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.
David Uzumeri is reading…
Darth Vader #25
Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Salvador Larroca and Max Fiumara
Colored by Edgar Delgado and Dave Stewart
Lettered by Joe Caramagna
“You let your anger and pride guide you to the darkest places. That is our way, Lord Vader.”
Kieron Gillen’s done a lot of work in his time at Marvel Comics playing with other people’s toys. While much of it has reached dizzying heights (moments in Journey Into Mystery or Young Avengers especially), many of his runs have been chronically interrupted by crossovers, marred by inconsistent art or, well, both, so that even his strongest work is difficult to read as a standalone, evergreen unit.
Darth Vader did not have that problem.
After 25 stupendous issues with the never-fail art team of Salvador Larroca and Edgar Delgado (with the exception of one or two back-ups by different artists), Gillen’s character-defining run on Darth Vader has finally come to an end — and when its competition for “character-defining” is, uh, the actual Star Wars movies, that’s a hell of a tall order. But I think it stands up.
Larroca and Delgado are in incredibly consistent form over the entire run. A common criticism of Larroca’s art — despite its almost always excellent storytelling and layout — is his recent overreliance on celebrity pictures for reference. With the Star Wars universe — not to mention a main character whose entire face is an emotionless mask — this is much less of a concern, since Han Solo looking like Harrison Ford is… the entire point, really. Delgado acquits himself incredibly well, managing to color a countless number of scenes of tunnels, spaceship corridors and the blackness of space without resorting to the color palette of the first Quake. Where it truly shines, though, is in the narrative risks it’s willing to take.
Darth Vader is, I think, the most literary Star Wars story I’ve read, layered with meaning and thematic weight. The question at the core of the series’ heart is: Is this book about Anakin Skywalker, the fallen Jedi Knight, or about Darth Vader, the rising Sith Lord? It’s a common dichotomy, because the characters and their representations are so very different. Vader is a cool, brooding strategist with small patience for failure; Skywalker is a raging ball of hormones and frustration with godlike powers and a laser sword.
Where this book excels is by not using the dichotomy as a dividing point in the character’s personality but by integrating the two approaches into a single, uniquely conflicted character. It turns a bug — the disconnect between Skywalker’s portrayal between the prequel and main trilogies — and transforms it into a feature, subtly drawing connective tissue between the different periods in this man’s life, concocting an almost new, integrated character that slots into both of his filmic narratives. It turns these two sides of a character into one cohesive man, and that is no small feat. Over this run, he struggles with his past, with his family, and most importantly, with his own broken body and the conflict between his spiritual, ethereal nature as a Force user and the fact that he’s half machine.
Despite a single crossover at the halfway point (that was very good and is easily read without reading all of Jason Aaron and company’s excellent Star Wars run), the resulting book is a standalone 25-issue run that will make sense — both narratively and emotionally — to anyone who’s seen the Star Wars movies, doing an absolutely masterful job of filling in the blanks between Episodes IV and V, and the Prequel and Original Trilogies, while seeming both very much a Kieron Gillen comic and very much Star Wars. It’s honestly a story that’s going to stand for the ages, and a pretty huge accomplishment. Hats off to all involved.
Max Robinson is reading…
All-Star Batman #3
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by John Romita Jr. and Declan Shalvey
Inked by Declan Shalvey and Danny Miki
Colored by Dean White and Jordie Bellaire
“So tell me, Bruce… When you look out of those lenses at the world… What do you see now?”
Snyder and JRJR’s “My Own Worst Enemy” is trucking along admirably, this time tempering the madcap crazy hyper-violence seen in the last two issues with some necessary expository answers. The real strengths of this book are when it lets Snyder and Romita just go completely wild, and there’s a lot of that on display in this issue: The KGBeast fondly discussing his dream of a private murder island as he casually disembowels cops, the appearance of Bat-Knuckles and bits like the reveal that — YES, ABSOLUTELY — there are Arkhamcore metal bands in the DC Universe. It’s hard to not love a comic where the entire Royal Flush Gang is killed for a quick gag. In between explosions and stabbings, we get a short bit where Batman and new sidekick Duke Thomas catch their breath, and Bruce explains just why he’s dragging Two-Face kicking and screaming across two-lane blacktop. The explanation — and resulting retcon — behind Batman’s mission to save Dent feels a little canned, but I’m excited at the potential it implies for Harvey Dent/Two-Face and the nature of his relationship with Bruce/Batman.
Romita continues to toss out more great character designs I’d kill to see as action figures (especially ESPECIALLY those Two-Face ninjas, my lord) as Batman and Two-Face’s opponents on the road. Props to Dean White’s color work here, lots of bright blood reds against chilly Fall browns and greys. It’s a fairly unusual look for a Batman book, and it helps ground the reader in the fact that this isn’t a Gotham City Story.
As far as the Duke/Mr. Zsasz backup by Snyder and Shalvey goes, I’m honestly having some trouble following it three issues in. Totally competent storytelling from all involved, but it’s not surprisingly kind of disappointing given the high-octane craziness of the lead-in story. But for other readers, maybe it’s a needed cooldown from “My Own Worst Enemy” and its 200-mile-per-hour insanity.
Joe Stando is reading…
The Flash #8
Written by Joshua Williamson
Art by Carmine Di Giandomenico and Ivan Plascencia (colors)
Lettered by Steve Wands
“Are you kidding me, Barry? Never thought you’d use the Speed Force to hurt a friend.”
The first story arc of the new Flash book is over, and it’s a mixed bag. In terms of broad strokes, it’s derivative of stuff we’ve seen before on an almost paint-by-numbers level. Barry has a new friend! He gets a new girlfriend! His girlfriend gets killed off for pathos! There’s a big reveal about the new speedster villain! Etc. etc. etc. I enjoyed it a lot, but I had to acknowledge that right out of the gate.
Where this book excels, though, isn’t in the big picture, but in the smaller nuances and twists on the formula. Godspeed’s identity as Barry’s friend August is a reveal you can see miles away, but the characterization is a bit more intriguing, like an everyman version of Hunter Zolomon. Godspeed is a crazed murderer, sure, but he still feels like a real person, with layers and relatability. He’s Barry’s new nemesis almost by circumstance, as he still thinks of Barry as his misguided pal. His ultimate defeat and incarceration are interesting because there’s a lot to play with in the future. Unlike Reverse-Flash or Zoom, there could be room for redemption in Godspeed’s future… or he could just go even more nuts and become a full villain.
Godspeed looks great, too. It was kind of a drag waiting so long to see him in action, but Giandomenico’s design is one for the ages, and it looks as great in motion as it did in the concept art. I can’t wait to buy the DC Direct figure of this guy, to be honest. Wally’s ascendance to Kid Flash was similarly cool, and again, it made up for the level of inherent cliche with great art and strong characterization. It’s still weird that there’s already a secret white guy version of the character running around, but Williamson doesn’t let the weird status quo of Rebirth slow him down.
For longtime Flash fans, this book probably isn’t required reading. The creative team has set up the seeds of the big arc they want to tell, from Godspeed to hints of a greater conspiracy and implications that Barry’s new dearly departed love interest Meena may well be alive in the Speed Force. A lot of it trades on the kind of Geoff Johns ideas that defined his run and The Flash television series, and if it all feels stale, I understand. But in terms of visuals and characterizations, there’s just enough new ideas here to keep me running back.
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!