Deadshirt Is Reading… is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt’s staff, contributing writers and friends-of-the-site offer their thoughts on a diverse array of comics, from name-brand cape titles to creator-owned books to webcomics.
Editor/Publisher Dylan Roth and guest-contributor Jason Urbanciz present their arguments for and against this week’s Hawkeye #16:
Now that we’re a few issues into the title’s new format – alternating each month between Clint Barton in New York and Kate Bishop in Los Angeles – it’s become clear that Hawkeye is now two very different books. Clint stories, drawn by David Aja, seem to be continuing in the style of the first twelve issues, with fun yet grimy stories full of violence and peril. Kate’s LA adventures, on the other hand, are practically a whole new book, telling smaller, sillier stories that make Daredevil’s “street level” missions seem epic by comparison. I don’t for a moment want that mistaken for a complaint – this has become my favorite part of the book.
Kate’s case this issue involves trying to protect an aging genius songwriter (who is totally not Brian Wilson) from having his incomplete masterpiece leaked over the Internet against his will, and apart from a brief altercation with some security guards that’s pretty much as high as the stakes get. Kate’s dabbled in big-league superheroics, but now she’s trying to make it on her own as a private investigator/hero for hire and, being just a kid, is starting at the very, very, very bottom of the food chain solving tiny crimes for pretty much no money. This, combined with Kate’s sense of humor both in her dialogue and her internal narrative, gives this essentially new Hawkeye book a unique charm. In a comics climate where stories get bigger and crazier with each passing year, there’s something super refreshing about a best-selling book in which the lead character gets unceremoniously ejected from the public library.
“I gotta get the hell out of Los Angeles.”
“Holy crap, it’s Hercules, Iceman, Black Widow, Ghost Rider and Angel! But WHY? It makes no sense!”
Here’s the thing: I love The Rockford Files, Altman’s The Long Goodbye and the music of Brian Wilson, so why does this issue of Hawkeye, in which Matt Fraction uses all three as obvious inspiration, feel so lazy? Similar to Fraction and Kieron Dwyer’s Last of the Independants, in which they ape the great Charley Varrick to alarming degree, this comic seems playing the notes but not the music. Since Kate left Clint in New York to go to Los Angeles, she seems to have left this comic’s charisma with him. Kate has set up shop as a PI in Jim Rockford’s trailer on the beach and happens upon Brian Wilson…I mean Will Bryson as he wanders down the 405 disrupting traffic. Bryson spills that Mike Love…I mean his brother… has stolen his lost masterpiece and Kate decides to take the case and things happen and Elliot Gould shows up to give her advice and why am I reading this comic instead of just enjoying its influences that are so much better? There’s nothing wrong with showing your influences but you have to grow from them, not just copy them and hope your audience doesn’t have enough knowledge to see through it. While Fraction lets down the reader with lazy writing, Annie Wu (pencils/inks) and Matt Hollingsworth (colors) more than hold up their end. Wu does a great job of bouncing off of what David Aja is doing on the Clint storyline but still giving Kate enough room that her LA adventures have their own style. Going forward I think I’m just skipping Kate’s issues and watching Rockford on Netflix instead.
Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Is it possible that art, like many things, is a subjective human experience??? Let us know below!
Adam is reading…
“In the Post-Crash, Europe is dying. Callum Israel is right at home.”
I like The Massive because it’s the kind of story you can only tell in comics. At its heart, it’s a small ensemble drama that uses an enormous global catastrophe as a backdrop to its delicate character study. When the series opens, it’s months after a succession of large-scale natural disasters, referred to as “the Crash”, have put the first world on a level with the third. Over its six, three-issue arcs so far, Callum Israel and the other members of his Ninth Wave eco-activism group, aboard the good ship Kapital, have opened up to the reader as they search for their lost comrades and missing sister ship, the eponymous Massive. In what must be one of Brian Wood’s quietest works to date, The Massive does a great job of showing, rather than telling, what kind of people the characters are and what kind of world they’ve been forced to live in. The first of a new arc, “Bloc”, issue #19 sees the crew of the Kapital dealing with the aftermath of a bombing on the ship and an AWOL crewmember, while Callum’s friendship with first mate Mag is tested when a Arkady, a ghost from their days as mercenaries for the Blackbell private military organization, resurfaces (literally) to hassle Ninth Wave. If you can put aside Wood’s recently-come-to-light real-life creepiness (and I realize that’s asking a lot), The Massive is well worth the commitment to read it.
Deadshirt contributor Adam Pelta-Pauls enjoys the ethereal majesty of Gundam Wing and lives in Cardiff, UK.
Jason is reading…
Batman ‘66 #26
Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Rueben Procopio
“Fear not, pardners — looks like there’s a Bat-Sheriff on his trail!”
Almost impossible to write a review of this comic without just throwing up synonyms for “fantastic” and “beautiful” until I’ve started repeating words. Continuing DC’s digital-first series recounting the further adventures of TV’s Batman and Robin, this issue finds us catching up with old west throwback, Shame (originally played by Cliff Robertson) as he robs a gold mine and is soon chased across a national park by the dynamic duo. While the writing is fun and just as hilariously corny as the original series, the art here is the star. Rueben Procopio paints this issue in watercolors, in a style reminiscent of Jack Davis and it works perfectly. While I’m not usually a fan of the quasi-motion comics effects, this issue makes great use of them, allowing the pace of the issue to either rush along during action scenes or stopping for Batman to blink to add drama to a showdown. Twenty six issues in and this series is still delightful.
Deadshirt contributor Jason Urbanciz is a self-described fugitive space bigfoot that hails from the planet Illinois. He is the worst.
Max is reading…
“Do you even know who I am?”
“Sure, first name DOING, last name T-“
Judge Dredd is a tricky character to approach; a faceless cop in a broken future whose defining characteristic is his resistance to change. Dredd is Dredd, Dredd will always be Dredd. But that isn’t to say the threats he faces have to remain static. Mega-City Two appears to be a Judge Dredd story that understands this and send everyone’s favorite lantern-jawed lawman on a mission outside of his beloved Mega-City One to it’s more laid back, west coast equivalent. In this first issue, you can tell Wolk had alot of fun throwing the no-nonsense fascist Dredd into a new environ where his bullets don’t kill people and, the ultimately indignity, he even has to *apologize* to suspects. Meanwhile, Farinas’ artwork is absolutely stunning, packed with details, little gags and middle fingers to the point of blissful sensory overload; the splash that makes up pages 2 and 3 will leave you gasping for air.
Mighty Avengers #5
Written by Al Ewing
Art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten, and Frank D’Armata
“You point a giant robot at my baby? Predict this, you #@%$!”
Only five issues to its name and Mighty Avengers might just be the best team comic any major publisher is putting out there. This comic is everything you could want from a Marvel book in 2014: A well-rounded, impressively diverse cast, a deep and abiding love for bronze age super-heroics (Ewing’s appreciation for the original 70’s run of Power Man and Iron First in particular definitely informs the core “If you have a problem, we’re here to help” philosophy behind this specific team), some cool new twists (I’ll eat my hat if that isn’t [highlight for possible spoiler] Blade under the Ronin disguise) and a demented sense of humor (everyone seems to love saying “nasty”). This issue’s highlights include the team fighting a three-headed magic werewolf, a time-manipulating corporate saboteur and Jessica Jones suckerpunching a Doc Ock-possessed Spider-Man in the back of the head. The only frustrating element to Mighty Avengers is Greg Land’s signature brand of obviously traced porn-face art, more fluid here than usual admittedly but definitely distracting. Luckily, this is his last issue before new series artist Valerio Schiti takes over. If you’re unhappy with the direction modern superhero comics have taken, this is the antidote and I’m writing you a prescription to get filled.
Dominic is reading…
“Existence is a perpetual state of war.”
If you have already been reading Zero, you’ve enjoyed it as an off the wall spy-fi series presented as a series of stand-alone missions that fit, non-linearly, throughout the life of it’s protagonist, Edward Zero. Thus far, we’ve seen small, fleeting glimpses of what appears to be the larger narrative of the series crop up in specific moments in each issue, but this, the last of it’s inaugural arc, opens the door to a much larger house than we’d previously been shown. We’ve seen Edward Zero as his laconic exterior is shown to have hairline fractures, his traumatically engrained methodology being eroded away by a slow burn emotional maturation bubbling beneath the surface. This issue is the culmination of that, splitting it’s time between 2019, where Zero is under analysis by his handler Roman Zizek and Sara Cooke, Zizek’s boss, and 2038, where a much older Zero comes to a very important chapter in this story.
Will Tempest, this issue’s representative of the “Zero Collective” of artists who rotate duties on the book, has a very naked, plain line style that gives the proceedings a ruminative, kitchen sink drama feel, the pen and ink equivalent of Ken Loach’s directing style. The “interrogation” scenes utilize the nine panel grid layout popularized by Watchmen and, more recently, Ellis and Templesmith’s interrogation issue of Fell, getting coverage in staid close-ups that perfectly undercut the thin veneer of normality that Zero tries very hard to project. This unadorned, straightforward storytelling style makes the book’s last few moments land with that much more impact, lulling you into a false sense of security while peppering the page with neatly deployed moments of disturbing unease. Jordie Bellaire’s colors and Clayton Cowles’ lettering ground the book, every issue, into a uniform aesthetic, even as the rest of the art changes every month. Kot is continuing to grow in his powers as a storyteller, and you can really feel this book beginning to hit it’s stride. The trade is out next month if you want to hop on board.
“You are nuuuuutsss it is made of fiiiiire!”
I first became addicted to this comic because I love Pendleton Ward’s Adventure Time cartoon and the mini revolution it seems to have started with animated series aimed equally at hipsters, potheads and small children. Ward also created Bravest Warriors as a short series on YouTube and it plays like a bigger Adventure Time for a slightly older audience. The general conceit of the cartoon, and the comic based upon it, is a take off of the sort of G-Force adventure team dynamic. A Softer World writer Joey Comeau was penning the comic when I first started picking up and his particular brand of non-sequitur humor colored with dabs of navel gazing honesty really grounded the goofiness of the stories with a fondness for intricately wound plots and cleverly drawn characters. I let the title fall by the wayside a few issues ago, and it found its way back into my heart.
Tessa Stone is behind the keys this time around, with regular artist Mike Holmes still on board. I found this issue, about team softie Wallow having to stop some dream eating parasites from devouring his slumbering teammates, to be in line with what I love about the book, but it’s simple premise and lack of any larger complexity, left me feeling a little wanting. The conceit works in that it presents a “mission” of sorts and the opportunity for some insane dialogue and funny visuals, but it doesn’t take full advantage of the comic book format the way previous ones have for me.
Ryan Pequin’s “Yay Camping!” back-up mines similar territory, and it reminded me that the book used to feel more serialized and exciting, as every issue built upon a wacky ongoing arc, with a fun and done extra tale to tide you over, but here, both the lead and the back-up feel equal in terms of appetite sating.
Thanks for reading about what we’re reading! We’ll be back next week with a slew of suggestions from across the comics spectrum. In the meantime, what are you reading? Tell us in the comments section, on Twitter or on our Facebook Page!