These are the ties that bind us to our franchises and fandoms.
DC has assembled a tremendous amount of talent in the execution of this book and now we’ve reached the final issue. It’s been a great deal of fun seeing all of these creators united in trying to trip each other up, out-do the previous team in a spirit of good-natured camaraderie. But above all, it’s the love of comics and what these creators do for a living that shines forth.
The problem in discussing this title is that it’s a surprise every month, so I can’t really go into any detail about the plot. but I can talk about what has transpired to now. When we last left Kamandi, he was falling out of the sky with his simian friends. Of course, how the heck would he get out of this one? Well, Gail Simone is not unfamiliar with plot twists, so she concocts a beautiful surprise to carry the story further.
Jill Thompson and Ryan Sook really make this final issue shine. Their artistic talents compliment each other nicely. There’s almost a progressive effect with the different styles. Thompson draws Kamandi as a frightened, young kid as he finds himself in another mess, and Sook matures him.
I think readers will really enjoy the guest-star who also shows up toward the end of the story. As the cover says: have you solved it by now?
A great exploration and combination of talents; I’m going to miss this book.
The Doomsday Clock #2
I’m overwhelmingly curious about the continuation of this story. I know it’s a sensitive subject with some people, and that Alan Moore’s relationship with DC Comics is a very popular topic on social media outlets right now, but really: I just want to see more of the characters that made The Watchmen such a fun book to read and if DC wants to continue to make more good stories out of this world, then who are we to stop them?
After all, fans need to realize that these things don’t belong to them. For that matter, they don’t even really belong to creators like Alan Moore, if they were under contract to a company at the time of their creation. As much as I revere Alan Moore for his incredible talent (he is my all-time favourite comic writer), it’s not his creation. Did he get screwed over? I’m not qualified to make that judgement and I don’t think I’m even going to try. But I will say that working with a major publisher is always something that you do with both eyes open and never rush into. Agreements are agreements.
In any event, the end result is now we get to see Geoff Johns playing in this sandbox and I am completely sold on the concept. After all, the earth of the Watchmen is destroyed and the unlikely team of Ozymandias, a new Rorschach and two unknown minor villains known as the Mime and the Marionette, arrive in the mainstream DC Universe to find Dr. Manhattan and have them save their home.
Of course, hasn’t it already been lost? In addition to this question, who is Rorschach? What is the connection between the Marionette and Dr. Manhattan? More importantly, where is Dr. Manhattan and why would he travel to Earth One? Wasn’t he interested in creating his own life?
Sigh … there are a great deal of challenges and loose ends for Johns to tie up in this story, but that’s part of its appeal. I’m also drawn to the significance of the franchise as well. The Watchmen was the title that ushered in my adult perspective of reading comics so a return to this world is definitely a major nostalgic trip.
But I also like it. I’m hypnotized by its allure and Gary Franks has managed to almost recreate Dave Gibbons’ drawing style. It is very much a homage to the talent that created the original story. But stories are just things to explore and I am very much looking forward to seeing where this one will take us. I’ve shown both versions of the cover to give you a sense of what I’m talking about.
It’s something new that respects what has gone before and that’s not a bad thing, regardless of how much you value a franchise. Hey, I’m a Star Trek fan and this is a topic that many Trek fans have had to deal with in the last few years of change. The conclusion that I’ve come to is that if you don’t like a particular development in a franchise, then focus on what you do like and love it more. Eventually, you will connect with other fans and eventually creators who share your tastes, and it will come back to that.
Stories aren’t real, but our love for them is. That’s what keeps them going.
Doomsday Clock #2 is the pick of the week for this last installment of 2017. It’s a very appropriate one as we enter into a new year of developments. Life is like a franchise: we don’t often like what’s in store for us but that doesn’t mean that we don’t shut ourselves off from it. Focus on the good and make the best of it.
However, I’m so very eager to explore what Geoff Johns and Gary Frank have in store for us and I’m pretty damn sure it’s going to be a hell of a ride.
… and as in life, that’s the way it works in comics.
That’s it for a special-sized version of this week’s column. Have a happy new year. We’ll see you in 2018 with more wonderful things to happen and a lot more to share!