Deadshirt Is Reading… is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt’s staff, contributing writers and friends-of-the-site offer their thoughts on a diverse array of comics, from name-brand cape titles to creator-owned books to webcomics.
Dylan Roth is reading…
Written by Mike Johnson
Art by Yasmin Liang & Zac Atkinson
“What would you do, mom? Dumb question. I know exactly what you’d do. You’d give ‘em hell.”
At their best, Star Trek comics should tell stories that you couldn’t do on television due to the cost of production or the limitations of the medium. This is what this latest two-part story, “Parallel Lives,” is attempting to do by pulling a Fiona and Cake-style gender swap on the Enterprise crew. This story is set in a reality parallel in every way to the rebooted “JJ-verse,” except for the genders of the Enterprise crew. We’re introduced to Captain Jane T. Kirk, Dr. Lea “Bones” McCoy, Yeoman Jason Rand, etc. (Spock is still called Spock.)
It’s hard to tell only halfway through this two-parter what the goal of this story is, other than the cool factor of seeing a female Kirk in command. The swapped characters behave pretty much exactly like their counterparts, which of course they should, so there’s nothing new to explore there. One of the only scenes that presents a key difference is when Kirk calls out an Admiral on using misogynous codewords like “emotional” and “headstrong” when describing her command style, strongly implying that the patriarchy is alive and well in the 23rd century. This is an implication that’s contradictory to the universe most Trekkies imagine in their heads.
“Parallel Lives” is clearly made with the best of intentions at heart, but whether or not it serves a purpose beyond novelty will depend on how the issue’s cliffhanger (highlight for spoiler: the Enterprise meets their mainstream universe counterparts) is resolved and how those characters interact with one another. I’m hopeful that something unique and exciting can come out of part two.
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Doug Mahnke, Pat Gleason, Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne, Tom Nguyen, Mark Irwin, Mick Gray & Tony Aviña
“The Robin Cave: No Bats or Butlers Allowed.”
I bought this issue on the strength of last year’s exceptional annual from Tomasi and artist Ardian Syaf, which should go down in history as the finest single-issue Damian Wayne story. (In all my years of Batman fandom, few comics stories have gotten me so seriously choked up.) Ultimately, this issue failed to measure up to the originality or emotional umph its predecessor, flashing back to tell a mostly rote tale of Dick Grayson’s first week as Robin, but it’s likely to excite new, younger readers who aren’t familiar with Robin: Year One or the various animated offerings that cover the same material. The present-day bookends, where Bruce and Dick discover a message left behind by Damian, still pack a decent punch for those of us who continue to look to this title for post-“Requiem” pathos.
Kayleigh Hearn is Reading…
Guardians of the Galaxy #11.NOW
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Sara Pichelli
Guardians of the Galaxy #11.NOW is billed as jumping-on point for new readers, and boasts a big #1 on the cover–even though it’s neither the first issue nor the first part of “The Trial of Jean Grey.” But hey, I’m a new reader! So, should you jump in headfirst? Absolutely. The issue begins with strong, character-driven scenes that tell us who the Guardians are and what they want. Starlord Peter Quill is on the run from his father, and he’s the only human at the end of the universe. Gamora and Angela bond over a decapitated bounty hunter, with Gamora winning “Best Facial Expression” of the issue. Rocket Raccoon and Groot sass Tony Stark, because it’s now written into law that Iron Man has to appear in every Marvel book.
The downside to these introductions is that there’s little room for forward plot momentum. Brian Michael Bendis’s writing is at its most decompressed, so if you hate that aspect of his work you may smack your hand against your forehead when you read the last page. He winks at the reader’s nostalgia for the original X-Men and “The Dark Phoenix Saga” on a page filled with Pichelli’s recreations of John Byrne’s art. It’s an iconic image, but how many times must we see Jean Grey vaporizing herself on the moon? I hope that “The Trial of Jean Grey” will ultimately push the characters in new directions, rather than coasting on memories of the old.
Sara Pichelli’s art is absolutely killer. Her characters are expressive, funny, beautiful, and human–even if they’re not, er, actually human. (Hey, giant jellyfish in the background, what’s up?) Pichelli’s young Jean Grey actually looks like a fresh-faced seventeen-year-old, and it’s a sharp contrast to Dark Phoenix’s harbinger of doom–but they are recognizably the same woman, separated only by a few years and one exploded planet. If you’ve never read one of Pichelli’s comics before, this is your “what are you waiting for?” moment.
Deadshirt contributor Kayleigh Hearn is one of potentially millions of women on the internet and her work can also be found at Womenwriteaboutcomics.com.
David Lebovitz is reading…
Written by Sholly Fisch
Art by Jorge Monlongo (art) and Jeremy Colwell (colors)
“But don’t Romeo and Juliet die at the end?”
“Yes, well, no relationship is perfect.”
As someone who has fond memories of watching Rocky & Bullwinkle on VHS on repeat as a kid, I was quite intrigued by a comic about Mr. Peabody & Sherman. What I found was a cute little comic for a young audience that’s more packed with plot than many of its mainstream peers. It is clearly a promo for the Mr. Peabody & Sherman upcoming film, but for a promo-tie in to a kids film, it’s enjoyable – and not as lightweight as such tie-ins tend to be. It’s also a stand-alone story – a refreshing change of pace in today’s average months-long story arc.
The story follows Mr. Peabody and Sherman travelling through time to learn about romance from history’s greatest experts in time for Valentine’s Day, only to find them having their own problems – which can only be solved by Mr. Peabody and Sherman themselves. While the comic is aimed at children, there are a few bits that are aimed squarely at older readers – including references to the French Connection and the “Man from Nantucket” limerick. There are some gems in the artwork, including the Globe Theatre, 1651 French marketplace, and a horde of Genghis Khan’s men.
Joe Stando is reading…
Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Paul Pelletier & Netho Diaz (pencils), Sean Parsons & Ruy Jose (inks) and Rod Reis (colors)
“You show people the way. Sometimes that’s just keeping everything running, and sometimes it’d going out after those in need.”
Jeff Parker’s run on Aquaman is in its second month, and it feels like he’s got the answer to the age old question: how do you make Aquaman cool? DC seems to be especially preoccupied with this problem as of late, with Geoff Johns pushing a harsh anti-hero vibe in his run. Parker ditches that pretty quick. How do you make Aquaman cool? By not worrying about it. The opening of this arc sees Aquaman fighting an ancient, kaiju-like monster (if I wasn’t already sold) with a determined, compassionate manner evocative of the best parts of Superman or Captain America. Aquaman doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel about being a superhero. He just has to help people in the same way we love to watch other heroes do it.
At the same time, there’s a lot about Aquaman that’s unique and personal, and Parker touches on that well, too. We get a good sense of his struggle to balance his role as the king of Atlantis, and why he might not be universally loved, without falling back on lazy punchlines. His wife, Mera, is another character who has been written hot and cold recently, and she’s understated enough to give a sense of their relationship without bringing up too many old stories. Honestly, these last two issues have been a solid jumping-on point, and you could do far worse than this when looking for a basic introduction to who Arthur Curry really is. The art is great, especially Reis’ colors, which do a good job of conveying the various atmospheres both above and below the sea. Being able to convincingly sell the otherworldly strangeness of Atlantis is definitely make-or-break, and Reis is up to the task. If there’s any justice, this take on Aquaman will convert quite a few skeptics.
Deadshirt contributor Joe Stando is a freelance writer and amateur stand-up comedian from definitely-a-real-place Kalamazoo, Michigan. He enjoys comics, TV, Legos, and sandwiches.
Christina Harrington is reading…
Adventure Time 2014 Winter Special
“Snow Hope” Written and Illustrated by Luke Pearson
“Pups in Peril” Written and Illustrated by Jeremy Sorese
“A Sour Winter” Written and Illustrated by T. Zysk
“Eye Scream” Written by Janet Rose and Allison Strejlau, Illustrated by Allison Strejlau
“The winter is a liar. Look at it.”
I’m not exactly shy about my love for Adventure Time; I’d shout it from the rooftops if Batman would let me borrow his grappling gun. I love the show and any time I’m able to read an issue of the comic I do, and I’ve been looking forward to this issue for a while. In it there are four brief stories by five different creators, each story with a winter theme.
I’ve been picking up the Adventure Time comics off and on for a while now, including the original line, but also offshoots like Candy Capers, and the Fionna and Cake mini-series, but it’s taken until this issue for me to articulate exactly why I enjoy these comics so much. Usually comics based on television shows leave me cringing and unsatisfied, but not so with Adventure Time. Issue and issue again, Adventure Time consistently balances remaining true to the heart and feeling of the show, with taking full advantage of comics as a medium.
One of the ways this issue stays connected to the show is by replicating the precise and distinct voice of each character. In “A Sour Winter,” Lemongrab says: “I will have to write the Princess a letter of complaint…But no, it would take too long with this. NGH. WEATHER.” There are no voice actors, but I hear the voice perfectly in my head. The particular cadence of Lemongrab’s voice is replicated through well-placed punctuation, and further authenticity is provided through vocabulary. It’s obvious the writers take their time to really sink into each character, as the voices in this issue are pretty spot on. The comic book also retains the silly-dark humor of the show. I won’t spoil anything here, but the endings of two of the stories had me chuckling pretty deeply, with gags that were well-written and visually interesting, both employing pacing techniques that are unique to comics. And that, actually, segues into my second point about why I keep coming back to the Adventure Time comics: they embrace the comics medium, rather than ignoring it.
Each one of these stories is a comics story. “Snow Hope” uses the turning of a page as shorthand for the quick passage of time; “Pups in Peril” breaks free of panels for most of the story, instead following Tree Trunks and BMO as they race through full page spreads of fantastic landscapes; “A Sour Winter” uses panel inserts and captions for hidden and slow-burn jokes; and “Eye Scream” allows panels to act as physical structure, contorting and dipping them just as the physical structure in the story (an igloo) threatens to collapse. This issue also continues a tradition found in previous Adventure Time comics: a focus on fan-favorite characters. All of the stories prominently feature characters that aren’t Finn and Jake: Ice King, Tree Trunks, Lemongrab, Marceline, Princess Bubblegum, and BMO (and who’s cuter than BMO? Answer: Nobody.)
This brings me to the final reason I love this comics series: Adventure Time comics hire vastly different artists and storytellers at every opportunity. Not one of these stories looks like the other, none of them have the same color palette, the art style, the same pacing. This makes for uniquely beautiful stories that I’ll read any day of the week.
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!