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!
Zodiac Starforce #2
Written by Kevin Panetta
Art by Paulina Ganucheau and Savannah Ganucheau (colors)
Lettered by Paulina Ganucheau
Dark Horse Comics
“I feel like I can talk to you about anything.”
Zodiac Starforce is an incredibly cute comic. It’s a solid synthesis of magical girl manga tropes and American high school soap opera comics like Archie, feeling at once like an homage to both genres and something new and distinct. It rules.
This issue finds our heroes increasingly worried, about everything from an upcoming JV volleyball game to jerk boyfriends to their leader Emma’s sickness after the last battle. ZS does a good job of giving the different aspects of the story pretty equal weight, so romantic subplots or group banter doesn’t just feel like filler between fights. Indeed, following the characters’ arcs is actually more of what keeps me coming back than the action; it’s a flavor that’s not common elsewhere.
Visually, ZS is a delight, with bright colors and clean lines that pop. Ganucheau’s designs homage sailor sentai looks without being a strict imitation, and seeing the way the characters’ personalities manifest in their outfits is fun. Kim’s Heavenly Bull Armor is the highlight of the battle scene, but all the characters’ fighting styles’ relating back to their personalities is a nice touch as well.
The key to Zodiac Starforce, for me, is how relatable the conflicts are, even as they’re fighting monsters in the gymnasium. Plenty of stories have used fantasy as a metaphor for the stresses of high school and young adulthood, but this book does it with a level of subtlety and style that I love.
– Joe Stando
(click thumbnails to enlarge)
Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye #45
Written by James Roberts
Art by Alex Milne
Colored by Joana Lafuente
Lettered by Tom B. Long
“The war’s over – and all the wishful thinking in the world ain’t gonna bring it back”
For over forty issues, James Roberts and Alex Milne (with occasional fill-ins) have been creating my favorite ongoing comic on stands with Transformers: More than Meets the Eye. Ostensibly about a post-war crew of ragtag Autobots questing across the galaxy on a gigantic ship that bends the laws of physics to find their ancestors, the book takes frequent detours to explore impossible situations and the cast of misfits themselves, both internally and in their relationships. But this month, we’re taking a break from Autobots to check in on the worst Decepticons in the galaxy: The Scavengers. Not worst like “the most diabolical.” Worst like “worst.”
If our regular heroes are losers, then we need a new scale for what The Scavengers are. Made up of failed commander Krok, insane surgical savant Spinister, grump with a quarter of his head missing Crankcase, coward who transforms into a bomb and is too scared to explode Fulcrum, and Misfire (face it, when your name’s Misfire you’re probably not very good at your job), they straddle the line between “bad guys” and “schmucks looking for a break.” They were losers during the war, and now that peace has taken the only thing that gave them even vague direction, they’re drifting through life. The last time they appeared, they had reluctantly kidnapped massively powerful and mentally damaged Grimlock after barely escaping a group of ruthless Decepticons.
This issue opens by recapping what they’ve been up to while we’ve been away, on a page that also serves as a brilliant parody of the improbable adventures of the title’s usual leading ensemble. After a brief Nerf-gun battle that ends in a shipwreck, Krok laments something that I suspect many readers are familiar with: all of his old friends are successful now. Granted, most of us aren’t leading a team of the—and I cannot stress this enough—worst soldiers in the galaxy on useless misadventures, but we empathize. This leads Krok to take a deal for a job that just might tear the team apart if the final page reveal doesn’t kill them first.
There are few things I find more endearing than incompetent bad guys, and Roberts’s talent for fleshing out what could easily be shallow clichés goes a long way toward keeping them endearing. His knack for blending humor and quiet tragedy in combination with Milne’s expressive art (which pairs perfectly with colorist Joana Lafuente’s palette) humanizes the subjects in ways you don’t expect to find in a comic about licensed transforming robot toys. Krok’s desperation inevitably leads to a dark choice, which creates a great contrast to the surprisingly altruistic Misfire (who’s been working to rehabilitate their kidnappee). As a reader, we’re sort of stuck between the two. We want The Scavengers to succeed, but sometimes the world isn’t fair. It hurts watching what seems like everyone but you getting what they want. If someone gave you the opportunity to get yours, would you care what people (even your friends) might think?
– Sammi Freund
(click thumbnails to enlarge)