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…
Written by Tom King
Art by Jason Fabok
Lettered by Deron Bennett
Published by DC Comics
“I mean, is this fun?”
Almost a year ago, the pure Geoff Johns bugfuckery of the DC Universe: Rebirth one shot was dropped in our collective laps. Soft-resetting the DCU and blaming the worst parts of the company’s New 52 reboot on — and this is 100% canonically true — Alan Moore’s Watchmen, fans have been waiting to see any kind of follow up on this bizarre mic drop. Well, this week sees the start of “The Button”, a four part crossover between DC’s Batman and The Flash titles. Half of the mini-event is being handled by Tom King and Jason Fabok and it’s a pretty excellent start, all things considered.
King’s scripts revel in structural gimmicks and it’s fun to watch him play with Watchmen’s now-classic narrative tricks. He cuts between a televised hockey fight and the decidedly more intense fight between Batman and The Reverse-Flash, who has somehow returned from the dead thanks to the mysterious smiley face pin the caped crusader found embedded in the Batcave. The bulk of the story hangs its hat on an admittedly great conceit, with Batman needing to stay alive for a single minute. It’s essentially an issue-long fist fight, with Batman well aware that he’s way out of his depth. King writes a terrific Zoom, as well, giving us a few particularly menacing panels of the Flash’s nemesis delighting in torturing Bruce.
I’ve been a fan of Fabok’s work since his Justice League run with Johns, and he really avails himself well here. Switching between bold splash pages and Dave Gibbons’s often imitated 9 panel grid layout, this is a gorgeous comic. Come for a few panels of The Flash fighting robot samurai, stay for a hyper-close up of man’s corpse half-charred by cosmic energy. Did I mention this comic is, like. profoundly weird?
As a semi-follow up to “Flashpoint” and a story meant to bring the Watchmen characters into the DC Universe proper, none of this feels like it should work, but the end result is a quality superhero comic. There’s plenty of time for these guys to drop the ball, but this issue is a great showcase for King and Fabok’s considerable talents, even if the editorial logic behind all of this is murky. If you want a comic where the Reverse Flash hitting Batman in the face makes a “ZPOW” sound effect, get on this.
Robby Karol is reading…
Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop the Reign #1
Written, penciled & inked by Geoff Darrow
Colored by Dave Stewart
Lettered by Nate Piekos of Blambot
Variant cover by Frank Miller
Dark Horse Comics
“I mean, who still buys porn? It’s like free on the net. Just there for the tossing.”
Much like the titular protagonist, Shaolin Cowboy has frequently courted death before rising again to onlookers’ shock and surprise. There have been eleven issues published since its start in 2004 (this start to a new miniseries will make twelve). To be fair to writer/artist Geoff Darrow, the pace of the story has not really been affected by this sporadic release schedule, because there’s not really much of a story. But that’s not an insult.
Geoff Darrow’s not interested in presenting a story, he’s interested in how the eye reads art, how panel composition and detail affect the pacing of a moment, how time can slow down almost to a standstill for pages at a time as tiny details shift. This might sound agonizingly pretentious, except for the fact that he’s dramatizing a slow-motion car crash or vultures getting killed by someone throwing rotting eyeballs at them.
However, this is probably the least oblique Shaolin Cowboy comic I’ve ever read. While Darrow’s always been obsessed with time passing, the grotesqueness of mortal bodies, and the cruelty of the natural world, this issue adds in some pointed political commentary, as the desert the Cowboy travels through is covered with day-glo “Trump” graffiti, and everyone other than the Cowboy and his nemesis, King Crab, is a bloated member of the lumpenproletariat, obsessed with food, sex, drugs, booze, phones, and religion, and indulging in those obsessions simultaneously.
But the draw here, as always, is Darrow’s art. His formal prowess as a draftsman, as well as his storytelling ability, are as strong as ever. And Dave Stewart’s colors are the perfect complement to Darrow’s work. Stewart manages to find an incredibly varied palette of yellow, brown and grey for the world Darrow creates, against which the primary colors that distinguish the Cowboy and his various supernatural opponents “pop”.
Geoff Darrow is a genius, and even if he only gives us an average of one 32-page comic a year, we should be grateful we get that much. And if you haven’t read any Shaolin Cowboy before this, then I’m jealous you get the chance to discover all the great stuff he’s already done.
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!