Best Comic of the Week:
Deadly Class #52 – Rick Remender and Wes Craig bring us into the mid-00s, and we see that Marcus and Maria have tried hard to make a new life for themselves, separate from the madness that came with their teenage lives. The thing is, it’s hard to live quietly in Bush’s America, especially once Maria starts to get sick and, being undocumented, is unable to access any kind of care. This issue shows us a finally mature Marcus, and even though the couple has their problems, we start to think that they’ll get as happy an ending as Remender has ever allowed his characters. Then the last couple of pages make it clear that’s not in the cards. This is another excellent issue in an excellent series. I’m going to miss this book when it’s gone.
Batman #123 – The Shadow War continues, as Batman employs Batman Inc. to help protect Deathstroke’s people, and Batman and Robin move closer to figuring out who is really behind Ra’s’s death. Slade makes his own progress on that front, and it looks like one of Batman’s associates pays the price for it all. This is a good issue, but once again, I feel it’s marred by Howard Porter’s art, which is blocky and a little hard to follow. The back-up story, featuring the first meeting between Slade and Bruce, is pretty decent. I’m enjoying this arc.
Dune: The Waters of Kanly #1 – I enjoy these Dune books from Boom!, but I do wish that instead of adapting novels not by Frank Herbert, that they came up with some new stories in the Dune Universe that might be better designed to exploit the strengths of comics (in other words, that were more visually exciting). This story gets off to a good start – Gurney Halleck and some other Atreides survivors have been working with the spice smugglers of Arrakis, but now Gurney wants his ‘kanly’, his revenge, on the Harkonnens. The set up is good, but much of this issue is given over to men sitting around a table, and that gets a little slow.
Fire Power #20 – This is a big, busy issue, with lots of big splash pages. Master Shaw and his dragon lay waste to Hong Kong while Owen and his family find themselves facing the snake army. Chris Samnee once again impresses with the art on this book, and this issue does seem to take a turn towards the hopeful. This is such a great series.
Giant-Size X-Men: Thunderbird #1 – John Proudstar has been dead much longer than I’ve been reading comics, so it’s a little odd to see him brought back along with potentially any mutant who ever lived, even if they died before the Cerebro system started backing them up (thanks to Scarlet Witch). John does not feel at home in the modern world, so he returns to the reservation he came from, looking for his last living relative (other than Warpath), his grandmother. Along the way, he reclaims his pride in his Indigeneity, crafting a new outfit that he feels better suits him and his people. He also immediately ends up in conflict with a villain who has been associated with his tribe before. This book, written by Nyla Rose (she’s a wrestler?) and Steve Orlando does a good job of reintroducing Proudstar, even if his portrayal is different from what we’ve seen in X-Men Red. The art, by David Cutler, is pretty nice, and I’m going to be keeping an eye out for more of his work. I hope we’ll see more one-offs like this, focusing on important characters that don’t get enough screentime in the various other X-books.
Iron Man #19 – Tony and Korvac have their final confrontation, and it’s definitely a unique one in the history of comics, as Tony is going through some pretty extreme morphine withdrawal, and doesn’t have his armor with him. It’s taken me a long time to get fully invested in Christopher Cantwell’s Iron Man, but now I’m really enjoying it. I am enjoying the realism of Cafu’s art, and the growing closeness between Tony and Patsy Walker. I’m glad that the end of the Korvac storyline is not the end of this run.
Little Monsters #3 – The small tribe of child vampires are shocked to learn that there are still some humans left in the world, and most of them taste him for the first time. Romie, meanwhile, meets the man’s daughter and protects her from their friends. Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen are dripping out information in this series, and it’s working very well. This is a gorgeous book.
Manifest Destiny #46 – The Lewis and Clark expedition has reached the Pacific Ocean, and that means that it’s time for the men to do the terrible thing they’ve come to do – sacrifice Sacagewea’s baby at the altar of a demon. Lots of unexpected things happen in this issue as the men that have made up the expedition have to decide what their next steps are, and we see who is ready to make a stand, and who is going to act on their worst instincts. There are only a couple of issues left to this incredible reworking of American history, and I’m so happy that the book has survived to this point. This is an impressive and interesting series.
Marauders #2 – Gerry Duggan’s Marauders had its flaws, but it always felt grounded, even when the book was literally at sea. This new title, written by Steve Orlando, is feeling a little unmoored. I’m not entirely sure why Kate felt the need to take her new crew into space to confront the Shi’ar about something that happened over a thousand years ago, and I’m really not sure why we need to retcon into existence a secret society that protects the Majestrix from learning (or revealing) the central shames of the Empire, which they exist to protect. There’s a lot of chaos in this issue, but I remain hopeful that things will be under control soon and make a lot more sense.
Once & Future #25 – Bridgett makes a deal with Robin Hood to try to buy time so she can defeat Arthur. Kieron Gillen continues with his wild mash-up of all British literature, as more kings stand up to Arthur’s advances, and the world becomes ever more chaotic. At the same time, Bridgett’s daughter tries to infiltrate the Grail Castle, which can’t be a good thing. This title has really grown on me, to the point where I now eagerly look forward to each new issue. Originally, I’d felt like this book wasn’t up to the standard of Gillen’s other titles, but now I get it.
One-Star Squadron #6 – Mark Russell started this miniseries as a humour title, but like so many of his books, it’s really an exploration of heroism, and the point of being a hero. The business is gone, but Red Tornado can’t help but wonder how he could have been a better boss, friend, and hero. This leads to him looking for Minute Man, and checking in with some of his other employees. This book ended up being touching and quite insightful. Steve Lieber is the perfect collaborator for Russell, because he too can walk the thin line between satire and real drama very well. I’m hoping they collaborate again soon.
A Righteous Thirst For Vengeance #7 – I’m not so good with books that put kids in danger anymore, so when an assassin infiltrates the survivalist camp looking for Xavier, this already tense book becomes even more tense. Rick Remender has a very interesting story to tell here, but what I love most is the way that he writes so many opportunities for André Lima Araújo to truly shine. He makes this book very exciting and nerve-wracking.
Star Wars #23 – The Rebels have Commander Zahra and the Tarkin’s Will surrounded, but she still somehow has the upper hand. Charles Soule shows just how formidable a military mind she is, as she manages to do a lot of damage to the Rebels. This is a very exciting issue, and Ramon Rosanas does a great job of showing both the human elements of the battle and giving us believable space battles. This book has been on fire lately.
Star Wars: Obi-Wan #1 – Timed to coincide with the new Obi-Wan TV show, we have this miniseries that has Ben Kenobi waiting out a sandstorm by writing in his memoirs. This issue focuses on a close friendship he had while still a youngling in the Jedi Temple. It has nice art by Ario Anindito, but isn’t particularly memorable so far.
Suicide Squad #15 – I think this is the final issue of this series, and it’s definitely time to put it out of its misery. This title started off very strongly, but as it progressed, things just kept getting weirder. This run has had the worst take on Amanda Waller I’ve ever seen, with her playing the role of multiversal villain, conquering Earth-3 and generally torturing her Squad. This issue has Rick Flag’s team attempting to kidnap and/or extort Lex Luthor. In the end, I regret shelling out for this series, and wish that DC could return the Squad to the glory that was the John Ostrander days. Everything since then has fallen flat.
Free Comic Book Day Comics:
Dark Crisis #0 FCBD Edition – I’ve read Justice League Incarnate, and Justice League #75, and I still don’t really understand what’s coming with this Dark Crisis event. It’s driven home a couple of times across the three stories here (one of which appears to be uncredited) that the Justice League has died. We get an alright story about Flash stopping Clayface at an exhibit of Justice League stuff, and then we get a touching speech by Nightwing at a JL memorial. After that is an attempt at explaining the history of the multiverse, but it kind of lost me. I’ve been happy with DC lately, and adding more and more titles to my pullfire. I’m worried that this Dark Crisis stuff might mess with something that is finally working to my liking, as have all Crises since the first one.
Free Comic Book Day 2022: Avengers/X-Men #1 – Marvel decided to push their upcoming Judgment Day event, which features the X-Men and Eternals in a conflict, with the Avengers stuck between them. The lead story does a good job of explaining the set-up, that the Eternals are programmed to take out “excessive deviation”, and that they are now not sure if that applies to mutants. This issue perhaps spoils the end of the current Eternals arc, as I don’t see Thanos anywhere, and it looks like Uranos is released from his cell, but aside from that, I’m not left with any great dread that Gillen can’t make this work. It seems a little early, given that his Immortal X-Men has just begun. The rest of this issue has a preview of an upcoming “Daughter of Blade” series that doesn’t interest me, and sets up the return of a now-villainous character at the upcoming Hellfire Gala.
I picked up more books for FCBD, and will share my thoughts on them in next week’s column.
Comics I Would Have Bought if Comics Weren’t So Expensive:
Avengers Forever #5
Batman: Killing Time #3
George Pérez –
We’ve known for a while that George Pérez was going to pass away sooner than later, but it still hit pretty hard, seeing the news after having returned from some Free Comic Book Day shopping. Pérez was an absolute giant of the field, having had a hand in some of the biggest and most momentous comics of the 1980s. His New Teen Titans, with Marv Wolfman, was second only to the Uncanny X-Men in terms of popularity and reach. He and Wolfman redefined the entire DC Universe with Crisis on Infinite Earths, and he then went to create a lasting vision of Wonder Woman in the new universe that resulted. I wasn’t much of a DC kid up to that point, and had associated his work with the complex stories that DC was known for at the time. I personally really started appreciating his work when he and Kurt Busiek revived the Avengers after years of moribund storytelling.
Their Heroes Return era run was amazing, and it was then that I started to really appreciate Pérez’s ability to differentiate similar-looking characters, and to make everyone unique on the page. Some of his characters, like Changeling or Terra, were among the most realistic depictions of people I’d seen in comics. He was always given projects that had him drawing dozens of characters at a time, and he always exceeded expectations. He was an early experimenter with layout and page design, and excelled at detailed landscapes and backgrounds (just look at his vision of Mount Olympus). Over the years, I’ve poked fun at many of his costume designs (the first Nightwing costume, Jericho), but the truth is that he contributed way more iconic costumes than most of his contemporaries (Deathstroke and Raven in particular, but I also liked his redesigns of Donna Troy/Troia and Firestar).
While his influence on both the Marvel and DC universes has been legendary, what’s really come out in the last year or so, as people have been paying tribute to Pérez online, is that he was a singularly nice man. I’ve read so many creators talking about the encouragement they’ve received from him, and the way in which he has exemplified the very best of the comics world at all times in his career. I never got the chance to meet him, and don’t actually remember if he was ever at any conventions I went to, but it’s good to know how genuinely decent and kind he was.
I’ve only recently taken the time to fully absorb his New Teen Titans and Wonder Woman runs (you can find my Retro Review columns here), and weirdly, am in the middle of reading the Silver Surfer run he wrote in the mid-90s that I never knew existed until recently. That is going to be the topic of my next Retro Review column, in the next week or so. Knowing that Pérez was so sick has changed my reading of all of these comics, and made me appreciate them so much more.
I’m glad I didn’t learn of his passing until after my FCBD was over. I immediately thought back to being at TCAF the day the news broke of Darwyn Cooke’s passing, and seeing the shadow it cast over the festivities. I’m sure that comics stores and conventions for the next months will be impacted by Pérez’s passing, as he gave us so much over the years. His death coming so quickly on the death of Neal Adams reminds us that while the superheroes we spend years reading about never seem to age or falter for long, the men and women who have built their careers giving us so much joy are not immortal. Only their work is. The industry and fan community have spent months giving Pérez his flowers, and now I’m left wondering how many other writers and artists that have shaped my life are also deserving of our love and support.
My condolences to the family, friends, colleagues, and innumerable fans of George Pérez. He was a truly great artist and his presence will be missed.
The Week in Music:
Alabaster De Plume – Gold – I’m going to need some more time with this odd album to fully understand how I feel about it. I’m at that stage where much of it is annoying me, but that actually often leads to me loving a piece of work later. Alabaster De Plume put together a group of jazz and electronic musicians, and had them perform his work without rehearsal, which he later chopped up and manipulated some. Many of the tracks here are lovely, but the ones that he recites his poetry over are leaving me cold. This album is on International Anthem, and they never make mistakes, so I figure I need to listen more and I’ll get it eventually.