We’re a day late and I don’t think we really need to explain why. Christmas was yesterday and we were all just too enthralled with unwrapping presents to get around to publishing this week’s Comic’s Collection. Now that our gifts are open and our dumpsters are overflowing with wrapping paper however, we felt it was time to get back to work and give you our usual, patented dose of bi-weekly comic recommendations. Heading up the charging this week is Marshall Lemon with a new Multiversity book, Marla Desat with Ragnarok and myself with trio of Marvel titles. Check out our latest picks and maybe get a few ideas for where to direct all of that Christmas card cash!
The Multiversity: Thunderworld #1
Fawcett Comics’ original run of Captain Marvel (now called Shazam in the New 52) was pretty wholesome even by Silver Age standards. Its heroes were driven by an innate sense of goodness that we’ve rarely seen in the funny pages since Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. Thunderworld straight-up resurrects that classic era as one of The Multiversity‘s parallel dimensions, bringing with it the childlike wonder and adventure that made Cap so appealing in the first place. But instead of bringing this universe back just to destroy it with something dark (like many post-modern alternate universe takes) Thunderworld embraces Billy Batson’s goodness at face value. Instead of making the book cheesy, it comes off as a refreshing breath of fresh air that even cynical readers can enjoy.
Thunderworld opens as Sivana, partnered with alternate versions of himself from the multiverse, takes over the Rock of Eternity itself. With newfound magical and scientific powers at his disposal, Sivana plans to end Marvel once and for all, but he hasn’t accounted for Billy Batson’s cleverness or the dedication of his friends. It’s pretty rare to read comics these days that are so unabashedly cheerful, but Thunderworld embraces that spirit while pitting it against horrifically dark threats. After years of bleak, Game of Thrones-like tales, being able to cheer for the good guy for a change is incredibly appealing.
Whether you’re a fan of classic books from the 1960s, or simply miss old-school Captain Marvel (back when he was actually called Captain Marvel), the latest Multiversity issue is well worth your time.
Favorite Moment: “The Monster Society.”
Ms. Marvel #10
Kamala has discovered how The Inventor is fueling his mechanical monstrosities, but now she has to deal with the revelation that the human batteries at their cores are willing participants. She must convince them that The Inventor doesn’t have altruistic motives, and that he’s using them for his own ends. As the second major arc of this ongoing series starts to wrap up, Kamala realizes the extent of The Inventor’s plot, and must put together a plan to save Lockjaw from his clutches and stop him from implementing The Grid.
When Ms. Marvel first introduced The Inventor as a villain, I couldn’t take him seriously. He’s a cockatiel-contaminated-clone of Thomas Edison, hellbent on Kamala’s destruction, and, lately, the obliteration of her generation. He’s as bizarre as comic book villains get, wholly implausible scientifically, and simply laughable. But, as his plans have been slowly revealed, I’ve grown to like the feathered fiend. He’s an appropriately powered super villain for the new Ms. Marvel and his strangeness helps keep him from feeling contrived. While I’m warming up to him, I still hope Kamala gets some new foes to fight in the next arc. There’s only so many fowl puns I can make.
Favorite Moment: “Can’t you see he’s got you totally brainwashed?”
The Wicked + The Divine #6
The first five issues of The Wicked + The Divine, collectively “The Faust Act”, introduced the gods and the 90 year cycle that sees them reborn into the world for two short years. Issue #6 kicks off in the aftermath of issue #5, with Laura wondering if the minor miracle she performed means she is also doomed to die in two years like all the gods. Laura has become a minor celebrity for her efforts to help Lucifer, and she has no idea how to handle the fame. It’s a fantastic start to Laura exploring her own fame, on the path becoming the idol instead of the fan.
Writer Kieron Gillen and artist Jamie McKelvie are crafting a deeply personal modern mythology with this book. Fame, fandom, creation and doubt are major themes in this series, and I can’t wait to see how Laura triumphs and stumbles her way further into the pantheon.
Favorite Moment: “So what’s my life like now?”
The Lumberjanes may have solved the mystery of the forest, but they still have a lot of badges to earn. In this standalone story, the girls are telling ghost stories to earn their “If You’ve Got It, Haunt It” badges. Artists Aimee Fleck, Becca Tobin, Carolyn Nowak, Felicia Choo, T. Zysk and Faith Erin Hicks all contribute to this anthology issue. Each Lumberjane’s scary story is illustrated by a different artist, and the art fits the voice of individual characters. The styles range from classic European comic style with a limited color palette for Jo’s stately ghost story, to Ripley’s psychedelic and bright tale of evil candy.
After getting to know these characters in the first big arc of the series, this shorter standalone stories prove that writers Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson with artist Brooke Allen know how to deliver satisfying single issue stories as well as long-form tales. I love the wholesome, magical, “Friendship to the MAX!” spirit of this book, and I every time I pick up a new issue it makes me smile. I can’t recommend this series enough, particularly to anyone who is trying to get a young reader into comic books.
Favorite Moment: “I’ve got a story, and it’s 100% true.”
The long-dead god of thunder wanders through endless twilight in search of answers.
What, you want more than that? After being freed by an assassin that originally intended to kill him, Thor fought his way back into a world wrecked by apocalypse. Confused and alone, he sets out across the desert and through the dead-infested lands to learn the fate of the gods, Asgard, and the mortals he has sworn to protect. Grisly and gruesome-looking, this angsty Thor is no Chris Hemsworth, but he’s passionate, violent, and dedicated. His quest to understand the ruin of the world really begins in this issue, bringing him through the Forest of the Dead. Writer and artist Walter Simonson has soaked this series in Norse mythology, and isn’t shy about referencing draugur, Yggdrasil, and Ratatosk without context. It’s a slowly building story told with momentous, solemn art and a careful pace.
While I’m reading this series digitally, the bleak and beautiful art along with the novel-like style of this series makes me hope for a collector’s edition sometime in the future. It’s the kind of series that deserves a slow, careful read.
Favorite Moment: “I would do better to guard my temper more carefully.”
Spider-Man and the X-Men #1
The thing I enjoyed most about Wolverine and the X-Men was how it initially strived to imbue the ridiculousness of the X-Men’s adventurers with an appropriate tone of silliness. When you get down to it, Marvel’s mutants get themselves into predicaments that can be hard to take serious. Having the book approach them, in turn, with its tongue firmly in its cheek just worked and led to some wonderfully fun adventurers.
Sadly though, as the book progressed and switched creative teams, it started to succumb to some of the X-Men’s most frustrating habits. Constant time travel, everything’s about the phoenix, people constantly switching sides; it started to become convoluted and, if we’re being honest, a bit of a slog to follow.
You can perhaps understand my excitement when it was announced that the book would be coming to an end in the wake of Wolverine’s death and would swiftly be replaced by a new book adding everyone’s favorite wall-crawler into the title spot. With issue one of Spider-Man and the X-Men now available, I can happily report that it seems to be a winning combination. Following Spidey’s unwelcome addition to the faculty of the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, the first issue is filled with the same brand of humor and lightheartedness that originally made its predecessor such a joy. Hop on this one while it’s still fresh.
Favorite Moment: “Hello, students! My name is Mr. Spider-Man and I’ll be your new teacher for the next… however long it takes… to teach you… stuff.”
All-New Captain America #2
I wasn’t entirely sold on the first issue of All-New Captain America. It was a solid effort, to be sure, but it just didn’t grab me in the way that generally drives me to recommend it in a Comics Collection. That being the case, issue two was much more effective. Following Sam Wilson (a.k.a. The Falcon) as he continues through his first mission as the new Captain America, the issue does a good job of capitalizing on the differences between Wilson and his predecessor, Steve Rogers.
Most centrally, it pits him against one Rogers’ mainstay villains: Crossbones. Lacking Rogers’ super hero serum, Wilson finds himself very much outmatched by his opponent who comes literally inches away from killing him before an unexpected ally emerges to save him. Granted, he’s also wounded at the time, but the fight really taps into what I think is the most potentially interesting elements of All-New Captain America. Seeing how a different, arguably weaker character tackles the sort of challenges that serve as Steve Rogers’ bread and butter. It’s worth picking up and I’d recommend you do so.
Favorite Moment: “Hand-to-hand no good… Middleweight vs. heavyweight… Middleweight gets smart… Or gets dead.”
Cyclops has always been perhaps the squarest of all the X-Men. He’s the Boy Scout. The leader. The letterman jacket to Wolverine’s leather coat.
He’s also always been probably my favorite character out of all the X-bunch. Granted, some of that stems from my also being a huge square. Beyond that though, I just find his good-boy persona to be really fertile ground for interesting storytelling.
Take Marvel’s Cyclops solo-series, in example. Following a sixteen-year-old, time-displaced version of the titular hero, it centers on his adventures with his space pirate father and the way those experiences effect him compared to the way he grew up in the original X-Men series. Prior to issue eight we’ve seen him develop different skills and explore a relationship with his father that, in the past, wouldn’t come until much later in his life.
In issue eight, however, we also get a glimpse of him coming to realize that’s capable of being a bad guy and, to an extent, even enjoying it. Working undercover as part of a pirate crew that’s imprisoned his father, he gets locked in a firefight with Shi’ar warriors whom he promptly beats the crud out of and robs. The fight brings to the surface mixed feelings about himself that I quite like, especially when paired with other X-books like Uncanny X-Men which also focuses on a more extreme, less wholesome Scott Summers.
Favorite Moment: “We fought. We plundered. We stole. And… so help me… I liked it.”