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.
Andrew Niemann is reading…
Green Arrow #1
Written by Benjamin Percy
Art by Otto Schmidt
Colored by Otto Schmidt
Lettered by Nate Piekos
“Try to objectify me and you’ll bleed.”
Green Arrow is one of the biggest surprises of DC Rebirth, absolutely due to writer Benjamin Percy and artist Otto Schmidt both sticking the arrow right on the target. Fresh off the inaugural Rebirth one-shot, the story continues with Queen and Lance tracking down mole-men human traffickers who call themselves The Underground Men in the seedy docks of Seattle. The opening scene is an incredibly paced delight, with Arrow and Canary trading barbs with each other while punching goons. The team is also joined by Arrow’s sister Emiko Queen in a major role. Emiko is an extremely strong character who gets some of the best lines, especially when fangirling over Canary’s rock band career from her cancelled solo title.
The art of the book is incredibly vibrant with colors bleeding together to create a beautiful painting. I particularly love the short panels of arrows whooshing through the air, giving the book a loose, frenetic quality. Queen’s characterization as Woke Bruce Wayne is used to a humorous extent, but we’re also made aware of just how much Queen cares about the world and his dedication to becoming Seattle’s major ally. The book ends on a great cliffhanger that sets up a fan-favorite villain and also acts as an incentive to keep on reading.
David Uzumeri is reading…
The Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade
Written by Frank Miller & Brian Azzarello
Art by John Romita Jr.
Inked and Colored by Peter Steigerwald
Lettered by Clem Robins
“My favorite number. Turn it on its side and it’s infinite. I learned that from a cartoon.”
The latest iteration of DC’s historical tradition of tape-delay stripmining finally catching up to the ‘80s, the Dark Knight III project—like Before Watchmen and Sandman: Overture before it—has been meticulously designed to give a sense of prestige. By dressing it up as a classic, and imitating the design style of its forebear, the hope is that it’s perceived as a classic, much like when Morrissey insisted his autobiography be published under the Penguin Classics imprint. This issue—a very oversized one-shot released roughly in the middle of the main project’s publishing schedule, yet set shortly before the events of the original Dark Knight Returns—does its best to try to replicate and stand aside the original, but it feels far more of a piece of the current Dark Knight III series.
Additionally, it’s a story we’ve seen before; spoiler alert: Jason Todd goes off the rails and seeks too much vengeance and ends up being murdered by the Joker. Other than a few foreshadowings of Bruce’s role in DKIII in his ruminations about what he should be as a mentor, barring some major developments in upcoming issues of that series, this story is practically fully replaceable with the original “Death in the Family” as a modular section of Batman lore. In short: It’s inessential from the macro level and seems to have no clear reason to exist, but how did the creators do with that remit?
This book is, primarily, a showcase for John Romita Jr., and while I’m such a huge fan of the style of his collaborations with Dean White at this point, I can recognize that that style would be out of place with the rest of the project. Rather than bring over Alex Sinclair from the main book, here we have Aspen Comics’ Peter Steigerwald, Top Cow graduate and frequent Michael Turner collaborator, doing a muted take on Lynn Varley’s colors from the original book—and I’ve got to admit I’m surprised at the effectiveness of the final result. Romita’s never looked better, and while he borrows the quick-cut TV-dial style of DKR a few times, he’s largely comfortable just drawing a hell of a John Romita Jr. comic. He’s digitally inked here for a painterly effect, but I can’t help but wonder how this book would have looked if Klaus Janson had been able to do proper inks.
The story, while pretty much exactly what the marketing made you think it was going to be, is well-told, although the dialogue feels far more infused with Azzarello’s authorial voice than Miller’s, and contains pieces of and references to later Batman continuity that feel oddly anachronous when placed within the future 1986 of of the world of the original DKR. By placing it so far alongside the story it’s trying to osmosize from, it somewhat feels like it osmosed more of its own identity to it.
Still: it’s a good Batman story, it’s absolutely beautiful, it’s 57 full pages of story for seven bucks (depressingly, a steal by standard comics prices). If you want to see Romita Jr. just let loose, or you’ve been following and enjoying DKIII as a whole, go for it, but if you’re looking for a new take on Joker killing a Robin, you probably won’t find what you’re looking for.
Joe Stando is reading…
Civil War II #2
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by David Marquez and Justin Ponsor (colors)
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
“Because it could have been any of us that died.”
I was very taken with Civil War II #1. It wasn’t a perfect issue by any means, but the angle that Bendis took on this kind of story had enough there for me to come back. So here I am for issue two, and it’s… more of the same, really. Same highs, and same lows, in general.
Let’s start with the highs! This story is still very character-driven, and big fights still take up a refreshingly low number of pages. Conflicts play out in the faces Marquez draws, instead of (for the most part) a lot of punches and fastball specials. The one bit of battle we do get, where Iron Man takes on the Inhumans, is used to elevate and punctuate the argument going on there, rather than for its own spectacle. At his best, Tony Stark sounds like a really good Robert Downey Jr. monologue, and we’re queued into Medusa and even Karnak and Crystal in a way we usually aren’t in events of this scale.
On the other hand, it’s still an event that loses a lot when you bring outside logic in. For all of their talk, these characters still like to yell and punch instead of listen to each other and come to a compromise. I like this series so far, but it’s the opposite of dense works like Morrison or Hickman, in that annotating it with outside information would actively hurt it. This issue also showed a little bit more of the big picture mandate behind the event, in less than subtle ways. We’re all supposed to care about Karnak and think he’s pretty cool, more because he’s got a book written by Warren Ellis than because of any skills or insight he displays here. Ulysses is still a black hole from which no charisma or personality can escape. The character is a MacGuffin, so it doesn’t hugely matter what he himself is like, but it would be more engaging if he (or she! Do we really need a white guy with shitty facial hair and a man bun as the Important New Character in this book??) took an actual stance, instead of being dragged (sometimes literally) around by the main characters. And the vision at the end, although well-done, both brings up a conflict everyone has dealt with before (the Hulk is out of control) and worryingly puts Bruce Banner back in the role of the Hulk, which might spell the end of Totally Awesome Hulk, my favorite run in a while.
But that’s all supposition! What I do know is that this issue was decently satisfying, and this event has already exceeded my expectations. Even when the seams show, it’s some gorgeous work from Marquez and Ponsor, and the best Bendis work in a while.
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!