Greetings, geeks and geekettes. This week’s Fistful Of Comics, care of GodHatesGeeks, seems stuck in the outer stratosphere, with more than one title taking place out in the farthest reaches of the cosmos. We have more than one new title this week, one new title from an old, and one addition to that tale of a galaxy far, far away.
Let’s get down to it and see which titles are worth checking out…
The Star Wars canon has been augmented of late, and with the revelation of (SPOILERS) Han Solo’s previous marriage, and Luke’s near-blinding and first confrontation at the hands of Boba Fett, this series has been great at filling in the gaps between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. And there’s been plenty of intrigue. Jason Aaron has been scripting a very deft, tight story, and the art by Simone Bianchi (Detective Comics, Wolverine) has been top notch — reading it, it wasn’t hard to imagine the sort of sound effects and movements each character and vehicle would make. There is a fluidity to the design and dialogue that makes it feel cinematic, and the art is subdued enough to feel like it belongs in the Star Wars Universe.
That being said…
One thing that was great about Luke in A New Hope is the simple fact that he is any every-kid. Typical (for someone living on a desert planet), naive, and longing for adventure in a place where adventure was few and far between (despite four of six current movies having extensive set-pieces set on Tatooine, but that’s besides the point). He’s a normal kid thrust into an insane adventure, and in way over his head, who eventually learns how to be bigger than he was, and to be a hero. Without getting into too much detail, by the end of this issue it is hinted that perhaps, as a child, he had many prior adventures before he had met the droids and Ben. And while it makes sense to show earlier exploits from characters like Han, Chewie, and maybe even Leia, by retconning Luke’s character, it does a bit of disservice. It makes him just that less relative.
Look, with this issue focusing on Ben and what he had been doing in the intervening years, it was intriguing. It makes sense for the focus to be on what he’d been up to because, well, what the hell WAS he up to for twenty years? But shoehorning child Luke in felt like committing the same crimes the prequels are guilty of: showing what didn’t need to be shown, and, in doing so, diminishing the allure of the characters and making that expansive universe a bit more closed up, neat, and tidy. It reminded me a bit of a Patton Oswalt sketch (which, coincidentally, was about the Star Wars prequels), which ends on the line, “I don’t give a SHIT where the stuff I love comes from! I just love the stuff I love!” And that’s how I felt during the last maybe two or three pages: I don’t need to know about Luke as a kid, at all, and neither do I care. We learn everything we need to know about him the first time we meet him in the movie. I understand why it was done, and for fans who need every single waking moment of every single character explained in minute detail, hey, whatever floats your boat.
I’d just rather play in a sandbox as opposed to watching someone else explain how to play in a sandbox. Up until Luke’s appearance (slight as it is), it was a blast, as is the rest of this series. 3/5 Baby Lukes (showing up for no reason).
Anthologies are a dicey prospect. By definition, they’re a grab-bag of both creators and characters. The quality will ebb and flow, but if you can make it through to the end having really enjoyed at least part of it and without being forced to skip something because it was so unbearable, it’s time well spent. And there’s something cool about diving in to a new random collection of stories without fully knowing what you’re getting into. The best deal, though, is when whatever folks curating the anthology are people whose work you enjoy. It stands to reason that even if they’re not directly responsible for the content, you’re going to dig whatever makes the cut if they do. But it’s so much better when they contribute directly.
Brandon Graham and Emma Ríos are both cresting into career peaks in both artistic output and widespread recognition. Graham has followed up his several years writing and drawing the seminal and critically lauded King City with the tonally similar and equally mental Multiple Warheads, while also spearheading the multi-creator revival of Prophet, which is about as alchemical a character rehabilitation as I have ever encountered. Ríos started out on self-published zines before breaking in at Marvel with Mark Waid’s Strange, which led to Osborn, her first collaboration with Kelly Sue DeConnick. The immediate and apparent synergy between these two women brought Ríos over to fill in for a couple of issues of Captain Marvel before they brought their excellent creator-owned Pretty Deadly over to Image, which earned Ríos an Eisner nomination last year. Now, Graham & Ríos are publishing an oversized monthly anthology that’s 112 pages and costs only $7.99. In an age when that same price-tag will get you only forty pages of Avengers action, Island is worth checking out on value alone.
This first issue delivers an immersive and uncommon experience from the moment you crack the cover. Marian Churchland (8house: arclight, recipient of Graham’s possibly-non-figurative “muffin delivery service”) provides a pair of two-page watercolor abstract paintings that set the mood, the first one with washes dominated with white and yellow evoking the sky, then the turn of the page giving way to a night-time that might be stormy. This somewhat ominous opening is immediately mitigated by a whimsical page featuring Graham’s cartoon avatar being roused from slumber inside the actual and all-too-real shot of the man’s sleeping head. An omnipotent voice who might belong to Eric Stephenson tells him that he can do whatever he wants, and Li’l Graham responds that of course he’ll be wanting some of that old cannibalism but first let’s call some doodz to put together this here comic. And away we go!
Ríos is up first with the first 24 pages of I.D., which takes place in a near future and juxtaposes three people discussing their desire to become guinea pigs in some sort of body transplant procedure with some good old car-crash fisticuff violence courtesy of an unnamed group of masked attackers. Ríos writes and draws, opting for the same monotone coloring style that was such a hallmark of the original run of Casanova, with red being the color of choice here. She’s an excellent storyteller and stages her panels well throughout. The multi-shade single color causes everything to get a bit less easy to follow when the action breaks out, but it’s worth squinting through to work it all out. Ríos follows this up by providing illustrations to a five-page essay by DeConnick that is an affecting tribute to her deceased friend and mentor, poet Maggie Estep. A powerful piece of writing.
The second story was a wonderful surprise because I had no idea that Graham was going to be serializing the second volume of Multiple Warheads in these pages, but here we are. Sexica and Nikolai are back with their ever-lovin’ organ-running and werewolf-penis-dreaming selves, and Graham continues to excel at providing highly detailed vistas that you can stare at for five minutes at a time and still not manage to take in every detail. I felt like I took a bath in these 30 pages, and they were over far too quickly with the pun-count and cringe-factor possibly at an all-time high, though this is merely speculative and not based on statistical data of any kind. The last 44 pages belong to Ludroe, who writes and draws Dagger-Proof Mummy, the story of a skater girl searching for her lost mentor Dirk, who it looks like has probably had some kind of off-panel secret origin that’s turned him into the title character, a fellow who knows a thing or two about street fighting and is indeed as dagger-proof as the title suggests.
Ludroe’s art is kinetic and exciting, conveying the impression that the artist is very much a skater first and comic-book creator second. Fans jonesing for the return of Jim Rugg’s long-lost-but-never-forgotten Street Angel will be ecstatic to happen upon this opening chapter. And then we close with a loose three-page sequential mediation by Graham on angles and staging scenes in comics with a casual but authoritative tone that is very engaging. I very much enjoyed the Graham story and cared enough about what Ríos and Ludroe got started that I’m delighted to be on the hook for another eight bucks next month, though incoming creator Simon Roy is going to have a bit of heavy lifting to do to cover for Graham, whose Multiple Warheads won’t return until #4. If you keep hearing about how this is a new golden age for comics, particularly of the creator-owned variety, and wonder where an ideal jumping-in point might be, look no further than Island #1 for a diverse sampling of talented creators with unique voices. 4/5 Blubberry Blinicakes.
Having been a Sailor Moon fan since I was a young girl (I’m 34 now) I was super stoked to check out the latest addition to the magical girl genre from Dark Horse, Zodiac Starforce. While it definitely takes notes from the tropes of the genre, Zodiac Starforce manages to be an interesting and fresh take.
The writing by Kevin Panetta (Bravest Warriors, Regular Show) was very natural—he does well with portraying how younger people act and speak without it seeming too forced. There seems to be a much darker undertone to the story than meets the eye, even if it seems silly on the surface. Where this first issue really shines is Paulina Ganucheau’s (Faces, Cadets) gorgeous candy-colored art style. It’s seriously beautiful and totally befitting the magical girl atmosphere. Though Zodiac Starforce wears its anime influences on its sleeve, it doesn’t just copy what has come before it. There is a western sensibility to the proceedings that might make this new generation of young girls fall in love all over again. 4/5 Bibles.
The début of Power Up #1, by the duo of Kate Leth (Adventure Time: Seeing Red, Bravest Warriors) and Matt Cummings, is a strangely odd book. If you are a Kate Leth fan than you will really dig what is going on here.
Perpetual slacker, Amie Bloom, goes about malingering through yet another day off being short on funds and coasting at her job at the Rat’s Nest–a pet store owned by Karen Espinosa who, for some reason, lets Amie loaf around instead of working. Well this particular day sees Amie at the Rat’s Nest helping a customer. Afterwards Karen ask Amie to cover her as she needs to step out for a moment. No sooner does Karen walk out the door when all hell breaks loose and Amie’s life is thrown into utter chaos (is that even possible for her?). Faced with an other-dimensional being (all-black with tendrils on its head and wearing a suit), Amie finds herself in quite the predicament and barely escapes from this being, who then disappears into nothing. Of course the media immediately shows up and grills Amie about the incident; while recounting the events, she mentions that for a moment she felt like she could fly. The story then cuts to the customer who Amie had helped earlier; we are shown a glowing object in her purse and while she goes to open the refrigerator door she pulls the handle clean off.
Look, this was not really my kind of comic. I’m more of your average superhero reader who also loves his Image titles. Yeah it was cute, colorful and had some laughs but overall this was definitely not for me. However, my 14 year old daughter loved it and wants to read the further 5 issues. Anything that convinces a youngster into reading a comic book must be something right in my mind. We talked for fifteen minutes or so debating the issue and she had some valid points. She liked the art style by Matt Cummings and absolutely adores Ms. Leth now after doing some research into her other works. Having said all that I will give Power Up #1 a 1 1/2 bibles from me, while my daughter argues that it definitely deserves 4 bibles. Different strokes for different folks, eh?
42 year old opinion = 1.5/5 It’s Been a Hard Day’s Night bibles
After a 13 year absence, Jhonen Vasquez (Squee, Johnny The Homicidal Maniac) and his best known creation, Invader Zim, are back. Riding the popularity and resurgence that re-runs of the cartoon in the past years have sparked, Zim picks up right where we left off oh so many years ago – with a quick “Previously On…” for those that are new to the shenanigans unleashed by Operation Impending Doom II.
Vasquez is taking lead on the story for the first few issues, with plans to expand the writing roster after that, and has turned over art duties to Aaron Alexovich (Serenity Rose, Working Through The Negativity). Despite these changes, Zim has the look and feel of the original. What’s the plot, you ask? Does it really matter? Of course not! So grab some tacos, watch out for the monkeys, and sing the Doom Song with me as we celebrate the return of Invader Zim, GIR, and the gang. 4/5 Rooms with a Moose.
Hacktivist was a breath of fresh air from Boom! Studios.
Let’s talk art. Hacktivist is illustrated by Marcus To (Huntress, Batwing, The Flash) and the color is by Ian Herring (Hawkeye, Ms.Marvel, Silk). I rarely mention the colorist, but on this one I HAD to. Marcus and Ian’s work flow seamlessly together. I felt as if all the characters had a realistic look, and the color just popped. I did not get bored with the art and felt it was suiting for this type of story.
The storyline written by Collin Kelly & Jackson Lanzing (TMNT, Freak Show, Regular Show) was consistently intriguing. The premise has been done. Imagine a technology-ridden world, a corrupt 1% that controls the 99% and a group of “anonymous” hackers that have had enough….this is Hacktivist. Even if this story has been done both in comics and our real lives, it is very relevant for what’s happening today in our society. We are saturated with technology and corruption and Hacktivist mirrors that perfectly.
I was very excited, anxious and intrigued when I saw the creator of this story was Alyssa Milano…yes THAT Alyssa Milano. Hacktivist is her initial foray into the comic book world and I would say she is definitely off to a good start. 3.5/5 Bibles.