Let’s talk comics! Comics are great. If you asked my favorite media, I’d have to say film. If you asked the media that I instinctively run towards with grabby hands? Comics, every time. I was a comics retailer for seven years, have edited and written for a flotilla of websites and magazines and even written some comics myself. They, almost more than film, have represented the very best of the world on the other side of the ocean for me. And, brilliantly, comics are really, REALLY good right now. Let’s take a look at a few. Alasdair Stuart
First off, Captain Marvel. Catapulted to the forefront of the Marvel Universe by relentless croossoverathon Civil War II, Captain Marvel as a character is now eminently unlikable for some readers. The charming, self-deprecating powerhouse of the definitive Kelly Sue DeConnick run was replaced by a wildly variable cypher who was either a near supervillain or a principled and deeply conflicted career soldier depending on who was writing her.
Thankfully, her new series is in the hands of Margaret Stohl, and she wastes no time in turning bugs into features. Carol’s newfound fame has led to a spin-off TV show, media attention galore and even more discomfort at the impossible decisions she was forced to make. Stohl very consciously brings Carol’s sense of humour back and, after its total absence from Civil War II, that’s a huge relief. It also neatly tempers a story that ties the realities of fame to the politics of being a galactic power through the lens of Captain Marvel and Alpha Flight.
It’s early days but this is already playing a lot like Warren Ellis’ definitive run on Stormwatch and if you want principled, character-driven and idea-heavy science fiction that doesn’t involve desultory fights with Iron Man? This is your book. Especially as Ramon Rosanas’ clean lines neatly evoke early incarnations of the book as well as give this one fluidity and power. Likewise, VC’s Joe Caramagna’s assertive lettering and Michael Garland’s deep, naturalistic colours. This is a book that feels and looks confident, assured and fun. And that’s exactly what Carol, and her readers, desperately need right now.
The Few, published by Image this month, starts with a single set of footprints in the snow, The only colour we get is the black of the trees and the red of the blood leaking from lead character Eden’s wounds. She is not having a good day, pursued into a blizzard by maniacs who just destroyed her home. Even worse, she’s not alone. Eden has rescued a baby. And now, she needs rescuing herself.
This is the textbook definition of doing more with less. Hayden Sherman’s art uses white space incredibly well, giving you a sense of the muted, sound muffling layers of snow everything in this ruined future is buried under. It makes every line, every motion meaningiful and gives the violence a shocking brutality that makes you wince.
Sean Lewis’ writing is just as impressive, nesting multiple surprises inside the simple premise and giving us the sense that we’re coming in at the end of one story and the start of another. By the end of the first issue the only things you know for sure are you’re hooked and you’ll be back for more next month. Yet another in Image’s almost unbroken line of impressive debuts
Still at Image, Charles Soule’s Curse Words launched this month and features the adventures of the go-to wizard of the stars. Wizord, for that is his name, has the beard of Merlin, the haircut of Macklemore and the shades of a man who charges by the hour. His rule are simple:
- No Cures
- No Wars
- No Love
Anything less, if you have the price, is on the table.
Soule is one of the most relentlessly prolific authors working in comics right now and pretty much anything with his name on it needs to be in front of you. This is no exception, as he takes a major step into urban fantasy. It’s a smartly realised book and the biggest part of its success is the colour palate. Ryan Browne, Jordan Boyd and Michael Parkinson soak every page in the ever so slightly smog filled golden light a sunny New York day. The magic, when it’s thrown around, is feral and cold. The world Wizord arrives in is lush, brimming with life and impossible to resist.
And that’s the genius of the book. Without giving too much a way, Soule and Browne show us just why he’s here and how that changes him with subtlety and more than a little poignancy. Wizord has the beard and the attitude of Merlin but he has the experience of a hardened soldier and one not in his job by choice. The way that changes the book is exciting, clever and looks set to deliver something unique. All of which is presented in Browne’s smart, expressive art and with excellent lettering from Browne, Chris Crank and Shawn DePasquale.
Slam debuted in November and you should absolutely track down the three issues to date. The story of two roller derby rookies it’s an elbow-throwing gut-laugh of a book with blood on its teeth and adrenalin searing through its veins. This thing is FUN and uses a very unique viewpoint to explore universal ideas. Jennifer Chu is a Geology student, over achiever and built big. Maisie Huff is small, wiry and needs confidence, however she can get it, very badly.
Enter roller derby, stage left and swinging elbows.
Pamela Ribon’s script reads like the best sports movie Edgar Wright will never make. It’s witty and fast and absolutely over the moon with joy at every bruise, every fall, every win, every defeat. This book distills the adrenalin high of physical exercise better than anything else I’ve ever read. A lot of the time (as a resting Judoka I can attest to this) that high is connected to the words “I’M STILL ALIVE!” But it’s a high nonetheless.
It also folds in a clever, subtle exploration of physical size and its relation to physical confidence, the wildly different backgrounds of the two leads and a detailed and accessible introduction to roller derby. Veronica Fish’s witty, fast-on-its-skates art ensures every single panel lands a solid hit and Brittany Peer’s colours give the world the slightly shabby vibrancy and life that the best sports arenas have. Rounded out by Jim Campbell’s smart, fun lettering this is the best book being published right now You need to read it. It’s really that simple.
Four books, all wildly different and all exceptional and that’s just scratching the surface. Next month, I’ll take a look at the incredible Deeds Not Words by Sarah Gordon and Howard Hardiman, Volume 1 of Curia Regis by Robin Hoelzemann and the delirious subterranean action adventure of Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye. See you then.
Thanks to Travelling Man for review copies. Issues 0 and 1 of Captain Marvel, Issue 1 of The Few, Issue 1 of Curse Words and Issues 1-3 of Slam are available now. Find your local comic shop here or check out Comixology.