It’s Wednesday and that means new comics. Let Deadshirt steer your wallet in the right direction with reviews (and preview pages) of titles out today from Image, Dark Horse, IDW, BOOM! Studios, Archie, MonkeyBrain, Oni, Fantagraphics, Top Shelf, Action Lab, and more!
Giant Days #1 (of 6)
Written by John Allison
Art by Lissa Treiman
Colored by Whitney Cogar
Lettered by Jim Campbell
Giant Days tells the story of three newby college dorm mates who form an unlikely bond and possibly dabble in the dark arts(?). There’s Daisy, the sweet but naive one; Esther, the goth boxer; and Susan, the practical slob. Of course, there’s a lot more to them than those generic descriptions, as each character is hilarious and incredibly relatable, so they’re different from each other in that Babysitter’s Club way where it’s easy to believe they’re friends. The characters spin off from creator John Allison’s webcomics, but this first issue is still accessible to new readers. With a trio of female pals headlining the title, I actually thought the words “Bechdel test” before one of the characters actually referenced it. I’m elated with the way this comic treats friendships among young women, and it’s just one highlight among many.
The artwork is adorably stylized without leaning too cartoonish. Lissa Treiman is also an animator, which explains the natural physical comedy and the easy way my eyes moved across the panels. It’s her style, on top of Allison’s quippy dialogue, that really sells the college aspects of this comic—character designs are fun but somehow familiar, wardrobes and hairstyles are trendy, and Susan’s pigsty of a bedroom is achingly nostalgic (for me, at least). When one friend walks in on another’s, um, private moment, I laughed out loud at the characters’ looks of panic and shock. It was delightful.
As I said, you don’t have to be familiar with the source material to enjoy this comic, but I’m still not quite sure what the overarching plot actually entails. There’s very little conflict aside from some mystery surrounding a number of boys and one or two “secret pasts;” however, this simple storyline actually works, because it’s really the characters and dialogue that carry this installment. With so few constraints and so much potential, this comic could easily work as an ongoing series, but unfortunately, there are only five more issues.
– Sarah Register
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Alex + Ada #13
Written by Sarah Vaughn and Jonathan Luna
Art by Jonathan Luna
We like to review a lot of debut issues for creator-owned books here on the Deadshirt Shopping List, but we also want to encourage you to stick with good series after the launch buzz has gone quiet. For those of you who haven’t already heard this from me the last three times I’ve written about it, Alex + Ada is a sci-fi comics soap opera of sorts, set in a near future and centered around Alex, a human twenty-something, and Ada, the sentient android with whom he’s begun a romantic relationship. Yes, that’s right, our heroes have finally done the deed, and while consummating a story’s romance can often mean the loss of all forward momentum, that hasn’t been the case for Alex + Ada, because, while their young love is certainly an essential part of the narrative, it is not all that this series is about.
Alex + Ada has unfolded very organically (robot joke, beep beep boop) from a small story about two people into a much bigger one about an entire movement for social justice. This issue amps up the stakes big time, as our leads’ lives are put in direct jeopardy by Operation Avalanche, the US government’s anti-android task force. But while the stakes are getting higher, Alex + Ada is still resisting becoming an action-adventure book, and it’s better for it. This is a story about a revolution told through the eyes of civilians, not warriors. Ada and Alex aren’t trying to be heroes; they just want to live their life together.
The book’s not perfect—Jonathan Luna likes to straight-up repeat panels during scenes of dialogue, which feels especially lazy when each page has only four or five panels with little to no background detail. While each character is very facially distinctive, they emote in a very realistic way, which is to say, not at all exaggerated for comics, which sometimes makes it easier to connect with the characters but sometimes makes the book feel very still. This may be intentional, however, because when that stillness is broken—like in this week’s issue, when we witness the digital equivalent of a suicide bombing—it can be very jarring.
The first issue’s still 99 cents on ComiXology, and the series isn’t so far along that you can’t catch up pretty quick and pretty cheap.
– Dylan Roth
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Written by Mark Millar
Art by Sean Gordon Murphy
Colored by Matt Hollingsworth
Lettered by Chris Eliopoulos
Mark Millar continues churning out movie pitches via his Millarverse line of comics, and while Chrononauts is certainly a beautiful entry to the line, it doesn’t have a brain in its pretty little head. Artifacts from present day are being found buried in places that they can’t possibly be, unless they were plucked into the past and put there in ancient times. Our heroes, Doctors Reilly and Quinn, interpret these discoveries to mean that their research into time travel will be ultimately successful. First, they launch a satellite to view into the past, but before long they are preparing to dive into the past themselves. Something goes wrong, stranding Quinn in the 1500s while Reilly must chase after him. Millar doesn’t really stop for breath the whole issue, moving us from plot point to plot point without slowing to give anyone much time to develop as a character. The TimeBros are basically riffs on Reed Richards (super-smart guy who is so consumed in his work his personal relationships have crumbled) and Johnny Storm (scientist who is in it to be a rock star). It would have been nice for Millar to color them in a little bit to make us care about them as more than archetypes.
Luckily, Millar has Sean Gordon Murphy along for the ride as artist. His work here is stellar, communicating far more of the story than the banal dialog does. Seriously, this book could have been released unlettered and I would probably have a much higher opinion of it. Murphy’s body language and expressions do a far better job of showing who the characters are and what they’re feeling; it gives the book a feeling of an A-list movie that was overdubbed with dialogue from its Asylum mockbuster counterpart. The time travel aspect gives Murphy a lot of different stuff to draw, and it’s really cool to see it all, be it an abandoned F-14 in a Mayan temple, the Battle of Gettysburg, or Dr. Quinn diving into the electric dreamscape of time itself.
The editorial afterword in the issue refers to Chrononauts as “pure eye candy” and that is just what it is: absolutely lovely visuals from Murphy that sometimes get overcome by the harsh clang of Millar’s dialog.
– Jason Urbanciz
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Invisible Republic #1
Written by Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Beckho
Art by Gabriel Hardman
Colors by Jordan Boyd
Design by Dylan Todd
In Invisible Republic, journalist Croger Babb is working on a story about a recently deposed intergalactic regime. While searching, he stumbles upon a series of letters written by the cousin of Arthur McBride, a figurehead from the former regime. Nobody knew said cousin existed, and the letters provide an insight into McBride’s previously unknown early years as something of a rebel. The narrative switches between the story told in the letters and Croger skimming them while trying to get his new story.
Though the preview summary describes it as a combination of Breaking Bad and Blade Runner, it’s hard not to see some Mass Effect in there. (And not just because I see Mass Effect in everything.) I’ve yet to see the Breaking Bad aspect in it, but the first issue does give a sense that a certain character is more dangerous than expected, so it might be a long game on that one.
The whole comic is undeniably video game-like—that’s not a knock, by the way. The long tracking shot from True Detective was video gamey, too, and that was spectacular. Everything from the art to the dialogue feels like it’s from a space opera RPG. The entire issue feels like a prologue to a space epic, in fact, but it’s welcoming. Despite being dropped into a completely new world with new terminology, it feels unusually natural for a new sci-fi series. We’re given the name of a recently deposed regime, a new Space Currency, and no less than two new planets, but it’s all introduced in a way that doesn’t feel overwhelming. We’re given a brief experience of life on two separate planets, including the general human populace and the wildlife, and it makes perfect sense on the first read-through.
The art is absolutely gorgeous—it’s watercolor-like while remaining crystal clear. Landscapes are detailed but never muddy. At no point is there any confusion about what’s happening, whether it’s walking around or an action sequence. Action sequences are phenomenal, but they take up ENTIRELY too much space. Two-page spreads are common in comics, but their use of them in this comic eats up too much potential story space. It never feels like something is missing, but it feels like there could be more there if they didn’t need to show every action scene as a full page. The last page, however, presents an amazing dichotomy between the past and present depicted in the comics. I just wish there were more place for dialogue and story.
– David Lebovitz
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