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 Jason Aaron
Art by John Cassaday
Colored by Laura Martin
Lettered by Chris Eliopoulos
“I have a very good feeling about this.”
I was initially worried when Disney moved the Star Wars comics license from its home of over twenty years, Dark Horse, to Marvel. While I loved Marvel’s original Star Wars comics back in the 70s and 80s, in recent years the company hasn’t shown a huge interest in working on other Disney properties outside of the occasional mini-series. The announcement of A-list creators Jason Aaron and John Cassaday on the new Star Wars line’s flagship title did help allay my fears, but still there was the worry that they’d merely be phoning it in. Thankfully those fears were unfounded; Star Wars #1 is a really great comic, and even better than that, it’s a great Star Wars comic.
An Imperial weapons factory receives an envoy from Jabba the Hutt to negotiate for some supplies, but SURPRISE the envoy is Han Solo and crew, there to destroy said factory. Soon enough, they’ve snuck their way in, and just when it seems everything will work out perfectly, all hell breaks loose. Aaron and Cassaday succeed in getting the voice of Star Wars right. It’s tough to explain, but it just feels like a continuation of the first film in all the right ways. From the opening page of “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” the book gets all the notes right to carry you back into George Lucas’s world.
The flaws are few, mostly that C-3PO is relegated to sitting in the Millennium Falcon and providing some clunky “as you know” narration to bring the reader up to speed with the plot, but I’ll take that because it allows the book to start right in the middle of the action and not spend an issue setting everything up. Cassaday is an excellent artist, but his work at times looks a little too “posed” and I was afraid that the book might just look like very well-drawn photo reference, but he largely avoids that. While nailing the faces of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill, he’s still able to animate the panels and give the comic momentum instead of the characters appearing to stand in place.
Like the best of the Star Wars films, this comic is a fun, breakneck adventure that manages to feel both familiar and brand new at the same time.
Joe Stando is reading…
Written by Dan Slott, Kathryn Immonen, Jed Mackay, and Enrique Puig
Art by Kris Anka, Sheldon Vella, Francisco Herrara, Ty Templeton and David Lafuente (pencils), and Alvaro Lopez (inks)
Colored by Chris Sotomayor, John Rauch, Fernanda Rizoga, and Andrew Crossley
Lettered by Sheldon Vella and Travis Lanham
This is another week of just one “Spider-Verse” tie-in, and while it doesn’t do much to raise the stakes or advance the plot of the general event, it’s another great example of the kind of fun you can have with this premise. This far in, I’ve been increasingly looking at the themes and concepts of the crossover, and this anthology issue actually gave me some nice bits to support some of my conclusions.
One of my favorite things about “Spider-Verse” is that it doesn’t put in a whole lot of effort to maintain verisimilitude. Characters drawn in wildly different art styles and with clashing tones regularly interact and work together, and the series has a sort of video game logic about its take on the Marvel Multiverse, with parallel universes treated like different levels or bases. They key to it all is that it understands the various universes to be stories, written for specific ends. Immonen, Lafuente, and Lopez’ Anansi story is explicitly about this, with Anansi messing around with Spider-UK before joining, because he’s a trickster and that’s his role.
But it’s also an idea that pops up a lot in these shorts, like “With Great Power Comes No Future.” Mackay and Vella’s story of the origin of Punk Spider-Man is bombastic and over-the-top, even by the standards of an alternate universe tale. But it knows it, and that’s the point. It’s a fun, crazy piece written with the specific end goal of giving us Punk Spider-Man to play with, and in that regard, it’s perfect. “El Espiritu de las Calles” works similarly, in that it’s not just a story about a Mexican luchador Spidey, it’s by a Mexican creative team and written in Spanish. Herrara and Rizoga’s art is gorgeous and animated, evocative of the best eras of Humberto Ramos’ and Skottie Young’s work.
It’s also interesting that with the reveal of Punk Spider-Man’s secret identity (highlight for SPOILERS: Punk Rock Hobie Brown), even fewer of the core Spider-cast are variants of Peter Parker, in a move I can only assume is intentional. Miles, Gwen, UK, Tokusatsu, and plenty more tend to be other characters with unique backstories, which is a cool way to diversify the event, and a mechanism to avoid it getting too confusing. This tendency itself is parodied in another joke short, “It’s the Little Things,” which proves yet again that Slott has the right level of irreverence for his creation.
My only complaint with this issue is that it still feels like act one of the story, for the most part. We’re getting origins and recruitment stories, but with the exception of the final short, nothing is set even during the issues we’ve already seen. I’m excited for Spider-Verse Team-Up #3 because it looks like it uses the two-story format to tell mission stories, and it’s likely that most of this week’s stories were written with only the basic event outline, but regardless, it feels a little like a missed opportunity. It’s still a super fun book though, and probably among the last mostly jokey issues we’ll get as the event begins to close in on its endgame.
David Uzumeri is reading…
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Stefano Caselli
Colored by Frank Martin
Lettered by Cory Petit
“Put the blade where it belongs.”
I know I’ve written about Hickman a bunch, and I swear to God I’ll diversify soon, but as soon as I read this comic I knew I had to write about it, because it really highlights just how utterly satisfying delayed gratification can be.
Some creators can set up long-term plotlines without knowing where they’re going, allowing them to morph and adapt as time goes on. Some creators avoid them altogether, allowing the long-term themes emerge automatically from the work on the shorter arcs. Then you have Jonathan Hickman, who will let a rivalry simmer for two and a half years and then, when you least expect it, give you the perfect conclusion you didn’t know you wanted.
I don’t want to spoil it, but “long-simmering rivalry” will probably give enough context for anyone who’s been reading to figure it out—then again, chances are if you’ve been reading this long, you’ve already gotten to this issue. It’s an oversized treat of murky morality, busting Beast’s balls, and righteous vengeance that left at least this reviewer actively fist-pumping in bed at 3 AM and loudly whispering “FUCK YEAH!”
People give Hickman a lot of credit for his systematic and structured plotting, but I don’t think he gets anywhere near the discussion he deserves for his deft character work and mastery of tone. This book’s laugh-out-loud funny, quite sad, and satisfyingly thrilling within the space of 30 pages, and those tonal shifts work largely due to the book’s incredibly large cast, all of whom Hickman handles with understanding and aplomb—from Steve Rogers to the Beast to Black Panther, and Namor to Thanos and Maximus.
Collaborators Stefano Caselli and Frank Martin certainly help this along. Martin’s the versatile colorist a book this veering requires, and Caselli can handle both the cosmic action and facial acting that a story like this needs. Make no mistake, though, this is Hickman’s show, as a middle chapter in a ~20-part crossover between Avengers and New Avengers that flows from issue to issue and, constantly, artist to artist. Hickman’s working with all-stars from his time at Marvel, but they’re facilitators, not co-creators, in this particular context.
We’re in on the final descent in the hellride that’s been the three-year lead-up to Secret Wars, and I’m excited as all hell.
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!