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.
Robby Karol is reading…
Kingsman: The Red Diamond #1
Written by Rob Williams
Art by Simon Fraser
Colored by Gary Caldwell
Lettered by Peter Doherty
“I’m Geek!” “I guess… we could get him some Star Trek DVDs.”
I’ve got to be honest. I’ve never seen the Kingsman movie, nor have I read the comics. By the time Kingsman was everywhere, I was seriously burned out on the “edginess” of Mark Millar’s creator-owned properties (heck, on anything Mark Millar did). But now that some time has passed and Millar’s various PR stunts have been overshadowed by a million other PR stunts by other people, I wanted to give Kingsman a shot.
So Millar and Dave Gibbons have handed over the reins to Rob Williams and Simon Fraser, who I’ve enjoyed on Judge Dredd and its various spin-offs. And while I love Gibbons’ art, I can’t say that I miss Millar’s presence.
Kingsman: The Red Diamond #1 is a good jumping-on point for readers like me who have basically seen the trailers or read a synopsis and want to know what the fuss is about. Eggsy, the working class kid turned high-class secret agent, is assigned to rescue Prince Phillip from a bunch of Greek kidnappers angry about EU-imposed austerity. Though he succeeds in rescuing the Prince, he ends up punching him out for an ill-judged comment and gets placed on administrative leave. Meanwhile, a shadowy supervillain type named the Red Diamond threatens his assistants and makes ominous threats against the established world order.
Williams and Fraser work hard to make something substantive out of the Kingsman concept. The original idea (credited to Millar, Gibbons, and director Matthew Vaughn) was a wish-fulfillment fantasy about a Chav making good and becoming James Bond. Williams and Fraser add a nice twist by focusing on what happens after Eggsy gets his happy ending, which is that the U.K.’s class system makes him feel out of place wherever he is. His family and former friends think he’s arrogant, and the Establishment still smells the stink of pints and lad’s mags on him. Some of the best moments in the writing are about Eggsy’s attempts to fit in.
That being said, there’s an uneasy tension between the class and economics subtext and the James Bond superspy stuff. Fraser does a good job of shuffling between the two modes: his action sequences are kinetic and well-paced, but the low-key comedy of Eggsy in a pub is well-observed and charming. Unfortunately, Caldwell coloring right over Fraser’s pencils does give uneven results, smoothing out the faces of some of the characters in distracting ways. Eggsy is supposed to be young, but he looks like a mannequin in some panels
The bigger problem is that the quippy, semi-parodic spy stuff (like the Red Diamond and his henchmen arguing over who directed Terminator: Salvation or the hapless Greek kidnappers arguing with the prince) bumps up against the more earnest exchanges between Eggsy and his family. It’s hard to see how Williams’ take on the character won’t get swallowed up by the set pieces. As much as I hate to admit it, there might be a reason that Millar shies away from honesty or genuine emotion in some of his books.
David Uzumeri is reading…
Written by Al Ewing
Art by Kevin Libranda
Colored by Jose Villarrubia
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
“Sorry. I, uh…got trapped in a reality of pure judgment a few days ago.”
It’s wild as hell that, the week after Inhumans premiered in IMAX cinemas with all of the pomp and circumstance of an asshole dog excitedly bringing you yet another dead animal dug up from the yard, Marvel dropped not one but three good to pretty fucking great Inhumans books on the same day. I’ve spoken about Black Bolt and Inhumans: Once and Future Kings before here, and I think they both kick ass, but Al Ewing is doing something totally different with Royals, something far more continuity-minded and traditional yet progressive, in the vein of most of Ewing’s work. It’s the closest to a “main Inhumans book” the line has right now, consisting of Maximus, Medusa, Gorgon, some recent Inhumans from the Soule and Asmus runs, and everyone’s favorite dashing, pretentious spacetwink, Noh-Varr the Marvel Boy.
It’s gone through a bunch of pencillers over its seven short issues but it seems to be settling on Kevin Libranda, a recent Marvel hire I haven’t seen previous to this issue but who nevertheless does a pretty good job taking over for departed launch artist Jonboy Meyers. Nevertheless, the art still seems a little bit too busy and traditionally superheroic for the kind of mindblowing cosmic shenanigans this book is aiming for, and I have to admit I’m excited to see what upcoming artist Javier Rodriguez can pull off with this material—I’ve also never seen Villarrubia turn in work this… this house-style, even over pencils like this. It’s all perfectly competent, but it just doesn’t match the tone of the narrative.
That said, it’s always fun to see Ewing ply his half-Hickman, half-Busiek trade in the Marvel Universe. He draws together tons of strands of recent and not-so-recent Marvel continuity into this issue, which somehow manages to bring in the Skyspears from James Asmus and Stefano Caselli’s All-New Inhumans, the Universal Inhumans from Hickman and Epting’s Fantastic Four, and multiple elements of Morrison and Jones’s Marvel Boy while making everything integrate and fit together seamlessly. Ewing’s a fantastic writer, but he’s possibly singularly unparalleled in the acts of continuity calculus he can pull off (see also: Loki: Agent of Asgard), and basically he’s capable at taking the worldbuilding of a bunch of different writers and turning it into something cohesive without making you seem like you’re being hypnotized.
It’s solid characterization, great worldbuilding and that kind of fun continuity wizardry that enhances the work for regular readers but doesn’t detract for relative newcomers. I’ll never understand why this book got the almost unmarketable title of Royals, but I’m enjoying it while it goes and am frankly very excited for it to go up a gear with the art switch to Rodriguez.
David Lebovitz is reading….
Star Wars Adventures #1
“Better The Devil You Know: Part 1”
Written by Cavan Scott
Art by Derek Charm
Lettered by Tom B. Long
Written by Cavan Scott
Art by Jon Sommariva
Inked by Sean Parsons
Colored by Charlie Kirchoff
Lettered by Tom B. Long
“Just another day of Jakku. Wake up. Skip breakfast. Go to work. Get attacked by thieves who should know better.”
Star Wars Adventures is a new all-ages anthology of tales from the galaxy far, far away. Given that it’s New New Star Wars Eve (not a typo), we can expect more stories to come in and give us our fix until The Last Jedi drops and every site forgets how to write about anything else.
The main story follows Rey during her scavenger days on Jakku. We see Rey fighting, surviving, and doing all those other things that piss off Max Landis for reasons he can’t articulate. A routine scavenging excursion goes wrong, and Rey realizes that Unkar Plutt AKA the Junkboss AKA “The Blobfish” (yes, they acknowledge that as an in-universe nickname now!) has been kidnapped. She has no love for him, but realizes Krynodd, his replacement, will be much worse than Plutt, and takes it upon herself to save him. The second story is a framed as an anecdote told by Emil Graf (a character in NuEU) about his thief ancestor’s run-in with Obi-Wan Kenobi. It’s the definition of a throwaway story, but it’s charming enough and adds some variety to the book.
Star Wars as a whole has always had plenty of rich ground for storytelling outside of the movies, and I’m excited to read more about Rey’s adventures on Jakku. It’s great to see how Rey interacted with fellow scavengers, especially the ones with whom she got along. It’s an easy enough topic to explore without worrying about treading on the movies, and I look forward to seeing what they can do both in the next issue and in the coming years.
The book has an amazing sense of the economy of storytelling. There’s only a couple of splash pages, and there’s a great balance of dialogue and art—the story moves briskly without ever getting bogged down in language or glossed over with easy space filler action. Every panel means something. The writing is solid—more casual than the movies, which is to be expected with an All Ages property, but always feeling true to the characters. The art in both stories is excellent, showing recognizable characters in a kid-friendly style. The colors are vibrant and clear.
This book, much like Star Wars, is for everyone, and worth a pick up to fill your Star Wars fix. It has better pacing than most other books of any variety on the market right now, and will appeal to young fans just as much as us crusty old fans who choose to write about these books. It’s the most fun I’ve had reading a comic in a while.
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!