Last Wednesday I moved out of Ann Arbor and back to my hometown for the summer. While this means I have a break from school and a steady source of income, I am away from my beloved Vault of Midnight. But seeing as I still have my subscriptions there, New Comic Book Day posts are likely going to be moved to Fridays, every two weeks for the duration of the summer (as that's when I can drive out to pick up my books).
Fear not! I still plan on having something to say on Wednesdays. I may review older collections or talk about what's going on in my own work. For example, I picked up about 9 TPBs yesterday through the HumbleBundle Image deal so you can look forward to me talking about that.
Additionally, work is underway on one of my own comics. I'm going to mostly keep hush-hush about it for now, but I'm currently working with an artist on a 4 page script I wrote sometime last summer. I've seen preliminary sketches for the first two pages and I'm very excited. Stay tuned! You'll see it here before anywhere else, I'm relatively certain.
Medium Humor, Part II
You know how sometimes you have to write something about how you can't think of what to write, just to get something out?
Sometimes those things may be actually worth putting out there. Not often.
Wednesday again already? I swear I just did this 7 days ago. Today was really a fascinating day for me, comics-wise. I went into my LCS (Local Comic Shop, for the uninitiated) with the intent of trimming my relatively long pull list. ALL-NEW INVADERS was the first to go, but with a heavy heart. I love the Winter Soldier, I love Captain America, and I love Namor. But what I didn't love was the writing. When it came right down to it, I thought why should I spend $3.99 on a book with bad writing when I can spend $3.50, $2.99, or even $1 on a book and have a much more satisfactory experience? MIGHTY AVENGERS also got the axe. I've found its story to be winding and seemingly directionless and I thought last weeks big Ronin reveal was a huge let down. I do hope the book has fans though, it's not often you get to see an Avengers title that is composed almost entirely of people of color or women. I also felt I had to cut NEW AVENGERS. It seems to me that it's a good book (in fact I love the art), but every month I come to it thinking I will understand the story but I never do. That's on me. I jumped on too late and didn't bother to read the first 6 or so issues. I'll give it another shot in the trades.
The real high point of this week though had to be working with the staff at Vault of Midnight. Vault of Midnight is a huge store with a family feel, located on Main Street in Downtown Ann Arbor. (No, they did not pay me to write this). Nick, who is a personal friend, was more than happy to set me up with some more books he thought I would like. He did not disappoint. I ended up going back to Vault again to pick up a few more issues of one of the titles he recommended, and added two more to my pull list. Still managed to shrink the list by one I suppose.
Over all, my Vault Haul (boy that sounds vaguely poetic) consisted of the following: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #14, SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN TEAM-UP #12, SHE-HULK #1, and ORIGINAL SIN #0 from Marvel; LETTER 44 from Oni Press; and STARLIGHT #2, BLACK SCIENCE #2, ALEX + ADA #1-5, and the RAT QUEENS VOL. 1 TPB from Image.
RAT QUEENS was the real stand-out title for me. As an avid Dungeons and Dragons player and dungeon master, this fantasy masterpiece (yeah, I said it) takes a new twist on common pen-and-paper RPG tropes that is both delightfully vulgar and smart. Remember all of those bar brawls that started off your adventure when you sat around the dimly lit basement table with your D&D buddies? Well how might the story have gone differently if you decided to make a home in that town where you caused so much trouble? The adventuring party known as the Rat Queens consists of four, ethnically diverse women who include a lesbian among their number. It's possibly the most representative fantasy story I've ever seen, unless you happen to be a white male. Sorry white males, you'll have to go pick up basically any other book on the shelves if you want to see yourself as a hero. Furthermore, the diversity and depth of character represented in the first five chapters is more than I've seen in entire runs of other books. RAT QUEENS is smart, funny, mysterious, and more than a bit naughty. I highly recommend you pick it up, but be warned, it definitely earned its Mature rating.
From the back cover: "Who are the Rat Queens? They're a pack of beer-guzzling, death dealing battle maidens-for-hire and they're in the business of killing all the gods' creatures for profit. Meet Hannah the Rockabilly Elven Mage, Violet the Hipster Dwarven Fighter, Dee the Atheist Human Cleric and Betty the Hippy Smidgen Thief. This modern spin on an old school genre is a violent, monster killing epic that is like Buffy meets Tank Girl in a Lord of the Rings world on crack!"
I also thoroughly enjoyed the first five issues of ALEX + ADA. So much so that after reading the first issue, on Nick's recommendation, I ended up trekking back to Vault to pick up #2-5. ALEX + ADA is a new take on the classic "What would happen if we had Artificial Intelligence that became sentient?" It's full of the human fear and bigotry that one would expect, but this time we get to take the side of the robots in quiet rebellion. Alex, a rather lonely guy still coping with a hard break up (7 months ago? Come on man, move on) is gifted the most advanced, and expensive, android on the market by a well-meaning grandma. When he finds that she's just not quite human (duh) he wonders if she isn't capable of more. Enter sentience. I won't say more to prevent spoiling anything, but this is an excellent near-future sci-fi book worth checking out.
Actually with my multiple trips to UHS this semester, I find myself defending it against the frustration of my peers. I had a pretty good experience. I'm not in intense pain anymore so I say job well done.
Wednesday means new comics so let's get right to it! Rather than the lengthy review I gave last week, I'd like to give short reports on some of my reads from this week. Today I picked up Deadpool vs. Carnage #2, Ms. Marvel #3, Superior Spider-Man #31, Thor: God of Thunder #21, Winter Soldier: The Bitter March #3, and Genesis.
Deadpool vs. Carnage was about what you would expect to see from a Deadpool title. I've enjoyed the excursions away from the Brian Poshen/Gerry Dugan main title (e.g. Deadpool Killustrated, Deadpool vs. Deadpool) and this one is no exception. Cullen Bunn is the man behind the last couple of Deadpool side-titles and has worked with the symbiotes before and he clearly has a good grasp on both characters. Carnage is also one of my favorite villains. I'm glad to see him getting more page time recently. Deadpool vs. Carnage is a fun, quick, blood-filled book that delivers what it promises.
Ms. Marvel continues to live up to the hype it began generating soon after its announcement. As Kamala tries to learn the nature of her powers she still feels like a teenager, almost worrying more about the ramifications of her late night partying than her new abilities. Kamala's relatability is one of the strongest points of the book and G. Willow Wilson does an excellent job bringing it out. I can't wait to see how this series develops. The Kamala Korps will surely be pleased with the latest installment.
Superior Spider-Man #31 is hard to talk about without massive spoilers. For those of you up on the series, #31 concludes the Goblin Nation arc and opens the way for the relaunch of Amazing Spider-Man. As much as it was a conclusion I didn't find myself particularly satisfied. While all of the surface level problems with the Goblin Nation are resolved, many of the much deeper issues resulting from the Peter/Doc Ock body switch are left almost entirely untouched. And with the first part of Amazing Spider-Man dedicated to the "Learning to Crawl" arc, I worry these problems are going to be swept under the rug. There are some really deep storytelling opportunities there for those with the stones to go for them.
Genesis was the book I felt most attached to this week. I've been hearing the hype from Alison Sampson's tumblr for months and it was great to get it in my hands and see it realized. The winding, allegorical story about a man who can make real anything he can imagines is perfectly captured by Sampson's surreal and fascinating art. It's not often that I feel like a comic book is smarter than me. Nathan Edmondson, who I know best from the recent Black Widow series, has a powerful ability to keep one spellbound and confused all at once. I definitely intend to reread Genesis several times. It's a book that I'm sure contains many more secrets and surprises for those willing to give it a deep read. I highly recommend picking this book up. Genesis is thick, filled with plenty of process art and no ads, well worth the $6.99 you'll spend to get your hands on a copy.
Still recovering from last night's Game of Thrones. Won't say anything to avoid spoilers. Have a note card.
Hey everyone! It's New Comics Day! Today I picked up: ALL NEW X-MEN #25, MIGHTY AVENGERS #9, THE SUPERIOR FOES OF SPIDER-MAN #11, SECRET AVENGERS #2, IRON MAN #24, CAPTAIN MARVEL #2, DEADPOOL #27, AVENGERS A.I. #11, and IRON FIST: THE LIVING WEAPON #1. My first read for the week was the new IRON FIST and I was so impressed I made it the subject for this week's review. As always, I try as much as possible to keep my reviews spoiler free.
The All-New IRON FIST: THE LIVING WEAPON #1 is definitely a book that's all about contrast. Sudden style, color, and dialogue shifts dominate the pages and pull us in to Danny's world in an unexpected and delightful way. This was the lone spontaneous pick for me this week. I don't know much of anything about Danny Rand, or Iron Fist, except from select pages I've seen from the celebrated Fraction/Aja IMMORTAL IRON FIST. Grabbing it today was a matter of sheer curiosity and I wasn't disappointed.
The book definitely has some of its DNA from Fraction/Aja's run. Danny's inner monologue controls the narrative, getting through all of the exposition necessary for a #1 without dragging down the story too much. These captions are visually reminiscent of Matt Fraction's style, but the tone is much darker. The art pays homage to David Aja as well, favoring impressions over intense detail more often than not. A few times we're also treated to series of panels where Danny's face stays the same while details around him shift, something we see frequently in Aja's work on HAWKEYE.
All this aside, Kaare Kyle Andrews certainly makes the book his own. Starting with the fact that he is the writer, inker, and colorist, unusual for Marvel books these days. Doing so gives him the ability to really stretch his wings and integrate the art fully into the writing. A great example of this is in his sound effects. In several instances, simple onomatopoeia are transformed into dramatic visual elements on the page, contributing to the story rather than just explaining a sound in a silent medium.
Texture plays a major role in this book too. In the extended flashback sequences, we know we're in the past by the use of Ben-Day dot coloring, something of a rarity in modern comics. As an even greater treat, each page set in the past looks as though it has been folded and unfolded, crinkled, and beat up. No mistaking the time frame during these scenes. This is contrasted beautifully with the flat colors and crisp, clean designs of the pages set in the present.
With regard to color, Andrews makes some seriously bold choices that make the book exceptionally beautiful. His combinations of shades of red and black really pop off the page and set us up for a very gritty portrayal of Iron First. By contrasting these pages with the more muted colors of the flashback scenes we get a much sharper intensity in the present. The penultimate page, where we see how the past will come back to haunt Danny, there's a muting of the palette that bridges the gap and brings us full circle.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention Andrews' command of architecture and stunningly beautiful depictions of the moon. I hope to see plenty of wide cityscapes in this book because Andrews knows how to do it well. Some of the writing seems a little on the nose at times, but I think its difficult to avoid that in a new #1 for a well established character. I look forward to seeing where this book takes me.
There's still time yet today to get out to your local shop and pick up a copy! Don't know where your shop is? The Comic Shop Locator is here to save the day. You can also read digitally on Marvel's website or Comixology.
That whole "I'll start posting more regularly" thing from last week... Well... April Fools! My excuse is that this is a very busy time of the year for college students. In addition to exams and projects and such, I've got a couple major composition projects I'm juggling at the moment and I'm working on a new comic (that's more than one panel!). Things will become more regular in a few weeks. For now, enjoy this week's 5 x 3:
This may or may not be a real conversation that took place in my apartment. And yes, that spelling of noodles is correct. There's an r.
E. Ross Ura is a writer, letterer, artist, composer, and blogger active in the Metro Detroit Area.