By Charles Soule, Javier Pulido, Muntsa Vicente, Clayton Cowles, Kevin Wada.
She-Hulk created by Stan Lee and John Buscema.
Issue #2 continues the process of establishing She-Hulk as her own star. Having opened a solo law practice in Brooklyn, Jennifer Walters must now go about gathering a supporting cast. Such is the case with most distaff heroes that they’re usually playing the role of supporting character. But She-Hulk has as good a chance as any to make it as a lead given her profile and overall likability. Writer Charles Soule understands this, and gets to showcase her as a badass as well as a struggling lawyer in this issue.
The two characters introduced are her landlady Sharon King and eccentric paralegal Angie Huang, neither particularly intimidated by Jennifer’s reputation as a superhero. Sharon’s a former mutant and Charles Xavier student who lost her superpowers during the events spinning off from House of M. Now she rents out building space to superhuman-owned businesses. Angie has a bit of a mysterious past and insists on keeping a creepy-looking macaque monkey with her at all times. No doubt, more of the building’s numerous residents will pop up in the future. But for fans looking for a familiar face, Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat, joins the practice after she and Jennifer go out for a night about the town, and then storm a secret AIM facility against Jennifer’s better judgement.
The new setting not only appropriately reflects Jennifer’s own position as a female character trying to step out from the shadow of her more famous namesake, but as one of the few superheroes who doesn’t maintain a secret identity. So it makes sense that her superhero career and her day job should mesh more intimately and more openly. Jennifer isn’t Matt Murdock - a lawyer by day, masked crime-fighter by night trying to keep the two separate. And judging from the “blue file” first mentioned in issue #1 and how issue #2 ends, Soule is particularly interested in exploring just how being a superhero would affect her law practice, and vice-versa.
By Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, Jordie Bellaire, Chris Elliopoulos, Adi Granov, Bill Siekiewicz, Skottie Young, Katie Cook.
Moon Knight created by Doug Moench and Don Perlin.
Moon Knight is Marvel Comic’s sort-of Batman knockoff, except he’s crazy in his own special way. Or is he? That’s the topic being explored in this premiere issue: Is former mercenary Marc Spector suffering from Dissociative Personality Disorder? Does he have brain damage? Is he acting on behalf of the god Khonshu? Or is he being possessed by an alien entity? The metatatextual explanation for those conflicting answers is in the various interpretations stemming from the work of past creative teams. But rather than attempt to untangle the character’s peculiar continuity, new writer Warren Ellis has a couple of talking heads give their two cents before the comic arrives at a tentative conclusion. Information is presented as fractured, coming from different sources, and not all of it is reliable. They’re pieces that have to be assembled and sifted through in order to arrive at a working theory on what makes Spector tick.
This is a deliberately paced comic that feels longer than its nineteen pages, thanks to artist Declan Shalvey. Much of the narrative’s meat and potatoes is the titular hero helping the police track down a serial killer at large in New York. Shalvey’s atmospheric panels combined with the shadowy tones of colorist Jordie Bellaire transform the city into the kind of vast and mysterious place full of concrete canyons and underground lairs that could hide the kind of villain Moon Knight pursues.The character’s redesign is particularly stylish and calculated to pay homage to classic pulp heroes. Spector is driven around in an automated white limousine, and he eschews the usual spandex for a white suit, white gloves, and a white bag over his head. When donning this attire, Bellaire leaves him uncolored with the white of the paper untouched. He’s literally a black and white figure, and the jarring contrast to the murky world he inhabits makes him an almost spectral presence. The theatrical effect reverses the usual urban crime-fighter MO of hiding in the shadows, and when a cop points out that his fashion sense will make it easy for the serial killer to see him coming, he nonchalantly responds “That’s the part I like.”
The comic is a pretty good showcase for Bellaire. As Moon Knight descends into the city’s dark belly, he eventually finds the hulking, blood-soaked killer, saturated in pure red to match Spector’s own empty white. Their battle is a classic color-coded case of brain vs brawn, or good vs evil. And as Spector later confronts Khonshu over his own true nature, the colors gradually shift to dark grays and blacks that swallow him up.
By Jeffrey Brown
Star Wars created by George Lucas
“I am your father” has become a ubiquitous meme since Darth Vader had his little talk with Luke Skywalker back in 1980 in what is now one of the most parodied scenes in pop culture. One recent example that comes to mind is when Evil Emperor Zurg pulls off the reveal on Buzz Lightyear in the movie Toy Story 2, resulting in the same pained reaction. But later on, the two are seen playing a game of catch in which Buzz excitedly proclaims “Oh, you're a great dad!” Jeffrey Brown milks that joke for all its worth in a pair of books Darth Vader and Son and its sequel Vader’s Little Princess. Had young Anakin been a more attentive father, would he have turned out a better person than in the movies? Probably not, but he might have learned to play a decent game of catch.
Brown has made his fair share of pop culture parodies, but this pair hews closer to the more heartfelt expressiveness of his autobiographical comics. This apparently stems from Brown becoming a father in real life. His awkward, often befuddled Vader is an avatar for Brown himself, except he’s raising a pair of superpowered kids within the house that George Lucas built. That might place these two books as among his cutest and geekiest efforts to date.
Darth Vader and Son concentrates on Vader’s relationship with Luke while Vader’s Little Princess turns its attention on Leia. Both are initially portrayed as very young, though they later age into teenagers. Each book contains a collection of mostly single-panel gag strips with no overarching narrative connecting them. Brown’s rough hand-drawn style is at its most detailed here when recreating its fictional backdrops. The results are kind of adorable. Brown’s simple colors, thick hatching, and the pared-down characters make him rather suitable as a children’s book illustrator. With their button eyes and broad grins, Luke and Leia make for especially sweet-looking tykes. Vader is lovingly drawn by Brown wearing his usual menacing visage, but this only enhances the character’s awkwardness when dealing with domestic situations.
The gags fall into two broad, sometimes overlapping, categories. The first presents the characters engaged in various parent-child activities like family meals, learning to ride personal modes of transport, teaching proper hygiene, playing sports, family outings, holidays, school functions, etc. The second are recontextualized scenes lifted from the Star Wars trilogy. This often results in Vader being embarrassed by his kids, such as when he’s about to force choke an incompetent admiral, only to be interrupted by an ecstatic Leia greeting him with a big hug. Vader might be able to terrorize the rest of the galaxy, but even his most ominous threats will barely evince a reaction from the serenely upbeat Luke and Leia.
Brown is at his best when he’s enjoying the Skywalker family dynamic rather than when trying to poke fun at the entire franchise. Vader’s face is an unchanging mask, but the range of emotions he goes through are palpable from what he says and does. In one cartoon, Vader is clumsily cradling a garish red necktie Luke has given to him as a gift. While his son hopefully looks on, Vader trIes to look grateful while thinking to himself “I CAN’T WEAR THIS.”
I’d say that Darth Vader and Son is the more successful of the two. Brown is better writing about toddlers than teenagers. Toddlers have the advantage of being precious and vulnerable. Teenagers, not as much. And it probably doesn’t help that Brown has no actual experience raising an adolescent girl of his own. But whatever the reason, this causes him to lean more on the source material for inspiration. While I appreciate Brown's trying not to repeat himself, the humor becomes a bit more formulaic in Vader’s Little Princess. Vader himself is often reduced to the role of overprotective father who doesn’t get Leia’s loose fashion sense, her foot-dragging over completing her house chores, or her taste in boyfriends. Sometimes, the jokes are just recycled from old TV sitcoms or cartoon strips, such as when Luke complains that “Leia’s been in the bathroom for, like, an hour!” Maybe Brown should have treated the character a little less like a princess.
|Harold Ramis by Dan Schoening and Luis Antonio Delgado|
Go to: ComicsAlliance
Well, let's say this Twinkie represents the normal amount of psychokinetic energy in the New York area. Based on this morning's sample, it would be a Twinkie... thirty-five feet long, weighing approximately six hundred pounds. - Ghostbusters (1984)Harold Ramis (November 21, 1944 – February 24, 2014)
By Paul Cornell, Ryan Stegman, Mark Morales, David Curiel, Cory Petit, Ryan Stegman, Edgar Delgado, Frankie Johnson.
Wolverine created by Roy Thomas, Len Wein, and John Romita Sr.
The premise to the new Wolverine series is found within recent events were Logan looses his fabulous healing factor. Now that he’s mortal, he decides to compensate for the loss by making certain adjustments. None of them are particularly compelling on their own, or add up to an interesting new direction. On the contrary, they’re actually a bit of a regression.
The new “Rogue Logan” joins a team of superpowered mercenaries working for a crime boss called The Offer. Apparently his power is he can make offers that almost no one can refuse, which in Logan’s case is getting to old foe Sabertooth. He also starts wearing body armor that, as drawn by Ryan Stegman, looks a lot like his traditional outfit but can supposably withstand a nuclear blast. Now that’s a convenient substitute.
This is a really slick-looking comic, thanks mainly to the lavish coloring of David Curiel. But there’s something a little goofy about Stegman’s figures. Logan in particular looks like a more cartoony version of himself, and when everyone runs, they float a few inches above the floor like they’re Loony Tunes characters.
All the changes to Logan are mostly superficial. As one of the more opportunistic characters of the Marvel Universe, his employment by a crime boss isn’t that strange, especially if he’s doing it for the aforementioned reasons. The most controversial alteration is that Logan begins to pack heat. This is the kind of decision that raises the ire of many fans. And we’re led to understand that this marks an important development in Wolverine’s personality. But Logan’s a trained killer with a long and bloody career, as he himself points out within the pages of this issue. So for now, the move from claws to bullets is more style than substance.
By Charles Soule, Javier Pulido, Muntsa Vicente, Clayton Cowles, Kevin Wada.
She-Hulk created by Stan Lee and John Buscema.
No one likes lawyers in fiction, unless they’re the type who aids the cause of the little guy against The Man. In this case, the lawyer is obviously Jennifer Walters, the little guy is a harried widow, and The Man is none other than Marvel’s most famous 1%ter, Tony Stark.
Similar to the premise of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s well-received Hawkeye series, this latest She-Hulk relaunch focuses on the lead character’s life when she’s not playing superhero. For her, that usually means practicing law. Good thing then that real-world attorney Charles Soule is penning the title. Artist Javier Pulido supplies more suitably down-to-earth visuals, complemented by the flat color renderings of Muntsa Vicente. I particularly enjoy how Jennifer stands out as a very conspicuous, tall, emerald figure in a crowd.
Jennifer starts out working for a cushy law firm before quitting and agreeing to represent said widow against Tony. The tone is consistently light with the humor targeted squarely at the legal profession. Jennifer’s former employers are so emotionally disconnected they can only talk to her using a robotic, condescending voice when reviewing her work. And then there’s the runaround Tony’s council gives to Jennifer. Simply calling himself “Legal”, he’s the embodiment of the ruthless legal shark you’d expect to be retained by a wealthy technocrat/industrialist. Legal speaks entirely in legalese. As drawn by Pulido, he’s a slight, bow-tied man who delivers his lengthy arguments in perfect deadpan while hiding his face behind thick shades. He’s an intimidating opponent, and even Jennifer realizes that it would make more sense to exploit her personal connection to Tony than try to win against Legal in court.
This issue will be a disappointment to those hoping for the usual superhero shenanigans. The only slugfest takes place off-panel, and Pulido’s style doesn’t exactly make Jennifer the Amazonian figure most hardcore fans have come to expect from most representations. But She-Hulk has always been a little unconventional that way, and Soule demonstrates a solid grasp of his subject.
|From Thor: Ragnarok, originally published as Thor #272-278 |
by Roy Thomas, John Buscema, et al.
I for once will not argue with a bunch of axe-weilding viking warriors. Those are some hardcore cosplayers.
Kamala Khan created by Sana Amanat, G. Willow Wilson, and Adrian Alphona
Both Marvel and DC’s superhero titles have become a little more homogeneous as of late, conforming to each publisher’s respective “house style”. Blame it on how DC’s “New 52” and Marvel’s “NOW!” re-branding efforts are striving for more synergy between their comic book lines with their various cross-media adaptations. But having to orchestrate increasingly grandiose “event” stories is par for the course for the Big Two. And besides, they need to keep coming-up with new material for their long list of intellectual properties, lest some opportunistic competitor swoop in and claim the valuable trademark. Which is why a lot of these brands have been around in one form or another for more than half a century. Take the comic being reviewed here. When Carol Danvers, aka Ms. Marvel, was repositioned to claim the recently abandoned title of Captain Marvel, someone else had to take over her former codename. And so the character of Kamala Khan was created for that very purpose. But while the economic motives behind her invention are hardly progressive, Kamala herself marks a significant departure. Conceived as a Pakistani-American teenage girl, she’s an obvious stab at diversity within a fantasy universe so desperately in need of anyone who isn’t white, male, straight, and created before the twenty-first century. Kamala came in on a wave of considerable media attention and goodwill. But given concerns about whether a series starring such a non-traditional character would succeed, Ms. Marvel #1 needed to be good. Really good. In my opinion, the series is off to a very promising start, as it manages to avoid feeling like the average Marvel comic for reasons that are more than skin deep.
Superficially, Kamala resembles Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man, as they’re both struggling adolescents. Or at least that’s how he started out. As a comics fan, I grew up on Spider-Man. But even I know that Peter, like the X-Men, Hulk, and other baby-boomer heroes, is a creation born in another era. He was a lone teenage nerd raised within the bland uniformity of his Post-War surroundings, bearing the relentless persecution of his small-minded peers, and fighting to protect the people who feared and hated him. It’s a claustrophobic setup full of extremes, and after several decades the soul-crushing consequences of its unending labor are mirrored by the gloomy tenor now flowing through Marvel and DC. By comparison, Kamala lives in a more complex milieu of shifting, contradictory identities. She’s a geek who posts Avengers fanfic on the Web for consumption by other geeks. Kamala’s a second generation immigrant and a Muslim-American who wants to participate in all the popular youthful activities. Concomitantly, she clashes with family members who are far less enamoured with mainstream American culture: chiefly a religious-conservative brother and her more moderate parents. Kamala may inveigh against a parochial society that doesn’t get her like most teenagers are wont to do, but she has friends who share her incongruity. And the people who torment her do so more out of cluelessness than the usual mean girl cruelty. The underlying archetypes may be familiar to any Spider-Man fan, but they're refashioned to be more modern. I dare say that while still remaining true to the universal awkwardness of adolescence, this makes Kamala a lot more relatable to a huge swath of younger readers.
More significantly, Kamala doesn’t come across as a well-meaning token needed to fill some self-enforced quota. A lot of multinational superhero casts tend to have members with shorthand “ethnic” characteristics: exotic looks, a funny accent, catchphrase, or strange mannerisms. For example, the Japanese guy is a samurai/martial artist who wields a katana. Or the Native American wears feathers and posses vaguely shamanistic abilities. As the lead of her own series, Kamala seems to come from an authentically different place, and not from the usual Anglo-American perspective. She has her own internal life. Kamala's precocious, inquisitive, rebellious, and impetuous. And for once, she actually looks like a normal teenage girl, which in itself is a triumph in superhero comics. Much of the credit for such a carefully crafted creation has to go to editor Sana Amanat and writer G. Willow Wilson. Wilson has managed to convert Amanat’s own experiences growing up as a Muslim-American to good effect. This dialogue-heavy issue is atypically naturalistic and character-driven for a superhero comic, punctuated by amusing conversations often revolving around the immigrant experience rather than melodramatic confrontations between heroes and villains.
This portrait is rounded out by artist Adrian Alphona and colorist Ian Herring. I’ve already mentioned that Kamala looks like a real teenager. But the whole book is convincingly populated by a lot of normal-looking youthful characters all individually distinguishable by their body type, facial expressions and fashions. The delicate line-work is further accentuated by a soft warm glow that makes this comic look very different from most of Marvel’s current superhero titles. The tone is probably closer to young adult fantasy than the superhero genre even though this is supposed to be an origin tale. Superheroes barely make an appearance. When they do, they show up in a few “imaginary” scenes. The first is in hilarious fan art that teams-up the Avengers with a My Little Pony facsimile. And in the issue’s climax, Kamala experiences a remarkable vision of her idol Carol Danvers that is simultaneously quixotic, fannish, and intensely mystical. It’s a nice way to encapsulate the things in Kamala’s life that are tugging her in different directions.
The first issue is measuredly paced to be the opening act to a larger story, so it’s a little premature to declare the new Ms. Marvel an unqualified success. The problem of course is that the Big Two have a terrible track record when it comes to sustaining any series headlined by new or minority characters. They often fail to market titles clearly meant to reach a new audience. And as long as Kamala Khan is technically a denizen of the Marvel Universe, the fact is that the series is subject to the kind of corporate mandates that could diminish her unique qualities, watering her down to better fit in with the rest of that universe. Or worse, she could be killed-off or replaced by another Ms. Marvel if judged a commercial failure. That would be a shame because this is an audacious launch executed by an accomplished creative team possessing tremendous potential.
The weakest parts of Space Dandy are the boob jokes. That’s unfortunate, because the show leads with the titular character ranting about being more of a butt man than a breast man, then makes a beeline for the intergalactic version of Hooters, appropriately called “Boobies.” Sadly, thats not the only monologue within the pilot episode that could be described as rambling and stupid. But viewers who stick with it are rewarded with a monster-fighting action sequence that is remarkably well-staged, especially for a television series. Already five episodes in, its almost feature-film production values have hardly wavered. And that’s an impressive achievement.
There were a lot of unrealistic expectations heaped upon Space Dandy because its director Shinichiro Watanabe also worked on the acclaimed Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo. All three series are about a small band of drifters surviving from paycheck to paycheck performing the most odd and dangerous jobs. That’s were the similarity ends. Unlike those earlier efforts, Space Dandy is aggressively upbeat. Not to mention light on continuity. The cast actually dies in the pilot episode, and things don’t get any easier for them from there. But this is an affectionate parody of those classic swashbuckling space adventures, so killing his cast, only to resurrect them in the next episode is just all part of the gag. Space Dandy the protagonist is a doofus, not to mention a sexist jerk. And that’s the point. It’s not a particularly profound point to make, but does it have to be? As the show itself exhorts, “Go with the flow, baby.”
And Space Dandy is a candy-colored visual treat. This is not the dystopian or post-apocalyptic future that currently pervades much of today’s sci-fi. The show's setting is a bit closer to yesteryear's shining world of tomorrow. It glides from one gorgeously-drawn set piece to the next. And there are almost always a bevy of aliens crowding the background, as if it’s constantly trying to outdo the cantina scene from Star Wars. To call it world-building would be way too generous, but there is plenty of stuff to marvel at - the endless variety of space ramen being consumed, a futuristic version of Twitter, Hawaiian-themed mecha, hideous transmogrifying monsters, or a hospital infested by space zombies. Every episode satirizes/pays homage to one particular theme (Episode five recalls Cowboy Bebop), and the one important plot point that carries over is a running gag about a villain who is hounding the oblivious Dandy for us yet unexplained reasons. The writing for this narrative structure is naturally uneven, but there haven’t been any horrible episodes yet. And Space Dandy can even be clever, such as when it subverts itself during the zombie episode.
Animax is currently airing the english language dub, which I don’t feel the need to complain about. I’ve gotten a lot less snooty about the whole dub vs. sub issue after years of reading poorly worded and overly-literal fansubs and scanlations. In this particular case, the anime’s producers have been targeting the foreign market from the very beginning, and they’ve done a better than average job matching the voice quality to the carefree tone of the series. So unless they’re trying to disguise the fact that Space Dandy is a serious existential drama in Japan, I’m down with that.