Deadshirt is Reading: Star Trek: Discovery, Batman, and Star Wars: Adventures!

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.

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Dylan Roth is reading…

Star Trek: Discovery #1
Written by Kirsten Beyer & Mike Johnson
Art by Tony Shasteen
Colored by J.D. Mettler
Lettered by AndWorld Design
IDW Publishing

“This wreck is our inheritance, T’Kuvma. The great ship of the House of Girjah, brought low by neglect. By forgetting.”

While Star Trek: Discovery is enjoying by far the strongest freshman year of any series in the franchise since the original in ‘66, even the most die-hard fan would likely admit that the Klingons are the least interesting part of the young show. While the show’s creators boasted that Discovery would add new texture to Klingons as a culture and provide more nuanced Klingon characters than had been seen before, they feel like a step backwards from the “Feudal Japan meets the Hell’s Angels” interpretation from the Next Generation era. Their visual redesign has not been popular, but mainly the problem is that their subplot this season on Discovery is just boring.

With that in mind, the four-issue debut of Star Trek: Discovery in comics, subtitled “The Light of Kahless,” has an uphill battle ahead of it. The envelope story takes place shortly after the show’s two-hour prologue in the aftermath of The Battle of the Binary Stars, where the ancient spacecraft of the would-be Klingon Messiah T’Kuvma (shot dead by Commander Michael Burnham) is now adrift and lifeless. T’Kuvma’s hand-picked successor, the albino Voq, now struggles to keep the starving crew in line, so Voq’s advisor L’Rell decides to regale him with T’Kuvma’s origin story, which takes up the meat of the issue and presumably the rest of the arc.

This feels like an unfortunate choice of subject for the first ever Discovery comics—the backstory to a character who died in the pilot, as told to a character who (supposedly) hasn’t appeared since the fourth episode, to expand on a subplot that’s not all that interesting to begin with. Perhaps the IDW team is limited in their choice of subject matter, given that Discovery itself is serialized, leaving little room for stories set between episodes, and that the backstories of the Starfleet characters seem to be the domain of the Pocket Books novel series. Writers Kirsten Beyer (herself the author of a half-dozen Voyager novels and a member of the Discovery writing staff) and Mike Johnson (who contributes to most of IDW’s Star Trek comics) may simply have been left with the lemons, but it doesn’t feel as if there’s much investment in making lemonade here.

There’s no inspiration to be found in Tony Shasteen’s art, either, which is pragmatic and unremarkable throughout. Unlike in his work on other Star Trek titles, Shasteen doesn’t have actor reference to work off of for most of the characters, and his own creations are same-y and frequently off-model. Admittedly, having to work with the established Discovery Klingon make-up is probably a hindrance. While great attention to detail is put into rendering Klingon intricate props or settings that appear on the show, far too many panels leave out backgrounds entirely in favor of bland color gradients. There’s a scene in which young T’Kuvma struggles through a forest of thorns that’s impressively intricate, but apart from that, there’s nothing memorable about the visuals in Discovery #1.

It’s disappointing to see that, while the creators of the television series took their time to produce a quality product rather than rush to meet their original planned release date (the show debuted eight months late), its comic book counterpart feels like a churned-out afterthought.

 

David Uzumeri is reading…

Batman: Creature of the Night #1
Written by Kurt Busiek
Art by John Paul Leon
Lettered by Todd Klein
DC Comics

“I’d made him. I wanted someone like Batman. Someone who could make things like they’re supposed to be. Make things fair.”

In 2004, Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen put out the first issue of Superman: Secret Identity, a prestige format miniseries about a young boy named Clark Kent in suburban Kansas who grew up resenting Superman because he couldn’t escape the jokes. He grows up, starts a family, and lives a life eerily similar to that of the in-his-universe fictional character. It’s career-best work from both creators, and while revisiting the Superboy of Earth-Prime concept like this might seem like a rehash, it’s a heartfelt love letter to Superman, his mythos, and the way all of that inspires and energizes real people on a concrete basis. It’s neck-and-neck with All-Star for the best Superman comic of all time in many estimations.

For years there was a promised spiritual sequel featuring Batman, and now, in 2017, it’s finally arrived. Set in 1968 at the height of Batman ‘66 mania, it stars Bruce Wainwright, a pretty normal kid who’s absolutely obsessed with Batman. He wears the costume at all times, has a very advanced vocabulary for his age from reading comics, re-casts everyone in his life as Batman supporting cast characters, visits the zoo batcave whenever he can — in other words, probably half of the people reading this at age eight, including me, who once wore a Batman costume, to my parents’ dismay, to the goddamn beach, and had a gigantic cardboard “Bat-Computer” in his garage with a 286 inside, with “case files” programmed in BASIC.

Already there’s a deliberate inversion of Secret Identity — rather than being an identity thrust upon him against his will, Bruce Wainwright wants desperately to be Batman. Of course, though, what a child sometimes doesn’t understand — the part of Batman that you only really understand when you grow up — is the superhuman alchemy from pain to action that makes up the mind of Bruce Wayne. When you’re a child, losing your parents is an abstract concept — they’d never really go away — that represents freedom, if you haven’t truly experienced and processed death and its finality yet. The death of your parents is a tragedy, sure, but it’s part of the path to becoming Batman, the coolest fucking thing in the world.

Of course, once you experience loss, you know better.

This came out the same week as Kill or Be Killed, and it’s hard not to see the similarities between the two and their examination of the glorification of vigilante justice. It’s still early and I don’t want to ruin the first issue’s twists — it’s a healthy 48 pages in prestige format, so a lot happens. I read it digitally so I can’t speak to its production and paper stock, but the combination of John Paul Leon and Todd Klein is predictably beautiful. Leon applies his usual style, but it’s perfectly matched with this material: thick, dark lines and heavy shadows, but combined with crystal-clear storytelling and a clean, well-considered color palette. Klein is clearly using computer lettering rather than hand lettering — which is somewhat of a bummer, but he seems to have invented a couple of new fonts and letterforms for the book, and it’s still a very pleasing, thoughtful, high-class effect. It’s polished, it’s smooth, the storytelling is impeccable — this is a book that cuts no corners, and is produced with the swagger and confidence of a story that knows it’s going to be evergreen.

It’s a Batman comic that looks at us as adults and asks us to remember when we first loved Batman, and asks us to interrogate and inspect that love from all angles, that promises to truly dive into the implications of what it means to actively wish, as a child, to be a lonely avenger of the night.

David Lebovitz is reading…

Star Wars Adventures #4

“The Trouble At Tibrin”
Written by Landry Q. Walker
Art by Eric Jones
Colors by Charlie Kirchoff
Letters by Tom B. Long & Christa Miesner

“Tales From Wild Space: Mattis Makes A Stand”
Written by Ben Acker & Ben Blacker
Art by Annie Wu
Colors by Lee Loughridge
Letters by Tom B. Long

IDW

“I don’t think this is helping him.” “This isn’t helping me!”

A short while back, I reviewed the first issue of Star Wars Adventures. My assessment was overwhelmingly positive. Unfortunately, almost everything positive I had to say about that first issue is completely absent from issue four. This series, while still pleasant to look at and potentially still appealing to younger fans, has taken a nosedive. This issue contains no innovation, no notable new characters, and just feels so generic that it barely qualifies as a new Star Wars story.

The first story, “The Trouble At Tibrin,” takes place sometime between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. It’s the beginning of a story about a diplomatic mission gone awry, because apparently no one remembers we already saw this plot in The Phantom Menace. There’s nothing new here, except for Luke having a grenade go off in his face and not suffering any wounds because of it.

The character voices bear little to no resemblance to the characters we know so well. Luke spends most of the issues dealing with two fanboy rebels who grill him about blowing up the Death Star and saving the Princess. Luke is barely focused, both in character and AS a character. It feels less like a story about Luke Skywalker: Jedi and more like Luke Skywalker: Fanfic Anime Prince. Little happens in the story outside one action sequence and Luke getting captured at the end. I’m running out of ways to say this – none of this feels new.

Visually, Luke looks similar enough to Mark Hamill without outright copying his appearance that it works. Leia, on the other hands, bears little resemblance at all to Carrie Fisher, and her role suffers as a result – especially when the voice, as mentioned earlier, does not resemble the Leia we all know.

The second story, Tales From Wild Space, has a member of the Graf family telling a story to his robot friends about how stories have power. It’s about how Mattis Banz (a character from the Join The Resistance series of children’s books) stood up to a bully by drawing on power. It attempts to relay a message, and might to little kids, but it doesn’t change the fact that A) the stories relate directly to Star Wars characters we already know, and B) it felt like it came from a college sophomore in a creative writing class trying to imitate the worst parts of Neil Gaiman.

Writing stories about such established characters is hard, harder still when you’re forced to make it all ages. But sometimes it just doesn’t work. This didn’t work. The first story was so full of cliches that I don’t care about the follow up, and the second story felt self-serving. I hope this is just an individual weak 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!

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