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.
Sam Paxton and Dylan Roth are reading…
Written by Natasha Allegri & Garrett Jackson
Art by Natasha Allegri
“PuppyCat! You gotta help me! NO ONE’s gonna believe it’s pudding in this photo on my pajamas!”
DR: As someone who fell very hard for the Bee and PuppyCat cartoon short last year, I’ve really been looking forward to getting new B&PC stories on the reg, even if it’s in comics form rather than more cartoons. (Though more cartoons are on the way.)
SP: I think originally heard of creator Natasha Allegri through Pendleton Ward’s twitter account or something like that. I’m a big fan of the whimsical nature of Adventure Time and Bee and PuppyCat definitely scratches that same itch.
DR: It’s a real feat when you can make a character as instantly lovable as Bee. There’s been a total of ten minutes of Bee and PuppyCat, but in that time I felt like I had a very clear picture of Bee’s sense of humor. She’s so nuts, and so completely unembarrassed of it. I actually felt that was really missing in this first issue of the B&PC comics series – Bee didn’t really get the opportunity to flex her wacky comedic muscles.
SP: Agreed. Bee is the platonic ideal of a crazy cat lady. I don’t think I noticed any particularly quotable dialogue or funny segues, which I was totally expecting to find. It seems like this first issue is just setting up the basic premise of B&PC – a girl and her weird dog/cat-hybrid who make a living by taking interstellar odd jobs – I just really didn’t expect it to be so…perfunctory, script-wise.
DR: You don’t get a lot of story in these 20-odd pages, and only about two jokes. Most of the issue is an extended dream sequence, which is pretty and may have some symbolic importance to the story later on (since this is only part one) but it takes up way too much space. I’d have preferred to see Bee interact more with other characters, because her dialogue and insane reactions to things are what made the cartoon work. Bee is the gal who steals your candy and rhymes about it, who attacks the giant monster with her teeth instead of the sword that’s in her hand. Here she didn’t get an opportunity to do much of anything.
SP: At least it looks pretty, right? Allegri does a great job of preserving the charm of the animated series while creating a distinctive look for the comic. I really dig the soft pastels and slightly chibi versions of the characters. And the little details, like the designs painted on Bee’s nails in the dream sequence, or her cozy cluttered apartment, make this a very pleasant book to look at.
DR: Yeah, the art in this book really works. The dream sequence is trippy and cool, the characters are all expressive, and the action is super clear even when the events are cosmic or magic or nonsensical.
We should probably also mention that there’s a short backup story that picks up on a thread from the original short, and unlike the one at the end of the main story, this cliffhanger is really effective, though only if you have the short for context.
SP: I literally heard “dun dun DUNNNNN!” in my head when I saw they were (spoilers, I guess? highlight to read) introducing Wallace’s mother. Plus, another nice callback to the animated short is how PuppyCat seems to start beef with all manner of creatures. It really is a testament to Allegri that these characters that barely exist apart from ten minutes of footage and twenty comic book pages, but have such clearly defined quirks.
If I was approaching this comic with no knowledge of the source material, the dearth of story might not be enough to keep me interested; as someone who knows what Bee and PuppyCat is capable of, however, I’m looking forward to seeing more of the duo’s hand-drawn adventures. Hopefully the next installment will let a little more of the characters’ personalities shine through.
DR: I’ve got tremendous faith in Natasha Allegri’s ability to knock this out of the park, which is maybe why I was so hard on it. Thankfully there’s more B&PC coming, both in this comics series and in upcoming shorts, and I’m still very excited for more.
Patrick Stinson is reading…
Written by James Roberts
Art by Alex Milne (pencils and inks), Joana Lafuente (colors)
Lettered by Tom B. Long
“(A) My old injury’s playing up, (B) some prankster thought it would be funny to steal one of the engex vats–and (C), which really should have been (A)…we’ve somehow ended up with a captain who’s killed more people than have ever lived.”
The latest issue of this cult favorite series presents us with an ever-more tangled mix of plots and characters. This issue is told non-linearly by hopping back and forth between six months ago, when newly-defected Megatron was on trial for killing 100 billion people, and the present day, when somehow he’s now in command of the Lost Light, captaining the continuing search for the Knights of Cybertron.
The issue excels at building interest in the mystery of how this came to pass, as well as strange cosmic happenings causing objects and people to disappear aboard the ship. It does not excel at being accessible or comprehensible on its own, being the second of a three-part trilogy with at least 15 major characters.
As usual, humor is a highlight of the book, and the art team delivers stellar and highly detailed work. Easily the highlight of the issue, though, is an illustration of how Autobot Megatron operates, replacing violent bombast with wisdom, restraint, and veiled menace. Trailcutter is expecting some extremely rough treatment after being caught stealing fuel, but instead, Megatron assigns the bewildered thief to be the new full-time head of security. Milne uses Megatron’s massive physical presence to the benefit of story and mood. When he drapes an arm over Trailcutter’s shoulder, we flinch despite that Autobot logo on his chest.
Jason Urbanciz is reading…
Action Comics #31
Story: Greg Pak
Art by Aaron Kuder, Rafa Sandoval & Cameron Stewart
Inks: Aaron Kuder, Vicente Cifuentes & Cameron Stewart
Colors: Wil Quintana
Letters: Dezi Sienty & Taylor Esposito
“I’m not a monster.”
This is a well-written, beautifully drawn comic that just isn’t very good, thanks to it being a cog in a unnecessary cross-over featuring a villain no one has cared about in 20 years. For real, Doomsday sucks and whenever DC attempts to make him a thing every five years or so, it derails whatever good is happening in Action Comics. Just see James Robinson’s pre-New 52 run on the title that ran into a similar narrative wall.
Just before the opening of this issue, Superman punched Doomsday so hard he exploded into dust. Of course since Superman then inhaled Big D, he has been infected and is now turning into everyone’s least favorite, personality-free killing machine. The issue does a good job of showcasing Superman’s support system as his friends and colleagues come to his aid and believe in him. Maybe, if this story was going to be contained within Action I’d have a hope it would be any good, but from here it continues to boomerang through the other Superbooks, and I just ain’t got the time or the money to follow along.
I’ve been a big fan of what Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder have been doing on this book, making some great Superman comics amongst the wasteland of the New 52, and I look forward to this storyline passing so they can get back to it.
Joe Stando is reading…
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Valerio Schiti and Frank Martin (colors)
Lettered by Joe Caramagna
“What’s worse than facing villains with the fate of your world hanging in the balance? Facing heroes.”
Hickman’s sprawling Avengers metaseries continues to build this month, with an interesting wrinkle. The latest world-threatening Incursion the Illuminati must face isn’t from villains like the Black Priests or Mapmakers, but from a set of Justice League pastiches selflessly defending their own universe. It’s a powerful dilemma, especially since we’ve spent the last two issues getting to know the Great Society with Black Panther and Namor. Victory means destroying an innocent planet and a team of heroes; defeat means losing our own. It’s not a task Black Panther takes lightly, especially as he seeks counsel with the spirits of his ancestors (eerily rendered by Martin’s colors).
As usual, Hickman has everyone’s voices to a T, from Iron Man’s increasing frustration and desperation to Namor’s sneering confidence. Namor might be my favorite Marvel character because he gives artists a chance to do more than basic smiles or frowns, and Schiti is more than up to the challenge. Each of the few panels Namor is in shines with his signature pompous smirks and cocky body language. If I have one complaint about this issue, it’s that it’s primarily set-up, but it’s still full of solid character bits and I’m excited for the return (and hopefully not the end of) Hickman’s homage to the heroes of DC next month. For my money, he’s writing a better Superman with Sun God than most of DC is doing in half a dozen books.
Written by Mike Benson
Art by Tan Eng Huat (pencils), Craig Yeung (inks), and Jesus Aburtov (colors)
Lettered by Joe Sabino
“Sometimes the universe does not take our wants into consideration.”
I’m a big fan of kung-fu movies. The video rental store a couple blocks from my childhood home had a pretty solid collection of Bruce Lee movies on VHS, so I grew up with them. It’s a really cool form. It’s also something that’s very difficult to replicate will in comics. The draw of martial arts is fluid, well-executed, lightning fast moves, and comics are by nature a series of static images. In other words, a good martial arts comic has to be at the top of its game in order to work.
Deadly Hands of Kung Fu is that comic. From Huat’s rhythmic panel layouts, which ebb and flow in tune with the action, to the clear, crisp renderings of the various fight scenes, everything here matches the aesthetics of kung-fu cinema. There’s actually very little dialogue, as most of the speech in the issue is Shang-Chi’s interior monologue, and there’s a fully silent section in the middle that sort of reminds me of the opening of Way of the Dragon. The interior monologue also helps to define the character, as Shang-Chi is just as introspective and thoughtful getting out of a taxi as he is breaking someone’s hand. He’s a man who’s totally in control of himself. The set-up for the miniseries is shown much more than told, and Benson and Huat avoid downtime as much as they can. Punch for punch, there’s probably more action here than in a couple other books I picked up this week combined.
Lots of superhero comics incorporate martial arts these days, but not all fight scenes are created equal. Deadly Hands of Kung Fu performs the impressive feat of showing complicated, engaging fights with the level of style and depth that I expect from some of the best examples of the genre.
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!