The old met the new on Wednesday as DC’s ongoing celebration of Jack Kirby’s centennial crossed paths with the publisher’s newest imprint, Young Animal. This blending of sensibilities is not novel for Young Animal; Shade the Changing Girl is a homage to both Steve Ditko’s original stories along Peter Milligrin and Chris Bachalo’s iconic 90s take for Vertigo. In this case, Bug! The Adventures of Forager is a new limited series centered on a minor player from Jack Kirby’s sprawling New Gods cosmology. Forager is a member of a race of humanoid creatures called bugs which compose the working class of New Genesis. They are viewed, often dismissively, as nameless, interchangeable laborers in the machinery of New Genesis. Forager, however, feels the tug of independence, a sensation reinforced by the suggestion that his destiny lies above, not below, the surface. The opening page of Bug! relates this background information in a succinct manner while also delightfully establishing the series’ idiosyncratic tone.
Two weeks ago, Marvel relaunched Guardians of the Galaxy with an All-New title to coincide with the team’s return to cinemas. Last week, it was team member Rocket Raccoon’s turn as he took the next step in his journey from that “black hole somewhere in Sirius Major.” Rocket’s evolution as a character has been a fascinating one from his unassuming debut in an incomplete science-fiction serial to a brilliant solo limited-series, followed by two decades of obscurity until gaining a prominent place on the post-AnnihilationGuardians of the Galaxy. With the imminent arrival of the first Guardians movie, Marvel gave Rocket another shot a solo series, which, give or take the standard marketing driven relaunching, Rocket has steadily maintained over the past three years. For most of this time, his exploits were delightfully scripted by Skottie Young. The post-Young issues have ranged from charming (Nick Kocher’s) to meh (Matthew Rosenberg’s). Last week Al Ewing assumed scripting duties, immediately breathing fresh air into the title once again.
By G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa & Ian Herring
“We all have secret identities, but no secrets.”
Recently there has been much discussion about the merits of superhero secret identities. Once a core element of the genre, it has been increasingly falling out of favor with creators. Much of the Marvel Universe presently seems to ignore the concept; meanwhile CW series such The Flash give lip service to it in theory while pretty much discarding it in practice. In Valiant’s Faith, writer Jody Houser has been affectionately poking fun at the device (the heroine’s alter ego works as a “journalist” at a celebrity news blog and wears glasses as part of her disguise). A recent issue (#9), however, dug a little deeper exploring how Faith’s secret identity was a bridge to not only a superhero support group, but sincere friendships which keep her grounded in either identity. G. Willow Wilson plays with some similar ideas in the latest issue of Ms. Marvel, while also highlighting the importance of empathy.
By Ta-Nehisi Coates, Butch Guice, Scott Hanna & Dan Brown
Marvel has a long history of using superheroes as a means for discussing political topics. Steve Gerber repeatedly used four-color tropes to tackle issues as divisive as the culture wars (Howard the Duck), racial tensions (The Defenders) and the breakdown of social discourse (Foolkiller). Gerber, though, was far from the only Bullpen member engaged in such exercises. Don McGregor’s iconic run of Black Panther stories in Jungle Action broke new ground in its depiction of Africans in comic books. At the tail end of the run, McGregor brought Ta-Challa to America where he fought the Klu Klux Klan (a decision that even in the post-Civil Rights landscape of the 1970s sat uneasily with some Marvel editors). The run was never a best seller; indeed, it was abruptly canceled mid-storyline. However, it made a strong impression on those who read it, especially the next generation of African-American creators. Christopher Priest drew on it for background to his own acclaimed Black Panther title, making the material his own by swapping out the 70s earnestness for 90s satire. Towards the end of his run, Priest penned a related (short lived) series featuring the characters James Rhodes, Josiah X and White Tiger. On Wednesday Marvel revived that property as a tie-in to the current Black Panther on-going written by Ta-Nehisi Coates. The strong debut issue is worthy continuation of Marvel’s tradition of social relevance.
By Jason Latour, Ivan Brandon, Greg Hinkle & Matt Wilson
“The future will always be dark . . . A blank page we fill with aspiration.”
These words greet the reader at the opening of Image’s new series Black Cloud. In one sense they serve as an introspective beginning, as a narrator muses on the nature of storytelling. A story and time are the same as each captivate through the unknown. Suspense over what occurs in the next chapter is no different than anxiety over what might happen on a new day. The best is hoped for, even as the worst is feared. Stories provide a framework for processing these feelings, giving shape to otherwise undefinable internal rumblings. This clash of cheer and dread is elegantly expressed through Ivan Brandon’s script. (Brandon co-plotted the book with Jason Latour). The idea is further elaborated through Greg Hinkle’s riveting artwork. The first page depicts a flame drifting across an empty space. Fire has many connotations ranging from inspiration to destruction, either of which could be gleamed from Hinkle’s atmospheric illustration. This dynamic continues as the perspective pulls back revealing a seemingly pre-historic group sitting around a campfire. The storyteller finishes his tale, slinking off in exasperation before being confronted with an enormous, menacing creature. Hinkle’s art captures the wonder of this moment while still conveying its terror. This ambiance is greatly aided by Matt Wilson’s stellar coloring which lends a crackling energy to the confrontation which follows. It is a deft mixture of idea and spectacle which immediately draws the reader into this new world.
Gert, the heroine of Skottie Young’s excellent I Hate Fairyland, has a bit of a temper problem. Now considering that she has spent years stuck in the fantastically infuriating realms of Fairyland with little of hope of returning home, frustration is understandable. It is doubly understandable when the reader remembers that she ceased growing a while back, leaving her with an adult mind in a child’s body. So yes, you would be upset as well. Problem is Gert is not too good at the whole anger management thing. She favors a disembowel first, do not bother with any ####### questions later approach. In such a way, she has been cutting a bloody swath through Fairyland and in the process made some questionable decisions. The second arc concluded with her making a spectacularly poor choice which may have doomed not only herself but all of Fairyland. Luckily those consequences have been postponed for a later date, allowing readers more time for enjoying Gert’s twisted, entertaining antics.
By Jody Houser, Jim Krueger, Shawn Crystal, Phil Hester, Ande Parks, Jean-Francois Beaulieu & Trish Mulvihill
From the beginning, Mother Panic has had an identity problem. The first issue of the Young Animal series opened in a compelling manner by introducing readers to the jet legged, jet set heiress Violet Paige. Writer Jody Houser gave Violet an intriguing voice, which engaged the reader despite the many overly familiar elements of her backstory. Still, there was potential to the character. Unfortunately the following two issues almost entirely ignored Violet in favor of her costumed vigilante alter ego, Mother Panic. As a crime fighter, Mother Panic was effective but lacked the personality of Violet. Houser corrects this imbalance in the current issue which goes a long way to reconciling the dueling halves of Violet Paige.
On Wednesday the ever prolific Matt Kindt launched his latest creator owned series, Grass Kings. A collaboration with artist Tyler Jenkins, the project is his first with BOOM! Studios. While Grass Kings begins with a familiar feel, Kindt and Jenkins gradually subvert expectations leaving readers eager to learn how the intriguing setup will further unfurl.
By James Tynion IV, Marcio Takara, Alvaro Martinez, Eddy Barrows, Dean White, Brad Anderson, Adriano Lucas, Raul Fernandez & Eber Ferreira
Last week Detective Comics released their milestone 950th issue. However, instead of using the occasion to focus on Batman or one of the title’s other central characters, such as Batwoman, writer James Tynion IV choses to put the spotlight on figures who have not been prominently featured in his run so far. While Orphan and Azrael have functioned well within Tynion’s excellently executed group dynamics, they have not been given the same amount of attention as Spoiler or Red Robin. Tynion rectifies that situation with his anniversary issue.
By Marguerite Bennett, Cameron Deordio, Audrey Mok & Kelly Fitzpatrick
“I was reading Machiavelli at age 11. My gym teacher had to politely dissuade me from playing dodgeball.”
A few months ago, Archie expanded the scope of their recent revival with a relaunch of Josie and the Pussycats. Having gotten the band together in the debut issue, writers Marguerite Bennett and Cameron Deordio quickly sent them on the road and away from the familiar environs of Riverdale. The initial chapters were fun rollicks, full of Bennett’s trademark charming character work and meta-humor. These traits continue in full force for #4, wherein Bennett and Deordio’s references range from Homer to Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull to Zach Snyder’s Superman movies (as is “Damnit Melody, crime fighting isn’t in our contract! None of our moms are named Martha!” Seriously, David S. Goyer and Chris Terrio are never living down that one). However, in the midst of all these madcap hijinks, Bennett and Deordio are also crafting an ever deepening portrait of female friendship and empowerment. Last issue saw Josie confront some of her failings towards Alexandra, a scorned childhood friend. The latest installment offers up lessons about romance and self-worth. Josie is shaping up to be not simply an entertaining comic, but an affirmational one as well.