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.
Adam Pelta-Pauls is reading…
Wacky Raceland #1
Written by Ken Pontac
Art by Leonardo Manco
Colored by Mariana Sanzone
Lettered by Sal Cipriano
“Stay focused, Muttley! Any asshat gets in our way and we roll over them. We’re not getting to utopia if we keep losing to these fools.”
When Mad Max: Fury Road was released last summer, it made post-apocalypse action thrillers cool again. It subverted the genre by blowing up what’s usually a single set-piece, the car chase, into a feature-length sequence that elevated the film to Oscar levels. It’s the pinnacle of action flicks. Let me be clear: Wacky Raceland is by far the worst thing to ride those post-apocalyptic coattails. It lands nearer to Waterworld.
Being a book about cars (sentient cars, mind you), this book is most similar to a Hot Wheels-style all-ages toy tie-in book. In fact, this book might actually be worse than a Hot Wheels all-ages title because it can’t even claim to be an all-ages title! The characters throw around the words “asshat” and “bastard” enough to warrant a T+ rating from DC, but what teen these days knows the Wacky Racers? Who is this book even for? Fans of the original show probably aren’t all that interested in reading about a world where Dick Dastardly is reimagined as a sexy but brutal twentysomething with red and purple dreadlocks.
About those designs, actually. Artist Leonardo Manco is credited with them, but I don’t know if that pertains to just the car or the drivers as well. The cars’ designs are…fine—pretty toyetic. It’s neat to see how he’s reinterpreted the original Hanna-Barbera cars. I wanted to see more of the Convert-A-Car, which had bits of boat and helicopter stacked up on it.
The characters look terrible, though. Every one has been brought into the post-apocalypse with a seriousness this title didn’t need, and many were given reduced versions of their original concepts: the Red Baron, for example, is just a weird Nazi; The Slag Brothers are wasteland primitives; Lazy Luke is a cowboy with a whiskey bottle; and Blubber Bear is a crazy man in a bearskin; Penelope Pitstop is A Strong Female Lead (she’s given an issue’s worth of backstory in about half a page); Peter Perfect, Her Male Foil. The list goes on, but who cares? There are five human skulls littering the floor on the cover of Wacky Races whose stories I am more interested in than any character standing over them. This book is so bland, no one noticed that, of the three human characters prominently featured on the cover, two are standing next to each other in exactly the same pose.
The plot is similarly baffling. It’s told in a Tarantino-esque manner that guarantees a maximum of action and a minimum of explaining what the fuck is going on. There are plot holes big enough to drive any one of the book’s talking cars* through: What was the apocalypse? Why were these racers saved? If they were supernaturally selected to survive, who are these random schmoes the main characters just murdered in a bar fight?
My point is this: Do you miss the Wacky Races TV series? Go find old episodes on the Internet. Those vintage ’60s designs are still really charming, and the cartoon is Rocky & Bullwinkle levels of fun. Don’t read this comic. I did, and I certainly wish I hadn’t.
*(Oh, yes. They talk. This comic opens with a conversation between several cars that’s as astonishing as it is awful.)
Joe Stando is reading…
New Avengers #12
Written by Al Ewing
Art by Paco Medina (pencils), Juan Velasco (inks) and Jesus Aburtov (colors)
Lettered by Joe Caramagna
“And all’s fair when a war’s on! Am I right? Or am I right?”
I’ll admit that this issue of New Avengers gave me a bit of déjà vu. It was just a couple months ago that the book was pulled very directly into Avengers Standoff, and some of the ongoing plotlines took a backseat to event tie-in stories and the role they played. But Al Ewing continues to push forward through obligatory piece-moving into genuine stories, and it sets New Avengers apart from other ongoings.
The Standoff tie-ins are actually a good contrast to #12. That event opened with big, bombastic reveals, so NA matched in tone, with American Kaiju and a Pacific Rim-inspired fight scene. Civil War II, at least so far, is a different animal, one more focused on the small interpersonal moments than the large ones. So while under other circumstances this might feel like a “filler” issue, with a lot of exposition and long conversations, it actually thematically matches CWII #1 well. It’s also clever that the creative team gives us an even tighter, more character-based focus on the Celestial fight in that issue. Seeing Wiccan’s insecurity and doubt in that fight, and his irritation at Sunspot on the phone afterwards, keeps this story about personal conflicts, instead of aliens or robots or what-have-you. It’s a great complement to the main series and a decent arc in itself.
New Avengers has been building to its own “civil war” for the past few months, with its S.H.I.E.L.D. and A.I.M. members at odds. Like with Standoff, Ewing uses the line-wide crossover event as a pressure cooker, accelerating plotlines and character beats without derailing his own story. It’s a solid technique that pays off.
Patrick Stinson is reading….
Big Trouble in Little China #25
Written by Fred Van Lente
Art by (deep breath) Victor Santos, Dan McDaid, Joe Eisma, and Brian Churilla; colors by Gonzalo Duarte
Lettered by Ed Dukeshire
“Dude! Don’t give me magic cancer!”
When I gave my critique of Big Trouble in Little China #23, I didn’t realize the series was wrapping up. This giant issue #25 brings back several of the series’ previous artists with a clever “Back to the Future 2” style plot that brings the whole comic full circle and cements it as a companion piece to the film.
As the victory lap for a humor comic, things stay light and breezy throughout. Jack and his companion Winona Chi (the 2016-era daughter of Wang Chi and Miao Yin from the film) are brought through time by Egg Shen to the moment of the Big Trouble in Little China film. Taking advantage of Egg Shen’s long absences from the screen, he dispatches them to help with the critical errand of putting together the “magic potion” from the film. Meanwhile, Winona loses her cell phone again, serving as an excuse to put the two of them back in action for more of the movie’s events. In all honesty, a bit too much of this issue is devoted to redrawing the events of the film. But, given that the movie is why all of the readers and artists are here, and given that the comic sometimes has felt a little disconnected from the world of the film, it is a nice way to wrap things up.
Even more importantly, the very end of the comic brings back several elements and characters from the comic’s first year, which was a little better than the second despite a valiant reinvention by van Lente. Big Trouble in Little China #25 is therefore an effective emotional conclusion to the comic’s first year, second year, and the film itself. A bit too late, the comic discovers subtlety in its approach to humor, as broad gags are eschewed in order to fit the movie’s rhythm. There are, however, a couple of brilliant only-in-comics style gags that lampshade the diverse team of returning artists. Some opportunities to have fun with the movie are missed…to me it’s absolutely inexplicable that Future!Jack and Winona weren’t involved with Egg Shen’s notorious “Wasn’t easy!” rescue of the heroes. Big Trouble in Little China #25 therefore is like the series as a whole—missed opportunities abound, but it’s better at expanding on this unique cult film than it had any right to be.
Kayleigh Hearn is reading…
The Wicked + The Divine #20
Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Jamie McKelvie
Colored by Matt Wilson
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
“We do not play god.”
Almost exactly a year ago, The Wicked + The Divine #11 ended with a brutal cliffhanger and the seeming death of the protagonist, Laura. Though subsequent issues revealed that Laura—newly transformed into the mysterious 13th god, Persephone—had survived Ananke’s attack, the WicDiv faithful have had to wait until issue #20 to find out how she escaped certain death. Does the answer live up to the mystery? It certainly fits, because Gillen and McKelvie are nothing if not meticulous comics craftsmen, but it does feel slightly like cheating. The black-and-white interstitial from the movie Clue comes to mind: “But here’s what really happened.”
For a highly anticipated issue, WicDiv #20 is immensely rewarding, and not only because it answers one of the series’ biggest questions. Though this arc is titled “Rising Action,” this is an issue full of intense, rising emotions. There’s Persephone’s despair in the underworld (devastatingly rendered by McKelvie and Wilson), and her long-awaited reunion with Cassandra/Urdr. There’s the joy in seeing a fan-favorite character again, only for them to be taken away—again. (Hey, the gods are cruel.) And, lest this review sound too maudlin, there’s one great, laugh-out-loud moment at the expense of one of the comic’s most ridiculous characters. Told mostly in flashback, the story never feels like an infodump, or something to get out of the way before buildings and bodies start exploding again. It’s a powerfully crafted comic, and it’s great to find out how Persephone came back from the underworld, right before she unleashes hell.
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!