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.
Dominic Griffin is reading…
Written by Dan Slott
Art by Michael and Laura Allred
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
“Oh, I understand power. Do you? Do you know who you trifle with!?”
The Silver Surfer is one of the most interesting characters in the Marvel Universe to me, but it has been awhile since anyone had a perspective on him that would make a solo book seem worthwhile. Who knew “Michel Gondry directing Doctor Who” drawn by Mike Allred would get the green light? Slott has penned a fun romp starring Norrin Radd that trades in some of the balls to the wall insanity of recent Marvel experiments like Fraction’s Defenders, but smartly grounds the book with just the right pinch of pathos for a comic about a guy who used to scout planets for a hungry God to eat. The Surfer is chosen by an alien race he’s never encountered to be their champion and protect their world, the Impericon, from the nefarious Never Queen. The quest isn’t the most ground breaking, but the subtle sadness the Surfer displays when he discovers this planet is hidden from him because of his past as a herald of Galactus really nailed the duality of what this book seems to aim for: a zany, forward looking scifi adventure with the tragedy of death deep in it’s roots.
Allred’s art is reliably exciting. He could be drawing a Gambit/Longshot team-up book every month and I’d be on board. He continues to create staggering images, like the double page rendering of the Impericon as a giant space Gobstopper, or the Surfer’s origin story distorted and displayed along the blank, silver canvass of his body. My main concern is how Surfer’s new companion, Dawn, will be utilized, as this first issue shows none of the dynamic glimpsed in the Infinite Comic that preceeds it. Time will tell, but I am definitely sticking around.
Christina Harrington is reading…
Written by Felipe Smith
Art by Tradd Moore (pencils), Nelson Daniels and Val Staples (colors)
Lettered by Joe Caramagna
“What’sa matta? You don’t trust me?”
As the title suggests, this is a brand new Ghost Rider story, complete with new location, new vehicle, and a new host. Set in L.A., this addition to the Ghost Rider legacy follows Robbie Reyes, a young man whose main motivation is getting himself and his disabled younger brother Gabe out of the crime-ridden neighborhood they live in. Robbie isn’t making enough with his mechanic’s job to get them a new home fast enough, though, so he steals one of the cars he’s been working on and enters an illegal street race. This ends as badly for him as you would expect. I won’t say anything more about the ending, as there’s a bit of twist with it, except to say it’s fiery and will make you feel things. There are visual cues throughout the comic book — including demonic reflections, and well-place color cues — that allude to this ending, just in case you weren’t sure there was going to be something supernatural and hellish in this Ghost Rider book.
The real good stuff in this issue comes from the highly stylized art of Tradd Moore and the vibrant colors from Val Staples and Nelson Daniels. There’s a fluid nature to the visuals that lends itself to everything from fire to character’s movements to the climactic race towards the end of the book. And though the book itself is a fairly strong first issue, there are some flat notes. The one that really sticks out to me is Robbie’s younger brother Gabe, who’s adorable but flat. He’s a device used to highlight Robbie’s good qualities, but there’s nothing much to his character besides this. Here’s hoping he gets fleshed out in later issues.
Kayleigh Hearn is reading…
Written by Adam Warren
Art by Adam Warren and Brandon Graham
“Think we can get back to the lobby without another bizarre elevator encounter?”
The latest Empowered one-shot features Emp and her best friend Ninjette on a special mission at the Purple Paladin Memorial Hospital. They must save an alien “babyship” infested with parasites, or else its angry, five-mile-wide mothership will destroy the city. So what if Emp and Ninjette aren’t actually doctors? They’re superheroes! Their Fantastic Voyage inside the body of the babyship is full of nasty surprises, including the shape-shifting parasites that prey on poor Emp’s body issues, but there’s a greater shock waiting for them inside in the hospital…
The real star of this issue is guest artist Brandon Graham, who draws the central, full-color story (bookended by Adam Warren’s black and white art). His visuals are perfectly surreal and trippy–and icky and squishy–for a story about two superheroes fighting inside an alien’s body. The alien parasites are just as gross and funny as they need to be. He also perfectly captures the body language and facial expressions of Emp and Ninjette; their friendship is the warm and fuzzy heart of most Empowered tales, and Internal Medicine is no exception.
Graham, like previous Empowered one-shot guest artists John Staton and Takeshi Miyazawa, brings a unique perspective to the characters we’ve grown to care about over eight volumes. As much as I enjoy Warren’s artwork in the regular volumes, it’s interesting to see the cast through another artist’s eyes and pencils. This definitely doesn’t look like any Empowered story we’ve seen before, and it’s a great showcase that piques my interest in more of Graham’s work.
Warren’s writing takes us deeper into his hospital for superheroes with his usual dark humor, and his worldbuilding remains one of Empowered‘s strongest elements. Many independent superhero comics fall back on generic archetypes and formulaic plots (“Here’s the Superman character, this guy is like Batman BUT WITH A TWIST,” etc.) but the world of Empowered and the Superhomies feels fully realized and unique. What if there was a hospital that treated superhumans and aliens, and just how weird and scary would it be? Warren’s portrayal of the funny, sometimes ugly reality of everyday superhero life is refreshing.
Empowered: Internal Medicine also continues the series’ evolution from a wacky, bondage-themed sex comedy to a darker and more emotionally resonant superhero tale, hinting at a future tragedy for Emp and her friends. There’s still fan service—it wouldn’t be an Empowered comic without some detailed, loving renditions of Emp’s derriere—but the comic balances humor and seriousness without the jarring tonal shifts that have plagued latter volumes of the series.
Joe Stando is reading…
Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Art by Guy Davis (pencils and inks) and Dave Stewart (colors)
“Like this family. What was their story? Haunted by a ghost?”
“…Something like that.”
I know it’s a bit gauche to lead with something like this, but what the hey: guys, this comic is a dollar. One dollar! I don’t know if that’s a normal thing for new Dark Horse first issues, but I think it’s a great strategy. I find it funny that Marvel is looking for every convoluted way to get a big number one on every issue, but Dark Horse has found a way to actually make that a financially desirable trait.
You also get your money’s worth. I haven’t followed Hellboy books very closely in a little while, but this issue is a solid primer on the current status quo. There seems to be a lull in supernatural activity, so the focus is on growing tension between various members of the BPRD. The book has some characters who are new to me, but they feel dynamic, and the personalities and wants are pretty clear, even with only a page or two of facetime. Guy Davis’ art is reminiscent of Mignola’s in all the right ways, while still maintaining his own style and voice. There’s a good deal of set-up in the issue, but it’s all intriguing and well-done. It’s hard to go wrong for a handful of dimes, but this book is probably the best dollar you can spend this week.
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Joe Quinones (pencils and inks) and Rainier Beredo (colors)
“You’re looking at the beginning of the new Ultimates.”
]For a long time, people suspected that Cataclysm, the recent Ultimate Marvel event, was going to end with the company shutting down the line (and the universe). That proved not to be true, but the remains of the Ultimate universe in the aftermath of Galactus’ attack are pretty grim; Captain America and Thor are dead, and S.H.I.E.L.D. is likely to be shut down.
This one-shot does a great job of moving pieces around for the new line of books. Bendis’ writing on Ultimate Spider-Man has always been both some of his strongest and some of the most consistent in the Ultimate line, so tapping him for an expository, dialogue-heavy issue is a natural fit. There’s a strong focus on the next generation of heroes, like Kitty Pryde and Miles Morales, which is a strong lead-in to Michel Fiffe’s upcoming All-New Ultimates.
There are some other set-ups for the new status quo (Reed Richards seems to be more enigmatic than straight-up evil these days, for example) as well. The art is solid too; the Ultimate universe has always had more of a “house style” than mainstream Marvel comics and Quinones handles it well. It’s a pretty strong issue overall, and if you’re still on the fence, Spider-Woman wears a leather jacket over her costume at the end.
Patrick Stinson is reading…
Written by John Barber and James Roberts
Art by Brendan Cahill (pencils), Brian Shearer (inks), Josh Perez (colors)
Lettered by Tom B. Long
“This symbol belonged to…my friend, Bumblebee…my life has been dedicated to fighting this badge. But no more. Today I’m a different person…and if I can change, so can you.”
“Dark Cybertron” comes to an end here. As does all of time and space, briefly. Shockwave’s great plan to collapse the universe into a single point–Cybertron, frozen in time, forever–leads to some somewhat abstract plot elements and imagery in this final chapter. Cahill’s art never falters, even when he’s asked to draw things like “a bunch of scenes from previous issues 800 stories tall in the sky” or “an expanding black hole where someone’s face used to be.” But, with only so many pages to close this saga, there is still a little confusion about how the mechanics of the plot and the science fiction actually worked.
But the issue accomplishes the two most important things it has to accomplish: bringing an organic conclusion to the last two years of Robots in Disguise/More Than Meets the Eye, setting up the next great arc for each and resolving the crisis through character (thankfully not through some plot-based technobabble). Metalhawk, the heroic Neutral repeatedly exploited by Starscream, sacrifices himself to derail Shockwave’s time machinations…and gets posthumously exploited by Starscream again Optimus evokes his personal history with Shockwave (established way back in MtMtE’s “Shadowplay” arc) to get him to realize that his desire to collapse the universe isn’t “logical” at all, just a sick perversion, a side effect of his malicious reprogramming (again from “Shadowplay”). And, amazingly, Megatron feels grief for the first time in ever after seeing Bumblebee shot down by Shockwave, takes up his badge, and becomes a no-fooling-guys Autobot.
Well that all manages to shake up Shockwave’s plan and worldview enough so that, after one last moment of levity with his old friend Optimus (his first positive emotion in >4 million years), he asks the two leaders to blow his head off, which finally ends his control over the time machine and the ores of change (or whatever) and more or less fixes everything.
There’s a cool battle raging in the background as well, with every Transformer ever fighting off an invasion of Mini-Cons led by the mad combiner Monstructor. Despite some gorgeous art and fun tactics, though, this battle is completely secondary because all the Mini-Cons blow up when Shockwave is terminated. The best thing we get out of this is Whirl thinking it’s hilarious that he started both the war for Cybertron (by beating Megatron half to death six million years ago in ongoing #22) and escalated the Mini-Cons’ own war just the other month back in MtMtE #22. “There’s a lesson here about unintended consequences.” Never change, Whirl. Never change.
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!