As you hopefully know, we’re smack dab in the middle of December and things around our fine country of loosely united states are taking a turn for the cold. That in mind, we can’t think of a better way to spend your time than curling up beneath a thick blanket with an even thicker stack of comic books. And, as always, we at The Escapist’s Comics & Cosplay channel are here to help you assemble said stack with our patented recommendation column.
This week, I lead the charge with a look at the new New Legendary Star-Lord. Following behind me are Marshall Lemon with his take on Bitch Planet and the new Southern Bastards and Marla Desat with her opinion on the ongoing adventures of Rocket Raccoon and several fresh series including Solitary and Eternal. Stay warm and keep reading!
Legendary Star-Lord #6
I unfortunately don’t have many comics to write about this week. I live in Vermont and we just had a sizable snow storm which, sadly, prevented my comic store’s weekly delivery from arriving. Luckily, I was able to pick up my subscription books from last week (all three of them) and was happy to discover that issue 6 of Legendary Star-Lord is a lot of fun.
The latest issue centers in on Peter Quill as he tries to take his long-distance (we’re galaxy length) girlfriend, X-Man Kitty Pride, on a “normal” date. The joke, of course, is that there’s no way in hell it’s going to work out. The fact that their date is playing out via hologram immediately makes it shades weirder than anything you could classify as normal. Making matters worse, he soon finds himself being hunted by a team of assassin’s sent by the nefarious Mr. Knife. The bulk of the book follows his nose-diving efforts to give Kitty a proper night on the town while also keeping her in the dark so the ongoing murder attempts don’t spoil the mood.
This isn’t a groundbreaking entry in the series, but it had me laughing throughout. Even without the assassins, the date is just hilariously awkward. It’s really amusing to see the usually smooth Quill struggling to do simple small talk and fumbling around like any other guy nervous about a big date. I likewise loved the couple’s dueling inner-monologues. It was just so cute to see them grasping at straws trying to speak to each other while their actual thoughts painted them as being a genuinely compatible couple. The romantic in me ate it up.
Favorite Moment: “Ugh that was stupid. Aaaaaand sweet.”
Bitch Planet #1
Imagine what Orange Is The New Black might look like if you blended it with science fiction and a heavy dose of 70s exploitation flick violence. You’d probably get something like Bitch Planet, a new comic series that’s incredibly upfront about its feminist ideals, while also being a damn fine action book to boot. Bitch Planet is set in a future where female convicts aren’t just incarcerated, they’re shipped to an all-women prison planet with no hope of being released. While certainly filled with its fair share of murderers and violent offenders, the more insidious threat is the corrupt guards and wardens who control every aspect of their lives, even doling out the occasional assassination when a particular prisoner needs to disappear.
So just like any high-tension prison, Bitch Planet quickly becomes a powder-keg as its prisoners start taking action, and not in a meek and peaceful “let’s all get along” kind of way. No, these ladies literally start massive riots to show their frustration with the system. Even as a male reader, it’s great fun seeing less-than-compassionate guards get pounded for refusing to acknowledge basic human decency. And if you’re not especially interested in political messages, you can still sit back and enjoy the action-packed ride.
Although if you do enjoy the political subtext, you’re also enjoy how Bitch Planet cleverly hides its messages in plains sight. Video advertisements played in the background on Earth are just as offensive to women as any from modern day, and there’s one chilling twist (which I won’t spoil here) that turns the story’s expectations on its head. Bitch Planet isn’t just offensively upfront about its message, it wants to make you think as well. That certainly makes for good comics, and I sincerely hope it gets people talking.
Favorite Moment: “Where’m I s’posed to put my tits?!”
The latest issue of Grayson opens as Grayson and Midnighter help a woman give birth as their helicopter goes through a crash landing.
Yeah, the rest of the book is noticeably calmer after that.
Grayson‘s first storyline has focused on SPYRAL’s attempts to recover super-powered human organs from around the world, one of which was inside an unborn child. This chapter jumps ahead to the end of the action, where Midnighter’s arrival botched the mission, destroyed their communication equipment, and crashed them in the middle of the desert. Now Grayson, Helena, and Midnighter need to get to civilization, but don’t have enough supplies to do so… unless they follow Midnighter’s suggest and draw the super-powered energy of the newborn baby.
That’s a little amoral, even for a character like Midnighter, but it sets up a nice dynamic where Grayson refuses to compromise, even in an impossible situation. Despite having superpowers that could match Grayson, Midnighter ends up facing him on moral grounds, which is a far more interesting struggle to see unfold in the stark desert wasteland. It’s also a great example of how to tell superhero stories that go beyond “might makes right”.
The cold open approach is a little confusing to anyone just jumping into the series (hell, it was confusing for someone who’s caught up) but it remains a gorgeously told story that makes Grayson a fantastic read.
Favorite Moment: “Shhhhhhhhh. Good girl. Good girl.”
Southern Bastards #6
Last issue, we were introduced to a bizarre juxtaposition: How did Coach Boss, the de facto crime lord of Craw County, start out as Euless Boss, the weakling student who couldn’t succeed at football? More of that answer is revealed here, and for the first time, you’ll probably find yourself feeling sympathy for the monster we first met during Issue #2.
You see, Boss isn’t just someone who really wants on the football team; it’s the only hope he has for success in life. Not only did his father put him through an abusive home life, but because his father is the deadbeat of Craw County, Boss literally has no friends or support in his hometown. Football is the dream that keeps him going, and like any good sports movie, this is the chapter where he finds a mentor to help him achieve his goal.
Of course, as an adult, Coach Boss is also a criminal leader, which doesn’t quite fit his football mythology. But as the last issue ends, we realize that seed was planted in his childhood as well, souring what could have been a bright future for him. If the first Southern Bastards storyline made you hate Coach Boss, the second will make your heart soften for him. Just a little, anyway.
Favorite Moment: “Are you eating a stick of butter?”
“Get back to work.”
Solitary #1 (of 4)
Independent comic creator and writer CW Cooke raised the funds on Kickstarter to finish his personal project Solitary. Published by Devil’s Due Entertainment, Solitary is a grim superhero story. Tim, a former hero, was convicted of gruesome crimes and sentenced to death. When the day of his execution arrives, his jailors soon realize that Tim’s superpowers extend to immortality.
It’s a melancholy story that reminds me in some ways of Irredeemable and Powers. Though I find the art, by Nando Souzamotta, a little sharp and abrasive, it suits the tone of the book well. Solitary runs only four issues, so I don’t expect that Tim is going to get a happy ending in all of this, but Cooke has built enough mystery and anguish into this first issue that I’ll definitely be back for issue #2.
Favorite Moment: “No more sidekicking.”
Eternal #1 (of 4)
Set in the near future when clones have become commonplace, Eternal is new limited series from Boom! Studios by writer William Harms and artist Giovanni Valletta. Death has become inconsequential for most people, because a perfect clone of your body is in storage, awaiting the transfer of your mind. Eternal explores what the world would be like where immortality is real possibility, and where DNA is highly valued, making the genetic code of non-cloned humans (called Pures) highly sought. The class divide between those who have been clones, and those have not, is deep, and biotech company New Life seems to have declared some sort of martial law, if not government-by-corporation.
This new series reminds a little of Lazarus. It’s dystopian but less an exploration of what happens when the 1% becomes the 0.0001% and more an exploration of how cloning, and transfer of consciousness, could create barriers in our society. For those who choose not to be cloned, what does that mean for their lives? How does law enforcement function in a world where death is not a deterrent for most? It’s dark and brutal, and though main character Gail Jensen seems to be fighting against corruption, her methods are equally questionable. I can’t wait to see where this goes.
Favorite Moment: “Sonic vacuum – everyone hit the floor!”
Rocket Raccoon #6
Skottie Young’s Rocket Raccoon is constantly jostling with Ms. Marvel to be my favorite ongoing Marvel title right now. The latest issue tells the standalone story “Misfit Mechs”, which is every bit as adorable as you might expect. With Groot on vacation, Rocket is doing odd jobs around the galaxy to earn some cash. Cosmo, the cosmonaut dog, needs Rocket’s help to save some former war mechs from being pressed back into service, and to return them to their quaint planet of unwanted machines. He ends up working with Brute, a hulking but retired war mech who speaks only in binary, in order to save some captured mechs. It’s a great little plot, and swapping out one companion for another with a similarly limited vocabulary is gag that even Rocket points out, but it works well and kept making me laugh out loud.
Jake Parker is still on art duties for Rocket Raccoon, and he’s hitting every mark, delivering high energy pages that can stand toe-to-toe with the zany flair that Young established for the series. Packed with jokes and ridiculous sound effects, Rocket Raccoon makes a perfect introduction to comics for young readers, and it’s a joy for everyone else.
Favorite Moment: “You get the point. You’re all murdered.”
The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw #2
I raved about the double-sized first issue of Tooth & Claw last month. It’s a fantastic new epic fantasy series from Image, written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by Ben Dewey. After conjuring a massive spell in the first issue, the second issue reveals exactly what the mages ripped out of time. As the crumbled city comes under attack, The Great Champion awakes, and it’s not exactly what the mages expected.
Busiek is heaping trouble upon trouble on Dunstan and the other survivors, and Dewey’s art continues to astound me. The visual differences between the aristocratic animals who easily wield magic and the wilder creatures, called “lesser ones”, immediately tells the reader so much about how the world of the The Autumnlands works, how magic has been used to build walls and divide the world. I’m eager to see the differences between those who lived in the city and those who live in the plains explored.
Issue #2 is a little more explicit than the first, with the Great Champion emerging nude and hairless from the mage’s spells. The series also picks up the extended title of The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw with this issue, a result of last minute trademark issues.
Favorite Moment: “Cloud Dwellers brought low. Cast down by own gods.”
The New 52: Future’s End Vol. 1
Future’s End is DC’s current crisis event and an increasingly difficult one to ignore; not only is its story being told across two weekly series, it’s apparently going to tie into DC’s Convergence event next summer. Thankfully, overwhelmed readers who have no idea where to start can turn to the first Future’s End trade paperback, collecting 18 issues of the core mini-series.
Opening 35 years in the future, Earth and most of its superheroes have been assimilated by the OMAC supercomputer. As a last-second plan to save humanity, Batman Beyond uses a time machine to go back in time and prevent it from being built. Pretty standard time travel stuff so far, but there’s a twist: An error drops Batman Beyond five years in the future, after OMAC was build but before the apocalypse began. That means we’re also introduced to a new version of New 52 continuity, making it easy to start reading without having followed the rest of DC’s reboot.
Where other Future’s End books focused on the futures of specific heroes, this core series examines the DC Universe as a whole, centering on characters connected to OMAC’s rise. While there’s no requirement to read other New 52 books first, readers are rewarded with glimpses of where each series is headed: Earth 2’s war with Apolkolips spilled over into Earth 1, Superman wears a mask, and Mr. Terrific becomes the Steve Jobs of the DC Universe. So much is happening I can barely scratch the surface here, but suffice to say this series heralds major changes for DC Comics. If you’re interested in learning about those changes from the ground floor, this is where you’ll want to start.
Favorite Moment: Finally seeing the secret of Cadmus Island.
Superman Unchained Deluxe Edition
The New 52 version of Superman took a bit of getting used to for me. I grew up with a Superman who was friendly and approachable, one who you easily forgot was born on a distant world. But while the rebooted Superman was still altruistic, he always came off as a little cold in how he approached humanity. Superman Unchained, however, makes that dynamic a little more compelling and believable. This is a hero who needs to remind himself to say comforting words because ordinary people don’t feel safe when plummeting to Earth from space. But the entire time, he still looks at the world in terms of what he can do for it, instead of taking advantage of it. Altogether, that makes Superman Unchained one of the better New 52 Superman books to read if you want to see what he’s all about now.
When a terrorist group appears to be knocking satellites from the sky, Superman’s investigation uncovers a surprise: another solar powered alien working for a branch of the military. But where Superman spends his time defending the public, this character has been controlling geopolitics to make the world “safer” in some very dark ways. Superman’s extended cast from Lois Lane to Lex Luthor also have major roles to play, and even the occasional cameo from Batman. But even if you’re not interested in Scott Snyder’s story, the book is worth checking out for Jim Lee’s gorgeous artwork alone.
Whether you’re looking for a fun Superman story, or just want to dip your toes in the New 52, Superman Unchained‘s hardcover is worth checking out.
Favorite Moment: “For at least three hours, yes. I’m out cold now. Lucky for me, I’ve always been a bit of a planner.”