Deadshirt Is Reading… is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt’s staff, contributing writers, and friends-of-the-site offer their thoughts on Big Two cape titles, creator-owned books, webcomics and more. For more of our thoughts on this week’s new comics, take a look at Wednesday’s Deadshirt Comics Shopping List.
Jason Urbanciz is reading…
Written by Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman
Art by Afua Richardson
Lettered by Troy Peteri
Edited by Betsy Gonia
Design by Addison Duke
“Ol’ man said if you know yourself and you know your enemy you need not fear battle.”
Genius is a smart book with a great hook that, unfortunately, completely fails in its execution. Once in a generation, a great military leader rises. For our generation her name is Destiny Ajae from South Central LA, and she is determined to amass an army and defeat her enemy, the Los Angeles Police Department. Continuing from the Pilot Season #0 issue (currently free on ComiXology), Destiny has taken her first steps in her war against the police, and they send a SWAT team in, still not knowing what they face. From there we get the parallel stories of Det. Reginald Grey as he tries to profile his “Suspect Zero,” guessing out Destiny’s backstory (though constantly assuming she is a “he”) and Destiny rallying her troops after the first shots of the war have been fired. As I said, this is all a great hook, but the art isn’t up to the task. While Afua Richardson’s linework is fine, the colors are murky and completely bury some of the pages. This may have been a problem with the digital preview, but reading both on my computer and my iPad, there were some pages on which the only things I could read were the word balloons. On top of that, the book spends a lot of time telling and not showing. I get that it’s trying to get across a lot of information in twenty-four pages, but this might have been a case where decompression would have helped. The story flashes between Destiny’s history and the present too fast for anything to make an impression. Another thing that bugged me was that a big deal was made of this book having a teenage girl as the lead…and the cover features her naked, covered in police tape. Just comes off as kind of sketchy to me. Genius is a book that has been cooking for a long time. The original Pilot Season issue came out in 2008, but unfortunately this first issue leads me to believe it needed some more time in the oven. There’s still a lot to like in here, and I really do hope it recovers from this first mis-step.
Written by Joe Casey
Art by Nathan Fox, Jim Rugg, Ulises Farinas and Brad Simpson (colors)
Lettered by Simon Bowland
“I get it. They’re sending me out there to die…again and again and again.”
A war in space, a ship in peril. The captain is killed in battle, but he is too important to the galaxy to remain dead, so his consciousness is downloaded to one of many clone bodies waiting in the bowels of the ship. An explosion forces the bodies to be jettisoned, and now the crew must find out which body contains their captain and where it has landed. This opens Dynamite’s reboot of the Jack Kirby creation Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers.The book begins in medias res with Big! Cosmic! Action! and keeps running breathlessly from there, only doubling back briefly to fill you in on the past and stopping suddenly to view Captain Victory’s dreamscape as he is shuttled from one body to the next. Coming off of Gødland and Catalyst Comix, Joe Casey is no stranger to big cosmic action, and he assembles another amazing art team to assist him. Most of the pages are by Casey’s Haunt collaborator Nathan Fox. Opening with a giant psychedelic space battle running through to one of the possible Captains’ landing in Times Square circa the mid-’70s. Jim Rugg pitches in with a Kirby-esque flashback sequence and Ulises Farinas portrays Victory’s brief foray in dreamland. I’m a big fan of Kirby (and Casey’s recent work) so this book was aimed squarely at me, but I still recommend it to anyone who is looking for an interesting sci-fi book. Captain Victory is one of the few Kirby books I haven’t tracked down so I don’t know how closely it hews to the original, but this book is easy to pick up and go. Casey doesn’t engage in his usual brand of mind-fuckery here, with the story being pretty straightforward (for now, at least). Despite the story moving quickly, this first issue is a really satisfying read. It shoves a lot of story into its twenty-four pages, but it never feels overloaded. While the art of this book rarely attempts to mirror Kirby’s, its big ideas and action are reminiscent of The King at his best.
Patrick Stinson is Reading…
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by David Marquez and Justin Ponsor (colors)
Lettered by Cory Petit
“My Peter is alive.”
This issue is a great example of a mediocre (possibly actively bad) premise being executed with spectacular skill. Only the name on the cover–and his wild popularity–makes me think that Miles Morales is sticking around, because Ultimate Peter Parker appears for all intents and purposes to be back. Wasn’t that something the Ultimate universe was going to eschew? Oh well. Bendis clearly had this in mind from the start, since it’s been him on the book all along. The issue is built around a re-staging of “The Death of Spider-Man,” which is duly lampshaded by reporters in-issue, as Miles battles the also-somehow-alive Green Goblin on Peter’s street in Queens. Since Peter mysteriously showed up, clocked him, and nabbed his webshooters in the last issue, Miles is barely holding his own as May, Gwen, MJ, JJJ, and Maria Hill watch in horror. Then, of course, Peter swoops in to save him with a fairly awesome quip and is revealed to all and sundry, resulting in my chosen quotation. May, at least, thinks this is not a joke, not a clone, not an Imaginary Story. For all my complaints about bringing Peter back, the issue succeeds due to the talents of Marquez and Ponsor; Green Goblin looks more demonic and yet more real and human than ever, the two Spider-Men move differently, and subtle differences in their masks’ eye shapes prove a useful aid to the reader. The split-up reaction panel pages as the supporting cast watches the fight on TV are a classic comic book trick pulled off as well as I’ve ever seen it, with JJJ’s expression on seeing Peter particularly adorable. The end result is that I was sucked into the action and emotions despite my cynicism going in, a tribute to the form of comics. I maintain that the fate of this story arc will ultimately rest on the whys and wherefores of Peter Parker’s resurrection and what story possibilities spin out from that. The only new things we learn are that Norman Osborn was not responsible (in fact, he seems quite as freaked out as anyone else) and that Peter is either “real” or certainly a good enough facsimile to fool Aunt May.
Written by Eric Powell
Art by Brian Churilla and Michael Garland (colors)
Lettered by Ed Dukeshire
“It was a fool’s errand. Only a Fool could complete it.”
I’m getting a little concerned about this book. It was certainly a laugh this week, with the best part being the now-formula appearance of one of Jack’s old exes and his inability to realize that he’s been mixed up in the supernatural long before meeting Wang Chi. But scratching beneath the surface, this book has far too much bathroom humor and “you’re ugly” humor to really feel like an extension of the film anymore. Jack seems totally unable to be perturbed by anything, a far cry from his jittery portrayal by Kurt Russell. Egg Shen feels like dead weight in this issue, making me wonder if it was a mistake to split up Jack and Wang (who is supposed to be the confident and capable one) this early. Also, while clearly Egg was needed to open up the Midnight Road, for all he accomplishes on that road he could have been replaced by the non-magical Miao Yin, who is desperately in need of some development. The most insightful character in the end is the villain, who rightly points out that Jack is truly the Fool in this story. He’s Fran Kranz in Cabin in the Woods. This gives me hope that Powell and Churilla understand that Wang Chi, bound and gagged from issue #1, is the real hero of BTiLC. Also looking forward to the Three Storms being unleashed on the comics page, free of any visual effects-based limitations on their abilities. There’s also a bit of foreshadowing that Lo Pan is still in play somehow. While I generally prefer that the dead stay dead, the film’s hilariously abrupt ending does leave some legitimate story space to play around with these characters. There’s a fine line between irreverent and tasteless that’s important for the book not to cross, especially since it can fairly easily be interpreted as mocking the beliefs of Chinese-Americans. Personally, since the franchise mocks absolutely everybody and presents an essentially fabricated Chinese mythology for fantasy purposes, I feel OK about it for now, but bear in mind that I’m white…and so are most of the creative people who’ve worked on BTiLC. It’s skirting that line and needs to wrench itself back over fast, because we just had an entire dimension of allegedly Chinese allegedly mythological creatures speaking broken English, getting suckered and mocked by Jack, then retaliating by peeing on his truck.
Sarah Register is reading…
Written by Tim Seeley and Tom King
Art by Mikel Janin, Guillermo Ortego, Juan Castro and Jeromy Cox (colors)
Lettered by Carlos M. Mangual
“Your funeral… it was nice.”
This second issue in a brand new series brings the action but also many more questions regarding the future of Dick Grayson and his new career as a spy for the enigmatic Spyral organization. Tim Seeley (Batman Eternal) and Tom King (a real-life former CIA counterterrorism officer) never let you forget that it’s a spy thriller; Ian Fleming is mentioned in the text but he practically lives in the artwork. The spiral theme is carried right into the background in bright pastels to frame close ups of lady lips and monochromatic silhouettes in a way that just oozes Bond movie intro, and is in every way the opposite of Gotham. Dick easily plays the part of a Bond-type, if Bond were younger and liked to make more jokes. Dick is partnered up with Helena Bertinelli (alias: Matron) who is a pretty capable spy herself as well as a teacher at what seems to be an all-girls spy college. This incarnation of Helena (not to be confused with Helena Wayne of Earth-2, who was previously introduced in the New 52 multiverse,) appears sans costume, but is sporting very Huntress-y purple crosses and heavy sexual tension with Dick. The pair works for the leader of Spyral, the mysterious Mr. Minos, whose intentions are unknown. However, due to the fact that his face is literally a swirl, and he is constantly standing in front of backgrounds of extreme chevrons and spirals that scream BOND VILLAIN, my guess is that he shouldn’t be trusted. The comic suffers a little bit from its jarring change in landscape for a Gotham vigilante, but its most glaring struggle is the overall plot, which is complicated by overlapping secret syndicates and reestablished New 52 Earth Prime characters. However, an encounter with a speedster carrying a dark secret hints toward a more sinister plot than I anticipated, so color me curious. This story will definitely appeal to Bat fans looking for something a little different, and I trust that the plot will come together after a few more issues. It will be enough to keep you reading just to see if Dick somehow overcomes his secret identity crisis and makes it back to Gotham, possibly with Huntress in tow, or if Nightwing is done for good. 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!