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…
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by Takeshi Miyazawa
Colored by Ian Herring and Irma Kniivila
Lettered by Joe Caramagna
“Kamala Khan. Livin’ the dream. Sort of.”
Ms. Marvel is stoked about finally defeating her first major villain, but before Queen Medusa can say, “Great, kid! Don’t get cocky,” Kamala faces a whole new kind of trouble. Even though the young superhero has decided against joining the Inhumans (though she certainly won’t stick her nose up at their training facilities), the brewing strife among different factions and “Nuhumans” ends up on her doorstep. It’s all too much for Kamala, who’s already dealing with all the labels that come with being Muslim and Pakistani-American; her frustrations with her stockpile of new Inhuman problems boil over with some major consequences.
Takeshi Miyazawa takes over the artwork, which is rather fitting considering he also followed Adrian Alphona in the first volume of Runaways. Miyazawa is responsible for a lot of the humor in this issue, with his cartoonish silliness that works so well with spazzy teen heroes. A lot of Kamala’s personality shines through in panels where she isn’t even speaking. It’s often jarring for me when a new art team takes over a favorite title, but this transition is pretty seamless. In fact, every artist that has had their hand in this book thus far really seems to get this character.
Of all the new superheroes that have popped up in Marvel over the past few years, Ms. Marvel’s journey has been my favorite to follow. G. Willow Wilson manages to make each issue a treat, and the protagonist continues to be adorable and incredibly relatable. Kamala’s trial and error approach to superheroing shows her plucky and courageous personality but also her imperfections, and Medusa’s cryptic warnings of her naivety are already making sense. Being a hero doesn’t also mean being able to land a mean right hook.
Joe Stando is reading…
Written by Paul Jenkins
Art by Jonboy
Colored by FCO Plascencia
Lettered by Tom Orzechowski
“All because of a lie.”
When I was in high school, about a decade ago, I was very into Spawn, as a character and a series. With its weird mix of radical nineties designs, gross body horror, melancholy tone, and use of Christian eschatology as window dressing, it was perfect for me at sixteen or so. Towards the end of my high school years, Spawn teamed up with the creator deity (who was kinda Marvelman/Miracleman, but also not) and destroyed and recreated the universe in its entirety. I said “wow! That was great. I doubt they’ll ever top that” and immediately quit cold-turkey. Spawn, however, has continued ever since, and released a one-shot issue to set up for a new creative team and, more significantly, the return of Al Simmons, the original Spawn.
This issue is really mostly backstory and setup, played out in the form of a conversation in limbo between a crucified Al Simmons and God, portrayed here in the form of the dog Simmons had when he was nine. In other words, Jenkins really gets Spawn. We get a lot of overview of Simmons’ tragic past, his betrayal and murder by his best friend and his deal with the devil to become a badass super-monster. We also get some updates on the series so far, like Simmons’ suicide to give up the mantle of Spawn and the death of his wife. I’m not sure how recent some of these plot points are (I know, for example, that there’s been a different Spawn for a while now), but this issue definitely felt like reframing the last 250 issues of the series in terms of what Jenkins is gonna focus on going forward. For example, the apocalyptic destruction and recreation of the universe I referred to earlier is unmentioned, which is odd because it felt like a pretty big deal.
Another interesting bit in this book is how a lot of the events and themes of “evil on Earth” are set almost explicitly against the backdrop of the shootings of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, and similar cases. It’s framed in a way that I generally agree with, but I still don’t know if using endemic racial issues in America as an element of a Zombie-Batman-Venom-Punisher comic is a well-thought-out move. I will say though, it’s definitely a Spawn move.
There were also some interesting artistic choices in this issue, which make me intrigued about this upcoming run. I loved everything about Jonboy’s lines and Plascencia’s colors, a vivid, action figure-like take on Spawn. I did think it was surprising, though, that Al Simmons was depicted exclusively with his normal human face, as opposed to the charred, decayed one that’s been common. On the one hand, I understand the metaphysical nature of the issue, and that Simmons may still look the same in the “real” world. On the other, I’ve never known Spawn artists to shy away from an opportunity to draw something gross. I’m wondering if Jenkins and Jonboy have a more stylized vibe in mind going forward. Also, the new big sword is cool, but lose the mouth on the costume.
All in all, I liked this issue. It reminded me of the kind of batshit insanity I loved from the book, and got me interested in a title I dropped for about a decade. If you’ve never been a Spawn fan, this probably won’t sell you, and if you’re a diehard, it was probably a lot of unnecessary exposition. But for lapsed believers at the Church of Spawn like me, it feels like an olive branch, and I appreciated that.
Written by Tom Taylor
Art by Laura Braga and Guru-eFX (colors)
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
“The guy who opened fire on a bullet-proof-anger-machine and the one who shot me in the head, you don’t work here anymore.”
Superior Iron Man is the strongest thing to come out of AXIS, and among the strongest openings for a Marvel book I’ve read in a long time. It’s a brutal satire of media, tech, and narcissism, executed well but not off-puttingly. It also occupies a strange space because it’s essentially a side story about a major Marvel player who is going to have a hand not only in the end of the Avengers ongoing, but in Secret Wars, so the status quo that maintains this book can only last so long. Indeed, this week seems to be the beginning of the end for Tony, as he’s pitted against Pepper and her mysterious ally.
If this is the last arc before the big company-wide shake-up, it’s a good way to do it. Daredevil may have been outclassed by the new and improved Tony Stark, but Pepper has known him intimately for a long time, and is the right person to appeal to his buried goodness and/or beat some sense into him. She’s come a long way from being Tony’s go-fer, and using Resilient was clever.
In a perfect world, we’d get a three year run of Superior Iron Man in which Taylor takes aim at everything from BuzzFeed to the NFL, through the lens of a greedy, nasty Tony Stark. For now, though, I’m content with however many more issues we get before the big finale.
Adam Pelta-Pauls is reading…
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Joe Quinones
Colored by Rico Renzi
Lettered by Travis Lanham
“Wait, how long do ducks even live for? Siri: Please Bing how long do ducks live for.”
Man, this is a fun comic. I thoroughly enjoy it when comics get a little meta, so when I heard Chip Zdarsky (of Sex Criminals fame) had been tapped to write a new Howard the Duck series, I got excited. I expected capers and escapades, I expected Marvel in-jokes, and I expected a lot of duck-out-of-water humor (and this comic delivers on all three), but what I didn’t expect was how utterly charming this series actually turned out to be.
The premiere issue opens with Howard in the slammer, ostensibly for being a better private investigator than the NYPD’s public ones. There, he meets Tara, his tattooed Girl-Friday-to-be. The two of them eventually join forces on a lost property case of Howard’s that has them crossing paths with the likes of She-Hulk, Black Cat, and Spider-Man. It’s a really fun romp through Marvel’s world, seen through the eyes of the people on street-level. The story moves at a clip, but it’s the storytelling that makes it such a wonderful read.
Zdarsky and artist Joe Quinones clearly worked really closely to give this series a very distinct flavor. The eighties-movie training montage alone should be reason enough for you to read this comic. It’s deftly executed and laugh-out-loud funny. Zdarsky’s penchant for visual gags also carries over from his Sex Criminals work into things like Howard’s novelty shirts (“No Harm, No Fowl”), but his humor peaks in the normcore attitude with which he tackles living in the Marvel Universe. From Howard’s struggles with autocorrect to Jessica Walters’ casual browsing of a BuzzFeed-style listicle entitled “20 Cats That’ll Make You Forget You Live in a World of Super-Powered Wonder and Horror,” this comic contains, on average, one good belly laugh per page. Layered on top of that is the fact that Howard comes across as an honestly empathetic, flawed, human (ok, yes, waterfowl, but you get the point) character, and this series becomes an immediate must-read.
Seriously, go out and get it. I’ll wait.
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!