Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro's Bitch Planet has the single best comic book title of the year. It's the kind of title where I stopped in my tracks when the book was announced months ago, and just from hearing those two words, thought "that's perfect" -- and that's before I heard that the premise backing it up was a modern feminist sci-fi take on women-in-prison flicks. From the moment I heard about it, I knew this comic was going to be amazing. Until I actually sat down and read it, though, I had no idea just how amazing it was going to be.
That's the thing about the first issue of Bitch Planet. It doesn't hit the ground running; it kicks off by blasting you into space and setting up a story of a world where the penalty for not knowing your place is a life sentence in a violent, neon-pink hell, juggling multiple points of view for a story of just how cruel that world can be. It's thrilling, it's violent, and it's one of the best first issues of the year.
The fourth issue of the series, Pax Americana with art by Frank Quitely, colors by Nathan Fairbairn and letters by Rob Leigh, is probably the most widely anticipated of the series, and certainly the most-hyped. It's Morrison's attempt to update and revise the structure of Watchmen, but applied to the original Charlton characters, as that Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons work was originally intended to in its first pitch. While Watchmen followed a strict nine-panel grid structure (some panels would be bisected or extended, but that was the general latticework on which everything hung), Pax Americana goes for eight, resembling not only harmonic octaves of music and colors of the rainbow that make up much of the multiversal structure Morrison is working with but also the "Algorithm 8" that allows President Harley to perceive the underpinning structure of the universe and use it to his advantage. That algorithm is, of course, the eight-panel grid (and the 8-shape made by one's eyes while reading the page) that forms the comic book universe he lives in.
The book moves backwards in eight color-coded sections, which I'll denote, that correspond to the evolutionary stages of humanity/a single person espoused by Don Beck and Chris Cowan's spiral dynamics, or, more specifically, Ken Wilber's later integral theory, which incorporated it. I'd never heard of it before this book, and from all research I've done there's a reason for that; it seems to be widely accepted as bunk pseudoscience by any academic institution, which makes it a perfect evolution of the original Question and Rorschach's stark black-and-white Randian Objectivism, while also tying into not only Pax's obsession with the number eight but its role in the Multiversity series as a whole, both due to the nature of music in octaves which makes up the structure of the DC multiverse as well as the colors of the rainbow that form the Source Wall.
Honestly, it's pretty surprising Superior Foes of Spider-Man made it as far as 17 issues.
The title lacked star power in terms of characters (Spider-Man's name is in the title, but that was very nearly the full extent of the character's participation in the comic) and it fell into a genre that, for whatever reason, doesn't connect with readers all that often: the superhero universe comedy.
Yet, until it ended late last month, it was one of the best comics on the stands. Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber's tale of a group of C-list villains (and that's being generous) grouping together to be the new Sinister Six (despite there only being five of them) had more character, personality, playfulness, inventiveness and wit in its pages than most other comics coming out.
Comic artist Edvin Biukovic died fifteen years ago this month at just 30 years old. His death was obviously a terrible loss to those who knew and loved him. It was also a terrible loss to the comic industry; Biukovic never received the level of lasting acclaim or recognition that his talent deserved, and produced relatively few works. Yet he was one of the finest comic artists of his generation.
Biukovic published several works in his native Croatia that have sadly never been translated. His finished English-language works include a couple of Star Wars stories published at Dark Horse, and the first of Peter Milligan's Human Target stories for Vertigo. One work stands as his masterpiece; Devils And Deaths, written by his long-time friend and collaborator Darko Macan, and published by Dark Horse, is a science fiction story about a country torn apart by ancient grudges and tribal conflicts, and of the desperate people trying to eke out a purpose in the midst of war.
David Walker and Bilquis Evely have teamed up at Dynamite for the first-ever comic adaptation of Ernest Tidyman’s ‘Shaft’ character, delivering an exhilarating, game-changing opening issue to a series that should make stars of the entire creative team.
Surprisingly, the book deftly skips away from the John Shaft seen in film and TV, instead dialling back in time to look at the young Shaft, just out the military. The original books talk briefly about this time in the character’s life, mentioning his brief stint as a boxer; this is where Walker chooses to focus as his series starts off. The story of the first issue sees Shaft just getting started as a boxer when he's asked to take a dive, and that hook is all Walker needs to create a solid sense of place and character. The story gives us a look at a confident but less seasoned John Shaft, still feeling out his place in the world and deciding what kind of mark he wants to make.
Hey, have you folks heard about this Hellboy character? It's okay if you haven't -- there's a big #1 on the cover of this comic I just read, so I assume he's pretty new. Trust me, though, he's a character you're going to want to watch, because despite a name that seems pretty lousy the first time you hear it, this is pretty good stuff.
Seriously, though, as much as I love Hellboy and the world of the BPRD (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense), I'll admit that I haven't been keeping up with the ongoing adventures over the past few years. I'm sure they're good -- I'm sure they're great, because it's rare that Hellboy isn't, and Hellboy In Hell is viewed very favorably here at ComicsAlliance -- but it's one of those situations where I've fallen behind and it's at the point where there's so much I've missed that it's hard to get back into it.
And that's exactly why I was looking forward to Hellboy and the BPRD: 1952. On sale now, it tells the story of Hellboy's first assignment with the BPRD, which makes it the perfect jumping-on (or in my case, jumping-back-in) point, and not only is it ridiculously good, but it feels fresh and new in a way that's almost impossible for a 20 year-old franchise to pull off.
Marvel’s recent relaunch of Moon Knight saw the white-clad vigilante pare things down to a bare minimum as he stalked the streets by night, taking down gangs, gunmen, and anything else that posed a threat to innocent people. In the hands of Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire, the character was reinvented, stepping away from past characterizations to form a new identity. Across just six issues the creative team stamped a brand on the book that may mark how people approach the character and concept from here onward.
From The Dead collects the entirety of Ellis, Shalvey and Bellaire's run on the book. It features a series of deft action sequences, and builds a convincing new world for Moon Knight to walk in, though Ellis's sparse and low-key scripts effectively cede the floor to the artists, allowing penciller Shalvey to create that world and colorist Bellaire to establish the tone. The series is a methodically structured exercise in comics storytelling, with Shalvey excelling in his depiction of a run-down, black and white world of straggling criminals.
Annuals get a bad rap. I'm pretty sure it's because they formed the core of some truly terrible crossovers starting in the '90s -- lookin' at you here, Bloodlines -- but there's nothing congenitally wrong with them. In their purest form, annuals are just extra comics, and since we all like comics, that ought to be something to get excited about. And in the case of Dynamite's Flash Gordon Annual 2014, we've got something worth getting excited about.
Flash Gordon is already one of my favorite books on the stands, and this week's Annual continues that trend by providing a fantastic roster of great stories -- including a solo tale for Dale Arden that needs to be made into an ongoing series yesterday.
Who doesn't love a good postmodern murder mystery? Boring people, that's who. Dull, uninspired, abandoned buildings pretending to be human beings who prefer their detective stories to be streamlined and logical, with a series of clues that can be interpreted to lead to a definite answer, and no funny business with fragmentation, parallel narratives, or the sudden appearance of the author in their own story.
If, however, you're an interesting, exciting, attractive person with an undeniable elan, Vertigo's Bodies might be more your style. Written by Si Spencer and drawn by a team of four artists, Bodies takes place in four distinct time periods ranging from the 19th century to the far future, where four detectives investigate four identical murder cases. Not just identical in that it's the same M.O., with the exact same injuries and found in the exact same spot throughout time; identical in that, over a span of 160 years, it's the same body.
Originally published by DC Comics in 1988, Cinder and Ashe is a comic by Gerry Conway, José Luis García-López, and Joe Orlando about two mercenary/detective friends who are unable to escape and reconcile with the horrors of their shared past in Vietnam -- a past which has become actualized with the returning of a mad killer who they both thought was long dead. The story takes place in New Orleans with flashbacks to Vietnam, and some stops in Washington, DC and Iowa.
Now available in a collected edition, the book is a well preserved testament to the artistry of one of comics' best storytellers.
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