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.
Max Robinson is reading…
Power Man and Iron Fist #7
Written by David Walker
Art by Sanford Greene and Flaviano
Colored by John Rauch
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
“Now, y’all know the rules—even if you go straight, you still part of the game.”
The really impressive thing about David Walker’s Power Man and Iron Fist scripts is how well they balance superhero mayhem and hijinks with a grounded emotional depth. This is a book that really takes advantage of the fact that Luke Cage and Danny Rand have one of Marvel’s longest running and most enduring friendships. So while last month’s issue was a big beat-’em-up free-for-all tying into Civil War II, this installment slows down to explore the very real consequences of that fight.
Danny Rand/Iron Fist is locked up for assaulting a police officer, trapped in a prison full of criminals who want him dead as he tries to get to the bottom of a pre-cog conspiracy targeting minor super-villains and their loved ones. Meanwhile, Luke Cage is forced to make a decision that could jeopardize his entire life and that of his wife and child. A major criticism of Power Man and Iron Fist as a title has been that Jessica Jones is relegated to housewife duties, but a nice element of this issue is that Jessica is the one to help a surprisingly vulnerable Luke collect himself before making a choice that leaves him in conflict with a newly fascist Captain Marvel and Alpha Flight. Luke and Danny make big decisions in this issue and they aren’t necessarily good ones but they’re ones rooted in their own inherent decency as heroes.
Regular series artist Sanford Greene is assisted here by guest artist Flaviano (who also did issue #5). Paired together, this issue is very evocative of the graffiti-style pencils Tradd Moore brought to Ghost Rider. Thanks to the fluidity and dynamic panel choices made here, the issue never devolves into the dull talking head pages that plague the actual Civil War II miniseries this book ties into.
As much as the appeal of Power Man and Iron Fist’s as a Marvel title lies in the fact that it’s a lot of big superhero fun—and, hey, this is a comic where COCKROACH HAMILTON has to give the sales pitch of his life—it’s also occasionally a real gut punch.
Joe Stando is reading…
Written by Christopher Hastings
Art by Irene Strychalski and Rachelle Rosenberg (colors)
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
“I saw Spider-Man take them out! He was great, and then he went in the complete opposite direction as me!”
This issue of Gwenpool is the final test. I picked this book up out of a mix of morbid curiosity and love of Gurihiru’s art. Since then, it’s grown on me considerably, with decent jokes, charming characters and slick designs. But with the first issue from a different artist, is my brainwashing complete? Am I still into this book?
Yep. Yes, I love it.
I think a lot of it is that Strychalski’s art, although stylistically different from Gurihiru’s, is still very fluid and cute, and a great fit for the story. Gwen and her friends are still loveable, and guest star Miles Morales looks great. Spider-Men are sometimes a tall order, but Strychalski pulls it off in stride, bringing the necessary physicality to the character. This issue just gave me a new artist to follow.
But the change also made it clear to me that I’m invested in the book’s story and characters themselves. I like Gwen, and want to see what happens to her. I’m relieved her friend Cecil is back, albeit as a ghost. I’m interested in the identity of M.O.D.O.K.’s mysterious employer. Hastings and the artists have sold me on a book seemingly conceived to ride a fad.
I never expected to love Gwenpool. It seemed like a shallow cashgrab. But the sheer talent of the team behind it won me over, as they crafted an interesting and compelling book. I’m as surprised as anyone, but i’m not ashamed to rep this book hard.
David Uzumeri is reading…
Written by Tom King
Penciled by David Finch
Inked by David Finch, Sandra Hope, Matt Banning and Scott Hanna
Colored by Jordie Bellaire
Lettered by John Workman
“Yes… yes! YES! From the beginning. The alley. A man. A mask. YOU!”
This has been a weird arc.
Tom King, who until now has generally done very precise, structured stories with very precise, structured artists high on dialogue and metaphor and relatively low on action, kicked off his first Batman arc a couple of months ago (thanks to the accelerated release schedule) with an issue about Batman thinking he was about to die saving a crashing plane, and then two weird-ass Superman and Supergirl analogues showing up and saving his ass looking like goth Nazis.
It was almost TOO high on action, and this result has been an interesting exercise in seeing King try to expand his structured, dense style into a widescreen context and working with an unabashedly widescreen artist. David Finch is the dude you go to for double-page splashes and highly detailed shots of rubble, not symmetrical nine-panel grids and visual metaphors, and it’s been fascinating watching King adapt in real time from month to month. The result of that adaptation is here in #5.
First off, Batman at #5 is a way more weird and interesting comic than it was at #1, even though it still has a whole lot of the same faults. But after an opening that felt like a very safe show-off-the-artist play, we’ve turned into what reads—especially given King’s CIA and Iraq background—as a condemnation of the white savior Peace Corps narrative where purely through sacrifice and grit you can somehow save a community you don’t understand from perceived threats you can’t comprehend.
David Finch is David Finch here; neither he nor his regular inkers are branching out or experimenting, although being colored by Jordie Bellaire makes their work feel fresh, and John Workman brings an undeniable touch of class and prestige to anything he touches. I haven’t seen him on a high-profile book in a while, and he’s always a delight to read. I hope he sticks around for a while, and doesn’t disappear from the credits after the first arc like with Matt Fraction’s run on Thor.
It’s still doesn’t have the self-assured, highly structured swagger of books like Omega Men or Vision, but I definitely feel like we’re seeing more of that guy start to peek out. I think I’m in for the long haul.
Kayleigh Hearn is reading…
The Wicked + The Divine #22
Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Jamie McKelvie
Colored by Matthew Wilson
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
“What about Jenny?”
“Rising Action” has been an unusual arc for WicDiv, putting aside the bittersweet ruminations on fandom and mortality for five issues of explosive, superheroic action. With Persephone and most of the Pantheon united against Ananke, this is the closest WicDiv‘s gotten to a “Good vs. Evil” story—or at the very least, a “bunch of morally ambiguous hot people vs. that old lady who killed all your favorite characters” story. I’ve read complaints that this arc feels splashy and shallow compared to the depths that have come before, and I see their point, but I can’t help but be entertained by a story that shows off a shirtless Baphomet and gives us Woden’s misogyny in the form of a giant pink Valkyrie with tit lasers. (Cassandra, echoing female comic fans everywhere: “It depresses me to know that someone, somewhere, is wanking over this.”)
The Wicked + The Divine holds the writing adage “kill your darlings” with near religious reverence, so the issue’s action movie finale feels subversive in a strange but satisfying way. Gillen and McKelvie rarely give the audience want they want—remember, the first two arcs ended with shocking, “where can the series go from here?” deaths—which makes #22’s mission of rescue and revenge a deep exhalation of a breath I didn’t even know I had been holding. Will there be future revelations that make us look at everything that happened in this issue with new eyes? Oh, I’m sure. But with Gillen and McKelvie working in perfect artistic tandem (again: tit lasers), WicDiv #22 ends something that’s been brewing since the first issue, while cutting a bloody path to an unknown, uncertain future. “What are we going to do?” asks Minerva. I ask again, full of anticipation: where can the series go from here?
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!