Don Heck is something of an odd man out when it comes to comics history. He was one of the architects of the Marvel Universe, co-creating Iron Man, Hawkeye, and other famous characters; he was held in high esteem by his peers – yet he's rarely mentioned in the same breath as Romita, Ditko, Kirby, Buscema, Ayers, and other Silver Age greats. He was, for many years, the Avengers artist, but often goes unnoticed when fans make their lists of the definitive super-team pencillers. He defined the down-to-earth qualities of Marvel while his contemporaries were pushing toward the cosmos, rooting his characters in reality as others pushed the boundaries of possibility. And while that precise mix of magnificent and mundane was what truly defined Marvel, his contributions were nevertheless destined to be overshadowed by the flashier offerings that the rest of the bullpen provided.
The latter day appreciation of Heck's work continues with TwoMorrows' publication of Don Heck: A Work Of Art, is a handsome full-color hardcover recounting the artist's life story. The layout is clean and clear, the printing is up to TwoMorrows' usual high standards, and the selection of art is nothing short of superb – from published pages and panels, to roughs and sketches, to pieces shot directly from Heck's original art, it's all here, and all reproduced beautifully.
Teased for years and finally launched in 2014, The Multiversity is a universe-jumping series of DC Comics one-shots tracking the cosmic monitor Nix Uotan and an assemblage of star-crossed heroes as they attempt to save 52 universes and beyond from a trippy cosmic existential threat that, like much of Morrison’s best work, represents something far more mundane and relatable. Tying back into the very first Multiverse story in DC’s history, the heroes of these universes become aware of this threat by reading about it in comic books… comic books that, it turns out, take place in neighboring universes. Indeed, writer Grant Morrison continues his streak of highly metatextual DC cosmic epics with this eight-issue mega-series (plus one Tolkienesque guidebook).
Described by Morrison as “the ultimate statement of what DC is”, The Multiversity naturally offers the reader much beyond the surface level adventure, and that means annotations. Rather than merely filling out checklists of references, my hope with this feature is to slowly unearth and extrapolate a narrative model for Morrison and his collaborators’ work on The Multiversity; an interconnecting web of themes and cause and effect that works both on literal and symbolic levels.
We’ll be focusing here on the third issue of the maxiseries, The Just, written by Morrison with artwork by Ben Oliver and color assistance from Dan Brown (the excellent colorist, not the literary hack).
When DC Comics announced the new lineup of Batman Family titles a few months back, Arkham Manor was the only one that actually gave me a "wait what" moment. Dick Grayson as a super-spy traveling across the world dealing with stuff like a dude who had his eyes replaced with guns? Sure, makes perfect sense. Hipster Batgirl fighting crime with the power of Snapchat? All for it. Teens running around a creepy boarding school in the one place in the DC Universe where no one in their right mind would send unsupervised children? It's the book I've been waiting for all my life.
But Arkham Manor stuck out. Right from the concept, it's this weird variation on familiar themes, trying to twist them into something new. That makes it an inherently interesting idea, even if it's one that I'm approaching with caution as a reader. I want to know what's going on here, and with the first issue out, it lives up to that. More than anything else, Arkham Manor #1 is intriguing.
The way things are going, it's won't be much longer before we start referring to Image Comics as "that European sci-fi publisher.... but American." Over the last few years, Image has been host to a string of challenging and offbeat titles with strong Euro SF influences, and so far they've all been exceptional. With the combined comics goodness of Saga, Prophet, Nowhere Men, Black Science, and Starlight, stylish science fiction is trending upwards, and with Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein's forthcoming Drifter, the trend continues.
In advance of the November release of Drifter #1 (final order cutoff is next week, for you pre-orderers and retailers), Image has provided ComicsAlliance with an advance copy of the book, and boy, is it purdy.
If there's one thing that you need to know about ComicsAlliance, it's that we are very much in favor of Supaidaman, the '70s tokusatsu series where Marvel's Spider-Man was reimagined as Takuya Yamashiro, a dirtbike racer chosen by an alien from Planet Spider to defend the world from Professor Monster with the aid of a giant robot. It's one of my favorite things in the world, and if you asked me to pick one thing that I'd want to see from Marvel, it would be for Yamashiro to return to action in the pages of the modern Marvel Universe.
As a result, it's hard for me to look at this week's Edge of Spider-Verse #5, by Gerard Way, Jake Wyatt, Ian Herring and Clayton Cowles, without just seeing that it's a tokusatsu-inspired take on Spider-Man that simply isn't the one I want it to be. It took a lot of effort to get past that -- effort that was mostly motivated by how great last month's "Spider-Gwen" issue was -- but in the end, I'm glad I made it. It might not be the book I wanted, but it's definitely pretty fantastic in its own right, even if it suffers from a distinct lack of dirtbikes.
Sleepy Hollow is my favorite show on television, and has been since that scene in the first episode where the Headless Horseman showed up and tried to kill Ichabod Crane by blowing him away with a machine gun in each hand. It was, and remains, the single most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and while I initially worried about whether the show would be able to keep that energy up as the story rolled on, well, there was an episode last week with the premise of Benjamin Franklin building a Frankenstein's Monster out of the most powerful soldiers who died in the Revolutionary War, so, y'know, they've pretty much maintained a constant level of being absolutely bananas.
So needless to say, I was pretty excited when Boom Studios announced that they were going to be releasing a comic tie-in by Marguerite Bennett, Jorge Coelho, Tamra Bonvillain and Jim Campbell, because if nothing else, Sleepy Hollow's particular brand of horror-themed kookiness is exactly the sort of thing that would lend itself well to comics. Having read the first issue, out this week, I can confirm that the team did their absolute best to make the comic as weird as the show, and while it's not a perfect translation, it's definitely a good one.
I'm not saying that it's easy to succeed with an oddball idea in the world of comics, but I have to imagine that it's a heck of a lot harder to do it twice in a row with very similar ideas -- which is exactly what Archie Comcis and writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa are trying to do in the pages of this week's Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina #1. A year after Aguirre-Sacasa teamed up with artist Francesco Francavilla and found critical and commercial success with Afterlife With Archie, where the familiar teenagers of Riverdale found themselves contending with the zombie apocalypse, he's joining artist Robert Hack to try to strike gold a second time -- not with a spinoff of Afterlife, but by expanding the horror line with an entirely new title, taking the same characters and twisting them around again.
The result is a comic that dives headling into a world of horror, witchcraft and high school drama, and while it might not have the immediate eyebrow-raising hook of seeing Archie beat his zombified father to death with a baseball bat, it's definitely a pretty amazing comic that's hitting at exactly the right time.
Barbara Gordon is for girls. This truth has been obscured over the years, most notably in the Batman: The Killing Joke, in which the classic Batgirl was shot, sexually abused and paralyzed by the Joker and taken out of costume for decades. But just as Superman stands for unimpeachable hope and Batman for rigid justice, Batgirl stands for girls doing what the hell they want. From the moment she debuted as part of the classic Batman TV show of the 1960s, this was clear: she was a librarian, she rode a motorcycle decorated with chiffon ruffles, and she did not give a damn that Batman wanted her to hang up the glittery puple cape and cowl. She was no sweet-tempered Kyptonian cousin, no kid sister, and no swooning girlfriend. As Mike Madrid detailed in The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines, “Batgirl is a female Batman can actually regard as a brilliant peer and a partner in the war on crime, the same way he would a male.”
There are a lot of things that happen regularly in comics that I've never really understood, and chief among them has been the sheer number of superhero crossovers with Aliens and Predator. I mean, I understand wanting to see Aliens and Predators fight each other because they're both these mysterious, lethal alien enemies, where one's a cunning, vicious hunter and the other's an almost mindless biologically driven killing machine, a natural contrast that makes them cool opponents for each other and a deadly combination for anyone who gets trapped between them. The thing I don't get is why you'd want to throw Superman or Batman in there, if only because of the sheer amount of storytelling gymnastics you have to do to make it work. And yet, they happen all the time, and I have long since accepted that it's Just Not My Thing.
And then I read Predator vs. Judge Dredd vs. Aliens, and now I get it. Mostly because the first story in this collection ends with Dredd taking off his shirt (while leaving his helmet on, of course), and fighting the Predator with a knife.
If you've not come across Blacksad before, created by Spanish authors Juan Diaz Canales (writer) and Juanjo Guarnido (illustrator), it is an anthropomorphic noir series, set in 1950s America, centering around eponymous trench-coated private investigator, John Blacksad, a lithe, witty and cynical cat. Wildly popular France since the release of the first book in 2000, it's equally loved around the world, having been translated in 23 languages, with Dark Horse doing the honors for English reading audiences. This fifth and latest volume, Amarillo, was published in its original French in November last year, with October seeing the release of the English language edition. It's a few rungs above, thanks to Canales' writing: mixing up the mystery with social issues at the time, but largely due to Juanjo Guarnido's breathtaking watercoloured art and the superb manner in which he amalgamates human and animal characteristics.
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