Deadshirt Is Reading…Birthdays, Banks and Blood

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.

Dylan Roth is reading…

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 5.30.12 PMLazarus #7

Written by Greg Rucka

Art by Michael Lark, Brian Level (pencils and inks) and Santi Arcas (colors)

Image

“We train so that, when the moment comes, we do not hesitate, and we do not fear.”

Lazarus continues to be one of the most compelling dramas in comics and Eve Carlyle is one of the medium’s most complex protagonists. This storyline, “Lift”, flashes back to her early childhood and training, giving us an look at how she developed her delicate relationship with her family, as well as her fighting prowess. In the present, the adult Eve continues to exercise her unique blend of compassion and brutality as she works to subvert a plot by a small terrorist group to upset Family Carlyle’s hold over Los Angeles.

But the real beauty of “Lift”, and this issue in particular, is a seemingly-unrelated plot centered around a family of “Waste” (the term used for anyone who doesn’t serve one of Earth’s ruling wealthy families) who are travelling across the country for a chance to become Carlyle Serfs and better their station in life. Their journey takes a tragic turn, and while we’ve only known these characters for three issues, somehow Rucka and Lark manage to make their misfortunes hit the reader exceptionally hard (I got pretty choked up). Comics is a medium rife with senseless violence, but when Michael Lark draws pain, you feel every bit of it, no matter how desensitized you think you are.

Jason Urbanciz is reading…

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 8.09.58 PMMs. Marvel #2

Written by G. Willow Wilson

Art by Adrian Alphona (pencils and inks) and Ian Herring (colors)

Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna

Marvel

“I saved one life. Does it stop there? Or do I go on?”

Your teenage years suck. Your body is going haywire and you’re expected to make decisions that could basically define the rest of your life. On top of that, your parents are both pushing you to “grow up” while all the while trying to stop you from making mistakes and usually stopping you from actually enjoying yourself along the way. Kamala Khan is dealing with all of this and also superpowers in Ms. Marvel.

After her introduction last issue, Kamala snuck out to go to a party and while heading home walked through a wave of fog that knocked her out, seemingly transforming her into the former Ms. Marvel. Forced into action when some of her fellow partygoers get into trouble, she helps out but realizes her powers don’t exactly want to cooperate. Eventually, she finds her way home and has to make a decision.

Much has been made of Kamala being Muslim and being of a different culture than many of us are familiar with, but the wonder of this book is her universality. She’s got overbearing parents, jerk schoolmates and well-meaning friends (that still get her into trouble). She’s a teenager, and though some of her circumstances are different from most of ours, she is relatable to anyone who has been (or is) a teenager. Along with that she deals with the classic Marvel Comics problems of having powers, yet having to hide them from the ones she loves because they can’t (or won’t) understand them.

While the writing is on point, it’s Adrian Alphona’s art is what completes the package. His wiry style works perfectly for Kamala’s transformations between teenage East-Asian girl to grown, blonde superhero woman and his facial expressions really sell the inherent comedy of the book.

This book is a real gem. It’s funny, tender, smart and more than anything else, different. I can’t recommend it enough.

Max Robinson is reading…

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 4.55.11 PMHellboy 20th Anniversary Sampler (one-shot)

Full list of creator credits here

Dark Horse

“And when I woke up — Married. And the wedding ring could talk.”

The cheapest comic you’ll pick up this week (at a whopping $0.00) is Dark Horse’s free Hellboy 20th Anniversary Sampler, which contains an all-new Mike Mignola-written/Fabio Moon-drawn Hellboy tale as well as a couple of reprinted stories in honor of the two-fished paranormal investigator’s two decades of existence.

The issue’s sole piece of new material, “The Coffin Man”, finds Hellboy fighting a mysterious graverobber for the corpse of a little girl’s recently deceased uncle. Mignola’s recent focus on Hellboy’s “Mexico period” (late 50’s set stories that tend to feature a down and out, hard drinking Hellboy fighting threats like vampire luchadores) has been a refreshing way to tweak the series’ standard short story formula and “Coffin Man” is a fun addition in that regard. Although Mignola’s script is the super-blend of spooky-funny we’ve come to expect from him, Moon’s art really carries this eight pager with a nicely done fight sequence and a strangely affecting last page.

Masterpiece Comics creator Sikoryak’s contribution to this issue, a series of Hellboy character-centric parodies of famous sunday comics like Popeye, Slylock Fox, and Dilbert, is slight but amusing. The other included stories, “The Ghoul” and “Another Day at the Office”, primarily focused on Hellboy’s comrades in the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, are perfectly adequate but largely forgettable. Still, the Hellboy 20th Anniversary Sampler does an excellent job of giving new readers a lingering taste for the massive vault of great stories Mignola and co. have been telling since 1994.

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 4.48.51 PMSex Criminals #5

Written by Matt Fraction

Art by Chip Zdarsky

Image

“YES THEY WERE KEGELS”

After four really solid issues, Sex Criminals dips its toe in some new emotional depth with this month’s issue, which concludes the book’s first storyarc. There’s a palpable sense of dread that looms as the series leads prepare to rob a bank with their time-stopping fuck powers; after learning a dark secret about Jon, Suzie finds herself conflicted about the righteousness of the crime she’s about to commit and worried about the stability of her new relationship.

Issue 5 alternates between “present day” and the days leading up to the heist (along with a brief flashback to Jon’s childhood) but it’s remarkably easy to follow. Zdarsky’s art, as with prior issues, has a strong emphasis on facial expressions and other small details (the glare of soccer mom or a close up on a pair of boobs) and beautifully follows the beats of Fraction’s script. A three panel sequence of Jon and Suzie having sex up against an alley wall closes in tight on Suzie’s face as she looks at the bank and the complex array of emotions on display, the dichotomy of physical pleasure against her obvious trepidation and fear, make for an extremely powerful page.

Sex Criminals is, deservedly, the main jewel in Image’s crown right now and this issue reminds us why; it frankly examines the minutiae of intimacy, good and bad, in a way that feels new and yet incredibly relatable.

Christina Harrington is reading…

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 8.10.25 PMAmerican Vampire: Second Cycle #1

Written by Scott Snyder

Art by Rafael Albuquerque (pencils and inks) and Dave MCaig (colors)

DC Comics

“I am the terror of the border. The bandit in the buried train.”

I was first introduced to American Vampire in a comics writing class I took during grad school that was taught by none other than Scott Snyder himself. We read the first trade so Scott could better explain to us what went into making a comic book, from the script all the way through to the finished product. He obviously had a lot of passion for this book and I remember very clearly enjoying the first trade and thinking that I should pick up the second. The class ended and for one reason or another I never picked up any other installments, until Second Cycle dropped on Wednesday. It was being advertised as a great jumping-on point for new readers and I remembered how excited Scott was about this book so I decided I would give it a try.

For the most part this book is successful as a starting point for the series. We’re dropped into 1965, where we immediately meet our two American vampire protagonists, Pearl Jones and Skinner Sweet. Pearl is back on her family’s farm in Kansas, using her home as a refuge for a certain kind of undesirable. Skinner, meanwhile, is pulling highway robberies and has gotten himself a nice motorcycle. There is an attempt to recap both of these characters’ stories, but I still have no idea what happened exactly between the ending of the last book I read and this one. Honestly though? I didn’t feel like I needed all that backstory; the characters telegraphed exactly who they are and what their motivations are during the few scenes we got of them.

The most successful thing in this book is the introduction to a new type of villain, “The Gray Trader”. His first appearance in 1811, where a group of Native Americans are ambushed in a dense snow storm, culminates in a pretty fantastic horror beat when a headless horse gallops out of the storm and delivers a man’s bodiless (and still talking) head to his waiting comrades. The moments where we were getting acquainted with Skinner and Pearl were interesting, but the new villain of the piece is definitely what drove the book for me and the question of what or who the Gray Trader is exactly is what’s going to propel me to pick up the second issue. For real this time.

David Lebovitz is reading…

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 8.09.35 PMDaredevil #1

Written by Mark Waid

Art by Chris Samnee (pencils and inks) and Javier Rodriguez (colors)

Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna

Marvel

“Strange how so few landlords want to rent to a superhero who got his office blown up every six months even before his identity went public.”

Picking up several months after the last series of Daredevil left off, this first issue shows Matt getting used to living in San Francisco while rescuing a kidnapped girl. The issue has all the humor, sharp dialogue, and underlying sense of darkness we’ve come to expect from Waid and Samnee. Excellent use is made of Daredevil’s senses, including showing what happens when he’s unable to hear out of even one ear. It’s an action-heavy issue with minimal plot, but there’s some pretty grim and fascinating twists in the story nonetheless. There’s also a (possible) answer as to what happened to Foggy after he lost his health insurance.

My only major problem is the fact that there are three splash pages, two of which provide exposition in the form of Daredevil’s origin; this feels unnecessary even if it is a “first issue”.

While it may be mostly action, it sets up a strong sense of place – an important factor for a Daredevil comic – gives us a taste of what kind of villains we’ll be seeing, and shows that Waid and Samnee haven’t lost a step.

Patrick Stinson is reading…

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 5.43.18 PMThe Transformers: ReGeneration One #100

Written by Simon Furman

Art by Andrew Wildman, Guido Guidi (pencils), Geoff Senior (pencils and inks), Stephen Baskerville (inks), John-Paul Bove (colors)

Letters by Chris Mowry

IDW

“Forgive me…I am Alpha.  I am Omega. The beginning…and the end!  And I…have made phantoms of us all.”

Billed proudly and accurately as “Issue 100 of a Four Issue Limited Series”, this double-length comic is the final issue of IDW’s continuation of the Marvel’s original The Transformers series and It all ends with a bang.

While the series has been uneven overall–moments of brilliance held back by relentless darkness, meandering plots, and far too many characters–this issue is a triumph, which I would recommend even to people who have not followed the rest of the series.  Furman found ways to have his cake and eat it too, celebrating the plethora of Transformers incarnations that have come into being over the past thirty years but also paying tribute to and closing the book on the unique “Marvel G1” universe.  The arch-villain of the entire ReGeneration series is belatedly revealed to be the corrupt Creation Matrix, introduced in the original run’s #65. This was a memorable but not very compelling villain, but it works here because of the symbolism of the Autobots defending all possible universes from their own twisted life force.  It also accomplishes the frankly impressive feat of having nearly every event in the entire 100 issues, going back to at least #24, directly set up this climax.

I was concerned that the book would feature a lack of denouement, seeing as how this entire series, including most of this issue, was just one crisis after another.  But I shouldn’t have; this creative team, who all have Transformers bonafides reaching 10-30 years, understands the emotions and expectations involved with this issue because they have them too.  An elegant few pages and panels explains the fate of the Cybertronian race while still leaving room for fans to imagine the ends of the stories of their personal favorite characters.  On top of that, the emotional denouement continues even after the comic ends, with a cover gallery #1-100, afterwords by every writer and artist, and even an extra prose vignette by Furman featuring the very first Transformer to ever appear in issue #1.

In every conceivable way, with staging, dialogue, and story, this issue pays homage to what has come before, while still feeling fresh and new. It’s difficult to express in particular how amazing it is that they roped Geoff Senior into doing a stretch of interior art again, his talent has only increased over the years and IDW should give the man more work if and when he asks for it.  Colorist John-Paul Bove is also given a lovely and unique tribute in the afterword, an image of Starscream from an earlier issue with the linework removed that really shows how much emotion his colors could express.

Uber-fans will have nitpicks, casual fans may not put together every reference, and there are certainly quibbles one could find with the plot of ReGeneration One in general and this issue in particular.  But overall, I can’t imagine anyone who has a little love for the Robots in Disguise not finding something to love in this issue.

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!

Post By Deadshirt Staff (677 Posts)

Deadshirt's writing staff is dedicated to bringing you thoughtful and entertaining media commentary. We're mostly indentured, which means we can pass the savings on to you!

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