Autumn is in full swing now and while the leaves are changing and the days are getting shorter, the overwhelming bulk of excellent comics flooding store shelves remains persistent and consistent. Luckily for you, The Escapist’s Comics and Cosplay crew are always here to give you the info you need to make the best purchases possible.
This week Stew Shearer takes a look at the most recent Moon Knight, Scott Snyder’s latest Batman and the opening issues of Birthright and The October Faction. Marshall Lemon looks at the new series Wytches and collections of the Batman: Year Zero story line, Earth 2 and Doctor Who. Rounding out our this week’s collection is Marla Desat with the first issue of Sabrina and the latest from Sex Criminals, Dead Letters and Ms. Marvel.
Let’s get started:
Moon Knight #8
Found footage movies are, at this point, old hat. While cool things have been done with them, they’ve nonetheless been done to death. It’s ironic then that one of the coolest comics I’ve read recently is based around the same concept. Moon Knight 8 follows the titular hero as he resolves a potentially disastrous hostage situation. The twist is that the whole thing plays out through images drawn from news broadcasts, cell phone recordings, security camera footage and drone video feeds. This, of course, would amount to little more than novelty if the writing weren’t solid. Thankfully though, Brian Wood delivers on the script front, turning in a self-contained story that’s tight and engaging from the first to the final page.
Favorite Moment: “You were dead the minute you came up with this idea.”
You may recall Batman 35 as DC’s intended starting point for a price increase that would see the series costing $4.99 an issue instead of the standard $3.99. This wound up not being the case, which is good, but I still have to admit that the opening salvo of Scott Snyder’s Endgame story line is worth the extra dollar. Granted, the story isn’t exactly treading new ground. Batman vs. All His Best Buds is material that other writers have explored before with some really excellent results. That said, Snyder is easily the best writer Bats has had in a long time and if the final pages of issue 35 are any indicator, he intends to close his run on the series with one hell of a bang.
Favorite Moment: “No… no, not him!”
How many movies have you seen where some random kid disappears into a fantasy world and winds up being the savior of everything. Birthright is basically that with except that it focuses primarily on the family members said youth of destiny leaves behind. It’s a concept that’s simple but brilliant. After all, time doesn’t stand still for the parents desperate to find their son or the brother missing their brother. Birthright explores these tragic issues and then sets the stage for even greater conflict and emotional when the missing boy returns as a fully grown Conan stand-in. The long and short is that Birthright is a really cool book that you should definitely take a look at if you’re interested in reading a fresh and clever twist on an age-old trope.
Favorite Moment: “All I want is to see my Mom and Dad.”
The October Faction #1
I won’t go so far as to say that issue 1 of Steve Niles new book, The October Faction is a fantastic, edge-of-your-seat read. Then again, it’s clear pretty much from the first page that that’s not what it’s trying to be. Gloomy and morbid, issue 1 is the sort of book that leaves a lot of seeds that it very clearly intends to nurture for a later harvest down the road. That said, it’s still an engrossing read that draws you into its paranormal world, even if it never explains all of it. If you’re looking for something spooky to go with Halloween, I’d definitely give The October Faction a try.
Favorite Moment: “They are with you now. You can feel them, can’t you? Weighing you down… whispering into your mind?”
Batman Vol 5: Zero Year Vol. 2: Dark City
The first volume of Batman: Zero Year was already a serviceable New 52 origin story. It told the story of how Bruce Wayne first put on the cape and cowl, introduced the Joker, and drew inspiration from classics like Year One and The Killing Joke. But the biggest twist was its ending: After his moment of victory, right when the story normally closes with a heroic full-page view of Batman standing over Gotham, the Riddler emerged from hiding and destroyed everything Bruce achieved.
Volume 2 opens days after Gotham’s power grid went down, as Batman scrambles to find Nigma, avoid a police manhunt, and stop a new killer taking advantage of the darkened city. But the chaos is actually the first step in Nigma’s plan. Halfway through the book, Riddler turns the tables at the last possible moment yet again and secures his position as de facto ruler of Gotham City. With all entrances sealed off, drones patrolling the streets, and Poison Ivy’s plant life choking buildings, Batman has to defeat a Riddler who has every base covered.
Zero Year is barely an origin story at this point except for one detail: This is where Batman learns to trust other people. As appealing as the notion of a lone vigilante is, Batman simply can’t beat these kind of threats alone. It also shows how characters like Commissioner Gordon and Lucius Fox become such valuable partners; because they worked together to literally save Gotham in its darkest hour. Sure, it’s a little strange to imagine Riddler going back to smaller-scale crime after this, and there’s still no explanation for raising four Robins in six years. But it’s a solid Batman romp nonetheless, and ties up the prequel storyline nicely.
Favorite moment: “You are officially disinherited. I’m having Alfred draw up the papers.”
Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor #1
Doctor Who comics aren’t all about continuing the stories of Doctors past; Titan Comics wants to tell new stories about the current Doctor as well! That’s why we’ve got a new series about Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth incarnation, exploring stories alongside those featured in the television series. While this new incarnation hasn’t grown on me quite like Ten or Eleven, this story has a great sci-fi vibe that makes me wish Steven Moffat used this premise in the show.
In this issue, the Doctor has agreed to take Clara to a pristine planet of ice so she can learn to ski in preparation of a school trip alongside Danny Pink. Little do they know that the entire planet has been terraformed into a tropical paradise. While the planet is still incredibly beautiful, it quickly becomes clear that something is subverting the terraforming process and its effect on the wildlife for its own purposes…. something dangerous enough to trigger a Gallifreyan warning beacon left behind by the Time Lords.
Other than a bit of banter at the Eleventh Doctor’s expense (bow ties can be cool sometimes), the issue is a great read. The Doctor and Clara still have good chemistry, the mystery of the planet is well-presented, and the threat has a surprising scope that’s highly appropriate for Doctor Who. Sadly, the cliffhanger has dashed my hopes of resolution at the moment, but it’s hooked me enough to check in next month to see what happens.
Favorite moment: “A wealth of information and embarrassingly easy to reprogram, frankly.”
“Some not bad tunes in their memory banks, though.”
Earth 2 Vol 4: The Dark Age
Back when Crisis on Infinite Earths happened, DC Comics decided to unite all of its characters into a single continuity. The Justice Society, originally treated as a parallel universe version of the Justice League, became DC’s World War II superhero team that inspired its modern characters. But with the New 52, DC Comics decided to separate those timelines again to tell a new story about a heavily reimagined Justice Society. And Earth 2 did that… for a little while.
After a strong opening chapter that lost direction in later issues, Earth 2 has completely changed direction to focus on the fallout of a war with Apokolips. Way back in Earth 2 #1, this world’s versions of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman sacrificed their lives to stop Darkseid’s army. But Superman has apparently not only survived, he’s been corrupted and now acts as Darkseid’s herald on Earth. What’s left of the Justice Society is making a full retreat, leaving it up to new characters, led by a new Batman, to find a way to stop him.
It’s a little disappointing that Earth 2 is becoming more about parallel Supermen and Batman than a standalone Justice Society, but not by much. The idea of an parallel Earth scarred from an alien war was always Earth 2‘s most interesting idea, and its nice to see that finally pay off in a big way. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Tom Taylor, last seen from the excellent Injustice comic, knows how to write a Superman who’s simultaneously all-powerful and absolutely terrifying to encounter. Batman is also portrayed as a convincingly capable Dark Knight, which makes it all the more surprising when he displays superpowers or kills an enemy. Bruce Wayne, this guy is not.
With DC’s “Future’s End” event, it looks like Earth 2 is currently approaching a finale tied to the fate of parallel worlds. With its new creative team, this book marks a good jumping-on point to see what exactly the New 52 is building towards.
Favorite moment: “I didn’t say I was going to release him.”
Witches were never exactly my favorite type of horror monster, but they’re interesting to talk about in terms of history. Real-life people have never gone looking for vampires or werewolves the way they hunted witches – there’s a reason “witch hunt” is a phrase after all. But unless you’re scared of curses, the idea of witches probably won’t scare you. At least that’s what I thought walking into Scott Snyder and Jock’s Wytches. Now their reinterpretation of witch mythology has legitimately creeped me out, and left me curious how the story will develop.
Wytches centers on Sail Rooks, a young girl whose family moved to a remote town after being accused of killing the school bully. Sail knows she didn’t do it… but she did wish the bully was dead with all her heart, and suspects something in the woods is acting on it. Now whatever power caused the disappearance is coming to collect, and not even Sail’s well-meaning family will be able to protect her fully.
To say more would spoil the surprise, but we can safely say that the “wytches” are not the broomstick hags most people think of. Their nature full range of abilities are unclear, so we can’t say whether magic will be a factor or not. But they’ve been around for a long time, and the effect they have on their surroundings is uncomfortably terrifying. You should be warned that Wytches is a grisly read, but if Snyder and Jock can follow up this promising first chapter, we’ll have a solid horror book on our hands.
Favorite moment: “Pledged is pledged.”
Dead Letters #5
Dead Letters continues to deliver on its crime noir promise. Sam is gumshoe with a twist – he, and all his clients, are dead, living Here, in a sort of purgatory. Issues one through four told the first arc of the series, and now Sam has been tasked with investigating the Saints of Nowhere. The Saints are a minor gang that has gotten its hands on the means to disperse souls, the only true way to kill someone Here. When they take out a group of new arrivals, God’s representative sends Sam to find out how, and why.
Writer Chris Sebela’s vision of Here is captivating, exploring exactly what sort of place the people who don’t belong in either Heaven or Hell would build. It’s a refreshing take on crime noir tropes, with enough nods to the genre to clearly show its influence, but the particulars of the world (like the Methuselahs, Sam’s slow discovery of how he died, and the ability to recover from what would normally be fatal wounds) keeps it from being just another pulp mystery. Chris Vision’s loose style gives the series a distinct look, one that balances gritty violence with the haziness and uncertainty of Here. His composition choices give the series a cinematic feel, like using slanted panels jumbled and cut up with one another to better express Sam’s jeopardy when he’s jumped by some thugs. This series has kept me coming back, and it’s worth a slow and careful read to appreciate the world that Sebela and Vision are creating.
Favorite Moment: “Maybe I’ll go out and find some trouble. Or just wait for the trouble to find me.”
Following the success of Afterlife with Archie, Archie Comics has launched a new take on Sabrina the Teenaged Witch. This is no ’90s sitcom, though. Sabrina is set securely in the realm of horror, starting at the young witch’s birth. The daughter of a warlock and mortal woman, Sabrina is a half-breed, promised to one coven but despised by some other witches. Her parents are both quickly taken out of the picture, leaving her in the hands of her aunts Hilda and Zelda. The first issues traces Sabrina as she grows up and attends her very first day of high school.
This issue is a great introduction to the creepy new world of Sabrina. Set in the 1950s and 1960s, the first issue feels a bit like a cross between Rosemary’s Baby and Carrie. Artist Robert Hack’s style gives the witches a creepy, ethereal air, and the colors have a washed out, yellowed and aged look to them. There’s hardly any blue anywhere, and Sabrina’s aunts always seem to be wreathed in red, as if they were steeped in flame and blood. It makes everything feel just a little more tense. Clips of classic Sabrina shorts from Archie Comics are included in the back of each issue, which just reinforces my love for the new iteration of the teen witch.
Favorite Moment: “The poor dear has a fear of spiders…”
Sex Criminals #8
There are few comic books that actually make me laugh out loud, but Sex Criminals has consistently brought me full-body-laughter. Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s series is a frank take on relationships and sex, built around the super power of being able to stop time when you orgasm, and peppered with background details that tickle the pun-loving, word play part of my brain. Orgasm-time-stoppers and lovers-on-a-break Suzie and Jon are both working through their problems in issue 8. Suzie goes to see a gynecologist to get a better birth control option (she describes her current choice, the pill, as making her feel “like a monster”). Jon goes back to therapy, and finds much better help in the mall food court. And then, the issue ends on a tragic development in the story and Fraction and Zdarsky deliver a heartbreaking emotional punch. This, in a comic that has previously featured a dildo duel.
Sex Criminals is for mature readers, of course. I can’t stop recommending it to anyone who will listen. It’s touching, truthful, and a great story, with an even more fantastic community called Brimpers building up around it.
Favorite Moment: “I had to dick around through years of medical school to know my Dracolichs from my Shambling Mounds.”
Ms. Marvel #9
Kamala Khan finally learns the origin of her powers in Ms. Marvel #8. After narrowly defeating a giant robot sent by The Inventor to attack her school, Kamala passes out. Lockjaw arrives with Medusa, Queen of the Inhumans, and brings her back, along with her friend NAME, who knows her secret identity. Vinatos, physician to the Inhuman royal family, suggests that Kamala’s ability to change shape maybe limited when her body is healing, explaining why she couldn’t change her appearance after fighting the giant robot. When she heals, her powers are returning her damaged body parts to their original shape, preventing her from morphing with that limb.
The first story arc of Ms. Marvel introduced the character, her struggles and her personality. After a two issue story, issue #8 began the Ms./ Marvel‘s second arc. Kamala is a hero now, but this arc is proving that being hero comes at a cost, with her own school being targeted by The Inventor. When Kamala decides she needs to stop him for good, she uncovers something about The Inventor’s power source that will make her re-think her entire plan. This series, with creative team G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, continues to outdo my expectations for it.
Favorite Moment: “This is like when you get a really good build going, then the devs decide to nerf your class.”