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.
Dylan Roth is reading…
Written by Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher
Art by Bengal
Colored by Serge Lapointe
Lettered by Steve Wands
“My sweeties just love the taste of betrayal.”
When a new creative team is brought in to relaunch a struggling series, it’s easy to start with a totally clean slate and ignore what’s come before. Out goes the old supporting cast, plot details, character development, whatever else is inconvenient for the new team. What makes Stewart, Fletcher, and Tarr’s Batgirl truly sensational is the way it’s simultaneously reinvented the character for the modern day, returned her to her silver age roots, and rescued characters from the previous failed relaunch. Along with the new supporting cast of hip techies, the current storyline has reintroduced Alysia Yeoh, Barbara’s roommate from Gail Simone’s run, and made fine use of Luke Fox, who had his own book (Batwing) for about five minutes. Both of them feel more interesting and alive than they did in the past, and they both fit perfectly within the new world of Batgirl.
Speaking of new team members, this month’s guest artist Bengal fills in nicely for Babs Tarr, whose lively and distinctive art style has been the soul of this series. Bengal’s work isn’t a line-for-line imitation of Tarr (nor should it be), but is close enough that it should make for a whiplash-free read in the all-important paperback pressing. Bengal’s Barbara is a little more babyfaced than Tarr’s (big eyes, tiny nose), but she’s no less imposing during fight scenes, and a little more adorable when flirting with Luke Fox.
Joe Stando is reading…
Written by Charles Soule
Art by John Timms (pencils) and Roberto Poggi (inks)
Colored by Frank D’Armata
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
“Fascinating. The same result as last time.”
Last week, I mentioned I was feeling some fatigue this deep into Secret Wars, and that for all the promise of an expansive world with an expiration date, most books fell into pretty traditional breakdowns of “good guys win, bad guys lose, etc.” It makes sense; creators are trying to tell a compact, satisfying story within the framework, and they want to be true to the characters and the themes. But I hoped to see something a little darker or a little more daring, since most of these books don’t have a bearing on future continuity.
Well, Attilan Rising this week is just what the doctor ordered. The ending (that I’ll be as vague about as possible) was tragic, intense, and finally just very trippy. It’s definitely not a “and the good guys win, yay” book, but it’s true to the spirit of pretty much every character involved. We reach the inevitable “Black Bolt screaming in anguish” moment, we get the cool Agent Khan design for Ms. Marvel again, and we even get the return of G-Man, the character who sold me on the book to begin with. It’s a gorgeous, exciting, thought-provoking climax, and it reinvigorated me going into the latter part of the event.
It’s also interesting because it sorta messes with the rest of the event, continuity-wise. Doom here is sorta of the dark mirror of his actions in Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders, and the ultimate fate of the characters doesn’t exactly jibe with other books we’ve seen. But at the end of the day, like I said, it’s not like any of this has a ton of bearing on the relaunch in a few months, and I’d much rather have conclusions and stories this strong that might be a little hard to reconcile than tame, “all the pieces back in the box” books that are easy to write up on a wiki.
Kayleigh Hearn is reading…
Written by Wendy and Richard Pini
Art by Wendy Pini
Colors by Sonny Strait
Lettered by Nate Piekos of Blambot
“There are as many answers as there are stars. Which one would you like to hear?”
I wish I knew more ElfQuest fans. Of the comics I read growing up, ElfQuest, along with X-Men and Archie, is one of the few still publishing new stories. Cutter, Leetah, and Skywise are as deeply ingrained in my psyche as Wolverine, Jean Grey, and Storm. But while it’s easy to find folks who grew up with the X-Men (and can whistle the 90s cartoon theme song on cue), I really wish I had more friends who grew up on the ElfQuest hardcover collections, who made it through the weird 90s spin-off years (I read them all, yes, even The Rebels), and who, when I gush on Twitter, “I can’t believe Moonshade did it!” respond with, “I know, right???”
ElfQuest: The Final Quest #11 is full of big moments. The first arc of the series was spent mostly tying up loose ends, so that longtime fans with questions like, “Whatever happened to Windkin and Kahvi?” could finally have closure. Eleven issues in, the Pinis are clearly enjoying being able to tell the new stories they’ve been hinting at for years. (And shout-out to Wendy Pini for being one of the most unsung character designers in comics, who’s able to create dozens of elves—new and old—that are instantly recognizable through diverse facial features, hairstyles, and clothing.) Most notably, Skywise and Timmain finally consummate an attraction that’s been building since I was in middle school (talk about a long courtship). But their joining feels a little ominous.
The main crisis facing the elves in The Final Quest is the choice to answer the Palace’s “Call” and leave the increasingly inhospitable, dangerous World of Two Moons for the freedom of the stars. For most of the immortal elves like Skywise, the choice is obvious, but for the mortal Cutter and the forest-dwelling Wolfriders, choosing the Palace means sacrificing not only their way of life, but their very blood itself. With the Palace’s Call already creating insurmountable rifts between friends and lifemates, Skywise is convinced that all elves should be made immortal and leave their world behind. It’s heady, existential stuff, which would be difficult to pull off without the complex, intricate relationships between the characters that have developed over decades of comics. Sometimes when you read a comic—or any series, really—for years, you become convinced that you know the characters completely, and there are no surprises left. I have no idea what choice Cutter will make—the world or the stars? And it’s that kind of suspense that has kept me reading ElfQuest for twenty years.