Your Deadshirt New Comics Shopping List for: July 23rd, 2014

It’s Wednesday and that means new comics. Let Deadshirt steer your wallet in the right direction with reviews (with preview pages) of titles out today from Image, Dark Horse, IDW, Boom! Studios, MonkeyBrain, Oni, Fantagraphics and more!

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Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #1
Written by Tom Scioli and John Barber
Art by Tom Scioli
IDW
$3.99

This first issue of Transformers vs. G.I. Joe is uhhh the craziest comic I’ve read so far this year. While I’ve never really been able to really get into previous by-all-accounts acceptable attempts at Transformers comics from IDW, filtering the two biggest 80s toy-cartoon properties through the manic lense of Tom Scioli (and John Barber) results in a comic book I feel like I’ve been waiting for my whole life.

Here’s the thing about TvGJ #1: it’s dense. And while it’s helpful to have read the Free Comic Book Day #0 issue to understand Snake Eyes’ whole deal, there’s so much happening in this comic all at once that it almost doesn’t really matter. Scioli and Barber just throw idea after idea (Who’s running the remnants of COBRA? A cult that worships Cybertron? A G.I. Joe mission to space!) at you all at once and expects — DEMANDS — that you to roll with it. The meat of the story, depicting a first contact meeting of sorts between the Joes and a team of Decepticon “ambassadors” goes exactly how you’d expect, but the real draw here is the execution.

Scioli’s work has always drawn heavily from Jack Kirby, and it certainly informs some of the major creative decisions made here. His reinterpretation of the Transformers as a literally larger-than-life figures a la DC’s New Gods is incredibly intriguing and plays off beautifully against the very human G.I. Joe characters. What distinguishes the comic as more than just imitation is the book’s aura of creepiness and genuine sense of humor. Scioli and Barber embrace the weirdness of, say, a giant evil robot who keeps smaller animal robots in his chest, or evil identical terrorist twins, rather than trying to ground them in something resembling realism and the comic is all the better for it. Scioli’s wavy pencils here, and especially his choice of colors, give the impression that we’re reading a demented children’s coloring book. Details like character blurbs modeled off of old G.I. Joe action file cards or the Joes’ weirdly religious reverence for their founder, a Moses-like Joe Colton, give the book it’s own very unique voice and flavor.

It’s always encouraging when comics based on licensed properties go for broke and try something new and, with this first (really second) issue of Transformers vs. G.I. Joe, we’re treated to what could end up being the most ambitious comic of the year. This is, in other words, the GI Joe/Transformers story you’d get if your old Sunbow VHS tapes of the original cartoons aged into anthrax in a dank basement after 30 years.

– Max Robinson

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Ragnarök #1
Writer & Artist: Walter Simonson
Colored by Laura Martin
Lettered by John Workman
IDW
$3.99

The world has ended, but among the nine realms of the Norse gods, life goes on. Ragnarök has come and gone, but even dead gods still need to be killed. To get the job done, a dark elf Brynja has assembled a team of expendable assassins to find Thor’s undead body and end him forever.

With this story, Walt Simonson returns to the world of the Norse Gods that he shepherded in his classic run on Marvel’s Thor run in the 1980s, and it’s easy to look at it as a continuation of that saga. That is absolutely to its credit. Simonson’s art is still at the top of its game, or if anything it looks even better than his older Thor stuff simply because production technology has caught up to him. Laura Martin’s colors are absolutely beautiful and give the main story a beautiful, deep blue-violet palette (after the sepia-toned opening scene). Back in the days of newsprint and four color printing it was easy to mistake Simonson’s work as being messy, but now you can see every line perfectly rendered in its place.

If there’s any criticism of the comic, it’s that it is too short. The story zips along from the opening detailing Thor’s final battle with the Midgard serpent to Brynja leaving her family and assembling her team of assassins. This is obviously a book that is being written for its eventual collection, so the single issues may not be as satisfying as the whole. Regardless, this is a great start to a book I have been excited for.

– Jason Urbanciz

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ElfQuest: The Final Quest #4
Written by Wendy and Richard Pini
Art by Wendy Pini
Dark Horse
$3.50

ElfQuest: The Final Quest continues the adventures of the Wolfriders, the tribe seeking to unite all elfin kind on the medieval World of Two Moons. Ember, chieftess of one Wolfrider Tribe, has been captured by the human warlord Angrif Djunn, plunging her and her separated soulmate, Teir, into mortal agony. Meanwhile, in the Palace of the High Ones, Windkin tries to make contact with the soul of his late sire, but he hears another urgent psychic call…

Issue #4 feels a bit like a placeholder issue, which is unfortunate with the book’s bimonthly publishing schedule. We’re still catching up with members of ElfQuest’s enormous supporting cast (bonus points if you remember who Serrin is), which leads to a fantastic final page, but the pacing feels off. Perhaps the story will read smoother when it’s inevitably collected in trade and without two-month gaps between issues. Nevertheless, I’m impatient for the Angrif Djunn plotline to be over; he’s a pale imitation of his father, the warlord Djunn from the Shards maxi-series, who was frankly not the most compelling villain himself.

More compelling is the internal crisis between Ember and Teir, who are caught in the throes of Recognition—an elfin form of soulbonding that, when consummated, conceives a child. Physically separated and both in deadly danger, will Teir or Ember be killed before they can answer the call of Recognition? Despite the poignant character death in a previous issue, it sometimes feels that the Pinis play it too safe with their most beloved characters; it will be interesting to see if tragedy awaits the young lovers. ElfQuest: The Final Quest is still a rewarding read for longtime fans of the series, but I’m impatient for the next chapter of the saga to begin.

– Kayleigh Hearn

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Super Secret Crisis War: Johnny Bravo (one-shot)
Written by: Erik Burnham
Art by: Erica Henderson
Lettered by Tom B. Long
IDW
$3.99

Johnny Bravo was one of the Cartoon Network shows I grew up with, back when their Cartoon Cartoons line of series was in its heyday. He’s a character I still have a lot of affinity for, even if some elements haven’t aged particularly well. I was excited to see what a comic book featuring the character would look like over a decade after he was introduced.

This one-shot is part of IDW’s Super Secret Crisis War event, a summer crossover miniseries between their licensed Cartoon Network books. Despite that, you don’t really need to be familiar with the comics or other characters, as it’s structured to be very self-contained. The villains of the event send a robot to Johnny’s hometown to find a worthy opponent, but it instead spends the issue becoming increasingly frustrated at Johnny’s lack of self-awareness. The story feels very in keeping with the classic cartoon, while at the same time feeling fresh. Johnny’s still a skirt-chaser, but it’s played for laughs in a way that the best episodes of the show managed to capture. His dialogue sounds like Jeff Bennett’s Elvis voice. Nothing feels too dated, which is a relief.

Henderson’s art is also a perfect fit. I’ve been a fan of hers for a while, and it’s impressive how she’s able to adapt to the relatively spare, animation-minded style while still maintaining some of her own flourishes. Several angles and panels are far more innovative that what you’d expect from a Johnny Bravo comic, and both the fight scene towards the end and the montage of the robot beating Johnny at all manner of challenges are perfectly paced.

As fun as this was, I don’t know how long-term the Johnny Bravo premise would work as a comic, particularly one that crosses over with slightly more serious, continuity-heavy books and characters. As such, keeping his involvement with this event to a one-shot was probably a good call. Still, if you’re following IDW’s books or just want to do the Monkey one more time, this is an issue worth picking up.

– Joe Stando 

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Be sure to let us know what you picked up this week in the comments below, on Twitter or on our Facebook Page!

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