A cracking week, this. There are a higher number of comics that I’m enjoying to a significant degree on a regular basis than I can recall there being in quite some time – and I’m not even having to dig into more esoteric or obscure corners in order to do so. There are top-line, high-profile, big-selling books that just keep knocking it out of the park. It’s bad news for the kind of middling superhero comics that in the past I would have kept on buying out of habit but not really paying attention to the story of – my standards for dropping a book have certainly risen of late. There’s still much to grumble about in the overall state of comics, but there are some very talented people doing very impressive work at the moment.
(DC / Tom King, Mikel Janin, Hugo Petrus, June Chung, Clayton Cowles)
Tom King cuts deeply into the psychology of Batman, while Mikel Janin crafts a succession of expansive, double-page fight-scene spreads. This is magical. It’s controversial, brutal and will no doubt cause several people to drop the book altogether until King is gone. But they would be wrong to do so. This is not a friendly book, it’s not going to reassure you in any way about the idea of reading a Batman comic. But boy, is it unmissable.
The Clone Conspiracy #3
(Marvel / Dan Slott, Jim Cheung, John Dell, Justin Ponsor, Joe Caramagna)
An issue that, once again, hinges almost entirely on its big twist/reveal since, once again, it’s mostly a bunch of people standing around explaining what has happened or what is about to happen. This sort of pacing could be a problem, I guess, if the story doesn’t actually start to go anywhere on the page – but in the meantime, I’m still enjoying it, largely because I’m exactly the kind of person the big twist/reveal is targeted squarely at.
Giant Days #21
(Boom! Box / John Allison, Max Sarin, Liz Fleming, Whitney Cogar, Jim Campbell)
Ah, this is more like the kind of new Giant Days issue I was hoping for (not that I didn’t enjoy #20, but it wasn’t the most sparkling of the run), having only recently caught up on the whole thing and got to a stage where I’m following it as it comes out. This is absolutely tremendous fun – great gags throughout (“Sky rockets in flight! Aftercliffe delight!”), all three characters being brilliant (especially Esther flirting with the policeman), fabulously funny and expressive character work from Sarin, and once again a final page nudge of advancement in that Daisy storyline. I love this book so much.
Green Arrow #12
(DC / Benjamin Percy, Otto Schmidt, Nate Piekos)
I’d been in danger of dropping this, as despite doing not much particularly wrong, it was starting to struggle to grip me. Turns out, though, that I like this book best when it’s talking about Ollie and his social conscience – it’s the action where it tends to lose me. So this issue feels a lot more like that fantastic Rebirth issue, and Schmidt’s art absolutely pops; together, that’s enough to keep me interested again for now.
Shade, the Changing Girl #3
(DC Young Animal / Cecil Castellucci, Marley Zarcone, Kelly Fitzpatrick, Saida Temofonte)
Just wonderful, wonderful comics. It’s strange and intriguing and heartfelt, and is that rarest of things in comics: an unashamed examination of the feelings of young women, written by a woman. For someone with relative inexperience in the form, Castellucci crafts an expertly-paced and judged single issue, working in harmony with Zarcone to make use of the medium’s unique strengths. I cannot see any reason for someone who is at all interested in comics to not be reading this series.
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #1
(Marvel / Kieron Gillen, Kev Walker, Antonio Fabela, Salvador Larroca, Edgar Delgado, Joe Caramagna)
I read the first few issues of Kieron Gillen’s Darth Vader run, and enjoyed them despite not being much of a Star Wars fan at all. I eventually fell behind and ultimately dropped it altogether, but the main thing that stood out for me was the character of Aphra and her motley band of rogues, so this was certainly something I was going to give a try. And it’s great, because there’s arguably nobody better around than Gillen at writing entertaining stories about baddies (or, as I guess Aphra would more accurately be described, “not quite goodies”). But there’s more to this than just a bunch of fantastic quips from Triple-Zero, although they are certainly a draw; the backup strip, particularly, is a really nice delve into Aphra’s background that’s laced with moral complexity.
(DC / Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Doug Mahnke, Jamie Mendoza, Christian Alamy, Will Quintana, Rob Leigh)
A slightly disappointing issue by the recent standards of this title; it’s still a very strong portrayal of a version of Superman that I’m very much enjoying reading about, and there are few artists better than Mahnke at getting across the his effortless, experienced confidence (there’s also a panel with a facial expression on Frankenstein that’s very reminiscent of his old work on The Mask). But I’ve never been hugely interested in DC’s Frankenstein, and this doesn’t change that. It also has to perform some awkward gymnastics to reconcile Lois’ professional situation in this book with what she’s doing in Action – something that really shouldn’t be happening this early in a relaunch, and which gives me concerns on the editorial side.
The Wicked + The Divine #24
(Image / Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles)
In which it starts to become apparent that maybe, just maybe, it was Minerva we should have been paying attention to as the hero/lead character after all? The delightful thing about WicDiv is that you simply can’t tell where it’s going to go next – you could have guessed at certain vague beats of what’s happened to Laura so far, but it’s now threatening to go in a direction that never seemed in any way imaginable at the outset. And even then, it still wouldn’t surprise me if it pulled yet another volte-face.
(The other most delightful things about WicDiv are, of course, the art and the quips.)
On next week’s list: DC Rebirth Holiday Special #1, Detective Comics #946, The Fix #7, The Flash #12, Hawkeye #1, Jessica Jones #3, New Super-Man #6, Spider-Man #10, Transformers: Lost Light #1, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #15. Always happy to take suggestions for new reads, in the comments or on Twitter.