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 John Barber
Art by Livio Ramondelli and Andrew Griffith
Colored by Livio Ramondelli and Josh Perez
Lettered by Tom B. Long
The past three issues of both Transformers and Transformers: Windblade have both been given over to the “Combiner Wars” storyline. Just as superhero comics have their Crisis Crossovers, so do Transformers books have their big toy-promoting stories. This is not universally considered bad, as Transformers comics came into existence to promote a line of toys in the first place—it’s part of the point. But it’s still a good feeling when the books get back on track, with author Barber returning to his core team of characters that he’s been developing with a slow burn.
The issue is structured by intercutting two conversations—one between Arcee and Galvatron on Earth, another between Optimus and Prowl on Cybertron. Arcee/Galvatron is more interesting, if quieter. These two ancient Transformers only recently declared allegiance as Autobot and Decepticon respectively, and they feel a closer kinship to each other than they do with the individuals in their own factions. They boast of jockeying for position and gaining information from each other, yet their meeting seems at least as much about enjoying each other’s company as anything else. Galvatron reveals a little more about his motivations for joining the Decepticons, betraying an as-yet-unseen respect for Decepticon visionary Soundwave. Although Soundwave couldn’t be more different from Galvatron’s former master Nova Prime, Galvatron is ultimately just a warrior in search of a cause. He’ll come to believe in anything, as long as it lets him maim his way across the universe. Arcee is a foil in that her character arc has been to add a genuine conscience to her violence.
Optimus and Prowl’s confrontation is long overdue. Prowl was a major villain of “Combiner Wars,” and Optimus has been willfully blind to his transgressions for, essentially, the entire history of this universe. Unfortunately, we are robbed of any great intellectual discussion of heart vs. head, chaos vs. order, calculation vs. intuition. Instead, the conversation—later, fight—plays out on a purely emotional, who-betrayed-who level. This makes perfect sense, because Optimus and Prowl have combined and know everything about each other. But dramatically it feels like we skipped past the climax of an epic conflict, going straight from rising action into denouement. The action itself is compelling though, with Prowl using his genius and the environment to give a brutal fight to the much bigger, stronger Optimus.
While the issue is tightly focused on the two conversations, the tiniest things in the background are uniquely promising and intriguing. Devastator is allowed to combine under guard for humanitarian reasons—the combiners have their own identities. The Autobots’ companion, DOC, is explicitly dismissed as a soulless drone—then makes sad eyes about it. We learn that Cybertronians hate bugs and humidity. We even get a tease that the next issue will focus on Cosmos, the tubby little flying saucer, of all characters. IDW’s Transformers universe just keeps getting bigger and more interesting, and it never looks back.
– Patrick Stinson
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Southern Bastards #9
Written by Jason Aaron
Art and color by Jason Latour
Lettered by Jared K. Fletcher
$2.99 (digital)/$3.50 (print)
Jasons Aaron and Latour’s grit ‘n spit Southern noir kicks off its third arc, and it’s hitting new strides of Deep South meanness. In the aftermath of Coach Big’s suicide last issue, the book digs into the origin of “Sheriff,” a character who’s spent the series thus far in the background.
This is a terrific character study that doesn’t pull any punches, exploring how a promising running back named Hardy became the broken face of law and order in Craw County. I also really enjoyed how, while all this is going on, Aaron’s script pushes forward the book’s underlying conflict (a game against a rival county which could potentially loosen Coach Boss’s grip over the town) without either feeling like they’re suffering, story-wise. Latour’s use of a red palette throughout the issue adds oomph to the deliberately mundane grays and browns we see as Sheriff goes about his duties. Southern Bastards is a consistently fantastic, surprising read, and “The Man Who Never Got Away” exemplifies everything that makes the series great.
– Max Robinson
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Ghostbusters Get Real #1
Written by Erik Burnham
Art by Dan Schoening
Colored by Luis Antonio Delgado
Lettered by Neil Uyetake
I’m really impressed with how bold IDW’s Ghostbusters comic series has been. While it’s very true to the tone of the films, the company hasn’t shied away from making things more comic book-y at the same time, throwing the team into crossovers and Crisis-type events. They’re at it again this month with Ghostbusters Get Real, a Justice League of Two Earths-style crossover between the comic book versions of the characters and the versions from the animated series.
The premise of the issue, that a god in the animated universe’s attempt to trap the Ghostbusters goes awry and sends them to the comic (and essentially the “prime”) universe is fine. But a story like this lives and dies on the execution, and thankfully it’s pretty perfect. Burnham has a good handle on all the characters and does a good job of playing up the subtle differences between the two sets of Ghostbusters. The animated characters, Ray especially, have a higher level of zaniness and fun to them, as compared to the more wry wit of the comics team. The conflict with Slimer, too, is pretty clever, and I’ll be interested to see what other differences create big problems for the teams.
But the real MVPs here are Schoening and Delgado. The first half or so of the comic, set in the animated universe, is rendered faithfully enough that you could fool someone into thinking it’s a bunch of screencaps. The pacing and beats are perfect, and it feels very much like something you’d see on Saturday morning. After the gang gets sucked into the comics universe, Delgado’s palette shifts from the bright, flat colors of animation to more muted yet lush comics tones, but in a way subtle enough that it isn’t jarring. The faithful animation models still look humorously and intentionally out of place next to the more modern styled characters, but there’s enough of a bridge in terms of shading that your eye still buys it. It’s a delightful look, and exactly what the story needs to really sell you.
If I had one complaint, it’s that this issue is mostly table-setting for the next three in the miniseries, but hey, when the table-setting looks and reads this good, it’s hard to be mad. I’m pretty excited with how things are shaping up, and I only hope they get even more bold.
– Joe Stando
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Astronauts in Trouble #1
Written by Larry Young
Art by Charlie Adlard
Lettered by Kyler Tanowitz
Astronauts in Trouble is a series of comics and graphic novels by Larry Young, often revolving around space travel that helped launch publisher AiT/Planet Lar when it first published back in 1999-2000. A decade later, it has a new publisher—Image Comics—and they’re rereleasing the story in chronological order as one long series.
One read of this comic proves three things: 1) It’s not that accessible to new readers, 2) maybe it should have been released in publishing order instead of chronological order, and 3) it hasn’t aged well.
The story so far follows a news team from 1959 who discovers a top secret program to reach the moon while investigating the death of a janitor. We’re introduced to the Channel 7 team and several military figures who have every intention of launching the rocket without interruption.
AiT has all the writing issues common to indie releases circa 2000. It’s text heavy, but the text consists mostly of drawn-out quips that don’t amount to much and aren’t particularly funny. The text for one character is often confined to a single word balloon as opposed to a series of them, which makes it pretty hard on the eyes at times. The text is also littered with what is a clear attempt to sound like news jargon but sounds more like the writer is trying too hard instead of doing actual legwork.
Despite the review blurb on the front claiming that it’s “just close enough to reality to be scary,” the leaps of logic the story throws at us often feel jarring and unrealistic, even by comic standards. Maybe the jarring character introductions would make more sense if the first published story arc were published and this one were used as a flashback later—I get the desire to publish it chronologically, but here it doesn’t work. If you’re willing to stick around to see how this plays out, have at it. Otherwise, skip it.
– David Lebovitz
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