We dig into biblical disaster, actually decent licensed comics, a couple from Mark Millar, and more. You’re also invited to make fun of someone for admitting they read Sandman before reading Watchmen.
We’ve taken a break from Comics Collection for a couple of weeks, and to make up for it, we’ve put together a super-sized edition to showcase our favorite titles from the month of March which is rapidly coming to an end.
It seems both Stew and Marshall went crazy over The Witcher #1, which makes sense to me, since I’m a little bit crazy over the video game series. We also looked at Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 10, Starlight, Magneto, The Walking Dead, Superman Unchained, and The Secret Service: Kingsman as well as the comic book adaptation of Darren Aronofsky’s Greek Myth take on the biblical story of Noah.
March also, finally, saw the release of The Sandman: Overture issue #2 after a 5 month delay. Sandman remains one of my all time favorite comic series, even knowing how rough it was in the first 8 issues. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that the series was my introduction to the idea that comics could be as dense and challenging as traditional literature – I starting reading the series in 1990, a couple of years before someone shamed me for not having read Watchmen! (But cut me some slack. I was quite young and stuck in a small town in Oklahoma, so my ability to be exposed to stuff was very limited.) In any event, any time Gaiman returns to the series that made him a lifetime member of the comics elite is a time for me to squee like a little kid. And I did.
Anyway, feel free to make fun of me in comments for admitting I was a semi-latecomer to Watchmen. And read on, to see what we’ve selected as worthy of sapping you of your precious money.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 10 #1
Buffy The Vampire Slayer was one of the first franchises to transition from canceled TV series to ongoing comic book, and has been successful enough to warrant three additional “seasons”. In the new premiere, Buffy has restored magic on Earth, stopped yet another apocalypse, and is now fighting a “zompire” infestation in an alliance with a traditional vampire coven. At the moment of victory however, a new threat emerges stronger than anything Buffy has faced before, and she’ll need the help of a few returning friends to put a stop to it. Season 10 #1 is a good jumping-on point for the comic, although it does assume readers have at some familiarity with the extensive cast it introduces in a few short pages (an episode or two should do). Long-time Buffy fans will be especially happy to see the Scooby Gang back together, although the group has noticeably changed from their monster-slaying high school years. That said, Season 10 definitely follows the same pulp-inspired spirit of the original show, complete with heroes making casual wisecracks in the face of danger.
Favorite moment: When the sun comes up.
The Witcher #1
Spinning out of CD Projekt’s interpretation of the popular character, Dark Horse Comics’ The Witcher takes Geralt on a new adventure set in Angren’s Black Forest. There he meets a hunter named Jakob uniquely tied to one of the forest’s supernatural creatures, and the two decide to make the journey together to the other side. Interestingly, despite Geralt’s knowledge of monsters and expertise in dispatching them, it’s Jakob who’s the more engaging character in this story. His ties to the forest are emotionally compelling and drive the plot forward, setting up the threats Geralt will face in future issues. So far, the quest is one I would enjoy playing directly in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, but barring that there’s another four issues that will continue the tale.
Favorite moment: When Geralt realizes what happened to Marta.
Darren Aronofsky is no stranger to comic books, having published The Fountain as a “Director’s Cut” graphic novel alongside the completed film. His upcoming Noah, on the other hand, was released as a four volume French-language comic that Image translated and compiled within a single hardcover. While one obviously can’t compare the comic and film yet, the story itself is riveting, expanding the biblical tale of Noah using “non-canon” apocryphal elements like magic and angels that were never included in the Sunday school version. The completed book itself is also gorgeous to look at, thanks to an art style that renders the apocalyptic scope of Noah’s journey along with the subtle details of his complex world (note the “futuristic” machinery in the wasteland, and the paintings on the old man’s wall). What’s really significant is how Aronofsky portrays Noah as a tragic figure, one who protects nature but treats humans (and his own family) with a cruelty that slowly turns him into one of the story’s villains. I was already looking forward to seeing Noah on the big screen, but this graphic novel is both a worthy companion piece and a satisfying read in itself.
Favorite moment: When Ham refuses to help his father up.
The Walking Dead Book 20: All Out War Part 1 – Image Comics
After years of build-up, Rick Grimes has finally united three communities in a single goal: Overthrowing the sadistic dictator Negan and his Savior army. All Out War Part 1 collects the first six issues of this conflict, detailing Rick’s attempt to destroy Negan’s outposts before the unpredictable leader organizes a counter-attack. The Walking Dead is finally pitting Rick against human adversaries operating on a scale grander than the Governor, so of course the stakes are incredibly high. The only real drawback is that after ten years of watching beloved characters fall, The Walking Dead‘s surprise deaths aren’t quite as shocking as they once were. Of course, the second half of All Out War is still being published as single issues, so Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard could be saving their biggest twists for the finale. Whatever happens, All Out War remains the biggest event in The Walking Dead‘s ten-year history, proving the book can stand out from its AMC and Telltale Games counterparts.
Favorite moment: Negan’s multi-panel reaction to Rick’s plan. You’ll know it when you see it.
Available in stores or on the usual online outlets.
What happens when space heroes like John Carter or Adam Strange become old? Forty years ago, Duke McQueen went through a wormhole, saved the universe from a galactic tyrant, and returned home to the woman he loved. Now his wife has passed away and his children have no time for him, but someone from the stars needs McQueen to return for one final adventure. The first issue grounds readers in the tragic reality of McQueen’s earthbound life, occasionally breaking up Mark Millar’s character building with flashbacks of space adventures. Our hero’s newfound loneliness absolutely yanks on the heartstrings, raising the possibility that Starlight won’t have a happy ending even before we know what happened to the utopia he left behind. Regardless, Goran Parlov’s art helps make Starlight a glorious celebration of 1960s sci-fi, even if it adds a little Unforgiven to a Tom Strong-themed adventure.
Favorite moment: “Ungentlemanly.” “New Yorker.”
The Secret Service: Kingsman
Jack London is a suave spy from a 1960s Bond movie, dismantling terrorist cells and nuclear devices with devices we can only dream of. His nephew Gary, on the other hand, is a street punk from an abusive home destined to a life of poverty and crime. Realizing that Gary has the potential to become a new breed of superspy, London pulls him from home and enrolls him in an agency academy, just as a celebrity-kidnapping supervillain reveals a plan of worldwide destruction. Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons do a good job explaining the logic behind spy movies (government agents receive extensive sexual training for intelligence gathering purposes), but the real heart of The Secret Service lies in London and Gary’s relationship. London is the only person who thinks Gary can improve his life, even among Gary’s family and peers, which lends an emotional weight to every interaction they have. More importantly, Gary’s attempts to get past his hostile upbringing are surprisingly honest and heartwrenching, to the point of making London’s spy antics seem trite by comparison. Still, playing a 1960s spy soundtrack while reading has rarely been more appropriate, especially once The Secret Service readies its third-act plot twists and You Only Live Twice-inspired finale.
Favorite moment: “I wish you wouldn’t keep calling me Cyclops, sir.”
Available in stores or on the usual online outlets.
This one’s a bit belated on account of my not getting to the comic store until this past weekend. That said, Magneto #1 was easily one of the standout books from the stack I brought home so I felt it was worth sharing even if it isn’t the most recent book I read this past week. The strength of Magneto is lesser scale. While the X-
Men have arguably had some of their most famous adventures tackling big conflicts, my favorite mutant stories tend to be the smaller ones focused on their seemingly endless battle against bigotry. Magneto #1 was pretty much just that. His powers weakened during of Avengers vs. X-Men, Magneto has, up until recently, been a member of the Cyclops underground mutant revolution. Now, in his first solo series ever, the disillusioned master of magnetism has struck out on his own to hunt down the perpetrators of mutant hate crimes. This first issue is a bit heavy on set-up, but when the action kicks in, it’s pretty danged brilliant.
Favorite Moment: “It’s…It’s…MAGNETO!”
Superman Unchained #6
While the main Superman series has arguably taken some time to grow into a book worthy of the Man of Steel, Scott Snyder’s Superman Unchained has, from the get-go, been an entertaining book that’s done a great job of introducing and implementing the new villain Wraith. An alien being loyal to the US government and with powers equivalent to good ol’ Supes, he’s spent the duration of the series vaguely threatening Superman and trying to convince him to fall in line with the interests of the red, white and blue. Their growing hostility finally comes to blows in issue 6 which also includes an near nuclear holocaust, a Lois Lane rescue (cause it’s Superman) and, of course, Batman looking impossibly cool in the book’s final pages.
Favorite Moment: ‘That’s the sound of the United States of America declaring war on you.”
The Witcher #1
I’m a sucker for a good fantasy comic and with its first issue Dark Horse’s The Witcher (based on the book/video game series) is looking solid. Starting off with Geralt, the titular Witcher buddying up with a hunter named Jakob, the majority of issue 1 is just the two characters chatting as they work their way through a forest that winds up being more than it appears. The book manages to fit a lot in its 24 pages including, vampires, grave hags, woodland beasts and dead squirrels. There are perhaps some moments where the art is a tad underwhelming and this is definitely, above all else, a setup book, but the writing is solid, the characters likable and it left me wanting more.
Favorite Moment: “Rather talk about demonic hags and their withered leathered breasts or do you want some wine?”
The Sandman: Overture #2
I’ve never been a huge fan of Neil Gaiman’s work as a novelist, but The Sandman remains one of my all time favorite series (even taking the awkward first storyline that tried to tie it into the larger DC universe into account.) And so it is that Gaiman’s return to the series, The Sandman: Overture, was a reason to celebrate. Unfortunately, that return has been marked by immense delays: Issue #1 of the 6-issue series was released last October! I mean, we get that Gaiman is a busy man, but it’s been 13 years since Sandman: Endless Nights. Give a dog a bone, right? Fortunately, the bone has finally been given, and it was well worth the wait. Where issue #1 was somewhat meandering (as if Gaiman was re-learning how to write comics), issue #2 is more tightly focused, and sees the series finally begin to fill in blanks that have existed since the very first issue of The Sandman back in ’89. Conceptually, it’s often very meta, almost as though we’re seeing Gaiman himself talking to, well, himself, about the series. but Gaiman has always been good with wordplay and dense, labyrinthine plots. But what truly makes the issue crackle is the spectacular art by J.H. Williams. It’s a great read and beautiful to look at, and if you haven’t already grabbed it, you should do so now.
Favorite Moment: The conversation between various aspects of Dream. And the art, which in case I wasn’t clear, is spectacular.