Deadshirt is Reading… is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt’s staff offer brief recommendations for a diverse array of comics, from name-brand cape titles to creator-owned books to webcomics.
Max Robinson is reading…
I’d been looking forward to Rover Red Charlie for a while now and was surprised to see the first issue on the shelf at Forbidden Planet. Garth Ennis is probably the perfect guy to write a comic about a group of dogs trying to survive the apocalypse in New York City, and I by and large dug this first issue. Ennis comes up with a couple of clever ways to convey language; we understand nothing the humans says and everything the dogs say but it’s often simplified to reflect how dogs actually interact. (For example, barking is interpreted as “I’m a dog! I’m a dog!” in the text.) Nobody in comics does camaraderie better than Ennis and that really shines through here, particularly in the opening pages where Rover and Red have to help Charlie escape from a fire in a subway station. As with many Avatar books, Rover Red Charlie suffers in the art department; Dispascale’s painted illustrations have this endearingly Norman Rockwell vibe to them in a few spots but the last page in particular is a mess of ugly angles.
I love annuals because they’re an opportunity to tell a solid, self-contained story in one comic. Parker and Asrar really make the most of this in their Indestructible Hulk annual, following Bruce Banner and Tony Stark as they investigate weird phenomena around a mysterious island. This issue feels like a modern version of stuff like Marvel Two In One or Marvel Team-Up wherein it’s totally self-contained but also super weird and fun. Parker pits the characters against Bill Mantlo-esque crystal monsters and giant one-eyed manta rays and caps it off with an appropriately high-concept villain. Beneath all that, there’s a pretty solid story about Banner and Stark’s relationship with the military industrial complex. Best of all, you can pretty much pick it up without any prior knowledge of what’s going on in this book or Kieron Gillen’s Iron Man.
I’m convinced there are two Matt Fractions running around; Alpha Fraction who writes character-driven, heartfelt work like Hawkeye, FF and Sex Criminals and Beta Fraction whose job it is to put out hum drum Marvel event books (albeit ones with admittedly interesting concepts). It’s been a while since I read Beta Fraction but the first issue of Inhumanity suggests to me he’s back after a short hiatus post-Fear Itself. The concept of Inhumanity is solid; the destruction of the floating kingdom of Attilan, home of the Terrigan Mist-powered Inhuman race, has led to the activation of countless numbers of latent Inhumans around the globe. The problem here is that the first issue consists entirely of a exposition-only conversation between the Inhumans’ genius martial artist Karnak and several different Avengers. What we’re given here is a $3.99, comic-length ad for Marvel’s Inhumanity crossover; nothing really happens except for a low impact shock value character death. Olivier Coipel does a perfectly admirable job but it’s hard to make an especially gripping Marvel comic out of characters taking turns standing in a room. I love Fraction and, again, the concept’s strong so hopefully the book will pick up steam as it goes.
Dylan Roth is reading…
Cataclysm is the latest crossover event in Marvel’s Ultimate Comics imprint, in which the worlds-devouring Galactus has arrived on Earth bent on making our planet his next meal, and our heroes – the Ultimate Universe versions of Spider-Man, Iron Man, the X-Men and so forth – seem powerless to stop him.
When Ultimate Marvel was first launched back in 2000, it was envisioned as an opportunity to start a fresh new version of the Marvel Universe that would be more easily accessible to new readers. Books like Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men and The Ultimates shed the half-century of continuity weighing down the core Marvel titles, while simultaneously building a new, even more tightly-woven universe. But as the Ultimate line grew older it began to accumulate its own complex history, defeating its original purpose. So Ultimate Marvel took on a totally new, arguably more ambitious purpose – to create a world of consequences.
In the mainstream Marvel continuity, readers can expect that a certain status quo will be maintained. Events may unfold that shake things up, but within a few years things will return to normal. (We all knew from the outset that Otto Octavius wasn’t going to stay Spider-Man forever and that Peter Parker would be back eventually.) The same could not be said for Ultimate Marvel, where the world could change drastically and stay changed, and where anyone could die and stay dead.
This is exactly what makes Cataclysm: The Ultimates’ Last Stand so exciting, because as far as readers know, this could actually be the end of the world. Marvel has been very hush-hush about whether or not there will still be an Ultimate Comics imprint after the end of Cataclysm, and the story itself has played into these fears perfectly. Cataclysm feels like a series finale, with the stakes at an all-time high and characters set to close their long-running arcs. Add it all up and you get a sense of foreboding, both for the characters and the readers, that hasn’t been present in a mainstream superhero comic since DC’s Crisis On Infinite Earths back in 1987.
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 or on our Facebook Page.