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!
We Stand on Guard #1
Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Steve Skroce
Colored by Matt Hollingsworth
Lettered by Fonografiks
In the year 2112, a drone strike takes out the White House; shortly thereafter, the United States bombs the hell out of Ottawa, Ontario, killing the parents of young Tommy and Amber. Their dying father makes Tommy promise to never leave his sister’s side, but twelve years later, Amber is stalking through the wilderness of the Great White North alone—though not for long. She’s soon to be recruited by the organized resistance (that is, if she can prove her Canadianness to them by recalling hockey trivia). Brian K. Vaughan steps back into the violent, apocalyptic genre that first made me love him, as a stubborn band of Canadian freedom fighters, the “Two-Four,” makes a last stand against robot dogs and giant mecha lions bearing the stars and stripes of Old Glory in an epic, dystopian showdown between old allies.
The creative dream team for this book has managed to build a brutal and believable world for this crazy plot that feels fully realized even in issue one, due in large part to the artwork. Steve Skroce, in what I believe is his “I’m back, baby” re-debut in comics, displays a great balance between illustrating human emotion and cold machinery. Perhaps due to his impressive resume in storyboarding, Skroce executes Vaughan’s typical turn-the-page, break-your-heart pacing with cruel ease as a quirky but lovable new character faces a gut-wrenchingly ironic demise. Matt Hollingsworth, seen recently utilizing a more chaotic, experimental color style in Scott Snyder’s Wytches, brings uniform, vibrant carnage to the page as dozens of missiles explode over a gleaming, futuristic city.
The rest of the success of this comic is definitely owed to Vaughan, who seems in top form. He takes the best approach to this batshit concept with his clever writing and dark humor, and he personally won me over with his story-within-a-story references that shine more light on the plot and characters. For example, Amber seems to be an incredibly capable young woman, but the fact that she’s been surviving alone in Canada’s treacherous northwest territories seems crazy to even a band of fighters that are almost half women. This is a reference to the plot of Gil Adamson’s Outlander, which you can see Tommy reading a battered, paper copy of in the first few pages of the comic. The fact that any person would be reading a paper book a hundred years from now should seem significant. There’s also a fun Superman metaphor that explains the relationship between the warring countries, but I’ll let you read that one for yourself.
This attention to detail with respect to both the readers and the history of these two countries is why I’m really excited about this new series. And I don’t know if this makes me a bad American, but it’s kind of fun to see the United States as the bad guy (or: how a lot of the world probably sees us), especially as this faceless, technologically advanced superpower (cough). I’m definitely rooting for team Two-Four.
– Sarah Register
(Click thumbnails to enlarge)
Written by James Robinson
Art by Greg Hinkle
Lettered by Greg Hinkle
Warning: This review discusses transmisogyny and transphobia and mentions slurs.
I enjoyed the first issue of Airboy a lot. It was dirty, vulgar, bacchanalian and, in a word, disgusting; it was James Robinson writing himself in a tumultuous time in his life being hired to do another Golden Age revival series and subsequently going on a drug-fueled binge through San Francisco with his collaborator, Greg Hinkle. It was ruthlessly self-critical, a likely exaggerated but still unquestionably autobiographical self-portrait of a comic book creator hitting a personal and career nadir. They go on an all-night whiskey/weed/blow bender, wake up, and are greeted by the Golden Age character they’re supposed to write about: Airboy.
So far, it was a raunchy, dark romp in creative depression filtered through the lens of the comic book industry, with unapologetically dirty art from Greg Hinkle, who colors only the character for Airboy and has to draw himself and Robinson double-teaming a woman they take home from a bar. For a while, #2 goes along the same tack, with Robinson and Hinkle introducing WWII flying ace Airboy to modern-day San Francisco and his reality as a comic book character, with all of the culture clash therein. It’s honest, it’s self-deprecating, it’s self-aware, it’s funny. Then they get high and go to a trans bar and everything kind of goes to hell.
Is it fair for me to blame James Robinson, the person, for the language of James Robinson, the character based on himself who he’s writing in a comic about his own life when he drops the slur “tranny” like six times in four pages? When trans people are used in the book as just another rung on the ladder of depravity Robinson and Hinkle are bringing Airboy down? Should I trust Robinson, the character, when he speaks of his trans paramour sweetly, despite then misgendering her in explanation to Airboy and dropping slurs left and right?
Robinson’s behavior in this issue isn’t presented as ignorant; it’s presented as enlightened, in opposition to Airboy’s even more transphobic ignorance … but does that really excuse it? Should I give Robinson, the character—and thus, Robinson, the writer—a pass on insensitive language just because Robinson, the character, is also portrayed as a cheating alcoholic cokehead in a bottomless pit of depression?
I don’t know, but I do know that the entire scene stops this issue dead in its tracks, reducing multiple trans people to props to demonstrate how society has changed and/or fallen from Airboy’s perfect Golden Age wartime fantasy, and murdered my fairly high enthusiasm for this book stone dead. It’s not just ugly, it’s lazy, hiding behind the “but he’s a terrible person!” defense like an episode of It’s Always Sunny except A) even that show treats trans people with significantly more agency and respect, and B) that show doesn’t star explicitly autobiographical versions of its creators, caught in the same creative death spirals.
It just bummed and grossed me the fuck out, and not for the reasons I think Robinson and Hinkle intended.
– David Uzumeri
(Click thumbnails to enlarge)
The Wicked + The Divine #12
Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Kate Brown, Jamie McKelvie
Colored by Matthew Wilson
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
$3.50 (print)/$2.99 (digital)
MAJOR SPOILERS to previous issues below.
Last month’s WicDiv was heavy. Like, “Red Wedding” heavy. When the dust had cleared, two gods were dead, another was on the run, and we’d glimpsed a side of Ananke we can’t ever unsee now.
But more than any of that, we lost our narrator. Fangirl Laura Wilson had been the voice of the book, before she had her head blown off with a finger snap. With her and Inanna gone, and the intrepid Cassandra now among their ranks, who’s left to keep a finger on the pulse of these literal gods among men?
Lucky for us, Cassandra left behind a protégé. Beth, the dismissed intern from a few issues ago, returns as the POV character in this book. To be honest, she serves basically as a Twin-Peaks‘d Cassandra, same character, different name, but same voice and mandate in the story as Cassandra: to get the real scoop on the Recurrence and to shoot as much inter-deity drama as possible in the meantime. This issue has a lot of fallout from #11’s revelations, but packs some punches of its own, including a big reveal from Baal. It’s an important issue on its own, but it’s also clearly the start of something else.
What I love most about this series is its fearlessness. Creators Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie have a lot of confidence in their work at this point, and they trust that if they do something like, say, spend a whole arc of the book with a different guest artist on each issue, their readers aren’t going to run for the hills. On the contrary, I think readers are going to fall even more in love with the book after this. Indeed, Kate Brown’s work on this issue is fabulous. She makes Beth’s POV something truly different, adding an almost Steven Universe softness to the world of WicDiv, and letting you know from page one that this is going to be something different. McKelvie still does a single page in the back, kind of a post-credits scene, the start of a backup series called Videogames. No idea what that means yet, but if the rest of this series is any clue, it’s loaded. Who knows with what, but I’m champing at the bit for #13 to find out.
– Adam Pelta-Pauls
(Click thumbnails to enlarge)