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….
Written by Saladin Ahmed
Illustrated by Sami Kivelä
Colored by Jason Wordie
Lettered by Jim Campbell
“Detroit is a city on the edge of a knife, and if we aren’t careful we’re all gonna get cut.”
I’ve been a fan of Saladin Ahmed’s writing ever since coming across his wonderful Throne of the Crescent Moon, a high fantasy novel focusing on an overweight, elderly ghoul-hunter and his ragtag band of allies in an Arabian Nights-inspired setting.
Since then, he started writing a Black Bolt for Marvel, taking the remit of writing a taciturn and previously under-developed protagonist and turning in a moving tale about incarceration and redemption. Now he’s got another Marvel series in the works, but Abbott is his first creator-owned work (in collaboration with Sami Kivelä) and it benefits from his independence from corporate remits, as well as his childhood spent in Detroit.
Elena Abbott is a female journalist of color in 1970s Detroit, who, in the course of her normal (and naturally controversial) reporting on police investigations, stumbles across a series of mutilations that might herald the return of a supernatural force involved in her husband’s tragic death.
Since this is the first issue, the bulk of the story is spent on establishing Abbott’s daily routine and her place in the various, overlapping communities that make up Detroit while ominous, possibly supernatural portents creep in around the edges. That being said, Ahmed and Kavela do a good job of establishing Abbott as a tough, intelligent woman trying to keep her job while also speaking truth to power. They bring out both the hopefulness and anxiety of a city perched on the edge of either a new beginning or violent end.
Ahmed contributes great, punchy dialogue, while Kivelä’s visual storytelling has character and wit. There’s a delightful, wordless six-panel sequence tracing Abbott’s walk to work while she smokes a cigarette, passing Detroit’s more prestigious papers before arriving at the ramshackle offices of her employer. Kivelä brings the city to life and instills it with as much character as his people. He’s aided by Jason Wordie’s coloring, which brings an autumnal tone to the Abbott’s world, while still letting the bright, sometimes garish colors of ‘70s fashion pop.
Ahmed, Kivelä, and the rest of the team at Boom have brought to life a compelling, complex character and I can’t wait to see what she does next.
David Lebovitz is reading…
Star Wars Forces of Destiny: Ahsoka & Padme
Written by Beth Revis
Art & Colors by Valentina Pinto
Letters by Tom B. Long
“Training sessions are about preparing us for the real world and the real battles we must face. Not just to win by whatever means.”
Star Wars: Forces of Destiny is a multimedia series by Lucasfilm highlighting female characters in the Star Wars universe. Last year saw the release of sixteen short animated videos on Disney’s YouTube channel, and all throughout this month, IDW is releasing oneshot comics that act as companion pieces. “Ahsoka & Padme” is intended as a prequel to the video “The Imposter Inside,” and the last few pages of the comic act as something of a comic transcription of the video. Unfortunately, while it does expand the story, it’s so light and poorly written that it’s not worth the price of admission.
The writing is sloppy, often repetitive, contradicting, or just not paying off. The comic starts with Barniss and Ahsoka (of Clone Wars fame) having a practice bout that ends with Barniss criticizing Ahsoka for fighting impractically. Storytelling conventions would indicate that this would pay off in a battle towards the end, but the climactic battle is weak by Star Wars standards. Barniss also says a variation of “our masters have very different training styles” twice in two pages, and it doesn’t feel deliberate. The comic also takes up a full page explaining the culture of alien race, the Arthurians, whom we never see again.
Though he only appears briefly, Anakin Skywalker’s presence in this irks me—though I’m not going to hang that on the comic. I’ve long had issue with the Clone Wars-era Anakin Skywalker—the depiction of him as a caring man focused on altruism and helping others doesn’t mesh with the cinematic Anakin slaughtering Tuscan raiders and being obsessed with power. This comic is more a symptom than a cause of that, but it’s something I hope will be squared away at some point.
The art is one of the bigger disappointments in this issue. It’s clearly meant to imitate the style of the cartoons, but falls flat of that goal by a large margin. It looks more like a mid-aughts webcomic than something published by one of the bigger comic companies in the world. It’s also confusing—I read the comic before I saw the short, and I couldn’t make heads nor tails of parts of the climactic fight scene.
This comic is disappointing. Sometimes bad, but mostly disappointing. It’s clearly meant for tweens but it feels too sanitary even for that age group. Get it for your collection if you must, but it’s a featherweight story about two characters who deserve better.