It’s Wednesday, and that means new comics. Let Deadshirt steer your wallet in the right direction with reviews (and preview pages) of titles out today from Image, Dark Horse, IDW, BOOM! Studios, Archie, MonkeyBrain, Oni, Fantagraphics, Top Shelf, Action Lab, and more!
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Jock
Colored by Matt Hollingsworth
Lettered by Clem Robbins
The first arc of Scott Snyder’s terrifyingly experimental series comes to an open-ended (thank god) conclusion, and I’m amped at the idea of this creative team continuing to expand on the wytch mythology. Thus far, it’s been Charlie, Sailor’s father, and not Sailor herself, who seems to be the protagonist, which is well and good, but I’m really rooting for the next arc to feature a powerful young girl with some agency. The focus on Charlie is not necessarily a bad angle, as he is a fine character, but his overwhelming guilt is so heavily thematic that it feels almost meta, especially with him being written as a comic book creator. Snyder said in issue 1 that the concept for the wytches came from his own childhood adventures, but the guilt and the sinister truths that are revealed seem to come from, I’m tempted to assume, his own fears as a parent.
Matt Hollingsworth’s splattering color technique, while slightly gimmicky over time, becomes downright anxiety-inducing in this issue (as intended). As Charlie and Sailor flee the creepy crawly wytches in tight tunnels, the chaotic colors splash across everything, often blocking the reader’s view so that you don’t even know how close the monsters are (hint: very). Jock’s ability to have his character emote absolute dread and terror contribute to this anxiety, but the creature design is frightening enough on its own to sell the horror aspect.
I’m always tempted to compare this series to Kirkman’s Outcast, as it is an original horror comic pushed out by Image around the same time with writers that are well-known for other long-running series, but Wytches seems by far the creepiest and most compelling of the two. I say this because both comics have been optioned to become a TV show and feature film respectively, but it’s Wytches that actually gave me the desire to see an on-screen adaptation before I knew that was a possibility. Someone’s going to have to hold my hand the first time I hear the telltale “chit chit chit” in a dark movie theater, though.
– Sarah Register
Written by John Barber
Art by Livio Ramondelli
Colored by Livio Ramondelli
Lettered by Tom B. Long
There’s more than one way to be a good writer. While Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye runs off with the critical praise due to its quirky, character-centered approach, John Barber is shouldering the comic franchise’s toy-promotion responsibility on his own Transformers. “Combiner Wars” is a five-issue crossover between Transformers and Mairghread Scott’s Transformers: Windblade that shares its name with a rather excellent line of toys available right now.
Given this need to pay dues to the real moneymakers, Barber’s task is comparable to Joss Whedon’s in the recent Avengers 2: The Internet is Mad Now. He has a set list of characters to develop a plot around, one that must tie into the Byzantine past of the IDW Transformers universe and that must be friendly to an infinity of future issues. The plot has to be twisty and turny enough to satisfy we “adults” who buy this comic, while delivering the giant robot punch explosions to satisfy the children that we actually are. And he’s got to do all this knowing in advance that there will only be room for the most perfunctory character arcs, meaning that he’s in for only a fraction of the critical praise that MTMTE receives when it puts out a “five sarcastic robots in a bar” issue. There’s more than one way to be a good writer, and Barber proves it with this excellent issue.
The Enigma of Combination, which can trigger just about any five or six Cybertronians to combine into a single giant robot, is being used by the despot Starscream to manipulate Cybertron’s impoverished sister planet Caminus into joining his empire. But Starscream has a serious problem—“his” combiners are actually more loyal to his rival Optimus Prime, so he can’t rely on them if he really wants to get ruthless. Starscream hatches a plan to get the absolute loyalty of the combiner Devastator, which, to pay the ultimate compliment, I did not see coming and yet makes perfect sense. The issue is given a strong structure by having Prime’s Machivellian subordinate Prowl work to convince him and the reader of the true threat at the same time. An unexpected benefit of the toyline synergy is that several characters that were set up for big things and then neglected by IDW—I’m thinking of the Stunticons, Mirage, and Sunstreaker—have been spurred into the foreground again. We also see the payoff to foreshadowing about Starscream’s flunkies Rattrap and Scoop that was set up two years ago!
Livio Ramondelli turns in solid art for an issue that does not play to his strengths—he excels at atmospheric action set-pieces, but this issue plays out mostly in guarded conversations and claustrophobic fistfights. There’s an inspired bit of choreography in one brawl, in which one combiner kicks AND shoots another in the face…with the same limb. And the final panel reveal makes the appropriate impact.
Pleasing too many masters is a thankless task, and I have a lot of respect for creators who take on that burden and make it look easy. “Combiner Wars,” like its toy tie-in predecessor, “Dark Cybertron,” is a little rough around the edges at times, but it’s a fun story and this is its best issue to date.
– Patrick Stinson
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Valhalla Mad #1
Written by Joe Casey
Art and Colors by Paul Maybury
Lettered by Rus Wooten
Graphic Design by Sonia Harris
Flats by Ricky Valenzuela
Valhalla Mad continues Joe Casey’s mining of Jack Kirby concepts and taking them to different, and possibly weirder places than the King himself. In Valhalla Mad, Glorious Knox (who bears more than a passing resemblance to Kirby’s Thor) and his two compatriots, Greghorn The Battlebjörn and Jhago The Irritator, have descended upon Earth to celebrate the legendary Gluttonalia. They’re here to get fucked up, and anyone who remembers the last time they were around isn’t very happy to see them. They certainly seem to mean well, but frowns and whispers of property damage greet them wherever they go. Nobody wants super-powered frat boys trashing their ‘hood.
Paul Maybury’s bright, blocky art is just lovely to behold here. While the story itself isn’t very heavy, his lush work that somehow manages to be halfway between Jack Kirby and Evan Dorkin keeps the eye interested. This is especially true of the couple of panels in which Knox relates the story of his homeworld, Viken. They’re colored like a seventies dayglo-blacklight poster and are just eye-popping. I could’ve taken a whole comic of that look, but it might have burned out my retinas.
Valhalla Mad is a fun look at a bunch of superheroes out on the town, and while it’s a bit short on story so far, it’s definitely an enjoyable read. Casey and company once again takes familiar character archetypes and put a spin on them to be something new.
– Jason Urbanciz
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Writing, Storytelling and Art by Mark Waid and Peter Krause
Colored by Nolan Woodard
Lettered by Troy Peteri
How to get me to read a comic: tell me Mark Waid wrote it. I’ll be on my way to the comic store before you finish pronouncing the “d” in Waid.
Insufferable is a story about a father and a son, dressed up (literally and figuratively) in superhero garb. Nocturnus is an aging but experienced and clever vigilante. Fellow hero Galahad—a fame-obsessed, flashy, plugged-in, modern but seemingly effective crimefighter—is a thorn in Nocturnus’s side, despite being his son. He was Nocturnus’s crimefighting partner for a long time before striking out on his own, and disparages his father at every turn. While Galahad spends most of the issue coming across as an ungrateful bratty kid, we learn more and more about his complex relationship with his father as the story unfolds.
It’s certainly a novel take on cape comics; I can’t say I’ve ever read about a superhero who manages his own webpage and posts first-person video feeds of his escapades. Waid and Krause’s writing is as fantastic as you’d expect. They know how to have fun while telling a story with serious ramifications. Krause’s action is always clear, and the landscapes are detailed without overtaking the comic itself. I’ve got to single out Nolan Woodard’s coloring as well—he uses different color palettes to illustrate the difference between Nocturnus and Galahad’s lives in a stark but never muddled or jarring way.
I’m not as in the webcomics loop as many of my Deadshirt compatriots, so I completely missed the fact that this was a webcomic on Thrillbent. After going on Thrillbent and comparing the experience, I think there’s a lot print comics can learn from webcomics. There are no splash pages, there’s a healthy balance of dialogue and action, and a ton of story is packed into a comparatively small space without sacrificing art or plot. There are certain parts of the comic that were clearly designed for panel-by-panel web viewing—best evidenced by the first two panels of the whole comic—but it works just fine in print form.
– David Lebovitz
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