Deadshirt Is Reading… Babies and Brain Tumors

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 2014-12-04 at 7.07.17 PMAngela: Asgard’s Assassin #1

(Main Story)

Written by Kieron Gillen

Art by Phil Jimenez and Tom Palmer (inks)

Color by Romulo Fajardo

Lettered by Clayton Cowles

(Substory)

Written by Marguerite Bennett and Kieron Gillen

Art by Stephanie Hans

Marvel

“Oh, don’t worry. An expression of abject terror is absolutely the correct response to her.”

A wayward Image Comics character has finally found a place in the Marvel U in her own title comic. Angela was cast out of Heaven after her true Asgardian lineage was revealed, and she’s got a bit of a grudge against both realms. The angels of this universe don’t believe in honor or gifts, only in balance, and Angela’s idea of restoring balance in the debts owed to her will have the hordes of Asgard on her many tails as she smuggles some precious cargo into Limbo.

As is the case for many Thor comics, the writing and art direction contribute to the overall image of Angela as a bonafide god. In the center of this issue, her companion, Sera (the Gabrielle to Angela’s Xena), tells a tale that is almost biblical in dialogue and structure. This story, which is not so much an origin but more an example of Angela’s gravitas, is taken over by a different creative team than the bulk of the comic. The prominent outlines seen in the first act become less harsh and the colors become softer, but the details more pronounced. Angela, on the other hand, is hard and stoic, even as she violently restores balance to a life she once saved. Her glowing eyes reveal nothing, but she appears to wear her heart on her sword even as it cuts someone in half.

This first issue seems easily accessible to readers who may not have kept up with Angela’s journey since she first showed up in Marvel books. I’m personally pretty stoked on her appearance alongside the mysterious new Thor; it’s fun to watch ladies kick ass while delivering some hefty oration. Angela is thus far a wildcard, not leaning one way or the other as far as loyalty, but despite her strict code and talent for killing people, she’s got a lot of depth and definitely deserves her own comic.  

David Uzumeri is reading…

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 7.07.47 PMGrayson #5

Written by Tom King and Tim Seeley

Art by Mikel Janin

Colored by Jeromy Cox

Lettered by Carlos M. Mangual

DC Comics

“Come on, big boy!”

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who’s surprised that Grayson worked. When they outed Dick Grayson as Nightwing to kick off Forever Evil with a bang, the character’s solo title continued as if nothing had happened, and there was a strong impression DC didn’t know where they were going with the twist. The final issue of Nightwing‘s solicitation changing entirely at the last minute to line up with the newly-announced Grayson title didn’t help that impression. So it’s understandable that, for this title, expectations were low.

So it’s impressive that not only is Grayson a good comic, it’s a great one, buoyed by a truly impressive level of craft exhibited by co-writers Tim Seeley and Tom King and artist Mikel Janin. Issue #5 is no exception, riffing off of the classic “Robin Dies at Dawn.” Like many issues of the book, it works as a standalone issue but also ties into the book’s overall story arc and themes. It’s basically twenty pages of Dick, Helena Bertinelli, and the Midnighter walking through a desert protecting a baby, a dialogue-driven issue anchored by truly impressive double-page vistas of natural desolation from Janin and Cox.

I know, and understand, that there are a number of Dick Grayson fans uncomfortable with his current, well, frankly man-slut direction. By placing the character into a spy context with characters he’s unfamiliar with, it’s eliminated his relationships and friendships with a number of women and replaced them with what seem to be a string of ladies that are all DTF. The book is unquestionably married to a number of spy tropes, and there’s a will-they-won’t-they tension between Dick and Helena that’s so obviously (at this point due to the “Futures End” issue) “they will” that the drama is sucked out of the situation. In my opinion, though, this is offset by the level of craft on display at all levels, and while Grayson is unquestionably a title with a limited shelf-life due to its core concept, it’s taken what seemed–and maybe was– initially like a title born of editorial fiat and turned it into a fantastic, creator-driven title.

No matter what happens with Grayson in the long term, I’ve got high hopes for its creative team, especially Janin and comics newcomer Tom King, who’s displayed a truly impressive understanding of visual storytelling over the course of his debut of the medium. I’m excited to see what they all do next, and Grayson #5 is, much like every issue of the series, a very worthwhile standalone issue I’d recommend on its own or as a teaser for the excellent series as a whole.

Jason Urbanciz is reading…

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 7.08.18 PMSecret Six #1

Written by Gail Simone

Art by Ken Lashley (pencils and inks) and Drew Geraci (inks)

Colored by Jason Wright

Lettered by Carlos M. Mangual

DC Comics

“WHAT IS THE SECRET?”

Gail Simone’s Secret Six finally comes to the New 52 and it is very much a Gail Simone comic. Donald Blake, a.k.a. Catman, is enjoying a drink in a roadhouse bar when he is accosted by fake cops who try and arrest him. He fights them, while his boy and girlfriend tell us all how hot he is (sample dialog: “Is it just me, or is this…” “…Hot, hot, hot, hot.”) and is eventually captured. He wakes up in a room with another five kidnappees and they all introduce themselves and their powersets, the bad guy starts asking them questions, and that’s about it.

This comic wants you to know a few things. Catman is a badass and is very attractive, so attractive that almost all the other characters need to comment on how attractive he is. Also there’s a bunch of other people trapped with him and they’re all given a single trait to make them interesting. (It doesn’t make them interesting.) So, if you don’t think that Catman is inherently a cool dude there’s not much here for you, it’s pretty boring in fact since nothing really happens. The rest of the characters are either familiar from previous incarnations of the Six (Black Alice, Ventriloquist) or from being familiar archetypes (Big Shot = Jeckyll/Hyde, Strix = Cassandra Cain). Catman has the new trait of claustrophobia, which just seems like a lame attempt to pump up the drama of the group being trapped in a medium-sized room at the bottom of the ocean. This comic just didn’t work for me, but Simone’s stuff doesn’t do much for me anymore, so it could be me. I was a fan of her previous Secret Six series until it hit a point where it was just spinning its wheels with nowhere to go; this incarnation seems to start with the spinning wheels.

The art here is the high point but seems ill-matched for the book. Ken Lashley has a kinetic, scratchy style that is great during the one fight scene, but Simone’s writing style is the rare type that cries out for a DC “house style” artist. Most of her characters strike poses while spouting easily quotable badass phrases and the kineticism of Lashley’s art just doesn’t jive with what Simone writes. Similarly, the color pallette for this book is just too dark. I get that the second half of the book takes place under water, but it feels like the whole book is in the dark.

Gail Simone has a large following and, as her signature title, I’m sure Secret Six will be a godsend for her fans. I just don’t know if anyone outside of that group is going to want to read this.

Kayleigh Hearn is reading…

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 7.09.04 PMHulk #9

Written by Gerry Duggan

Art by Mark Bagley

Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit

Colored by Jason Keith

Marvel

“Okay, the Hulk is way scarier when he talks.”

Hulk #9 begins with a bang—literally, the Hulk banging on the X-Men’s door. Now the super-intelligent, Extremis-boosted personality known as Doc Green, the Hulk is suffering from a brain tumor, and needs help from another super-powered outlaw to remove it. Luckily, that outlaw is Kitty Pryde, and in this case “lending a helping hand” isn’t just an expression: the Hulk wants her to actually phase the tumor out of his brain with her hand.  It’s a clever, if icky, use of Kitty’s phasing powers, and a highlight in what is a smart, satisfying issue.

Gerry Duggan nails the snappy banter between Kitty and Magik, as well as their unease around the green-skinned jerk that just knocked down their door. Their dialogue is cute and self-aware without being smug, which is always a careful balancing act. I was a bit disappointed that Kitty Pryde only appears in the first half of the issue–she’s the special guest star showcased on the cover, and the main reason I picked up the comic–but the second half of the story is equally compelling. Bruce Banner only re-emerges after “Doc Green” falls asleep, but his escape from the Hulk’s science lair is impeded by an AI created by his other half. What follows is an intense argument Bruce and well, himself, but the stakes are shockingly high. Doc Green is not messing around, and he is genuinely scary.

Mark Bagley’s artwork is always a welcoming sight, like the comic book equivalent of comfort food. In a relatively action-free issue, his facial expressions are the strongest element. He skillfully captures Kitty’s confusion, Bruce’s anguish, and Doc Green’s smug sense of superiority. Hulk #9 strikes a good balance between humor and intensity, and is a strong chapter of the Hulk’s new status quo.

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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