Hey, quick question – are you a millionaire? No? I didn’t think so. Don’t worry, neither am I, but I am a comic book fan, and sometimes being a comic book fan feels like an uphill struggle if you’re not absolutely bloody loaded. Rising cover prices, the impact of Brexit, the 101 tie-ins that seem to involved with every major event… supporting printed media seems to be becoming more and more of a struggle, especially if you’re a student, unemployed, working a low wage job or simply have more important commitments like a family.
With that in mind, every month I’m going to write a bit about what I’ve been reading – new releases, old classics, and everything in between. If anything really takes your fancy please try and support the creative team by picking up an issue from your local indie store.
So, let’s get started…
Photo Credit: Lena Orwig @ Unsplash
This month saw the conclusion of Deadpool Vs Old Man Logan, a series which didn’t particularly grab me to begin with. The first couple of issues felt a little forced but it eventually fell into place with the development of a new mutant, a young women on the run (isn’t everyone on the run at some point or another in the X-Men universe?) with teleportation powers. I’m a big fan of Mike Henderson’s art and Lee Loughridge’s colours – it’s detailed where it needs to be but not overbearing. There’s a lot to be said for uncluttered comics! Declan Shalvey has a good feel for both Logan and Wade leading to some amusing banter which isn’t as full on as some of the other Deadpool comics.
On the subject of the old men of Marvel, I am really enjoying Old Man Hawkeye! Set five years before the events of the original Old Man Logan, Clint is working as a bodyguard to support his family in the wasteland. After being ambushed by the Madrox gang (who are rocking some very 70’s moustaches…) Clint discovers that his vision is going and there’s no knowing how long he has left. Throw in family issues, seedy nightclubs, plenty of violence and some classic western tropes and you’ve got the start of something great. As far as I’m concerned it’s the best thing Marvel are putting out at the moment – we’re only up to issue 2 so it’s not too late to jump in!
Of course, Marvel and DC wouldn’t be the big two without an almost never ending ‘big event’ and February is no different. Whilst we’re waiting for DC/Young Animals ‘The Milk Wars’ to wrap up Marvel is gearing up for Infinity Countdown. Infinity Countdown Prime serves as a primer for the upcoming event, reminding everyone of what each infinity Stone does and who holds them. It’s not terrible by any stretch of the imagination – there’s a fantastic scene of Old Man Logan popping his claws that would not have been out of place in last year’s blockbuster – but there really isn’t much there to get your teeth into. Time will tell whether Infinity Countdown becomes one of the classics like Civil War and Original Sin (a personal favourite) but right now, I wouldn’t want to call it.
This brings us on to X-Men: Red #1. Jean Grey is back and leading a new team of mutants in her quest to bring mutant-human peace to the world. Does this sound familiar? I’m not surprised, this a totally generic #1 for X-Men. Sure, there’s a few nods to modern politics (like Jean addressing the UN and the UK representative being pretty damn Brexit) but otherwise it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. I’m not a massive fan of the art style either and the first villain just doesn’t feel like much of a threat to me. Nightcrawler does have a few decent quips (“Here, take my hand… look, I know I’ve only got three fingers but it’s still a hand”) but aside from that it’s a thumbs down for me. Sorry Red.
On a slightly more positive note, The Terrifics #1 has dropped fresh from the pages of Metal! As far as establishing issues go it’s not bad – Jeff Lemire does what he does best and manages to establish Mr. Terrific, Metamorpho and Plastic Man’s personalities in a few short pages. I’d have liked to have found out more about Phantom Girl but I get the feeling that she will come into her own soon enough. Plastic Man is the highlight of The Terrifics for me, bringing a nice touch of humour to the series. Time will tell whether they’ll grow into DC’s version of the Fantastic Four or simply become another 12-issue team like The Movement, destined to be forgotten (which is a shame as, personally, I feel like The Movement was one of the most unnecessary cuts in recent years).
Completely separate from the Dark Knights event is DC’s Monster Romance oneshot. Let’s get this out of the way first – this is expensive! $9.99 for an 80 page floppy feels greedy to me which is a shame because it’s actually a surprisingly decent read! It’s an anthology which explores various notions of love across the DC universe. My personal highlights include Superman helping Solomon Grundy remember his dead wife of their anniversary, the addiction of Kirk Langstorm, the unrequited love of Frankenstein (complete with a satan-possesed robot factory) and, naturally, Swamp Thing. Luckily, the image on the front cover has absolutely no relevance to the stories found within as the Swamp Thing is probably one of my favourite shorts in a while, touching on his life post Abby and the nature of love gained and lost. Is it worth the $10 cover charge? Honestly, I don’t know. It is good but I feel like the price point will put a lot of people and off and we’ll be seeing them in grab bags and sales soon.
Talking of Swamp Thing and all things green, there’s a new arc starting titled Everyone Loves Ivy in Batman #41. I’m really enjoying this – Poison Ivy has caused the entire population of earth to fall in love with her using pheromones with the exception of Batman and Catwoman. The artwork is lovely and reminds me of the Swamp Thing’s Rotworld event back in the New 52 days, especially in how some of the spreads are composed. It’s still early days but I’m looking forwards to seeing how Bruce and Selina navigate a world gone green! I’m glad that DC are utilising Poison Ivy as a genuine villain again, when written well (see Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death for a great run) she can be every part as iconic as The Penguin, Harley Quin and The Riddler.
Wrapping up our coverage of the big two, the much anticipated The Brave And The Bold has begun. Something is wrong with the Irish sector of Gotham and Batman has no idea what is causing it. That’s pretty much all we get of Batman at the moment, for this is much more of a Wonder Woman story. I’m really enjoying the Irish mythology focus in the story and the artwork really reflects that – earthy tones and some brilliant page layouts make it a pleasure to read. It actually reminds me of early Hellblazer during the pagan period in some ways – the vibe is certainly similar. I can’t wait to see how this develops.
The same can be said for Ice Cream Man, one of the hottest indie titles on the shelf. It’s a tough series to write about (Issue #2 has just dropped) without giving too much away but at the same time there’s still so many unanswered questions! Who is the Ice Cream Man? What is his agenda? Why does tragedy seem to follow him? Is he the devil? Who knows. Both issues feature some sort of blurring-of-the-lines when it comes to morals – no one is completely good or bad, and I love that. Both issues could be read as one shots so don’t worry about not understanding the overall story if you’re just dipping in. If you like your comics a little bit creepy then check out Ice Cream Man!
“I HOPE YOU BROUGHT YOUR DANCING SHOES, MOTHERFUCKERS!” Admittedly, it was an odd thing for Luna to yell as undead mummy assassin’s storm his bedroom’
I think this quote from Deathbed #1 sums the issue up perfectly. Deathbed is a gloriously over the top comic focusing on a young, burnt out writer who has been tasked with ghost writing a secretive adventurer’s autobiography. She goes in expecting a frail old man and leaves expecting… well, when you’re tagging along with the love child of Blade and Indiana Jones as he seeks the perfect death, who knows what to expect? If the art style and character design looks familiar than that’s because Deathbed is being handled by the power house combination of Rossmo and Plascencia who are no strangers to occult comics having handled Constantine: The Hellblazer before the Rebirth reboot. I can’t begin to explain how fun this comic is so if you like your stories supernatural and super violent then you should not sleep on this!
Unfortunately Punks Not Dead #1 doesn’t quite have the same impact as Death Bed which is a shame as it has the potential to be a really good series. I’ll be honest, I picked it up based on the cover and assumed that it’d be similar to the Hip-Hop Family Tree series but I was wrong. For years Sid Vicious has been haunting the airport his ashes were accidentally spilt in – no one has been able to see him until 15 year old Fergie passes through and forms some kind of bond with the long dead punk rocker. It hasn’t gone unnoticed though as a government agency focussed on the supernatural start making moves. In theory, I should really like this. The concept is good and the writing, whilst not amazing, is certainly passable, but the artwork really puts me off. It seems such a shame that it’s so flat and soulless (thanks, I’m here all week) – with the right team this story could really pop.
Let’s end this on a positive note and talk about the return of Calexit. Issue one came out about seven months ago and I was starting to doubt that there would ever be a second. The premise is simple – Trump has managed to criminalise the entire immigrant population and California fighting back by opening their borders to all those who are persecuted. It isn’t paradise though as the government and neo nazi gangs are still trying to force their compliance. Black Mask has a history of creating strong characters from minorities and Zora, a queer POC resistance fighter with a prosthetic leg, is no difference. Unfortunately this is where it starts to fall flat a little – both Zora and the militaristic villain, Rosse, can come across as predictable, pandering to the obvious stereotypes of angry freedom fighter and nazi-esque general respectively. My favourite character is currently Jamil, the roguish motorbike riding delivery man / smuggler. He knows the difference between right and wrong but more than anything he just wants to survive. I’m a big fan of Black Mask Studios and issue two does a lot to build the world around the main characters – I just hope that we don’t have another long wait for issue 3!
To wrap this up, Little Heroes Comics have started to put together their second charity anthology and this time the theme is Family. There’s plenty of information on their Facebook page so check it out and get involved!
Richard is an illustrator (@richardheavendoesstuff), performer, and officer cadet living on the South Coast of England who spends way too much time reading comics and nowhere near enough time studying. One day that encyclopedic knowledge of Swamp Thing will pay the bills, right? …