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 Marguerite Bennett
Art by Emanuela Lupacchino, Meghan Hetrick, IG Guiara and Diogenes Neves (pencils)
Guillermo Ortego, Hetrick, Ruy Jose and Marc Deering (inks)
Hi-Fi (colors) and John J. Hill (letters)
“Passing for something else comes with its own set of troubles.”
Full disclosure – writer Marguerite Bennett and I have hung out on a few occasions and share a circle of friends.
DC’s kickass journalist extraordinaire Lois Lane gets a sadly rare headlining opportunity in this 38-page one-shot. The title may also say “Superman” on top but make no mistake, this is Lois’s book – the Man of Steel appears in only one panel and has no dialogue. While this is a stand-alone issue, it could potentially serve as excellent proof-of-concept for a new ongoing Lois Lane series – something that a lot of fans online have been clamoring for. (Psst… DC… The last book led by the character, Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane, ran for sixteen years and over 130 issues.)
This issue delivers a cool original story that functions independently from the rest of the Superman mythos, as Lois investigates an addictive mutagen that’s threatening her own family – in this case her younger sister Lucy. It’s a detective story, fitting to Lois’s position as an investigative journalist. There’s more to it than just a case-of-the-month (again, I hope there are more months) as the story also deals with subtext about identity and trust. The relationship between Lois and her sister feels very genuine and there’s a lot to mine here in future stories (hint hint).
There are a lot of artists on this book, but the pencillers’ styles are compatible enough that you don’t notice immediately notice the transitions between them. Having a single entity in charge of coloring the whole book also kept the art changes from standing out. It’s hard to speak further about the art, as the book doesn’t specify which artists contributed which pages and who deserves credit for what. There are some cool creature designs here, and the montage early on of Lois searching for leads in her investigation remind me of tried-and-true Batman rat hunts, albeit considerably less violent.
One final note: after two decades of reading and watching Superman stories, I don’t think I’ve ever heard Lois’s mother’s first name before reading this issue.
Jason Urbanciz is reading…
Written by Greg Pak
Art by Jae Lee, June Chung (colors), Dezi Sienty and Carlos Mangual (letters)
“When someone needs help, you have to step up…”
Jae Lee returns to Batman/Superman as the book begins a crossover with Worlds’ Finest. Power Girl’s powers have started to go haywire, so Huntress goes to the one man that she thinks can help, her father, Batman. Well, her father’s New Earth equivalent that is; this Batman doesn’t know Helena Wayne but something about her leads him to trust her. He tries to keep Superman out of it, fearing whatever is afflicting Power Girl could infect him as well, but Superman isn’t going to let that stop him from helping someone in need.
As with the first arc of this book, where Batman and Superman met their Earth 2 alternates, Pak uses the alternate Earths to compare and contrast the Pre- and New 52 versions of DC’s two biggest characters. The New 52 Batman and Superman are a lot younger, more rash, less trusting, but still at their hearts the same characters. Batman is still going to help someone in need, Superman will still give everything he has to save a stranger, but they just do it in slightly different ways.
It’s great to see Jae Lee return to the book after four issues of Brett Boothe, I think this may be the first Lee-drawn issue of the series without Ben Oliver pinch-hitting for a page or two. His art is gorgeous, switching the color palettes for whichever character is spotlighted in the panel, deep reds and black for Batman, brighter blues for Superman.
With this issue, Pak has hit the same highs he’s also hitting over on Action Comics. I’ll definitely be picking up the next part of the crossover in Worlds’ Finest (also out this week), I hope the quality keeps up.
Mike Pfeiffer is reading…
Written by Tommy Lee Edwards and Noah Smith
Art by Dan McDaid (pencils), Melissa Edwards (colors) and John Workman (letters)
“Chuck Carducci made his name as one of the top mechanics of the mid 1970’s custom vanning craze… But by 1984, vanning was all but dead. What no one expected was that Chuck’s masterpiece was yet to come…”
I spent most of the last decade clutching my “Let’s Dance” cassette waiting for a new wave of 80’s nostalgia and I think we can pinpoint Drive’s iconic pink title and Kavinsky’s pulsing “Night Call” as the moment it was A Thing. Sweeping through music (M83), movies (The Miami Connection re-release) and even video games (Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon) it’s been a good three-ish years to sell synthesizers and hot pink. If Vandroid isn’t the first comic to ride this wave then I’m certain it’s the best. Many referential works of era-specific pastiche take a “Drunk Karaoke” approach to storytelling, singing “Don’t wanna miss a thing” far off key as a joke to lampoon the excesses of a genre rather than make an honest attempt and risk failure. Vandroid has the charm and courage to swing for the fences, drawing on the familiar and evoking grainy oversaturated action movies of the 80’s without feeling like a hollow shell made of papier mache’d Terminator posters.
Even as a massive yesterbator for the decade I was really only technically alive in and an obsessive sci fi fan I found myself consistently surprised by the pacing and plot twists that Edwards & Smith deliver in this first issue, where van customizer Chuck Carducci is employed by delicious sleazebag Taylor Grey to make an android body to house an artificial intelligence. Honestly there were enough curveballs in here that I’m loathe to reveal too much more, but I can say that if that sentence entices you at all then you will love Vandroid. Played completely straight-faced as a comic version of a Lost 80’s Movie, Dan McDaid’s art is so warm and familiar while being dynamic and engaging that you find yourself believing that Vandroid had always existed, somehow giving you a sense of nostalgic deja-vu. I’m very excited to see where the great potential demonstrated here leads and I suspect that the full work will stand on its own, but I highly recommend this first issue to anyone who has worn out their VHS of Robocop.
Max Robinson is reading…
Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Paul Pelletier (pencils), Sean Parsons, Andrew Hennessy (inks), Jeromy Cox (colors) and Dezi Sienty (letters)
“Finally, you admit your treachery! You are lucky to have come to me on a day of sacred Atlantean amnesty, Kevin. Go forth and be a better man. Or the sea gods will find you.”
The third issue of Aquaman under Jeff Parker and Paul Pelletier is the duo’s best issue yet. Parker manages to keep his larger ongoing comic booky plots (the secret history of ancient Atlantis, the villainous machinations of the TRITON group) with some really well done glimpses at Arthur’s childhood. The bulk of this issue places Aquaman and Mera at an on-land high school reunion, a pretty funny premise on its own that never devolves into total farce. We make fun of Aquaman for being silly or hard to care about as a character but Parker’s take strikes the right balance of humor and stoicism; this is an Aquaman who will drink a beer on a beach with some friends. It goes to show that the problem is never the characters, just the way we write them (or don’t write them).
Paul Pelletier’s art is consistently solid, he’s just as at ease drawing a quiet moment between Arthur and Mera as he is drawing a shark getting punched in the face. Art-wise, the best part of this issue isn’t any kind of superhero moment but Pelletier’s clever on-panel depiction of the internalized anxiety of Arthur’s former classmate, Kevin.
My only nitpick with this issue is Aquaman’s strained friendship with reluctant TRITON scientist Dr. Shin is slightly confusing to a reader who isn’t familiar with Geoff Johns’ prior stories. But don’t let that discourage you from picking up Aquaman; one of the few things DC is doing right on an editorial level right now is bringing in writers like Parker and Greg Pak, who quietly wrote some of the best Marvel books of the last ten years, to helm their A-list titles. Plus there’s the promise of some kind of sea monster man next issue.
Adam is reading…
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Sean Murphy, Matt Hollingsworth (colors), Jared K. Fletcher (letters),
and Andrew Robinson (cover art)
“Some folks in the more far-flung territories, they still don’t understand why we changed the nation’s bird to a crane… See, the eagle is a coward and thief while the crane, it’s frighteningly territorial… and it stands tall in the water.”
The second half of Scott Snyder’s undersea horror epic opens two hundred years after the first part ended in issue #5, a few months ago. The whole crew of scientists we met is dead (probably), the secret government base is destroyed (I think), and humanity as we know it is no more (right?).
But the guesswork has totally been the joy of The Wake. Snyder’s been at this long enough that he knows how to drop hints and make you beg for what they mean, and there are still unanswered questions from part one, but he’s truly flipped this story on its head. The first half was a claustrophobic thriller with a brilliant undersea twist to the creep factor, where reality was questioned at every turn. He’s opened this world way up, and I can’t wait to see where he takes us next. Now, we find the same psychoactive abilities in the merpeople (or “mers”, as the book’s slang calls them) that drove the researchers insane being harvested and turned into hallucinogenic drugs by enterprising individuals, like our new protagonist, Leeward. There’s also a functioning (if murderous) US government (the “Gov”) and army (the “Arm”) that deems these activities illegal. So many new questions to go along with the old ones!
This is no Waterworld rip-off, folks. Snyder does some seriously great worldbuilding in this issue, and Sean Murphy’s art, with colors by Matt Hollingsworth of Hawkguy fame, practically swims off the page at you. Catch yourselves up on the first five issues, which are available in TPB form, and then dive into this (If the mers don’t get you first).
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Howard Chaykin
“Fuck with me on-air again and I will punch your goddamn heart out.”
I’m a huge Matt Fraction fan. I’ve read most, if not all, of his work at this point. I also love this book a lot and I don’t think it’s getting the attention it deserves. With the wild success of his other series (Hawkeye, Sex Criminals, etc.), Satellite Sam seems to be the Fraction comic everyone’s forgotten about.
And why is that? It’s got all the makings of greatness. The writing is fabulous. Quick, witty, well-researched. The book reads like a film from Hollywood’s Golden Age, if it had the writers from Mad Men. And Fraction really knows how to pair his subject matter with an artist that can fully “flesh” out his vision (no pun intended). Howard Chaykin’s art is as lively and sexy as ever, his eye for unique layouts is put to good use here and gives the scenes on-air a great sense of the urgency that comes with orchestrating a live performance. His reaction shots, which are a Chaykin signature at this point, are deftly used to show subtle emotion in the characters, as they interact with each other in and out of their workplace. This comic is basically the greatest TV show no one’s ever filmed.
The plot deals with the murder of a children’s live TV star in the 1950s, and the fallout from it. In the first issue, Carlyle White (formerly the titular Satellite Sam) is found dead in an apartment, surrounded by various sexual implements and hundreds of pictures of women in flagrante delicto. Carlyle’s son, Michael, begins investigating his father’s murder, while also filling in for him on the show, a decision that doesn’t sit well with some of the other actors. Issue #6 sees him settling into his new role in many, many ways, but the story isn’t all about him. There are several intricate, not to mention historically-accurate, subplots going on as well, and they all come to a head in this issue.
And that’s it, really! No superpowers, no magic, no robots, just legitimate human drama, drawn beautifully and written to match. I guess it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, as far as comics go, but if you’re in the market for something a little less hectic but nonetheless exciting, than your standard Wednesday fare, this book is that ticket.
Joe Stando is reading…
Written by Derek Fridolfs
Art by Sean “Cheeks” Galloway (pencils and colors) and Derek Laufman (inks)
“Thanks for reading my letter. You heard my voice and you came. That’s what matters. You didn’t just help save one life. You saved a town.”
Sean Galloway has been one of my favorite artists for a long time. He’s done some Big Two comics work before, and probably most recognizably was the character designer for the criminally underrated Spectacular Spider-Man animated series. Galloway’s work is lively and cartoonish in the best way, and when I heard he had been tapped for an Adventures of Superman issue, I couldn’t wait to see his takes.
I was not disappointed, either. Fridolfs gives Galloway plenty to do, with a cold open that includes Luthor, Mercy, Brainiac, Lois, and Jimmy, all rendered in expressive, energetic designs. The main plot is like catnip to faithful Superman fans, with Superman answering his fan mail from children. Fridolfs puts Superman in an unwinnable situation and then lets him come up with a solution, which I think is really the key to the character. There’s great action and a little sadness, but overall, this issue is a shining example of the optimism and life that defines the best Superman stories.
Written by James Robinson and Leonard Kirk
Art by Karl Kesel (Inks) and Jesus Aburtov (colors)
“Now hold on. What’s this all about, kids?”
“Bentley’s inventing a death ray.”
First issues are sometimes hard to nail down. You want to get a sense of the tone and direction of the book, while at the same time not throwing too much in too fast. The new Fantastic Four #1 balances both these elements pretty well. It opens ominously, with narration from Sue about the various fates that have befallen the members of the team. The rest of the book quickly jumps back, though, and fills us in on what seems to be a pretty stable status quo: Sue and Reed are a little strained, but working things out, Ben Grimm is back together with his girlfriend, they beat up Fin Fang Foom, all good stuff. It’s going to be interesting seeing how the arc of the series comes together, since the intro suggests some pretty dark times for Marvel’s First Family. The art is solid, and the bold costume redesigns definitely help to make it feel like a new era for the team. There are quick appearances by the Future Foundation kids from Fraction and Allreds’ recently wrapped FF, and I’ll be glad to see them continue in this book. All in all, it’s a pretty strong first issue.
Kayleigh Hearn is reading…
Written by “The Original Writer”
Art by Alan Davis and Garry Leach
“Oh, God. They’re back. The monsters are back.”
Three issues in, it still feels like a miracle that Miracleman is back in print. This briskly-paced issue, featuring material originally serialized in Warrior magazine, concludes the battle between Miracleman and his sidekick-turned-nemesis, Kid Miracleman, and introduces the new foe Mr. Cream. Despite the sense of doom that hangs over the issue, the heart of the story is the peaceful interlude between Miracleman and his wife Liz, as they go through a stack of comic books to try to list all of Miracleman’s superpowers. Miracleman’s reaction to the idea of “superbreath” gives a human face to a hero realizing he’s superhuman.
“The Original Writer” and Alan Davis are unquestionably a fantastic creative team. The writing is literate and sophisticated, if perhaps a bit purple by 2014’s standards (“His body is a symphony of shrieking nerve and muscle, each step a fugue of agony”). Davis’s artwork is intense and gives the destruction, such as Kid Miracleman crushing a car into a ball, real weight and gravity. Miracleman is appropriately godlike under Davis’s pencils, both awe-inspiring and terrifying. Today, “realistic” deconstructions of the superhero mythos are well-trod ground, even cliché, but Miracleman was one of the first and best, and it is essential reading.
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!