I think things. Then I write about them. It's the narcissism, you see.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Bags & Boards: 9/9

Every Wednesday I pop into Whatever Store on Castro Street in San Francisco to pick up my haul of new comics. I read them. I think thoughts. Those thoughts may contain spoilers.

Civil War #4
Book of the Week
“I was in the ice before Truman dropped the bombs. I always thought that if I’d still been around, maybe I could have found another way. I wondered why he didn’t find some other answer. Judged him for it, even. Now I realize just how unfair that was.”
The forces of the Iron and the Blue collide in battle. And that is all I can say in summary because I refuse to reveal the surprise—one that I did not see coming but that made complete and total sense if you think back on the backstory the first issue provided on Civil War’s aftermath and realize what major Marvel event it left out. Yet again Soule is firing on all cylinders with his writing. Last issue it was Peter deep in reflection; this time out it’s Steve Rodgers. How involved Soule was in the conceptual design of this series I don’t know, but he understands the world and the characters inhabiting it. There aren’t any cute beats—aren’t any “gotcha” moments. Just a tense, inexorable slide toward a dark end. I’ve said little about Yu’s art to this point, but I’d be remiss to not comment this time. So many characters appear in these pages, and Yu does an expert job of delineating all of them while adding subtle wear and tear denoting not only their age but the struggle they’ve lived through.

Diesel #1
Whatever Store Recommendation
“…Tomorrow I’ll be the boss of like, all of them!”
From Boom! Studios’ all ages line, Diesel is the story of a girl on the cusp of turning eighteen and inheriting a flying ship that is a kind of mobile garage (the first page reminded me a bit of Bioshock Infinite and the flying city of Columbia). The book is a fun romp filled with plenty of gags and fast, snappy dialogue. Hesse gives us backstory and introduces us to characters as a consequence of Dee Diesel, our titular almost-eighteen-year-old, roving about the airship. Hesse maintains a great sense of comedic pace. What stands out, though, is the art. The book is vibrant and the characters lively. Hesse’s characters, drawn in a style that reminds me of a lot of old comic strips, communicate so much with their faces and gestures that even without dialogue you could understand their relationship to Diesel in every panel. If you’re looking for a fun, casual read that will brighten your day with a smile, look no further.

Amazing Spider-Man Renew Yours Vows #5
“This madman’s holding my child by the neck. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her. I have to win this—while being the person she needs me to be.”
I hated the retcon of the Spider marriage. I hated the retcon of Aunt May’s death—a triumph of writing even if it did come in the middle of the clone saga. I always felt the strength in Spider-Man was Peter Parker’s struggles with real life. Obviously I was predisposed to enjoy this mini-series. And after a stellar beginning I expected one hell of a finale. The issue’s first half is a standard beat-up-the-villain climax. Young Annie May Parker even gets in on the action. It’s near the end when Peter, his daughter threatened by Regent, makes a choice that reminds you of the internal struggles he’s always balanced. Slott doesn’t forget Peter’s actions from the first issue, but he does bring him out from under that darkness and redeems the character’s decisions to hide from the larger responsibility he’d always committed himself to. Speaking of Slott’s writing, he folds in a great callback to the seminal moment where Peter escapes a mountain of debris he couldn’t possible lift because Ant May’s life is on the line, and he reminds you why Mary Jane was such a fun character in the first place. Did the book blow my mind? Maybe not. But it was Spider-Man through and through.

Red Hood & Arsenal #4
“He once told me…‘Any day you wake up sober—and go to be sober? It’s a good day.’”
Jason and Roy have tracked Underbelly to Gotham because if the heart of organized evil would spawn from anywhere, it would definitely be Gotham. Once there, a fight with the new Batman ensues. ‘Cause why not. The humor I’ve enjoyed takes a backseat to some introspection in this issue as Jason reflects on his past—whether he could have been the same man he is without Bruce Wayne’s help—and Roy visits an AA meeting. Roy opening up to Killer Croc, his onetime AA sponsor, is an unusual set piece to be sure. Lobdell plays it straight, though, and we’re treated to a great look at the inner workings of a character that spends most of each issue wisecracking. These few pages add a lot of depth to Roy Harper, balancing his dark humor and proving he won’t turn into a less insane Deadpool-like sidekick—an over-the-top funny guy to Jason Todd’s straight man routine. Very smart are the thoughts Jason has about Roy’s past, his addiction, and his choice to hide his going to a meeting. The writing was so dead on that the real life angst was more interesting than the obligatory Batman fight. A superb issue.

The Rest
Whatever Store had two recommendations this week, so I also took home Faster Than Light #1 on their suggestion. The premise at the heart of this new science fiction series is that decades ago Earth received an alien transmission. Once decoded, humans learned how to construct a faster than light engine and that a dangerous alien is on its way to Earth. The concept intrigued me, but I have to say that this first issue was slow and talky. And for all the dialogue—so much that some of it felt redundant—I can’t say that I walked away feeling like I’d gotten to know the characters very well. On a light week this was an okay try-out, but I don’t know if I’m interested enough to give the series a second look if the next issue falls on a heavier week.

Star Wars Shattered Empire #1 picks up during the closing moments of Return of the Jedi and takes us through an attack on an Imperial base the morning after. The book opens with Sharra, our main character, displaying her piloting prowess during Jedi’s climactic battle and follows her throughout the issue. She’s married to a Rebel commando and the two of them realize that they may now get to have a real life. Not centering on the movie characters is smart; the time Rucka invests building Sharra’s character makes you want to come back not just for the Star Wars mythos but for her.

Credits
Amazing Spider-Man Renew Your Vows #5
Dan Slott: writer
Adam Kubert & Scott Hanna: art
Justin Ponsor: colorist
VC’s Joe Caramagna: letterer
Adam Kubert and Jim Campbell: cover artists
Marvel Comics

Civil War #4
Charles Soule: writer
Leinil Francis Yu: penciler
Gerry Alanguilan: inker
Sunny Gho: colorist
Joe Sabino: letterer
Leinil Francis Yu & Sunny Gho: cover
Marvel Comics

Diesel #1
Tyson Hesse: writer & illustrator
Mariel Cartwright: color assistance
Jim Campbell: letters
Tyson Hesse: cover
Boom! Studios

Faster Than Light #1
Brian Haberlin: story & illustrations
Geirrod VanDyke: colors
Francis Takenaga: lettering
Image Comics

Red Hood & Arsenal #4
Scott Lobdell: writer
Denis Medri: artist
Blond: colors
Dave Sharpe: letters
Howard Porter and Hifi: cover
DC Comics

Star Wars Shattered Empire #1
Greg Rucka: writer
Marco Checchetto: artist
Andres Mossa: colors
Phil Noto: cover
VC’s Joe Caramagna: letterer

Marvel Comics




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