ENIAC #1 – To start, I really enjoyed this comic. Matt Kindt has cooked up an alternate history wherein the first computer, built during the Second World War, and fed the entirety of human history, became sentient and was responsible for the bombing of Nagasaki. It’s attempt to bomb three more sights in Russia were thwarted, but ever since, ENIAC has been calling the shots in the world of international relations. Now, two women have been tasked with shutting it down before it makes its next big move. This has the weird spycraft that Kindt is so good at, coupled with very nice art from Doug Braithwaite. There is also a backup story, Hero Trade, written by Kindt and drawn by David Lapham, that is pretty cool. I think this is going to be a good read. That said, I am pretty sure I hate this new publisher, Bad Idea. To begin with, they send the most purposefully opaque and annoying emails, multiple times a week lately. Their entire publishing model, based on manufactured scarcity and adolescent disdain for easy distribution (and, I think, the hard-working comics shops that have to jump through their hoops to get their books), is making it harder to get their books, and also taking the spotlight away from the fine work being done by their creators. When I look at TKO Studios, who also refuse to work with Diamond Distribution, I see that they always put the high quality of their product up front, and I’ve never been unhappy with the books I’ve read. When I look at Bad Idea, I see a group of people on the business end that insist on making themselves the story, even when they’ve taken the time to put together a terrific lineup of creators. I’ve committed to buying a few of their titles, because I admire people like Kindt, Braithwaite, Robert Venditti, and Adam Pollina, but I don’t appreciate how hard they’ve made it. As I compiled my pullfile for May, I couldn’t even figure out which issues they were going to be publishing that month. It’s like the company is being run by those guys who always post on message boards that they would be better at running Marvel or DC; the only thing they’ve done right is secure a solid lineup of comics, and that should be the substance of any discussion about them.
Dead Dog’s Bite #1 – Tyler Boss did such amazing work on Four Kids Walk Into A Bank a while back that, when I saw he had a new series he was both writing and drawing for Dark Horse, I immediately added it to my pullfile. This book got delayed by almost a year due to the pandemic, but it was worth the wait. Joe is a trans character living in a small town called Pendermills. Their best friend, Cormac Guffin (MacGuffin – get it?) has gone missing, and they appear pretty lost without her. Joe meets up with Mac’s boyfriend to look for clues, and we start to get a sense that a lot more is going on. Boss uses some curious approaches to telling this story, including the addition of a narrator in a blue suit who no one appears to see. The first issue comes with a strong sense of place and the same dry humour of Four Kids, and looks just as good. I’m pretty interested in seeing where this goes.
Fear Case #2 – This new series is very cool. Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins are telling a story about a pair of Secret Service agents who have been hunting a mystical and legendary case for a year. It works like an urban legend – when you receive the case, you have to give it to the person you hate the most, or it automatically moves to the person you love the most, and in that event, you will die horribly immediately afterwards. The Service has been hunting for it since the department was founded, and these two agents are very close, except they also have only days left before the file is given to new agents. There’s a cool blending of horror and police procedural, and I found the story pretty exciting. It’s a good book.
Fire Power #9 – This series is such an incredible showcase for Chris Samnee’s talents. Half of this issue is given over to Owen fighting a woman after they’ve both fallen out of an airplane, and it’s such an exciting sequence. After that is over, we are given a few surprises in a row, as Owen and his family are welcomed in by Owen’s former enemies. I’m really enjoying this series, which brings together the best aspects of both Robert Kirkman and Chris Samnee’s work.
Hellions #10 – Mister Sinister has been captured by Arcade, who is taking a very roundabout path to getting Sinister to work with him. Their scenes together are a lot of fun, but the rest of the team is stuck in various illusions being provided by Mastermind, and that feels a little old. This book is at its best when its characters are interacting with one another.
Infinite Frontier #0 – It’s been a long time since I’ve felt very connected to the DC Universe, but since they are going through one of their periodic refreshes of their entire line, I thought this sampler might be worth checking out. Of course, back in the day this would have been released at a reduced cost, but instead, DC wants you paying $6 to read snippets of much of their line, strung together with an awkward framing sequence that has the Quintessence, the powers that be of the DCU, offer Wonder Woman a spot on their cosmic lineup. She and the Spectre go on an Ebenezer Scrooge-like tour of the new multiverse, giving us glimpses of some of the new status quo. I guess all of DC continuity is relevant again, with a reference made to the first Crisis, and multiple references to the Golden Age, with Jay Garrick named dropped, and appearances by Stargirl and STRIPE, Jade, Obsidian, and Alan Scott. His moment is the most poignant of the book, as he comes out to his children. Beyond that, we also see that Green Arrow and Black Canary remember their time together, and Barbara Gordon back in her Oracle chair. Some of the stories teased here look intriguing, but I don’t know where I stand on getting back into DC’s comics. I know that the idea is to just read things without worrying about continuity anymore, but when characters like Wally West return to being the Flash, I don’t think I can enjoy it fully without knowing where he stands with regards to other characters. The approach here seems to suggest that anything is possible, but I worry that also means there are no rules. I am interested in checking out Justice League, Teen Titans Academy, and maybe the Jonathan Kent Superman stuff. I’m already bored of the extended Batman family, and am confused as to who is going to be Wonder Woman now – Diana, or her mother? One thing that is really putting me off some of the DC titles is the increased price of many of them, and the anthology format. There are a lot of writers getting books that I’m not that familiar with, and I can’t see myself shelling out $8 a month for books that are half filled with untested talent. Maybe I’ll trade wait a lot of this stuff, and that way, I can see how many of these titles or their new stati quo actually have staying power.
Suicide Squad #1 – How many times has the Suicide Squad been rebooted now? I love the classic John Ostrander series so much, but have never been happy since his run ended (I do have some of the recent Tom Taylor run I’ve not read yet, though). I thought that since this was such a small week, I’d give this latest attempt by Robbie Thompson and Eduardo Pansica a shot. I like that Peacemaker is on the squad, and that Harley Quinn maybe isn’t, but I’m still on the fence after having read this issue. I liked a lot – that Rick Flag and Amanda Waller are at each other’s throats again, and the idea of springing Talon from Arkham so he can join the Squad. I didn’t like the fact that had I not read Infinite Frontier, I wouldn’t know why there was Joker gas spreading throughout the asylum. I’m intrigued by this, but I’m not sure if I’m intrigued enough to pick this up every month. This issue was a little too quick, and didn’t do enough to establish what Waller’s new plans are for me to feel confident about the direction the title is going. Also, I’m not sure how long this book is going to last, given how quickly Taylor’s run was canceled, with a higher profile creative team behind it. I’m tired of getting invested in a series just in time to see it end.
Undone By Blood or The Other Side of Eden #1 – Lonnie Nadler, Zac Thompson, and Sami Kivelä have returned to Undone by Blood, a crime series where part of each comic is given over to a dimestore Western novel with thematic ties to the main story. This time around, the main story is set in Depression-era Texas, where a young man plots with a mailman to rob something from the only skyscraper in the region. The Western novel features a younger Solomon Eaton than the one in the first series, as he works to plan a train robbery with some Mexicans. The first Undone By Blood reminded me a lot of David Lapham’s Stray Bullets, and while I don’t get that vibe this time around, I do like the atmosphere of this issue. Nadler and Thompson are great together, and Kivelä, who is also drawing Abbott 1973 at Boom! right now, is terrific.
Comics I Would Have Bought if Comics Weren’t So Expensive:
The Week in Music:
Puma Blue – In Praise of Shadows – It’s a little hard to pin down Puma Blue’s sound on this excellent album. His work reminds me of Rhye a little, especially with his often-androgynous voice and slow, delicate music. This album features a lot of dreamy, ambient pop music, and is a great soundtrack for a quiet evening. I especially love the song built around the same loop from Jay Electronica’s Eternal Sunshine track.
Indaba Is – Brownswood does it again, with this collection of music showcasing the South African jazz scene. Like the We Out Here (London) and Sunny Side Up (New Zealand) albums, this compilation demonstrates the rich sounds of the contemporary scene, giving listeners a great jumping off point to explore a number of artists they might not have heard otherwise. Members of the fantastic Shabaka and the Ancestors are all over this, which was part of the appeal to me.
Femi Kuti/Made Kuti – Legacy + – This is a cool concept – a father and son double album, wherein each gets their own album. Femi Kuti gives us Stop the Hate, while his son, Made, gives us For(e)ward. Both are inheritors of the mantle of Afrobeat (Femi is the son of the genre’s originator, Fela Kuti), and over the course of both albums, we get a sense of where Afrobeat is heading, as the two men carry on their family’s tradition of speaking truth to power. There are as many problems in Nigeria today as there were when Fela was using his music to raise awareness, and so these men continue to speak out, marrying their commentary with terrific dance beats.