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.
Dominic Griffin is Reading…
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by James Masters
Colors by Guy Major
Letters by Simon Bowland
“A hard holster would spoil the line of my suit.”
A reliably impressive scribe like Warren Ellis taking a stab at Ian Fleming’s iconic spy hero in the four color world should be an immediate slam dunk, but there’s definitely something flat and incomplete about the first issue of Dynamite’s new James Bond series. With a release expertly timed to coincide with Spectre’s opening date and a wordless ten page fight sequence designed to evoke Bond’s signature opening set pieces, the comic talks the talk of its cinematic forebearer, while sidestepping the requisite panache that’s kept the franchise afloat all these years.
The clean, straightforward line work from Masters possesses a classical style that suits the Brit charmer, but it’s not lively enough to burst off the page like you might hope. While Ellis pens Moneypenny as a near direct analogue to Naomi Harris’ recent take on the character (deciding to racebend M as well), Bond here looks and feels generic, hollow, a freshly pressed suit resting on a faceless mannequin in the storefront. It’s more than a little jarring how much he resembles Sterling Archer in a few key panels. This first issue barely provides more than a sketch of a premise and a promising peek at what is sure to be an interesting spin on the traditional Bond villain, so there is still ample room for more specificity to spice up the proceedings. Currently, however, this feels more like Sandbaggers fan fiction with a Bond facsimile thrust into the leading role, an ill fitting Queen & Country tie-in spruced up with licensed brand recognition. A far cry from what one might expect from a titan like Ellis scripting such an enduring British fiction.
Joe Stando is reading…
Written by Dan Slott
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli (pencils), Cam Smith (inks), and Marte Gracia (colors)
Lettered by Chris Eliopoulos
“Ladies and gentlemen, the Baxter Building is under new management.”
Meet the new Spider-Man, same as the old Spider-Man. This is the fourth iteration of Spider-Man that Dan Slott has written in the past few years, all of them following each other pretty much immediately. Giuseppe Camuncoli is back on art too, as he was for swaths of the last run (which was “Spider-Verse” bookended by some transitional issues). It’s sort of strange having the same guys constantly relaunch their book, trying on different tones and concepts like a shopping montage. But it’s what Marvel decided they want, so let’s look at what sets this run apart.
The major thrust of the new Amazing Spider-Man is that Peter Parker is expanding Parker Industries into a global corporation, so the whole book has a slick, expansive feel. Camuncoli’s new costume design is super cool, a riff on the original look similar to the Superior outfit, but in the other direction. It’s pulling together influences from a couple sources (Spider-Man is described as Parker’s bodyguard, like classic Iron Man stories, and the colorful gadgetry and exploits smack of Ted Kord’s tenure as Blue Beetle) and like Invincible Iron Man, it tells a story embedded in the Marvel Universe, with various heroes and villains popping up in cameos frequently. But the biggest takeaway is how much fun it is, especially compared to Slott’s previous books. Even before Superior Spider-Man, Slott was telling increasingly dark stories, as Parker’s worldview about his successes and failures as a hero became more bitter and black and white. Even after Parker’s return from the grave and triumph over Morlun and his band of interdimensional vampires, the book was still pretty dour. So an idealistic yet effective Parker is a breath of fresh air, and a story about him applying his skills to help people both in and out of costume is a great direction.
The downside of this, though, is that a lot of Slott’s banter is just not that funny. He’s been funny before, and wrote some great bits for the various Spider-Men in “Spider-verse,” but his Parker gags feel especially grating and corny. Maybe this is why he went eighteen months with a protagonist who didn’t really crack wise? Worse, other characters get a little too into the act, as well. It’s not quite as bad as last issue but the lack of seriousness to a lot of the Zodiac villains undercuts them as threats in a way I don’t think Slott intends. I love The Venture Bros more than almost anything, but if I wanna see silly, self-aware banter between unnamed henchmen, I’ll just watch that, not read this. This issue is also weird since we still haven’t seen the end of Secret Wars and presumably the end of the Fantastic Four (for now). That’s not at all Slott’s fault, but his depiction of Johnny Storm as a bitter, violent moron would probably have benefitted from that context. Spider-Man and the Human Torch are rivals, but having a Hulk/Iron Man-style brouhaha felt really out of character.
The broad strokes (globe-trotting Peter Parker teaming up with S.H.I.E.L.D. and fighting international spies) are great, but the specific voice of the book needs some work. I think it’s going to be a fun ride, and the brevity is much appreciated (unless Slott is about to pull the football away just as we kick with some sudden tragedy and pathos). Like Invincible Iron Man, this book has a lot of potential, but it’s not quite there yet for me.
Cameron DeOrdio is reading…
Written by Dan Abnett
Art by Luke Ross
Colored by Guru-FX
Lettered by VC’s Joe Sabino
“Make your offerings.”
“I have these. My Kaiju cards.”
“A sea monster? I enjoy sea monsters.”
After a summer of controversy, Marvel’s newest iteration of Hercules has hit the stands, and it is a lot of fun. Despite the (frankly, deserved) metatextual strike against this book, I wanted to give it a shot, because Hercules is easily one of my top-three favorite Marvel characters, and I’d been hearing good things about the book.
I was not disappointed.
From go, we have a pair of wide-eyed children approaching Hercules after finding his business card (he’s posted a ton on a community corkboard) because they have a “labor” for him. Hercules establishes its tone quickly, with great banter between Herc and his exasperated landlord as couch-load Gilgamesh sits around eating everything in sight.
Abnett perfectly captures everything I love about Hercules. Hercules is the guy who makes eye contact with you and gives a small nod to continue when all of your friends are talking over the story you’re trying to tell. He’s also likely going to ask you if you want to make out later, but if not, no sweat. He just thinks you’re great, and he also thinks sex is great, so he just thinks it’d be great if you slept together, if you’d like to. He flirts relentlessly—until he’s asked not to. He is unfailingly kind—until he has to kill some shit. He is the booming life of the party—until he thinks of all the people he’s killed.
There are times when dialog feels unnatural, when the scaffolding shows in an attempt to allow Hercules to either say a line Abnett really liked or to provide some key exposition, the latter of which, I’d think, will smooth out as the series progresses and less backfill is expected. Also, while the pencil work is precise and dynamic throughout, there are times shading goes a little overboard, to the point I think I’m in a Batman book; even though the color scheme is still squarely Hercules.
The cool, weird, wispy Monster of the Month—an urmut, a dark creature born out of the shadows cast by the first fires humans stoked—is awesomely rendered, both conceptually and visually. The urmut’s look is a triumph of teamwork between Ross’s art and Guru’s colors, showing us a creature that is both insubstantial and deeply physically threatening. While other books would have spent more time building up the insidiousness of a monster of “dreams and disease,” especially one capable of taking on human shape, Hercules cuts right to the chase. Herc shows up, says, “You’re an urmut,” and the monster does the visual equivalent of, “OK, you got me,” dropping his façade immediately and lunging at our hero. The fight scenes are pretty standard fare, but they’re taken to the next level by the awesome creature design at work.
I’ll admit, though, I didn’t come to Hercules for the creature design, though it is one of the reasons I plan to stay with it. I came here for Hercules’s interactions with the world around him, which, as I alluded to before, Abnett completely nails. When the United Nations’ Secretary General calls on Hercules to deal with a sea monster threatening New York, he accepts the job with relish, but notes he has to make a stop on the way to help his young visitors. When one of the kids sheepishly offers Hercules his Kaiju cards after he’s told, as a demigod, Hercules requires a tribute, Olympus’s (sometimes) favorite son accepts them with reverence and gratitude, acknowledging their importance to the youngster.
Also, Hercules and Gilgamesh kick back and order ramen at the end of the day. It’s just a fun book, guys.
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!