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.
Kayleigh Hearn is reading…
Written and drawn by Evan Dorkin
Dark Horse Comics
“It’s a three-hundred-and-fifty dollar Diamond exclusive with the original appearance “Thorr” typo, and I can and will smash your four-dollar faces in with it if you do not get the fuck out of here!”
In today’s social media-loving climate, where anyone can blog, Tweet, or Instagram their opinions and share it all over the world, the dark side of fandom is more visible than ever. You know the type: they bemoan the plague of “fake geek girls,” rag on any comic book that isn’t Marvel or DC, and their capslocked vitriol is why people say “don’t read the comments.” This dark side of fandom is perfectly embodied in the Eltingville Club, a small town quartet of nerds who loudly and obnoxiously attack everything they’re supposed to like, including each other. The Eltingville Club is possibly more relevant today than when Evan Dorkin created them 20 years ago (you may also remember The Eltingville Club from an Adult Swim animated pilot that aired in 2002).
The Eltingville Club #1 begins with club president Bill Dickey’s first day of work at Joe’s Fantasy World. Bill is thrilled to have his dream job, but before you can make a “With great power…” Spider-Man reference, the power goes to his head and Bill is soon lashing out at customers. When the rest of the club visits the shop, Bill’s anger turns explosive, as he believes his friends are beneath him now that he’s “leveled up.” Is this the untimely end of The Eltingville Club? (We should hope so.)
Evan Dorkin masterfully skewers fan culture and the toxic reality of some brick-and-mortar comic book stores. Joe’s Fantasy World is every crappy comic store you’ve ever been to, featuring condescending employees sneering at their customer’s purchases, dishonest, variant cover-hoarding business practices and ingrained misogyny. The scene where a young woman walks into the shop looking for the new issue of Saga and is immediately gawked at and creeped on by the male patrons cuts particularly deep. But The Eltingville Club is a hilarious comic, even when its characters are completely hateable. Dorkin packs the issue full of gags and his artwork is expressive and detailed—a sequence comparing the once fresh-faced Eltingville Club to the people they are now is surprisingly poignant. If you’re in the mood for biting geek satire, read The Eltingville Club. But please, don’t buy it at Joe’s Fantasy World.
Dominic Griffin is reading…
Written by Mark Waid
Pencils by Jim Cheung with Paco Media (pencils), Mark Morales with Guillermo Ortego, Dave Meikis, Juan Vlasco and Jim Cheung (inks) and Justin Ponsor (colors)
Lettered by Chris Eliopoulos
“I wanted my dad to be right, too…”
Like everyone else, I’m a little over Marvel’s annual crossover regimen, but Jason Aaron writing a murder mystery about someone killing Uatu the Watcher had me hooked from jump street. This zero issue serves to humanize the giant headed one as much as possible before offing him and setting into motion an endless array of tie-ins and spin-off miniseries. Waid uses new Nova Sam Alexander as our POV character, giving him a sense of starry eyed wonder at his surroundings, without making him a cloying narrative device. His pseudo relationship with the Watcher really worked for me, probably because Sam seems to be settling into Peter Parker territory, in terms of relatable likability.
The meat of the story sets up the question “Why does The Watcher watch?” which they treat as this crazy new development, but, like, there are stories about this already? Right? I’m not super versed in Uatu continuity, but this felt a little like Christopher Columbus retconning — where a new plot point is supposed to seem Earth shattering only if ignoring loads of other stories.
This is a minor gripe, as the book was a fun read. Uatu’s “origins” and his kinship with Sam would work really well as a one-off in a team-up title (not unlike Waid’s underrated work on DC’s Brave and The Bold), but with Uatu on the chopping block, the ominous foreshadowing make things bittersweet. Jimmy Cheung has come a long way since his Crossgen days and something about the scarce way he is utilized at Marvel gives his art a palpable heft. His work signifies that Real Shit Is Going Down, like when Kurt Loder actually shows up in an MTV News alert. Here’s hoping the event is as momentous as its lead-in suggests.
Max Robinson is reading…
Written by Fred Van Lente
Art by Brian Ching (pencils) and Michael Atiyeh (colors)
Lettered by Richard Starkings and Comicraft
“Look. The sword you brought me got dirty. Lick it clean.”
Dark Horse has had the Conan license for ten years now and although I really enjoyed Kurt Busiek and Cary Nord’s extended take on Robert E. Howard’s famous barbarian that kicked off the license back in 2003, I haven’t kept current. Luckily, the newest story from the new creative team of Van Lente and Ching is a great re-introduction/soft reboot of the series.
Picking up where the prior Brian Wood-written series ended, the maiden issue of Conan The Avenger finds the Cimmerian adventurer drunk and adrift in Shumballa following the death of his beloved Bêlit. While the larger plotline introduced here centers around Conan being framed for black magic, the real fun is watching him snap out of his funk by murdering a group of thieves who stole his clothes and face off with cold as ice local witchhunter Agara (who Conan will inevitably team up with Tango And Cash-style next issue).
Ching’s art in this issue is supremely impressive; his dynamic linework immediately evokes Joe Kubert but brings a sense of humor and an eye for detail that really makes it his own. In particular, I love his focus on Conan’s different minor expressions, whether it’s a smirk or a contemplative chewed lip.
Despite already being a big fan of Van Lente’s work, this issue was a real pleasant surprise and I’m excited to follow the Conan adventure he and Ching are setting out to tell here.
Jason Urbanciz is reading…
Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Paul Pelletier & Alvaro Martinez (pencils), Sean Parsons & Raul Fernandez (inks), Rain Beredo (colors)
Letttered by Dezi Sienty
“Can a god drown?”
Human scientists, thinking they have found an ancient portal to Atlantis, have stolen the key to opening it – Aquaman’s trident. Well, it turned out to be a portal to Hell and released a whole gang of demons led by an insane Hercules. So things are not going well.
The last time the portal was opened ages ago, Hercules fought the demons back, sealing the gate behind him. After a few thousand years stuck in Hell, his brain has gone kind of mushy so now he’s got a mad on for Atlantis, blaming them for his abandonment. Aquaman, being the King of Atlantis, bears the brunt of it. Meanwhile, Mera deals with some Atlanteans who don’t like her being their Queen and a familiar Aquaman Family member shows up.
Jeff Parker is doing good work on Aquaman, showing the difficulties of a king splitting his time between the land he rules and the human world he fights to be a part of, both for his own sake and his kingdom’s, all while tying this book into two separate crossovers (one continuing the next issue, the other in this summer’s annual). Paul Pelletier’s art is good here, his style has long been “Alan Davis, but sharper edges” and while not very flashy, it’s miles above most of DC’s house style artists. Alvaro Martinez pitches in for a few pages to illustrate the B-story, but his work blends effortlessly into Pelletier’s. I’ve really been enjoying Aquaman, while not exactly exceptional, it is very good straight-forward superhero comics.
Adam Pelta-Pauls is reading…
Written by Brian Michael Bendis,with backup content by Andy Lanning & Dan Abnett
Art by Nick Bradshaw, Walden Wong, Jason Masters, & Todd Nauck, with backup content by Phil Jimenez, Livesay, Antonio Fabela, Gerardo Sandoval, & Rachelle Rosenburg
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
“Settle down, Venom. We’re here. You must focus. You must now present yourself with an air of authority.”
“I should act cool.”
“I don’t know what that means, but if it is the opposite of whatever you are doing right now…then yes.”
Due to a bank holiday here in the UK, I got my comics a day late this week so everyone else has already had a whole day more to sink their teeth into this “double-sized anniversary issue” of Guardians of the Galaxy. I’m a big fan of Brian Michael Bendis’ work on this series. His dialogue is quick, with a little bite in it, and at best, the comic sounds like a good episode of Firefly, which is appropriate for Marvel’s team of “cosmic Avengers.” In the lead up to the live-action film, the comic has begun changing minor visual bits to match those of the movie, and I only mention this as I bemoan the loss of Star Lord’s bright blue and yellow space suit that he’d had up until this point.
Issue 14 takes places in the immediate aftermath of the recent X-Men/GotG crossover arc, “The Trial of Jean Grey.” Having recently parted ways with the X-Men, the Guardians have taken on a new crew member, Flash Thompson aka Venom aka Peter Parker’s paraplegic former school bully. Having never been offworld before, Thompson spends much of his appearance in the comic gawping at his surroundings while shopping for new guns with Drax the Destroyer. His cameo is actually pretty minor to the story, which shows Star Lord Peter Quill’s father, the king of Spartax, ramping up his persecution of the Guardians’ team. It’s a good season opener issue, reading like a well-paced action movie (with a cameo by Captain Marvel at the end that sets up more team-up action in the upcoming issues). The mix of artists in the book made it hard to focus on the style as a whole, but nothing interrupted the flow of the story and changes in the art style weren’t jarring.
The backup content is the origin story of Groot, the Guardians’ undying living tree companion as well as a weird but fun look at 1000 years into the future, where a new group of Guardians is the only hope for a humanity enslaved. Pick it up, if only to familiarize yourself with the team before the movie drops this summer.
Joe Stando is reading…
Written by Ales Kot
Art by Garry Brown (pencils) and Jim Charalampdis (colors)
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
“Sorry, man. Nothing personal. We’re all about the country, too.”
Iron Patriot is a pretty simple story, so far. James Rhodes is establishing a new identity as the Iron Patriot, with a specific agenda and visibility that makes shadowy bad guys uncomfortable. He’s also trying to juggle his superhero career with being there for his orphaned niece and mending fences with his father. It’s basic, character-driven stuff reminiscent of the films or the better parts of the Ultimate universe, and it totally, totally works. Kot doesn’t waste space telling us about how Rhodey piloted Sentinels a couple times, or how he became a Hulk and a cyborg and then was cloned a new body. He focuses on accessible, clear conflicts and drives, which make this book an ideal starting point for readers new to the character, the Marvel universe, or comics in general.
The second issue focuses specifically on two scenes: Rhodey trapped in his suddenly immobile suit underwater, and his father being kidnapped. They’re both solidly paced, and Brown has a keen eye for action. The home invasion scene has a couple nice moves, but more than anything it feels real, like a man actually fighting for his life. Seeing conflicts like this sort of helps to anchor not only this book, but the concept of the Marvel universe as a whole. With so many X-Men and Hand Ninjas and the like, we forget that the life of an average person is still presumably pretty peaceful, and a couple guys with guns can be just as threatening as a supervillain. Similarly, Rhodey is faced with the very real threat of drowning for most of the issue, and it’s written as harrowingly and claustrophobically as it should be.
That’s not to say this isn’t still a superhero comic. Iron Patriot is still in the middle of the fray with a couple of monsters as the issue opens, and it ends with a shot of an armored villain who seems to be pulling the strings. But it’s nice to read a comic that spends more energy selling you on the main characters’ flaws and ambitions and his supporting cast than it does showing you explosions.
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!