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, Joe and Max are reading…
In this month’s Multiversity Roundtable, Deadshirters Dom Griffin, Joe Stando, and Max Robinson fine-tuned their vibrational frequencies and shared their impressions of the installment out this week.
Multiversity: Pax Americana #1
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Frank Quitely
Colored by Nathan Fairbairn
“My dad was a dreamer. Today is for him. For all the dreamers.”
While it’s easy to characterize Pax Americana as Nas’ infamous Jay-Z diss track “Ether” but for Watchmen, it’s also hella reductive. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely have seemingly reached the absolute zenith in their many works together, transforming into the platonic ideal of funnybook collaboration; that is, one creative spirit dwelling in two mad Scotsmen. A largely stand-alone, forty page murder mystery that can be read in pretty much any fucking order you so choose, the orgy of symmetry on display in the breathtaking layouts and the interplay between the words and pictures easily make this the best issue of Multiversity thus far. It wouldn’t be hyperbole to call it the single best issue of any comic this year, but it doesn’t seem fair to heap on plaudits beyond that. This is an astonishing work of complexity and wonder that feels like a piece of Phil Spector-produced pop, a song you can hear a million times and always find something to appreciate. I’m very much looking forward to having this on repeat. – Dom
There’s… a lot going on in Pax Americana. Despite being “a Watchmen homage,” Morrison and Quitely explore a ton of new ground, while at the same time delivering a streamlined, deceptively familiar story. I don’t know if it’s just that Morrison and Quitely bring out the best in each other, but this is definitely the best issue of Multiversity thus far, and the first one, in my opinion, to reach the levels of complexity and depth promised by the premise and first issue. The non-linear format is a meta-reference on at least three levels (Captain Atom’s perspective in the story itself, a stylistic parallel to Watchmen, and Nix Uotan’s “live dissection” rearrangement line in issue #1), and the thing is, that’s just one small thing I caught. A dozen people could read this book and write a list of themes, motifs and gracenotes, and the lists wouldn’t necessarily overlap. Much smarter people than I will surely write much smarter pieces than this, but Pax Americana is a testament to what two masterful creators in sync with one another can do in the span of a single issue. – Joe
Lord, this thing. Imagine Frank Quitely drawing a human jaw exploding in reverse, forever. Comics Twitter’s collective reaction to Pax Americana is more or less a pudgy WWF announcer moaning “ohhhh myyyy lorddd” as Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely piledrived the narrative limits of comics. And for good reason, this is, MINIMUM, the best looking comic anyone will read all year. Morrison’s script is dense even by his usual standards and Quitely’s staggering layouts knock you on your ass. It’s pretty rare that I want to spend an entire week reading and re-reading a single issue comic but Pax Americana’s forty-eight pages really demand it. While it is a send-up of many of Moore’s conceits and characters from Watchmen, it’s less satire and more the comics equivalent of “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)”. What Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal work does with twelve issues and nine panel grids, Pax Americana attempts in one issue with eight panel grids, a number that’s repeated throughout the comic. Pax Americana, by design, can be read in any order and Quitely’s pages are designed to disorient the viewer. Save for the appearance of the Ultra Comics plot device, this installment of Multiversity largely forgoes the series’ meta-plot in favor of a story that may well be Quitely and Morrison’s best collaboration to date. – Max
David Uzumeri is reading …
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Terry and Rachel Dodson
Colored by Edgar Delgado and Jesus Aburtov
Lettered by Chris Eliopoulos
“X-Men–the road you walk will lead only to ruin. A war that will burn the world down! PLEASE HEAR ME!”
Structurally, Axis has been an incredibly weird title on its own and as an overarching event, and as we reach the end of Act Two that’s definitely not abating. This issue is the last with the art team of the Dodsons, who I’ve always found to be the most structurally sound and skilled of the cheesecake-ier superhero artists: their characters look more diverse than Frank Cho’s, they don’t veer as hard into perviness or fanservice as Adam Hughes, and they are also capable of putting out more than four issues a decade.
This story is all over the place, thematically, temporally, and spacially. I presume the third act will try to tag it all together, but its structure so far has basically been two separate three-issue events: one of them is the big Red Skull/Onslaught fight that really feels like a prelude to the main personality-inversion concept of the series, and then we’ve had the actual narrative about the Avengers becoming huge assholes (and the X-Men becoming even bigger assholes) while the villains…sort of flirt with altruism a bit? The changes to the characters have seemed so sudden that it’s difficult to parse exactly what’s happened, and this isn’t helped by this issue’s structure, which is basically a series of vignettes showing Thor being a dick and Loki being nice, Mystique being heroic while Nightcrawler’s being a douchebag, etc.
The personality-inversion concept has a lot of promise and can be very effective, especially in its execution in the tie-ins, which have allowed writers to truly dig into the concept of a character’s moral weaknesses becoming strengths, and vice versa, while the main event has had to paint everyone with a far broader brush. So in this issue, rather than the nuance of a Tony Stark that’s replaced his humility with arrogance but also his confidence with insecurity, we just get an arrogant guy yelling at Daredevil. The inversion concept requires a level of character nuance past “bad guys good, good guys bad” to really reach its potential, and while some of the better tie-ins have been hitting that mark–Loki: Agent of Asgard, Captain America & The Mighty Avengers, and Superior Iron Man (despite not technically being a tie-in) especially–the main series, simply by necessity of space and what it is, has to go with the broad strokes.
The result, though, with so many characters and so many ongoing subplots and so much continuity and history being dealt with, is that Axis is symptomatic of the Party Hallway Problem of Superhero Events: those books where, if you only read the main title, it feels like you’re spending the entirety of a dorm party in the hallway, totally missing all the little dramas and events and hook-ups and keg stands going on in the actual rooms, so the next day you could describe when everyone showed up and when they left, but you weren’t there for basically every funny story everyone’s telling.
The art inconsistency certainly doesn’t help, especially since the art changes haven’t even been synchronized with the narrative switches: we’ve had two three-part acts and three two-issue art assignments, and Adam Kubert, Leinil Francis Yu and Terry Dodson share pretty much nothing in common artistically other than being high-profile artists with contacts at Marvel. It does nothing to help the optic that the book is a mish-mash of different ideas, all of them quite well thought-out, thrown into a narrative stew in some kind of magic pot where different sections come to boil at different times but it all mixes together anyway, like one plot strand that came to a climax just sorta mixes together with some other ones midstream and then reopens later. In this issue alone we’re dealing with Loki’s guilt over killing his young self, the Scarlet Witch confronting Doom over the almost hilariously byzantine events in Avengers: The Children’s Crusade that led to her exoneration for wiping out like 80% of the world’s mutants, Daredevil confronting Tony Stark over becoming the Menicus Moldbug of the Marvel Universe, and Evan/Genesis from Remender’s Uncanny X-Force completely becoming Apocalypse, a major plot thread from a thirty-five-issue series by this book’s writer that feels almost like an afterthought thrown in with all these other threads. Plus the mystery of the Red Skull’s missing body.
Long story short: there’s a lot of craft in this series, but it could have benefited by being a number of separate stories. As it is, it feels like so many big events are happening at once–including ones that have been led up to over years of storytelling by multiple creative teams–that they’re losing any individual impact they may have had. It’s fun, and it’s well-executed, but I can’t help but feel like a lighter touch, tighter focus, and perhaps a more expanded shipping schedule would have done the concept, and the high level of craft that’s gone into it, more favors.
Sarah Register is reading…
Written by Charles Soule
Art by Pepe Larraz
Colored by Richard Isanove
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
“Maximus didn’t seem too concerned, and then I found out why. Black Bolt talked. Just one word.”
Gorgon, along with new Inhumans Inferno and Nur, go up against the slightly, definitely insane Maximus in order to rescue Black Bolt and conclude the title’s first intense storyline. It’s a lot of fun to finally see the typically stoic Black Bolt go on a little rampage. The art in this issue displays his power at its most violent, decimating mountains and bodies alike with sprays of blood and debris. His words quite literally crash across the panels in giant blocks of text when he opens his mouth, to the delight of the readers.
The standout character in this issue was Frank McGee, who is not a fan of his Inhuman name, Nur. Frank is a retired gumshoe, a gruff tough guy with a heart who acts as a contrast to the new teen characters introduced in this run. He makes the tough choices when Inferno is too timid in a fight after disfiguring himself with his own powers, and still instinctually relies on his sidearm rather than his new abilities. Every issue seems to feature different Inhumans and team-ups, but with such an intriguing cast of characters, there’s something to look forward to every time.
Thus far, this new series has acted as a comprehensive introduction to the legacy of the Inhumans; veteran members have to explain quite a bit to their rookie compatriots and, consequently, the readers. Despite all the brief history lessons, this has been an engaging storyline from the get-go with likable new characters that are developed but not dwelled upon as they merge into this new family of super heroes.
Joe Stando is reading…
Written by Dan Slott
Art by Oliver Copiel (pencils) and Wade Von Grawbadger (inks)
Colored by Justin Ponsor
Lettered by Chris Eliopoulos
“There’s a battle going on! One I intend to win—with overwhelming and superior force!”
We’re getting into the major part of “Spider-Verse,” and there’s a lot going on in this issue. Some good stuff, one not-so-good bit, and a lot of splintering in the storyline. Let’s dig in!
First and foremost, this issue revealed that the Superior Spider-Man, Otto Octavius in control of Peter Parker’s body, is alive and well, in a manner of speaking. It turns out that part of this event takes place in the 2099 universe, and specifically the period during which Otto was thrown into the future. This is a pretty clever conceit, because it allows a chance for Parker and Superior to interact in the real world, but it also sets a clear time limit on the character’s appearance, so his self-sacrifice and fate at the end of his book doesn’t feel hollow. Otto has been recruiting his own Spider-Army to fight the Inheritors, and they seem to be doing alright. He and his crew rescue Miles Morales and Ultimate Jessica Drew, and then return to 2099, where they clash with members of the core Spider-Army and with Deimos, the Inheritors’ bruiser. There are some more fun Spider-Men, like a punk rock iteration and the Hawkeye-descended Spider-Girl from Old Man Logan. It is also cool seeing Superior and Original Recipe Spider-Man argue and compete with each other, especially since Otto actually appears pretty well prepared for the Inheritors. We also get a reveal of who the older leader Spider-Man is [HIGHLIGHT FOR SPOILER: It’s an alternate Ezekiel, which I guess makes sense, though I was hoping for Uncle Ben], right before he’s done away with to set up one of the larger conflicts of the arc: the fight for control of the group between Otto and Peter.
This stuff was all fun. There’s something I do want to address, though, and it’s an element that’s been getting more and more bothersome lately. I like Silk, the new Spider-Man extended family character. I like the idea of other Spider-people who are more directly tied to Peter’s origin, and I like her costume design (it’s basically every fake ninja superhero I doodled between 2004-2008). I don’t like the pheromones/attraction element between her and Peter. It’s not that they can’t be taken with one another, but the use of a “magic irresistible force” that makes them horny for each other is kind of gross and sketchy. Dan Slott has a less than ideal track record on this sort of thing, given the initial bits with MJ in Superior, and a scene in this issue where Silk wonders if she has the same “connection” with any alternate Spider-Men doesn’t read very well. Silk’s inclusion in the Ancient and Powerful Prophecy of “Spider-Verse” as “The Bride” also doesn’t reassure me that her story is going to be super compelling outside of the context of who she wants to hook up with. I’m hoping I’m wrong here, and it’s possible I will be, but it’s definitely rubbed me the wrong way so far.
The end of this issue is sort of funny, and was definitely set up well. As the Spider-Folks scatter to escape the Inheritors, a number of them jump through portals that lead not only to other worlds, but into their own series or miniseries, as well. Silk and Spider-Woman take off to draw the Inheritors away from the rest, and into Spider-Woman #1. Kaine, Ben Reilly, and Ultimate Jessica Drew make a break for the Inheritor-controlled Earth-001, and Scarlet Spiders. Miguel O’Hara and… Spider-UK, maybe? Maybe Spider-Monkey?? It’s hard to tell… Anyway, they run away too. This is where the event gets modular, and readers can follow whoever interests them. I’m gonna pick up Scarlet Spiders, as well as the various anthologies and the main series, but through a combination of budgetary considerations (for Spider-Man 2099) and bad tastes left in my mouth (Spider-Woman, for the Silk thing and the Milo Manara thing), I’m not going to follow every book. If any of you, dear readers, decide to pick them up and want to fill me in in the comments, I’d love to hear about 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!