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.
Max Robinson is reading…
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by John Cassaday
Colored by Laura Martin
Lettered by Chris Eliopoulos
“Nice knowing ya, Darth.”
“Book I, Part II” of Jason Aaron and John Cassaday’s Star Wars opens with a familiar scene: Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker facing each other down, lightsabers a-glow. As Vader prepares to execute young Skywalker, the foot of a massive AT-AT explodes into the room. “WATCH OUT, KID. THIS THING HANDLES LIKE A DRUNKEN BANTHA.” Everything about this feels right, like sitting in a comfy chair with new upholstery. Marvel has Star Wars again. All is right and good.
What I love about this book is how it really feels like Star Wars without feeling derivative or overly referential. This issue a great job balancing the kind of cool craziness we all want to see in a Star Wars comic (Han Solo firing on Darth Vader in a stolen AT-AT! Fuck yeah!), with intriguing dramatic beats (In a move of surprising vanity, a wheezing Vader snaps a Stormtrooper’s neck for the crime of gazing upon his unmasked face). Cassaday is clearly having a blast drawing this book, and his visual depiction of Vader as a walking, unstoppable whirlwind of death and destruction is especially inspired. It’s a minor thing, but it’s nice to see that Aaron has a good handle on the unmistakable, iconic voices of his cast. Luke in over his head and doubting himself? Check. Han and Leia at each other’s throats in the heat of battle? Check. C-3PO being functionally useless while R2 saves the day? Double check. The gang’s all here and they’re nailing the hits.
Already flexing the kind of explosive storytelling muscle most titles would make us wait three issues for, “Skywalker Strikes” is thus far one hell of a rollercoaster ride through our favorite far far away galaxy.
Jason Urbanciz is reading…
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by John Romita Jr. (pencils) and Klaus Janson (inks)
Colored by Laura Martin with Ulises Arreola, Dan Brown, and Wil Quintana
Lettered by Sal Cipriano
“I’d be worried about how powerful you were getting if it wasn’t you.”
Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr. bring their first arc on Superman to a close with some huge bangs, and a bunch of cool flourishes to set-up the new status quo for the book. With The Great World gone, Ulysses goes insane, blaming Superman for destroying his planet. Superman drags him out of Metropolis for their showdown, eventually subduing him via his new “Super Flare” power, which channels all of the solar radiation stored in his cells outward, destroying everything within a quarter mile radius (including his New 52 armor, thank goodness) and rendering him powerless for 24 hours. This wraps up pretty quickly, leaving the rest of the pages to set up where Superman goes from here: Clark is back working at the Daily Planet, Superman’s got a new (less stupid-looking) costume and, in the final page, reveals his identity to one of his oldest friends. It’s obvious that Johns is building to something with this arc, having Superman face a dark mirror to himself, a lone survivor from another world who landed on a planet that turned him into a weapon, but I’m not sure where. We do get a quick look at the man who’s been following the action in the shadows, I assume we’ll get more on him soon.
Johns’s run on Superman continues to be pretty good. He has always had a firm grasp on the character, and it’s obvious that he’s working to bring Superman back to his pre-Flashpoint persona rather than the more Marvel Comics-influenced dude we’ve gotten recently. Romita Jr. (and Klaus Janson on inks) has been doing a lot of the heavy lifting on this run, and they get a lot to work with during Superman’s fight against Ulysses in the first half. Throwing each other through a massive spaceship, the streets of Metropolis, and finally a large forest, Romita gets to draw a lot of different vistas, and does a great job illustrating Superman’s “Super Flare” as being both destructive and majestic. DC gets a lot of criticism for mismanaging Superman during the New 52 reboot, but with this book and Greg Pak & Aaron Kuder’s Action Comics, they are bringing him back to his roots.
Kayleigh Hearn is Reading…
Written by Sam Humphries
Art by Ed McGuinness and Kris Anka
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham
“Because I’m the Game Master! That’s why!”
Guardians of The Galaxy and X-Men: The Black Vortex: Alpha is the first issue in a thirteen-part crossover that risks being as unwieldy as that full title. Having first met in the “Trial of Jean Grey” crossover event (a measly 6 issues! Bah!), the two teams are reunited to the decide the fate of the Black Vortex, an ancient celestial artifact that can unlock a being’s full potential and transform them into a cosmic-level threat. Some of our heroes want to try the Black Vortex, and others want to destroy it—and then, of course, there are the party-crashing villains who want it for themselves.
Sam Humphries hits the ground running with this first installment, jumping across billions of years and several galaxies to bring the two hero teams together. So far, he seems more comfortable writing the Guardians of the Galaxy than the X-Men, which makes the issue feel a bit uneven. The Guardians have a wacky, comfortable chemistry that works well, and their intergalactic game of Dungeons & Dragons is a highlight. (I chuckled when I remembered that Flash Thompson and Groot are hanging out now, because comics are weird.) By contrast, the scenes with the X-Men feel much more stilted and uninspired, hitting the same “Beast needs to send the original X-Men back to the past” and “What is it with Kitty and guys named Peter?” notes that other writers have hit before. Speaking of Kitty and Peter Quill—no matter how many times I see them together, my brain refuses to process that they’re an actual, in-story couple now, and not someone’s fanfiction crackship. Sorry, #StarKat.
Ed McGuinness and Kris Anka share art duties on the issue, and their styles mesh surprisingly well together without being jarring. The Black Vortex itself looks like the Mirror of Erised redesigned by Jack Kirby, though at this early stage it’s hard to care about the McGuffin or who will/won’t be transformed by it. The Black Vortex: Alpha is a decent first issue, and there’s definitely time for the story to pick up, but it’s unclear as yet why it needs a massive thirteen installments.
Joe Stando is reading…
Written by Ryan North
Art by Erica Henderson
Colored by Rico Renzi
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
“Yes, from now on you will be Sally Awesomelegs. It is the only reasonable option left.”
This book is a comic shop phenomenon. I chatted about it with the cashier at the store. My co-workers at the bar (normally big, loud blockbuster event comics fans) loved it. I don’t know that anyone I’ve mentioned it to online has a bad word to say about it. It’s nuts (literally, in this case).
The key is that this is a creative team from outside of the normal Big Two talent pool, and they’re not twisting and contorting themselves to fit. Ryan North and Erica Henderson are funny. Period. So this issue, one that introduces the threat of Galactus and ends with a surprise attack by Whiplash, is still a laugh riot. From the absurd (and absurdly cute) dialogue bits, like Doreen’s embarrassment at having a crush or Tippy-Toe revealing that Galactus “forgot to make his stealth field work on squirrels,” to clever sight gags like the Social Justice Club versus the Social Injustice Club, there’s something great on every single page.
I liked the first issue, but this is the one that sold me for the long haul, because the overall approach became more clear. Squirrel Girl stories aren’t going to be like the average punch-out Marvel stories. While I have plenty of love for those, it’s refreshing to see a book that focuses on conflicts that are more mental or social, where the lead actually has to use her wits over her powers. It’s a light book so far, but it reminds me a lot of some of the classic Spider-Man runs, in its way. Both are about heroes balancing their costumed persona with their real life, and beating up Kraven or some Iron Man drones might not be as scary as talking to a hunky guy or trying to befriend a roommate. I freaking love this book.
Sarah Register is reading…
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Ramon Rosanas
Colored by Jordan Boyd
Lettered by Travis Lanham
“Yeah, I’m gonna go ahead and put this in the ‘good decision’ column.”
Ant-Man (no not that one, the other one) is back from the dead (no, the other other one) and trying his darndest to sort out his life in a brand new solo title. Scott Lang is a walking dichotomy between being very good at some things and regrettably awful at everything else. However, despite the fact that he’s somewhat of a screw-up, it’s difficult not to admire a guy who chooses to be a parent (in Miami of all places, ugh) over a superhero. For the sake of his daughter, he traded in the rock-star life of defending a city that’s constantly threatened by apocalyptic forces for a more simple life; then again, nothing is simple in the Marvel U, not even starting a small business.
Scott is the type of guy that masks his failures with humor, and this coincides with the overall feel of the comic. This issue was genuinely funny, with most of the comedic timing due to the harmonious relationship between the story and the artwork (basically the text sets up the jokes and the panels knock them down). Underneath the fun, however, is a broke man living in a plastic playhouse and who doesn’t seem to have any clothes besides his Ant-Man suit.
This series is reminding me of Charles Soule’s She-Hulk, in that it features some enjoyable small-scale superheroing (extra small in this case, because, you know, Ant-man). Now that he’s found a benefactor in a mysterious older woman and employed a sidekick (a man in a literal bear suit), things might start going his way, but I doubt it. Ant-man is a charming comic that will make you laugh but also sneakily make you feel things.
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!