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…
Doctor Strange #14
Written by Jason Aaron
Penciled by Chris Bachalo
Inked by Al Vey, John Livesay, Victor Olazaba, Tim Townsend, and Wayne Faucher
Colored by Antonio Fabela with Java Tartaglia
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petity
“‘Come stay in the underworld’s newest and hottest all-inclusive resort, with your master of ceremonies, Doctor Strange, kinkiest of all the super-weirdos.’”
Aaron and Bachalo’s first Doctor Strange arc was solid if decidedly derivative of Aaron’s “God Butcher” arc in his neighboring Thor book. The follow-up storyline, “Blood in the Aether,” is thankfully a significant step up that pits a much weaker Stephen Strange against various power-hungry magical factions pursuing him. It’s fun to watch Aaron put his own spin on classic Strange villains like Mordo and Dormammu, with this pretty self-contained installment finding him in the clutches of Satana.
Satana’s always been kind of a blank slate as lower-tier Marvel characters go, but the All-New, All-Different take here cleverly re-imagines her as a put-upon infernal club owner. There are a ton of Aaron tics and indulgences on display here, from Satana’s fry cook being Master Pandemonium (aka that guy with demons for hands who used to fight Ghost Rider) to the fact that the issue’s plot pits Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme against his own stomach.
Chris Bachalo has been doing some really excellent work on this title from the first issue on, and this installment is especially impressive. Satana’s slice of Hell under Bachalo’s kinetic, cartoony draftsmanship is a visual delight, and Fabela/Tartaglia’s colors really make these pages pop. Details like Strange’s shrunken astral form appearing colorless or the intestinal demon lacking an identifiable shape really vibe with Aaron’s screwball script.
It’s all a lot of fun, the kind of breezy but imaginative plot that made the Benedict Cumberbatch adaptation such an enjoyable two hours. Doctor Strange #14 isn’t just an Aaron/Bachalo Marvel comic, it’s THE MOST Aaron/Bachalo comic.
David Uzumeri is reading…
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Mike Deodato
Colored by Frank Martin
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
“Or at least he tries to.”
Jeff Lemire, while unquestionably consistent with his creator-owned work, has always been an odd fit with superhero comics. Sometimes he knocks it out of the park with a heady descent into the weird and rustic alike, like Superboy and early issues of Animal Man — usually when the stories are relatively grounded — and sometimes everything feels off and awkward, like most of his time on team books like Justice League United and Extraordinary X-Men. It’s hard to tell where Thanos lies.
First, though, I want to talk about something unquestionably good: the art. I know Mike Deodato has his detractors, and his characters have a history of betraying the use of Poser reference to the point of killing the illusion of motion, but a new, looser inking style (as well as what appears to be screentone) employed here goes a long way toward fixing that, leaving Deodato’s traditionally excellent storytelling and panel design to sing. Frank Martin is typically great, cultivating a moody but lively color palette that embraces both the darkness of the narrative and the colorfulness of the characters that inhabit it.
Lemire’s script, however, gets off on a shakier start. It’s certainly a promising premise — Thanos rebuilding his space pirate empire after a few years fucking around on Earth in crossover hell — but it’s undersold by entirely too-human dialogue. Basically every character in this book is an unknowable space god, and while the dialogue is appropriately terse, there’s a certain stylistic verve that feels missing. There’s none of the lyricism that typically accompanies a true space opera, especially one of such mythical scope, and it makes the whole thing feel weirdly off-kilter.
Still, it looks great, and considering the depths of extreme weirdness Moon Knight has been descending into recently, I’m excited and hopeful to see how Lemire could adapt to the cosmic realm. I doubt it’ll please, or appeal to, hardcore Starlinites when it comes to the character — it’s more of the “committed mass murder” half of the equation than the “to impress Death” half, at least so far — it’s an intriguing new direction, and I’ll definitely check out the second issue.
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!