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!
This Damned Band #1 (of 6)
Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Tony Parker
Colored by Lovern Kindzierski
Lettered by Michael Heizler
Comic books about pop music are nothing new—the idea goes back at least as far as Josie and the Pussycats—but the genre seems to be undergoing something of a renaissance. There’s indie darling The Wicked + the Divine, the rebooted Jem + the Holograms, and DC and Marvel have each launched a series this year starring a superhero who’s also in a rock band. It’s a fascinating trend, because comics as a medium are musics’ total opposite—music is one thing that sequential art can’t truly represent on the page. But, of course, pop and rock ‘n’ roll aren’t exclusively about music, they’re also about fashion, idolatry, and a sort of mysticism, and those are tools comics play with splendidly.
This Damned Band is the latest comics series to mash up music and magic, the story of rock band in 1974 whose success is allegedly tied to an arrangement with some otherworldly force. It’s all bullshit, of course—or so the band believes. They’re about to learn that to speak of the Devil might make him their tour manager.
I’m not sure what to make of the tone of This Damned Band based solely on the first issue. There are moments when I’m certain I’m supposed to laugh, but I wouldn’t go far as to call those moments “jokes.” There are portents of supernatural horror, but no actual scares so far. The band, Motherfather, seems at first glance to be a caricature of peak-era rock ‘n’ roll decadence, with an entire bus dedicated to their groupies and literal wheelbarrows of money being carted in after a show at Budokan. But it’s not funny, it’s just gross.
The grossness of it, however, I do believe to be totally deliberate. Tony Parker’s art prioritizes being expressive and evocative over staying on-model, and that’s what gives This Damned Band its flavor. Cliched as its portrayal of seventies rock culture may be, visually there’s a sense of sweat and smoke that plays as very authentic.
There is a nice structural twist to This Damned Band that adds some texture, as well—the comic is a representation of a documentary being made about the band, so each character is seen on and off the record, which gives the reader an idea of how much of them is real and how much is just for show. There’s also a short sequence representing the band’s shared mushroom hallucination, which since it wouldn’t be captured by the cameras, is presented as an “artist’s recreation” in its own distinct art style.
– Dylan Roth
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Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #8
Written by Tom Scioli and John Barber
Art by Tom Scioli
TFvsGIJ, the craziest comic in the world, continues its descent into nostalgia nightmaretown with another excellent issue. While lacking the emotional punch of the previous installment, this issue makes up for it in terms of raw weirdness. Where else but in this book would you get a comic where Cobra Commander tears off a human being’s arms and legs while his remaining cybernetic limbs convert into sentient robots (to say nothing of the unsettling horror of “Omega Supreme”). This issue finds Flagg, feet parked on the desk of the Oval Office, having successfully overthrown the President in order to more effectively wage war on the “fiery planet of doom” heading their way. Scioli and Barber’s gleefully fascist portrayal of the Joes, embodied in their Hunter S. Thompson-esque Flagg, has been a really compelling background angle to this series and I’m glad that, as with all parts of this book, the creative team is just Going For It.
Scioli’s art and ideas remain the biggest draw of this title and both really shine in his reinvention of Omega Supreme and Astrotrain as truly alien beings. For many comics, a sentient highway flying into space to fight a giant serpent-like train would be the climax; for Transformers vs. G.I. Joe, it’s page nine. I also can’t stress enough how much I love this issue’s terrifying reimagining of the eighties “Pretenders” toys (person shaped shells with Transformers inside) as horrific abominations born of the Decepticons’ failure to grasp human life. If this issue’s audaciously grim ending isn’t clue enough, it’s clear Scioli and Barber are laying down a story that boldly defies our preconceptions of Hasbro’s “boys’ toys.”
– Max Robinson
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We Stand on Guard #2
Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Steve Skroce
Colored by Matt Hollingsworth
Lettered by Fonografiks
We Stand on Guard is such a weird book. It’s maybe the weirdest book I’ve read this year. And while I mean this in a couple good ways, I mean it in some bad ways too.
There’s a lot to love here. Skroce’s varied mecha, weapon, and vehicle designs scratch my sci-fi itch very well, with a lot of cool little details and concepts. Cold weather battle scenes are fun, because as the comic mentions, most of our modern war machines aren’t designed for them. So we get cool, outside the box thinking like the white-cloaked squadron of American soldiers at the end of the issue. We Stand on Guard also features plenty of old sci-fi standards in terms of characters and plot beats I love, like a grizzled old resistance veteran with a robot arm, leaders appearing via super-realistic holograms, and hidden fortress bases. It’s a nice mix of stuff that I usually like.
But the core premise is still so out there for me that it keeps me from getting fully engaged or committed. It’s not a sense of patriotism that has me turned off; I’m fine with stories about the evil U.S. government. It’s that everything in We Stand On Guard is so far removed from any America or Canada I know in terms of characterization, that nothing feels natural or relatable. Maybe that’s the point? Maybe this book is in large part supposed to be satirical, and the setting of it is more about making commentary than writing believable conflicts. But if that’s the case, the tone doesn’t convey it well at all. I’m left feeling like this is written with someone else in mind.
I’m a fan of BKV’s other work, and while I’m pretty new to Skroce, I’m in love with his designs already. I’d love to read a sci-fi war story between occupiers and rebels by this team, set in a rural snowy climate. I just don’t think I like this specific iteration of those ideas very much at all.
– Joe Stando
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