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.
Sarah Register is reading…
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #6
Story by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Art by Robert Hack
Lettered by Jack Morelli
“From this moment forth, thou shalt be named for this place, so thoust never forgets what happens when witches are betrayed…”
Sabrina is finally back and more chilling than ever in a hefty standalone origin story for her feline friend. Salem, along with Sabrina’s cousin’s cobra familiars, weren’t always animals—once upon a time they were people who wanted more. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa weaves two tragic tales that bring literary and historical characters into the demented world of a dark teenage witch, delivering a filler issue that feels anything but.
One of my favorite things about this Sabrina series is Aguirre-Sacasa’s ability to build an original story that borrows from witch mythos—a craft reminiscent of some of Gaiman’s work in the Sandman series. It’s a lot of fun to see names like Rikki-Tikki-Tavi and John Proctor jump off the same page as a horny, anthropomorphic demon goat. And speaking of those pages, Robert Hack’s artwork continues to unsettle; he dials down the brightness on all of his colors except red, which ups both the ick factor and the sexuality of any image (and there are a lot in this series) featuring blood dripping off of wet lips.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a wicked, weirdly empowering treat; a comic that makes you want to read it alone at night and then hide it under your mattress. This second arc is looking to be even freakier than the first, and I’m excited to see how dark this creative team can get.
Lisa Cohen is reading…
Bloodshot Reborn #15
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Mico Suayan
Colored by David Baron
Lettered by Dave Lanphear
“Don’t worry. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Someone at Valiant must have absolutely loved Edge of Tomorrow (a.k.a Live Die Repeat a.k.a All You Need Is Kill a.k.a Tom Cruise is Owned, ad infinitum). Two of their concurrent story arcs between Wrath of the Eternal Warrior and Bloodshot Reborn both have their protagonists forced to imprisonment through battle, dying every day to wake up and try again. But as Wrath is trapping protagonist Gilad in a technologically advanced labyrinth run by a mysterious benefactor, Bloodshot (Roy Garrison) is trapped on a desert island run by his creators/antagonists, shadowy government agency Project Rising Spirit (or, PRS).
Coming right off of “The Analog Man” arc, an admittedly gorgeous Mad Max ripoff with a silly cop out ending, “Bloodshot Island” is a bit of a breath of fresh air, mostly because this is the first book since the Valiant relaunch that forces Garrison to deal with the fact that he’s not the only test subject of the Bloodshot program. Previous Bloodshots (adorned with the same ash-grey skin and circular scar on the chest) are also trapped on the island, having been forced for years to fight PRS’s new killing machine, a female creature known only as Deathmate. It’s a testament to Suayan’s art that every appearance of Deathmate is genuinely pretty frightening, her pitch black body lined with white fissures, changing her limbs T-1000 style into knives, electricity coming from her fingers, she’s genuinely one of the more interesting antagonists Valiant has come up with, and the end-of-book twist sets her up to be even more than a villain to get tossed out with the arc.
Suayan and Baron do great work in issues 14 and 15, with action panels popping out in incredible, gory detail. The first pages of 14 have Ray exploring the island proper, the green of the palm trees contrasts with the fluorescent orange of the force field trapping him on land proper, creating a contrast that brings a dream like quality to the proceedings. The final pages of issue 14 have Deathmate grabbing Ray by the throat so hard his eyes pop out of his head. The fact that the book can switch between both so quickly without much whiplash is admirable.
Lemire has also proved himself to be a great writer for the character of Bloodshot. Reborn proper has had one great arc, one silly but clearly planned way out in advance arc, and wrote both the Book of Death and 4001 AD one offs for the character, which stand as a incredibly emotional end and rebirth to the character. Here the Moon Knight and Old Man Logan author is allowed to play with the fun of five genetically enhanced soldiers and one dog, forced to live the worst day of their lives over and over. The character designs of these Bloodshots is striking too, like 60’s era “Viet Man”, clearly a African American man forced to don the grey-face that comes part of having your white blood cells replaced by nanites. Valiant is clearly working towards expanding both the past and future of their timeline, and it’s quite exciting to read.
Joe Stando is reading…
New Super-Man #1
Written by Gene Luen Yang
Art by Viktor Bogdanovic (pencils), Richard Friend (inks) and Hi-Fi (colors)
Lettered by Dave Sharpe
“I’m like a… New Super-Man!! Haha!!”
Gene Luen Yang’s “Truth” arc on the core Superman book is, without question, one of my favorite long-form stories of the past year. Along with “Superheavy,” it brought me back into the DC Comics fold, and I was excited to follow where Yang went next.
His new book, New Super-Man, follows a Chinese teen as his fluke act of heroism propels him to stardom and makes him the top candidate for a shadowy government agency’s superhumans program. In a clever twist, though, Kenan Kong isn’t a kind, selfless Clark Kent analogue. He’s a vain, self-aggrandizing bully. It feels like a classic Marvel origin but focusing on if Flash Thompson had been bitten by the spider instead of Peter Parker.
Kenan’s a jerk, but he’s not without his charms. He’s a stocky kid with a big smile, and he spends the moments after standing up to a dangerous supervillain trying to get a pretty reporter’s number. Yang spent a year over on Superman cutting away elements—Clark’s powers, his costume, his secret identity—to get to the core of the character. It’s interesting that his follow-up is the exact opposite: taking a less than inspirational kid and bolting on powers and fame and a costume.
There’s also just a lot of fun stuff going on in the book. Kenan getting his powers from “the origin chamber” is an idea that feels Kirbyesque in the way Yang likes to write, and the looks of the characters, from Kenan’s outfit to the villainous Blue Condor to Dr. Omen, are vivid and stylish. The issue also ends with a reveal too good to spoil it here. I’m sold.
Patrick Stinson is reading…
Dungeons and Dragons #3
Written by Jim Zub
Art by Nelson Dàniel
Colored by Nelson Dàniel
Lettered by Neil Uyetake
“Do you hear that, Boo? Wolves howling. If they dare confront us, perhaps they will hear a hamster howl that will turn their blood cold.”
Most media simply titled “Dungeons and Dragons” has a tough act to follow, bearing the standard for an incredibly diverse and influential game and experience. Indeed, this series follows up the much more prosaically titled Legend of Baldur’s Gate. Perhaps IDW or Hasbro is conscious of this, because the story arc title “Shadows of the Vampire” is much larger and more prominent on the cover than the actual name of the book.
However, writer Jim Zub has chosen his characters and scenario very carefully to reflect the vast fictional universe of Dungeons and Dragons. After introducing Minsc—the breakout character of the Baldur’s Gate computer games—into comics, he’s now mystically transported him–using the well-established rules and precedent of the game itself–into Ravenloft, the realm controlled by D&D’s most single iconic villain, Strahd von Zarovitch. This is a great alpha-and-omega setup—an addled comic-relief ranger with his faithful hamster vs. a played-straight take on Dracula.
Their inevitable confrontation is deferred, though, as Strahd cleans house by dispatching the incompetent henchmen who tried to escape his realm, and Minsc’s group finds a meager refuge and are terrorized by the dreadful magic of the Ravenloft plane. Zub gets to continue some character work from Legend of Baldur’s Gate as the party’s leader and sorcerer are each attacked by their own guilty consciences. While it’s a strong choice to leave Minsc unaffected by despair, it does mean that we are denied any insight into what makes him tick, for the eighth issue (and second computer game!) in a row. I also want to see more of the new companion, a cleric of the god of death who is appalled by the tyranny and undeath in this realm.
Holding back on Strahd and Minsc makes me excited to see where the book is going, but when these two icons collide I hope it sticks the landing.
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!