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.
Joe Stando is reading…
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Roland Boschi (pencils), Ed Tadeo and Scott Hanna (inks), and Chris Chuckry (colors)
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
“I think you’ll be quite interested in what I have to show you.”
Hail Hydra is a really interesting book, because it represents a major problem creators face when a big crossover event pops up: how do they craft a satisfying story that’s true to their own book while juggling a bunch of new mandated elements? With Secret Wars, it’s even more restrictive, as 99% of the characters from previous books were killed off.
Hail Hydra represents a clear compromise between Remender’s overall arc in Captain America and the demands of a shared universe. It’s the swan song of Ian Rogers, Cap’s adopted son who ended up in the middle of Battleworld with all his memories and abilities intact. He’s trapped in a domain ruled by Hydra and is the last, best hope for finally defeating their leader, an alternate version of his birth father, Arnim Zola.
While Captain America is returning as a title after the event, it won’t be written by Remender, so this book is his goodbye to his creation Ian. Ian represents the ultimate argument for nurture over nature, and the inspirational powers of a mentor and leader like Steve Rogers. Unfortunately, he tends to do this by giving long, rambling speeches about standing your ground and never giving up to anyone within earshot. He’s not a bad character, but as a lead, divorced from the context in which he was created, he mostly comes across as a lecturer, especially given that the audience of his stump speech, Ellie Rogers, is ALSO the child of Captain America. She gets it, dude! Enough mansplaining!
Other than that, the book has been a hit-or-miss collection of set pieces, many of which are pretty dark. We get to see this domain’s version of the Avengers, which is kinda cool, especially Baron Strucker in a green Iron Man suit. I don’t have any complaints about the art; Boschi’s designs have been great and Chuckry nails the gloomy dystopian vibe of the Hydra-controlled zone. Zola himself is a pretty great villain, so obsessed with monologues and theatrics that he doesn’t even try to hide the trap he’s luring Ellie and Ian into. But overall, this book feels much more like a compromised epilogue to Remender’s other stuff than a story in its own right.
Sarah Register is reading…
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Fiona Staples
Color by Andre Szymanowicz with Jen Vaughn
Letters by Jack Morelli
Archie Comic Publications
“Hey Princess! His name is Archie!”
Veronica finally makes it to Riverdale High and Archie is smitten with her and I am smitten with Archie. His endearing absentmindedness is reaching all time heights in this issue, as is Jughead’s aggressively loyal friendship. Veronica is treating Archie like a lapdog, and his best friend, having none of it, calls Betty for backup. (Or at least texts her.) And even though there’s pain left over from the infamous #lipstickincident (the details of which remain frustratingly undivulged), Betty can’t stand to see Archie treated badly, and also maybe can’t stand to see this new diva take the reins on her ex.
A lot of the humor in this issue comes from comedic timing provided by the impeccable Fiona Staples, who perfectly illustrates Jughead shooting spot-on exasperated facial expressions to Betty from another panel. Also, Archie’s fourth wall gets broken twice in this issue: by Jughead yanking him to safety and a reporter elbowing him out of the panel. Staples really is the big draw to this Archie reboot—the modern, fashionable character designs and the comic’s seamless transition back into relevancy are thanks in large part to her gorgeous and expressive style. However, I don’t think she’s defined the comic so much that artist Annie Wu won’t be able to make her own mark when she takes over for issue #4. Mark Waid’s ability to infuse characters with noticeably different personalities and quirks probably makes it easy for an artist to work with each scene.
Archie truly is a treat. It’s just funny and positive, with good friends that have good relationships. Despite knowing these characters for most of my life, the story is fresh and full of intrigue, and I continuously look forward to each new issue. Also I think my Jughead crush is becoming more acute.
Max Robinson is Reading…
Written by Tim Seeley and Tom King
Art by Alvaro Martinez Bueno (pencils) and Raul Fernandez (inks)
Colored by Jeremy Cox
“What? A liability? He’s…he’s just a guy.”
Grayson Annual #2 is the exact kind of comic annuals were made for, a super-fun done-in-one that teams up former Nightwing-now-superspy Dick Grayson with a depowered, distinctly more human Superman. Seeley and King get Dick Grayson, and it’s nice to see that they have a really great grasp on the Man of Steel, who’s both supremely competent and also a lovable cornball softie; the reveal that the now non-flying Superman named one of his now-destroyed motorcycles “Vroomy” got a gut laugh out of me (of course he did). I particularly enjoyed how this avoids the usual “learn to like each other” team-up cliches of most cape comics. These are characters who’ve been friends and colleagues for years, regardless of what codenames they go by or what costumes they wear. King and Seeley let the characters’ interactions flow naturally from the fact that they know and like each other. On top of that, we get to read a comic in which Superman and the guy who used to be Robin are chased across Gotham City by a bunch of Cult of Cain assassins juiced up on metahuman blood. There are some really choice gags in this issue, too, like the cultists sucking on blood packs like juice boxes or Grayson taking out a female assassin with a flash of weaponized handsomeness.
Alvaro Martinez’s pencils in this annual, aided by inks from Raul Fernandez, are really solid. His work here reminded me of Mike McKone’s Teen Titans issues, which is pretty much the perfect look you want for a comic like this. This isn’t a flashy-looking issue by any means, but I appreciate how he goes all out with the weird doomsday punk aesthetic of the Cult of Cain. There’s a ton of intricate design there, like medical blood packs hanging off shoulders and one lady who carries around a huge gun in a child’s coffin (the Fury Road influence here is not, ah…subtle, although I sure love seeing it). Grayson Annual #2 is also a comic that features a gross zombie version of Blockbuster with knuckle tats, if you needed more incentive to pick it up.
Seeley and King love to mess around with recurring dialogue in Grayson, and here that’s in how the phrase “just guys” is echoed all over the issue in the title and in dialogue. It’s hard to explain this without it sounding corny, but it really plays into what this story’s about: two normal dudes catching up with one another while they try to navigate their weird new status quos. Throw in a cameo from a robot-Batsuited Jim Gordon, and Grayson Annual #2 is a nice little sampler of the interesting and unusual state of the DC Universe.