Deadshirt Is Reading… Radical Tests, the Morality of Espionage and Racoons

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.

Sarah Register is reading…

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 7.05.34 PMRocket Raccoon #3

Written and drawn by Skottie Young

Colored by Jean-Francois Beaulieu

Lettered by Jeff Eckleberry

Marvel

“Is that what you think I am? A talking animal in a children’s story? I’ll show you what I am!”

Skottie Young. He’s so hot right now. And I, for one, could not be happier. I picked up this series because I am most definitely a sucker for Young’s art, but I now consider myself a fan of his writing. This story is a zany but surprisingly deep take on Rocket Raccoon and his misadventures outside of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Rocket isn’t just an anthropomorphic raccoon around for kicks and giggles but also a sharp-witted badass and a noble lead character.

Young and Rocket were truly meant to be together. Young is able to embrace the innate ridiculousness of a talking raccoon without belittling the character. Despite all the wacky side-adventures in this comic, Rocket’s ultimate goal is to find this rumored doppelganger who may or may not be another half-worlder just like himself. Basically, Rocket just wants to know that he’s not alone in the universe, even if this other raccoon is framing him for murder. It’s a touching theme in a story that features a colorful band of murderous ex-girlfriends and something called a “guppy warp.” 

This comic is a gleeful feast for the eyeballs. The art is vibrant, whimsical, clever, and a perfect marriage between Young’s imaginative character design and Beaulieu’s lively colors. Explosions don’t just go “boom”, they also tell jokes. Rocket isn’t flying through space in a typical spaceship, he’s in some weird monster anglerfish fused with a sedan and using a pufferfish for a helmet. I really appreciate the fun they’re having with this story in a Marvel universe that’s often facing incredibly serious and insurmountable problems.

Jason Urbanciz is reading…

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 7.06.02 PMFutures End: Grayson #1

Written by Tom King

Plot by Tom King and Tim Seeley

Art by Stephen Mooney and Jeromy Cox (colors)

Lettered by Carlos M. Mangual

DC Comics

“I have to do something. Someone has to be responsible.”

The Futures End event is an odd break for this series, only two issues into its run, but it does help flesh out the relationship between Huntress and Dick Grayson, even though the relationship happens in a future that will not come to pass. Facing a war with Earth 2/Apokolips, the international spy organization Spyral allies itself with Russia and its president, (the former) KGBeast. Despite rumors of his tyrannical rule and ideas at taking over the world, he is the only leader capable of defeating the invaders. The book, beginning at the war’s end, flashes back through the war itself and Dick Grayson’s entire life, showing how he got to the desperate moment on page one of the comic, being hanged for treason.

Telling the story backwards (like Memento or that one Seinfeld episode where they go to India) could have been cheap, but it really invests the story with detail. As soon as you finish your read, it demands you go back and read it again in reverse to get the clues it laid out. For a twenty page one-shot, it makes it seem twice as long, but in a good way. I like that this series is showing Dick bringing the Batman Rule (no killing) to a spy organization and what kind of apocalypse it would take for him to *spoilers* break it. I’m sure people will be upset that Grayson will kill someone, even in an alternate future that won’t happen, but the comic does a good job of showing his history and how he gets to that point.

The art is a pinch hit by Stephen Mooney and though I miss Mikal Janin’s clean lines from the previous issue, Mooney’s scratchier style works for the darker, more rubble-intensive mood of this comic. That said, he leans a bit too much photo reference for some of the character’s faces and that leads to Huntress looking weirdly different in profile shots versus when she’s face-front. It’s not a big deal, but once I noticed it, it bugged me the whole time.

Stopping a new series in its tracks to put out an event tie-in one-shot is usually bad news for a series, but in this case it works by helping deepen the narrative of the main story without having to shove a bunch of stuff into the main book. Grayson is on the front-line of DC shaking up their line of books, and it’s really good.

Patrick Stinson is reading…

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 7.07.53 PMLumberjanes #5

Written by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis

Art by Brooke Allen, Maarta Laiho (colors)

Lettered by Aubrey Aiese

BOOM! Studios

“HOW LONG HAS YOUR HAT BEEN A LIVE RACCOON?”

After our Jen Overstreet and Christina Harrington reviewed Lumberjanes #1 back in April, I knew I had to check out this series. I’ve only just gotten the chance, so this issue refers to a few things that I’m not familiar with, but it’s a self-contained story about a girls’ camp beating the daylights out of intentionally anatomically incorrect velociraptors, so I’m still awfully happy with it.

Fine, there’s also some kind of werebear forest witch, who’s worried about some kind of evil spirits, who may or may not be possessing one or more of the girls, and the camp’s muscular counselor Rosie Not-the-Riveter knows more about all this than she’s letting on. There are definitely the hints of a larger mythology coming together here. The light “The Goonies with girls” tone is an essential piece of the book, so rather than being intimidating, evil spirits seem like simply the next level of challenge for campers who can defeat raptors with friendship bracelets.

Unlike The Goonies, though, these girls still lack a compelling reason to remain exposed to danger, which camp “worrier” Jen hangs a blatant lampshade on in early pages. It’s still a bit unclear what we’re supposed to think of Rosie. Still, these considerations are secondary for a book so gloriously larger-than-life. An adventure about a girls’ camp (that doesn’t involve a serial killer) has been terribly overdue in the media, and I can’t wait to see more of this colorful cast in action.

Kayleigh Hearn is reading…

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 7.08.26 PMSteven Universe #2

Written by Jeremy Sorese

Drawn by Coleman Engle

BOOM! Studios

“It’s hard to explain to a trio of intergalactic warriors that everything for humans is a risk.  Bike races or falling in love…taxes…whatever!”

Much like the animated series it sprung from, Steven Universe #2 takes a simple premise–here, Steven enters a bike race–and infuses it with magic, humor, and tenderness. Issue #2 eschews a “monster of the week” story to focus on Steven’s conflicts with his guardians, the mystical Crystal Gems. The Gems nix Steven’s plans for the bike race, believing it to be dangerous; Steven rightly points out that it’s less dangerous than the missions he goes on with the Gems. But Pearl, Amethyst, and Garnet aren’t human, and can’t fully understand Steven’s human world full of risks and challenges. They secretly modify Steven’s bicycle with magical devices hoping to protect him, but have they made the race even more dangerous?

The creative team of Sorese and Engle has crafted another great comic, and with only two issues out it already feels like Steven Universe could become one of the best all-ages comics currently on the stands. Steven’s bike adventure is fun, but the story also carries real emotional weight, particularly in the scene where Steven talks to his father, Greg. As the son of a human father and Crystal Gem mother, Steven belongs to both worlds, and since he’s only a little boy, balancing between them is a struggle. The human world may be more mundane than the Crystal Gems’ adventures, but human triumphs–like winning a bike race–are just as exciting. Coleman Engle’s artwork is bright and energetic, and he skillfully captures Steven’s emotional highs and lows.

Issue #2 also includes the short comic “Lion Tamer” by Josceline Fenton, a cute little story about Steven trying to get Lion ready for a pet show. Two of my favorite panels of the issue are Steven putting bows in Lion’s hair; it’s an adorable scene as well as a reminder that Steven Universe doesn’t stick to rigid gender roles. It’s the capper to a strong comic that’s almost relentlessly fun.

Joe Stando is reading…

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 7.09.03 PMRadical Guardian Skater X #1

Written by Chris Sims

Art by Joe Hunter

Lettered by Josh Krach

Action Age

“Skater X! Here to give you the test of your life. And this one’s pass/fail!”

Full disclosure: artist Joe Hunter is a friend of the site and has contributed artwork to Deadshirt on a few occassions.

Let me preface this review with the fact that I don’t know much about skateboarding. I don’t think it generally involves fighting monsters, but again, I am not an authority on the subject. What I do know about is being stressed in high school, and how trivial stuff can swallow you up if you let it.

That’s the core of Radical Guardian Skater X, and it’s eminently relatable. Sims pulls from various influences, including tokusatsu series like Kamen Rider, but weaves together a story that’s more than a mere pastiche. Hunter’s art is bright and lively, reminiscent of Bruce Timm’s work but more warm and fluid. Skater X and his erstwhile enemy Testor’s designs homage tokusatsu designs but remain their own beast. Testor specifically is a fun balance between menacing and silly, and the various details shine. Josh Krach’s lettering deserves special mention as well, for executing an extremely clever font joke about halfway through.

Skater X is the kind of hero we don’t see enough of, one who stops threats and defeats his enemies, but still sees the best in people and tries to help them reach it. This book is a fun romp, with a lot of heart to it.

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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