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.
Joe Stando is reading…
Future Quest #1
Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Evan “Doc” Shaner and Steve Rude
Colors by Jordie Bellaire
Letters by Dave Lanphear
“Birdman—I thought he was a modern myth!”
I wouldn’t say Hanna-Barbera’s adventure characters have been misused in recent years. On the contrary, I’ve enjoyed most of what Cartoon Network has done with them, from zany takes like Space Ghost: Coast to Coast and Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law to wry deconstructions on The Venture Bros. Even the occasional cameos on Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated were clever and well-executed. But it’s been decades since we’ve gotten a straight take on these characters, and there’s more than enough there to carry one. Thankfully, the team behind Future Quest crafts a story that brings out the best in all of the myriad characters in this first issue alone.
A particularly nice thing about the book is that it doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. Johnny Quest, Race Bannon, and Birdman are all introduced in medias res, sparing retreads of origins in favor of clear, direct characterizations that new readers can access. They talk like they should, they look like they should (and boy, do they ever; Shaner and Rude are perfect for this book; you couldn’t dream up something this perfect if you tried), and everyone’s motivations are pretty clear. The plot revolves around portals opening up on Earth from other planets and dimensions, and the race between Drs. Quest and Zin to find and harness them for good or eeeevil, respectively. It’s sort of complex stuff for an introduction, but it seems structured to keep the best parts of the various sets of characters involved. We get some Birdman, plenty of Johnny Quest and even some Space Ghost battle stuff.
It’s gorgeous, too. This is one of the best-looking comics in a long time, from lush jungles to barren alien worlds. The team pulls out all the stops, with battle scenes, poses and engaging banter jockeying for top position. Both Shaner and Rude impart their own sensibilities to the book, but they’re also very faithful to the look and the feel of Alex Toth’s original designs. That’s the main thing: it’s a book that takes these characters and their lore at face value, rather than trying to run them through the distorting lens of modern comedy and deconstruction. This sort of genuine look is refreshing, especially for a universe that’s mostly been relegated to inside jokes.
Future Quest is a retro book with modern plot and artistic sensibilities. It’s exciting and full of heart, and funny without having to poke fun at itself. In that way, it’s pretty bold, and I’m excited to see it on the shelves.
Sarah Register is reading…
The Beauty #7
Written by Jeremy Haun and Jason A. Hurley
Art by Mike Huddleston
Colors by John Rauch
Letters by Fonografiks
“He’d say to me, ‘Timo, sometimes in order to fix a thing you’ve got to tear it all down.’”
Haun and Hurley built a compelling world in their first arc of The Beauty, a world in which a sexually transmitted disease that makes people pretty spreads like wildfire until the infected start exploding. I was all grabby hands for this first installment after the last issue’s depressing cliffhanger, so it’s a little bit of a letdown to learn that the creative team is taking the title in a new direction this go-around.
Instead of picking up where the first volume left off, The Beauty is exploring the earlier days of the outbreak in a series of short stories helmed by various artists. This issue is illustrated by Mike Huddleston, whose less “beautiful” artwork, which emphasizes the grit in the gore and the grime on the walls, works well with a story about the muscle of an organization taking down the boss in a bloody way. John Rauch continues his work as colorist, so the drab palette still matches the first volume’s look with Haun.
This issue emphasizes the “short” in “short story,” feeling almost more like a vignette or introduction to the creative team’s accompanying letter explaining the new direction. I like that Haun and Hurley are as into the world of The Beauty as I am and that they’re providing space for different artists, but I’m still more invested in the characters from the first volume and hope to see them back on the page sooner rather than later.
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!