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.
Kayleigh Hearn is reading…
Written by Rainbow Rowell
Art by Kris Anka
Colored by Matthew Wilson
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
“You have a time machine…and you got there late.”
For a certain generation of fans who read comics in the early aughts, Runaways is the stuff of legend, a refreshing take on teen superheroes with an irresistible premise: every teenager thinks their parents are evil, but what if they actually are? With its diverse cast of young misfits—superpowered kids who did not want to become the Avengers or X-Men—Runaways was ahead of its time and too good to last, and it struggled to find a place in the Marvel Universe after the departure of its original creative team of Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona. Some runaways grew up, and some runaways died; all of them gradually went their separate ways. But the kids remain fan favorites, and with a new Hulu TV show on the horizon, now is the perfect time for a reboot.
Runaways #1 begins with a timey-wimey, death-defying bang, as Chase Stein spontaneously appears in Nico Minoru’s apartment with a time machine and his mostly-dead girlfriend. But mostly dead is not all dead, and Nico must use her sorcery to save Gert. New series writer Rainbow Rowell wisely doesn’t bog down the issue with too much exposition or house cleaning, focusing instead on the immediate emergency and how Nico handles it. Her mystical Staff of One can only cast a spell once, and she’s cast a lot of spells over the years, so if she’s going to save the girl bleeding to death on her floor, she needs to think fast. The result is a story that’s both remarkably clever, intense, and funny; it’s easy to feel cynical about comic book resurrections, especially ones done for “well, she’s going to be on the show…” multimedia synergy, but this one feels wholly earned.
Relaunching Runaways with an author from the world of young adult fiction was a smart move, and Rowell makes a strong first impression with none of the laggy pace issues that often accompany prose authors when they write comics. If any current Marvel artist was destined to draw a new Runaways book, it’s Kris Anka, and his updated character designs for Nico and Chase, whose “Gothic Lolita” and “lacrosse jock” looks they had in high school have aged into more mature personal styles, feel perfect. (Haters of Chase’s new manbun can come at me.) If you’ve missed the Runaways, this issue is like reconnecting with a beloved high school friend who became a cool adult. Hey, maybe you can go home again.
Max Robinson is reading…
Mister Miracle #2
Written by Tom King
Art by Mitch Gerads
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
“So now, obviously, when greeting the Highfather, it is customary to kneel.”
Even with a mountain of hype and expectation behind it, King and Gerads’ trippy Mister Miracle continues to impress. Hand in hand, King’s script and Gerad’s pages blend 47 years of Kirby canon into fittingly strange but with each creators’ own particular trademarks on display. King’s famous use of repetition (see: Scott Free’s almost bored cry of “For New Genesis!” as he leads battle after battle against the forces of Darkseid, Barda’s refrain of “I’m too tall”) works well within the book’s nine page grids, although I can see both gimmicks becoming tired in later issues.
Gerard, who handles pencils, inks and colors here, delivers the kind of experimental work a book like this needs. The eternal red skies of Apokolips play off the intentionally eerie Apple Store aesthetic of the halls of New Genesis, while slaughtered parademon blood matches the neon green Jello Scott and Barda eat as guests of Granny Goodness. A one page dotted line trail sequence that evokes a kind murderous Family Circus sunday strip borders would’ve been too cute under a lesser artist but here it’s a clever way to get some expository action out of the way.
What makes this issue of Mister Miracle more than just an interesting style exercise is the sense of paranoia that oozes off the page. The status quo of most of the New Gods is in flux due to DC’s recent retcons and the book uses that to its advantage, with Scott Free (and the reader) unable to trust his own eyes as he’s called upon to once again wage war among the stars. In a (fourth) world where Granny Goodness shows even faint compassion and Orion is a fealty-demanding monarch, who can you trust? Kirby’s enduring cast of characters have been used by countless creators since the 70s but embroiling them in a surrealist thriller feels like the boldest, most original use for them since Morrison’s Final Crisis.
David Lebovitz is reading…
Written by Matt Nixon
Art by Toby Cypress
Letters by Matt Krotzer
Logo design by Sal Cipriano
“Punch it, you bureaucrat!”
I’m cutting right to the chase: Retcon is not what the preview blurb promised it would be, not what the title implies it should be, and not as good as it should be. Either wait until more issues come out to see if it rights its course, or avoid it completely. It’s rare that I start by outright telling you whether or not to get something—I’m not so arrogant to think reading anything I write is a “journey” but I have to build to something. Here, it’s not worth it. Save your money.
The preview blurb claims that Retcon #1 is “the reboot of a comic miniseries that never existed” and mentions time travel. Both of those sound like they should be interesting, if not unique—there’s plenty of room for commentary on the comic industry’s overreliance on retcons and/or reboots, and time travel is a fun little wrinkle. The actual comic features no indication of time travel whatsoever, and there’s no evidence of any kind of retcon or reboot. The closest thing we get to a metatexual joke is one of the characters calling his nigh-invulnerable superpower “Merry Sue,” which might be funnier in a better comic. False advertising is a bad way to start a comic, and likely tainted my whole experience.
Instead we get a vaguely paranormal story about Brandon Ross, a covert military member, and his creepy-ish squadmate Skinwalker trying to determine if someone in an AA meeting is a threat to their even more indistinctly described organization. Ross and Skinwalker have powers—Ross has a generic Hulk-like transformation, and Skinwalker can possess people—but that’s the only reason we’re given to care about them. Retcon gives too much information to process for a first issue, and most of it is A) told more thoroughly than it is shown, and B) makes it hard to get invested in any one part. It doesn’t help that when they do tell, they don’t tell effectively – I’m still not sure what some of the weapons they used do.
I can’t even find much redeeming in the art. The pages are so chaotic and messy that they get in the way of the story they’re trying to tell. I understand that Cypress was aiming for monstrous, but more often than not, I couldn’t tell if someone was becoming a monster or devolving from one – which is a critical point in the story. I couldn’t tell if one character had been killed or not until he started talking out of nowhere. It’s a mess.
Retcon #1 is not about retcons, it is not about time travel, it is written in a way that left me wondering what the plot was, and is drawn in a way that makes it hard to decipher. Maybe issue two will add some clarity, but don’t expect me to stick around for it.
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!