Deadshirt Is Reading… is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt’s staff, contributing writers, and friends-of-the-site offer their thoughts on Big Two cape titles, creator-owned books, webcomics and more. For more of our thoughts on this week’s new comics, take a look at Wednesday’s Deadshirt Comics Shopping List.
Joe Stando is reading…
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina (colors)
Lettered by Chris Eliopoulos
“God Doom…created the light.”
Secret Wars #1 was pretty exclusively the end of the primary and Ultimate Marvel universes, and while it was a solid issue, we had to wait until this week to see the much-promoted Battleworld in action. Even though there have been plenty of teasers, it wasn’t clear yet exactly how the various zones of Battleworld worked as a whole, or how, logically, it followed the overall events of the climax of Hickman’s Avengers. But this issue throws us right into the deep end of Battleworld and…
It’s Game of Thrones, you guys.
It’s Game of Thrones and I fucking love it.
Secret Wars #2 makes it clear that somehow: Victor von Doom managed to cobble together this patchwork Earth after the demise of the multiverse, and he rules it with absolute certainty. Thor has been transformed into a collective police force acting out his will, and Doom is both God and state to everyone we see in the book. The various houses fight amongst themselves and attempt to curry favor with him, and his very name is an oath to be intoned or cursed. The feudal elements of it feel like a classier take on Twilight of the Superheroes or a more involved House of M. And also, of course, Game of Thrones.
The GoT parallels are unmistakable and intentional. There’s an enormous wall that keeps chaos away from civilization, which doubles as a final punishment for crimes such as treason. There’s trial by combat and plenty of skullduggery. The choice of houses in particular helps to play up the thematic homages, and in a way that gets me more excited for the series itself. I doubt that every tie-in will have the same feel (the dinosaurs vs. bi-planes is probably not gonna be a fantasy pastiche), but it’s a new wrinkle that has me looking at the whole event a little differently.
Kayleigh Hearn is Reading…
Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Paul Davidson
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Colored by Paul Mounts
“I wanted mutants to rule. Now…I just want them to survive.”
Magneto #18 features the Master of Magnetism’s last days before Secret Wars, wherein he tries one last gambit to prevent the Incursion Event from destroying the world. It’s a surprisingly human issue, as amid the apocalyptic chaos Magneto still finds time to have a heart-to-heart with his semi-estranged daughter Polaris. Yet surprisingly, the character who has the most importance to Magneto this issue is, of all mutants, Namor. Intertwined with the main story are flashbacks to Magneto’s previous encounters with the Sub-Mariner, leading up to a final meeting in which Namor entrusts him with the Illuminati’s data on the Incursion events. Can Magneto save the world?
…Well, no, he can’t. One of the consequences of major events like Secret Wars is that orbiting books can wind up deflated and devoid of dramatic tension, with their endings a foregone conclusion. We’re two issues into Secret Wars, we know that the Incursion Event happens, the world as Magneto knows it ends, and Battleworld takes its place. So don’t get too invested in the plot. What you should pay attention to, however, is Cullen Bunn’s well-crafted portrayal of Magneto. Over the decades Magneto has been a survivor, leader, father, murderer, hero, and monster, and now in his last moments, as the world faces Armageddon, he must decide who he really is. Fittingly, David Yardin’s cover depicts him as Atlas, carrying a crumbling world on his shoulders.
Paul Davidson skillfully renders the apocalypse, and his art is appropriately chaotic without ever feeling incomprehensible. His Magneto feels powerful and terrifying, but I can also understand why the panicked masses would look up to him as a savior. (There are some nice details packed into the crowd too—like who would stop to take a cell phone pic when universes are about to collide?) The end may be nigh, but Magneto #18 remains a fascinating examination of one of Marvel’s greatest characters.
Jason Urbanciz is reading…
Writer by Kurt Busiek
Art by Brett Eric Anderson, Alex Sinclair, et al
Lettering & Design by John G. Roshell & Jimmy Betancourt of Comicraft
Colors by Alex Sinclair
“So…you’re a gorilla…”
“Yeah, how does that work?”
Sticks is just your usual young adult. He’s left his suffocating family behind and moved to the city for the first time, trying to find a gig as a drummer in a rock band. Of course, this being Astro City, Sticks is a giant gorilla, recently escaped from the insular arctic society of Gorilla Mountain. Busiek and Anderson create a wonderful new addition to Astro City here. Sticks is just a normal guy who wants to live his dream, but unfortunately others see him differently and have other plans for him. Caught on television saving some people from a building on fire, both heroes and villains seek him out to either join their team or be enslaved, but he just wants to play. Busiek has explored residents of the city who are superpowered who do not want the life of a superhero before, but Sticks is a new take; even though he’s not a hero, his innate goodness (and Gorilla Army training) prevents him from sitting by while others are in danger.
Astro City is such an institution that it’s really easy to underestimate Anderson’s contribution. His art isn’t flashy, but that adds a lot of beauty to the book. It grounds the fantastic situations and characters in a sheen of reality that gives the drama even more weight. We have a gorilla as the main character and he always looks “real,” but he’s so invested with humanity that he seems like just a normal guy drinking a beer with his friends or playing drums.
Astro City is a treasure—the hardest thing about reviewing new issues of it is to find new ways to complement it. One of the best things about the series is that it continues to find new ways to breathe new life into older concepts (the talking gorilla being a long mainstay of comics for decades), and tell new stories even though they bear a passing similarity to previous ones in the series.
Patrick Stinson is reading…
Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Salvador Larocca
Colored by Edgar Delgado
Lettered by Joe Caramanga
“I have had more grateful masters. No, it didn’t stop me killing them and draining their blood. I’m not sure what that has to do with anything, Bee Tee. Politeness costs nothing.” -Triple-Zero, somehow being an even creepier protocol droid than 4-LOM or HK-47 ever managed
I’m not sure if this is the end of a story arc or the beginning of one, and that’s a good feeling. All too rare in comics is the idea of a story that’s really moving places, and not just bridging from one trade to another.
Darth Vader has spent the last few issues on the outs with the Emperor, and compensating by pulling together his own creepy-ass team of supporters that unmistakably parallel his own son’s support structure—two droids, a wisecracking young woman, even a Wookiee. This could easily become twee and unbearable, but it’s redeemed by clever plotting and strong characterization in general. As with previous issues, Vader’s voice teeters on the edge of plausible (to me) but mostly lands on the right side, and for such a challenging character, that’s all you can hope for.
Vader’s adversaries accomplish that rarest of feats for a Star Wars comic—originality. The Star Wars universe has been ever-reluctant to challenge Vader’s 1977 assertion that nothing compares with the power of the Force. We know that he’s correct, but poor Force-choked Admiral Motti can hardly be the only skeptic. If Vader is truly devoted to his “ancient religion,” then it’s only appropriate for him to confront, in his words, “blasphemy.” Naturally, both because he’s Vader and because we know from the movies he is ascendent, we know he’s going to triumph. But the last pages still throw a respectable curveball, revealing an all-too-familiar enemy pulling the strings.
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!