She-Hulk #2 and Moon Knight #1

She-Hulk #2  By Charles Soule, Javier Pulido, Muntsa Vicente, Clayton Cowles, Kevin Wada.
She-Hulk #2

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.

She-Hulk #2  By Charles Soule, Javier Pulido, Muntsa Vicente, Clayton Cowles, Kevin Wada.

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.

Moon Knight #1  By Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, Jordie Bellaire, Chris Elliopoulos, Adi Granov, Bill Siekiewicz, Skottie Young, Katie Cook.
Moon Knight #1

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.”

Moon Knight #1  By Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, Jordie Bellaire, Chris Elliopoulos, Adi Granov, Bill Siekiewicz, Skottie Young, Katie Cook.

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.

Cosmic Inflation Explained

PhD by Jorge Cham
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Darth Vader and Son and Vader’s Little Princess

Darth Vader and SonVader’s Little Princess
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

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.

Vader’s Little Princess

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.

Webcomic: Demon

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Gallery: Harold Ramis

Harold Ramis by Dan Schoening and Luis Antonio Delgado
Harold Ramis by Dan Schoening and Luis Antonio Delgado
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)