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 Al Ewing
Art by Gerardo Sandoval and Dono Sanchez Almara (colors)
Lettered by Joe Caramagna
“…I think it’s time to kill the New Avengers.”
I could write columns gushing about Al Ewing’s Marvel work forever, and I probably will. New Avengers continues his work staking out his private corner of the Marvel Universe, as well as picking up cast-off characters from other series and running with them. His take on the New Avengers is great, centering on the “Sunspot buying A.I.M.” concept from Hickman’s run and building it out to include castoffs from Hickman’s Avengers, classic Young Avengers characters, and favorites from his run on Mighty Avengers. It’s an eclectic crew but it works, instantly establishing dynamics between disparate characters like Squirrel Girl and White Tiger. Artistically, the team also meshes well, with a more extreme, action figure-like art style than previous Ewing collaborators that suits the fast pace. Sandoval is great here, from the hyper-comicky design ideas (a monster with a crystal head, gorilla body and scorpion legs and tail) to takes on established designs like Squirrel Girl and Maker that fit the book but are still faithful to the characters.
The book also takes an interesting approach to superheroics and its team’s mission. The new New Avengers are explicitly a rescue and relief operation, so while their adventures will undoubtedly set them against supervillains and monsters, it’ a nice look at their priorities for saving lives and minimizing damage. The think tank bit with the A.I.M. scientists was particularly good, and I’m very excited for a team whose first outing saves pretty much all civilians involved and is more collaborative than destructive.
Two issues in and a lot has been set up for the book, from team dynamics to major enemies to overall fun, action-packed tone. The various side Avengers books (Mighty, New) don’t have a specific mandate and are a good spot for creators to carve out their own niche, and thus far, Ewing, Sandoval, and Almara have carved out my favorite ongoing from the relaunch.
Max Robinson is reading…
Written by Garth Ennis
Art by John McCrea
Colored by John Kalisz
“COLLECT THEM TWENNY DOPE ISSUES BY ENNIS AN’ MCREA!”
I was sort of starting to cool off on this Hitman spinoff mini-series and then, like one page in, we get an extended sequence of The Phantom Stranger rapping like a goddamn moron. Then The Phantom Stranger and Etrigan the Demon, STILL RAPPING, spend a full page demanding that DC collect Ennis and McCrea’s Demon run. This is maybe the weirdest single comic DC’s published in a decade and I love it.
All-Star Section Eight (the All-Star added presumably to assure any newcomers reading this comic that it’s not in continuity) hit a really good stride with this penultimate issue, balancing fourth wall shattering weirdness with the kind of gut-wrenching humanity that Ennis excels at. Alcoholic superhero Sixpack’s whole deal is starting to get a little clearer and it doesn’t look good. Dogwelder (here a married family man whose body has been hijacked by the possibly evil ghost of the ORIGINAL Dogwelder) watches as his wife pleads for him to come home on a Gotham City newscast. As Dogwelder’s face is obscured by a welding mask, it’s deliberately unclear whether he has any reaction to his wife’s televised anguish. It’s a sad, spooky moment that’s nicely executed by McCrea.
Most of this issue is set up for some payoff we’ll see next issue (which centers around a special guest star very near and dear to Ennis’ shriveled black heart) but it’s a an excellent demonstration of the kind of deft hand this team has when it comes to balancing genuine pathos with what can charitably be called obscene superhero hate-fiction.
Sarah Register is reading…
Written by Marguerite Bennett
Main Story Art by Kim Jacinto and Israel Silva (Color)
Substory Art and Color by Stephanie Hans
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
“Let’s start with something sexy and exciting. Let’s start with the conquest of Hel.”
Marguerite Bennett is going solo with Angela (finally), and to celebrate, she’s sending the warrior Angel straight to Hel. If you read Angela: Asgard’s Assassin, you’ll remember the heart-wrenching reveal that Angela’s companion, Sera, had been dragged to the underworld (or the, like, adjacent world? The other root in the World Tree? Asgardian lore confuses me sometimes.). Even more heart-wrenching was that the messenger who delivered this intel to Angela was sporting Sera’s face for a while. If you aren’t savvy on the prior series or Angela’s journey thus far through the Marvel U, Bennett does a pretty good job bringing the reader up to speed without becoming redundant, and despite the nonlinear storytelling, the comic manages to develop a nice rhythm that ends with, you guessed it, utter heartbreak.
This rhythm is probably due in part to Bennett penning both stories in this comic. All of Angela’s title issues have featured substories that are controlled by different creative teams as a means to move Angela’s story forward in the present while also building her mythology with these shorter tales. In 1602: Witch Hunter Angela, this device dragged the narrative down a bit for me, but Bennett’s hand in both stories this go around gave Queen of Hel better timing, and both art teams brought their A games. Kim Jacinto has a fine precision for details in the main story; every feather in Angela’s wings and every chink in her badass armor are rendered individually, and Israel Silva’s color gives everything a nice sparkle. For the substory, Stephanie Hans brings a softness and a cooler color palette well-suited for the dreamy feeling of Angela’s memories which are ooey gooey with a long overdue love story.
Any questions about the very obvious relationship between Angela and Sera are finally put to rest in this first issue, but unfortunately the two Heavenly beings are only driven further apart (whyyyyyyy). I’m really loving everything that Marvel is doing on the Asgardian side of the universe lately, but Angela is the one that seems to have a grip on my emotional short hairs. My only worry is that this comic seems doomed by its subtitle to be a limited series (not that there’s anything but that these days with NOW and Secret Wars), but I hope that a female superhero comic penned by a female writer can find some kind of permanence in the Marvel lineup. In the meantime, I can’t wait to see how many times Angela can break my heart during her rampage through Hel.
Andrew Niemann is reading…
Written by Frank J. Barbiere
Art by Brent Schoonover
Colored by Nick Filardi
Lettered by Joe Caramagna
“Where’s that damn monkey?!”
One of my favorite things about the All-New, All-Different Marvel is its willingness to throw crazy concepts at the wall to see if they stick. The tactic is similar to DC’s New 52 line-up a few years back, although Marvel at least seems to be having more fun. Some of my favorite (some now canceled) titles from that line-up were “monster team-up books” such as Justice League Dark, Demon Knights, and Frankenstein and the Agents of S.H.A.D.E. Marvel’s retooled Howling Commandos (based on a title from 2005) seems to be following this trend by placing some of the company’s more obscure supernatural characters along with some re-invented old favorites onto a super-powered team. But while DC’s monster books took on a more serious nature, this series seems to be taking a way more humorous route, thankfully to its advantage.
The Howling Commandos team is led by robot Dum Dum Dugan (a Frankenstein’s monster stand-in), but also contains throwback characters such as Vampire by Night, Man-Thing, and, of all things, an old Jack Kirby monster called Orrgo who is best described as a giant psychic rock. Just go with it. Rounding out the cast are Warwolf, Hit-Monkey, Teen Abomination, Manphibian, and, most curiously, a zombified version of Jasper Sitwell. Seriously, just go with it. In the first issue, the team (also called S.T.A.K.E.) is sent to retrieve a magical artifact that turns people into plant-like bioweapons. It’s a fairly loaded issue which introduces the characters and their roles on the team. The story wisely begins in media res and then fills in the narrative with a flashback establishing how Dugan was assigned by S.H.I.E.L.D. to build the team.
Barbiere’s writing is fast and to-the-point, establishing plot as well as throwing out humorous one-liners. Much of the humor seems to come with Dugan’s brash exasperation at having to work with such eccentric teammates, especially the completely worthless Zombie Sitwell, whose literally braindead incompetence causes an accident with a rocket launcher. It’s also refreshing to see Man-Thing used pretty effectively here as he’s an old Marvel character that hasn’t quite been used as much in recent years.
My only criticism is that a few characters aren’t quite getting across. Hit Monkey, in particular, is pretty forgettable here as a one-note joke. Vampire by Night, the sole female member, is criminally under-used in this issue aside from a nice transformation panel. In fact, besides Dugan, Orrgo, and Man-Thing, the rest of the cast fill out their roles in a fairly average manner, though later issues could fix that problem. The art by Schoonover is fairly serviceable to the action in the issue even if some of the dimensions of the characters feel a bit off. Howling Commandos probably isn’t going to blow any minds but it was a fairly fun issue that I can see myself lasting for a few more. As long as the humor stays consistent and the team dynamics remain fun, it could be a solid book focusing on the weirder aspects of the Marvel universe. Truth be told, I really want to see just what Orrgo’s whole deal is.
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!