Deadshirt Is Reading… Hipsters, Crimelords and Minotaurs

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.

Dom, Jason, Max and Joe are reading…

In this month’s Multiversity Roundtable, Deadshirters Dom Griffin, Jason Urbanciz, Max Robinson and Joe Stando fine-tuned their vibrational frequencies and shared their impressions of the installment out this week. 

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Multiversity: The Just #1

Written by Grant Morrison

Art by Ben Oliver

Colored by Ben Oliver (with Dan Brown)

Lettered by Clem Robbins

DC Comics

“When did hipsters get into superhero books? Real life is much more interesting than any of that fictitious crap.”

Where SOS was Morrison dropping the mic on Alan Moore pulp fetishism, here with The Just, he’s aiming at ex-BFF Mark Millar’s Jupiter’s Legacy. The two comics were conceived independently of one another but they deal in similar thematic territory. One of them is objectively pretty superior and I think it’s definitely the one where Damian Wayne tells Alexis Luthor that Chris Kent is just mad that her dad is the reason he doesn’t have a dad. Revisiting the spirit of late ’90s DC through the hyper-modern prism of reality TV and selfie culture, Morrison and Oliver paint a sad portrait of teen superheroes with nothing to do. As hilarious and quotable as much of the book tends to be, moments like Kyle Rayner losing it over the death of his girlfriend (The Original Fridging) and Sister Miracle absent-mindedly musing on the possibilities of meeting an alternative version of herself while her world comes to an end really resonate. This is a comic more steeped in the metafictional pretense of the series than its first two issues, but it functions as a solo piece better than either did, as well. Morrison continues to push the boundaries of what DC can be and should aspire to. – Dom

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It’s funny that the book of this series I was probably least looking forward to is the one I’ve liked the most. Maybe it’s because I’m not as fond of Millar’s work or the ’90s aesthetic in general as I am of Tom Strong but this issue was a hoot. Focusing on what idle teen heroes get up to after the world has been permanently been saved by their dads is a great setup. These “heroes” have no skills outside the crimefighting abilities and now there’s no crime left. The most they can do is refight old battles in reenactments and even that looks boring. Easily the most metatextual issue yet, referencing past comics (“You met Sandman? The Sandman? Neil Gaiman’s Sandman?”) and the other comics in the Multiversity series, realizing too late where those comics are coming from and they are too late to prevent the end of the world. Oliver is a great choice for this issue; the only thing of his I’ve read before this was his Action Comics zero issue (also with Morrison) but he nails the glossy US Weekly magazine look without it all seeming like a series of static pictures. I hope that something spins out of Multiversity going forward, because the rate at which Morrison and his artists are creating compelling characters it’d be a shame if this is the last we see of them. – Jason

The thing that I find really intriguing about Multiversity so far is that Morrison is giving these one-shot looks at various alt-DCUs their own distinct storytelling laws and physics. While last issue was pure pulp adventure, The Just puts superheroes in the framework of reality TV with art from Ben Oliver that perfectly feels like it’s working from celebrity photo likenesses that don’t exist in our reality. With no crime to fight thanks to a dead Superman’s final gift of a global robot police force, the remaining superheroes and their offspring are left to petty bickering and sniping (the issue’s major conflict is foremost Lexie Luthor not getting on the invite list for a superhero party, the destruction of all creation a close second). There’s quite a bit to like in this installment: Morrison’s young heroes, while superficial and cruel, still felt like three-dimensional characters, and it was nice to see him writing Kyle Rayner and Connor Hawke once again in a story that is something of a spiritual sequel to his JLA run. With a prodigious sampling of incidental ’90s creations in the mix (including a cameo from Impulse and  — speaking, even — roles for D-listers The Alpha Centurion and Bloodwynd), The Just is a strange, funny elegy for a DC Universe that only existed between 1995 and 1999. – Max

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It was interesting reading The Just on Wednesday because I had also happened to reread Alan Moore’s old pitch for a DC crossover event called Twilight of the Superheroes. Dom was spot on in the comparison to Jupiter’s Legacy, but I also feel like this issue is working through similar ideas to what Moore was aiming towards: what happens to superheroes once we run out of supervillains? It’s definitely a more offbeat, silly story in comparison to the first two, but it might also be my favorite so far. The characters are fully-realized and vividly brought to life, both in terms of writing and Ben Oliver’s fantastic art. The situations in the story (characters hiding girlfriends from each other and throwing tantrums about being passed over for parties) have a true-to-life sense, obnoxiousness intact. This isn’t a universe that could sustain itself for an endless amount of stories, but for this issue, it’s perfect. Morrison manages to send up ’90s DC characters and Millennial culture (two main things that define me) and I still loved every minute of it. – Joe

Sarah Register is reading…

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 8.14.37 PMArkham Manor #1

Written by Gerry Duggan

Art by Shawn Crystal

Colored by Dave McCaig

Lettered by Travis Lanham

DC Comics

“The manor can be freed from the linoleum, white paint, even the bars…blood will be harder to wash away…”

After Arkham Asylum was destroyed in the recent events of the Batman Eternal series, the city decides to relocate its inhabitants to yet another mansion with ties to Batman–Wayne Manor! Bruce decides this is a good thing; his father would want him to help people with mental illnesses in his city, even if it meant sacrificing the Manor’s legacy, and Batman can keep a close eye on the place from his definitely 100% sealed-off cave directly below where certainly no bad guys will ever be able to find their way in, no sir. Unfortunately and also predictably, mere days after the asylum takes root a few bloody murders pop up, and Bruce decides to take a very hands-on approach to solving the crimes.

Shawn Crystal’s scored, heavily shadowed illustrations work rather well for this story. This is a dark topic, even for Gotham, and the art presents a creepy vibe to match. There are a few close-ups of Bruce where he looks awful; some really intense stubble is growing beneath his cowl and the dark circles under his eyes are pronounced, which is totally appropriate considering what he’s going through. Instead of smooth shading, Crystal scratches dark lines across faces and utilizes some classic ben-day dots for shadowing effects, oozing a little old school into a classic Gotham staple like Arkham. McCaig’s green and terracotta color palette add to the overall queasy and deranged feel of the issue.

One of the most interesting things about this first issue is the absence of Batman’s rogues gallery in the Manor. Instead of “criminally insane,” the inhabitants of the new Arkham Manor are referred to as “mentally ill,” the word “asylum” has been dropped altogether, and Bruce goes as far as addressing the city’s poor healthcare system. I know Gotham is supposed to be more of a funhouse mirror reflection of real society, but this presents a unique opportunity to use some tact when addressing people diagnosed with mental disorders and make Arkham Manor into something more meaningful, especially considering Bruce has taken on the guise of a homeless war veteran to infiltrate the facility. There’s a lot to explore in this series, and it should be interesting no matter which way it decides to take us.

Jason Urbanciz is reading…

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 8.08.14 PMCatwoman #35

Written by Genevieve Valentine

Art by Garry Brown

Colored by Lee Loughbridge

Lettered by Sal Cipriano and Taylor Espisito

DC Comics

“Sure, Ward. Take the risk. Surprise me.”

Selina Kyle has assumed control of the crime families of Gotham City, and it’s taking everything she has to keep them under control so she can rebuild a city for them to prey on. The new creative team and direction for this series starts off with a lot of setup but still manages an entertaining issue. Selina is no longer a free agent thief: not only is she part of the criminal establishment; she is its leader (as much as it can have one), and she has to herd a large group of cats (pun totally intended, sorry not sorry). She wants to be a more “moral” crime boss, doing her best to get a huge cache of guns out of the city while making a profit from selling them, and convincing her fellow mobsters to invest in rebuilding the city so they can make even more money off its people’s vices. It’s an interesting direction for the book, but it’s not very action-packed if that’s what you’re looking for.

Garry Brown’s art is perfectly serviceable for the story they’re telling here. Kind of rough and dirty, thankfully far away from DC’s usual house style, but it lacks depth. It looks very flat. That could be the colors contributing, as well, but it just didn’t pop off the page. But while it was flat, it wasn’t static; there was good motion across the pages, and my eye never stopped to stare at it.

Catwoman continues DC’s Bat-office’s pattern of breaking up the norm and it fits in well. Hopefully going forward the storyline will gain momentum and the art will become a little more fluid, but this is still a very good start.

Kayleigh Hearn is reading…

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 8.15.22 PMMy Little Pony: Friends Forever #10

Written by Christina Rice

Art by Agnes Garbowska

IDW

“Bwahahah! Have you found your inner pony?”

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic won’t return to the airwaves until 2015, but until then you can visit Equestria in its two comic book tie-ins. My Little Pony: Friends Forever is Marvel Team-Up for ponies, with each issue a stand-alone story featuring two characters who join up and learn a new lesson about friendship. Issue #10 reunites Fluttershy and Iron Will, a minotaur who teaches an aggressive self-help seminar. Iron Will’s bullheadedness has gotten him in trouble with his family, so he seeks Fluttershy’s help to learn patience and get in touch with his “inner pony.”

As is the case with the show that inspired it, Friends Forever is the kind of children’s story concerned with teaching good values and lessons about friendship and kindness, and it’s pleasant rather than overbearing. Dialogue occasionally becomes stilted and hokey: Applejack calls everyone “sugarcube,” and Iron Will’s rhyming catchphrases are strained. (“If you laugh in my face, then it’s time to erase!” Wait, what?) Agnes Garbowska’s art hits the right comedic beats, getting good mileage out of the visual juxtaposition of a huge, muscle-bound minotaur having a tea party with tiny animals, or getting a facial at a spa. The issue feels a little subdued compared to the candy-colored escapades of previous MLP comics, but that’s not necessarily a criticism—My Little Pony: Friends Forever #10 is a sweet, gentle story with a good message for kids.

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!

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