It’s nice to know if everything else is life is insane, comics are still there for you!
Deathbed #1 (Vertigo Comics)
I am a big fan of Joshua Williamson and Riley Rossimo on their various separate works. This announcement was a pleasant surprise and I’ve been anticipating the actual book quite a bit.
Antonio Luna is the most interesting man in the world. He’s also a complete enigma, with no record of his existence anywhere. This is the situation that Valentine Richards finds herself in when she’s offered a contract to write Luna’s autobiography. She soon finds herself drawn into Luna’s weird world, one that apparently involves battling cursed Egyptian mummies in the nude. After that fight, Val finds herself making a choice that the narration informs us she’ll regret- she accepts Luna’s offer.
Williamson just decided to go crazy here, but it works. While at first, it appears that the story is going to be more about the ramblings of a madman, he quickly turns that on its head. What Luna is talking about is very very real, and that just deepens the story. It’s also surprising how much depth Williamson is able to give Val without much effort or exposition.
Rossimo is an absolute star here. Whether it’s a two page spread of Val’s biography, or the aforementioned naked mummy fight (Luna’s naked, not the mummies), it’s all vivid, exciting and engaging. Luna’s mansion is dripping with atmosphere. One touch I like quite a bit is that Val is not a stereotypical comic heroine, both in her dress and her body type. Ivan Plascencia’s colors are a fabulous addition as well, really helping Rossimo sell that atmosphere.
It’s a crazy first issue, well worth your time, and money in future issues.
Rating: 9 out of 10
The Verdict: Buy
Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Coronation #1 (BOOM! Studios/ Archaia)
The story of Jareth the Goblin King is probably the most beloved of Jim Henson’s non-Muppet works. Si Spurrier, Daniel Bayliss and Dan Jackson hit on perhaps the most natural extension of the story possible. Did Jareth become the Goblin King in the same way that he intended for Toby?
In-between scenes of the movie (immediately after the infamous “Dance Magic Dance” musical number), Jareth tells Toby and one of his loyal goblins the story of the very similar coronation of a past Goblin King in the 1800’s, as well as another human woman who tried to save that similarly kidnapped baby.
Spurrier does his best to avoid the problem prequels have often- we know how the story is going to end. In the case, the kidnapped baby appears to be Jareth (and that’s explicitly called out), but Jareth specifically avoids confirming it. He also makes it clear that the interesting thing in the story is not the identity of the child but the journey its mother is about to go on. The biggest failing is the character of Beetleglum, who really feels more like an audience surrogate than a true character.
Bayliss and Jackson’s work on art is pitch perfect. They capture the look of the world so well established in the film. The goblins look like Henson’s puppets. Jareth himself is a great presence, without leaning too far into “This must be David Bowie.”
For a fan of the original film this is a must-read.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
The Verdict: Buy if a Labyrinth or Henson fan.
Optimus Prime Annual 2018 (IDW Publishing)
If you’ve read this column, my opinions on Transformers comics are pretty well known. I often struggle with one or two aspects of the story, art or both. So it’s a raity to find a Transformers comic I enjoy. Thanks to John Barber and the art team on this book, they’ve given me a TF story that I’ve enjoyed!
Starscream is out to redeem his image, so what does he do? He takes his cues from earth and commissions a movie about this life from Thundercracker, a former ally. As Thundercracker begins to research his life, he realizes his former friend is even worse than he thought.
First things first- the title character appears in a handful of panels at best. Don’t come into this story thinking you’re getting a Prime story. You’re getting a Starscream story.
That said, this is genuinely GOOD. I never expected to enjoy a character piece about a giant robot/jet as much as I did. Barber finds genuine humor in Thundercracker’s journey, whether it’s dealing with untruths, diva actors, or just plain weird situations. It’s a fun story, and I’m sure for a longtime fan of IDW’s Transformers it’s even more so.
The art (by Priscilla Tramontano and Andrew Griffith splitting the line art, and John-Paul Bove and Josh Burcham on color art) isn’t perfect. The two teams do a good job of setting the bots apart (especially since Starscream and Thundercracker look so similar), which too many TF artists struggle with. Some panels and pages get a little cluttered though, where pulling back a little bit would have helped.
This is a good issue though, and probably worth a try if you’re curious about the current Transformers books.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
The Verdict: Buy for the Transformer fan, or the Bot-curious.
Doom Patrol/Justice League of America #1 (DC Comics)
This crossover still is one of the weirdest books I’ve read, but it is SO MUCH FUN too.
The Justice League of America, joined by Batman and Wonder Woman, and the Doom Patrol, joined by Shade and Mother Panic, invade the headquarters of Retconn to battle the sinister corporation and their Superman- Milkman Man. Meanwhile Rita Farr battles through Retconn’s alterations to her own person continuity to return to the DC universe.
As I said, Steve Orlando and Gerard Way have given us a supremely weird story. However, it still makes sense (even if the day is saved by Flex Mentallo flexing), and is just a lot of fun. It’s an all out action story, so there’s not a lot of room for character moments. The interaction between Casey and Milkman Man is a great slower touch in the middle of the brawl, and Rita’s story gives her a resilience that she needs as she’s reintroduced to the timeline.
Dale Eaglesham was without a doubt the right choice to illustrate this story. He gives the superhero brawl a fantastic scope, even though it’s entirely set in an evil office building. It feels widescreen. Tamra Bonvillain and Marissa Louise deserve kudos for their color work over Rita’s scenes alone, and their work in the brawl is just perfect. The epilogue illustrated by Nick Derrington is a complete change of pace, but adds a hopeful and emotional denouement.
It’s just a fun weird story, and you should buy it.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
The Verdict: Buy
Amazing Spider-Man #796 (Marvel Comics)
Dan Slott continues to wind down his Spider-Man run by building up multiple threats to truly blow out end to his run on the series.
Spider-Man and Anti-Venom find themselves fighting off the Goblin King to prevent a catastrophe. Meanwhile Norman Osborn and Carnage continue to bond, in a really horrifying way.
Dan and frequent cowriter Christos Gage have really excelled at doing smaller adventure stories to build up to the bigger arcs. This issue has a great mix of Spidey adventure, and good Peter Parker character beats. Peter is proving to be capable as a science writer and editor at the Daily Bugle, which is a great move. They also give supporting cast members some really good moments, with Flash Thompson and Jonah Jameson both getting some really good moments.
Mike Hawthorne’s art is a very capable fill-in for regular series artist Stuart Immonen, alongside Terry Pallot and Cam Smith on inks. It’s solid, with good figure work. Some of the figures can be kind of static though. Anti-Venom also looks a little off (I think it’s the way Hawthorne draws his mask). Overall though, it’s a solid fill-in.
Rating: 7 out of 10
The Verdict: Buy for a Spidey fan.
Rat Queens #8 (Image Comics/Shadowline)
Kurtis Wiebe and Owen Gieni continue their new run with the ultimate dungeon raiders.
The story is split between two stories. As Dee, Hannah and Betty try to stop an apocalypse cult from destroying Palisade, Hannah is banished to an island prison in the near future. Once Hannah is in prison though, a mysterious stranger appears to her… and makes her disappear.
I haven’t read this volume of the series at all, but Wiebe does a good job of catching the reader up while giving the girls all solid character moments. The building mystery of what happened to Violet (and now apparently Hannah) is also immediately accessible and interesting.
Gieni’s art looks great. He balances well between realistic and cartoony, and that works really well for the setting. His design for the snail-like cultists in particular is a lot of fun. He also does fantastic with the action of the story.
It’s a very fun mostly self-contained story that any fantasy fan would enjoy.
Rating: 8 out of 10
The Verdict: Buy.