The Escapist’s Comics and Cosplay team checks out Injustice Year 2, Princess Ugg, and the new Thor.
It’s October, and that means the Comics and Cosplay crew at The Escapist is celebrating the arrival of new television shows based on our favorite comics (like Gotham), and the return of Agents of Shield . The steady flow of comics doesn’t stop for new television series however, so as usual we’ve rounded up the best issues from the last two weeks for you to enjoy while sipping your first pumpkin spice latte of the season.
This week, Marshall Lemon follows Batman’s pal Dick Greyson into espionage in Greyson, and gets ultraviolent with the all-new Lobo. Marshall also took a look at the first collected volume of DC Comics’ Injustice: Gods Among Us Year 2, gumshoed through Ed Brubaker’s new crime noir The Fade Out, and got a little melancholy with The Li’l Depressed Boy: Supposed to Be There Too. Stew Shearer checks out Marvel’s latest leading lady in Thor, and heads out into space with Silver Surfer, before ending up on a backwater mining planet with a small massacre problem in Image Comics’ Copperhead. Marla Desat was also drawn out into the cosmos with Roche Limit, a sci fi noir about a colony gone bad, and jumped back in time to 1600s Spain to see a samurai and a Jesuit priest team up in the sword fighting mystery Cimarronin. Marla checked in on Marvel’s Inhuman to see how Queen Medusa is faring with her city now known to the world, and found a gem with the coming-of-age story Princess Ugg.
First up, it’s…
Injustice: Gods Among Us Year Two – Vol. 1
I usually don’t pay much attention to video-game-to-comic-book adaptations, but I recently made an exception for Injustice. Not only was it a pretty sweet game to begin with, the series has run non-stop for over 24 issues, with a third season launching next week. That’s impressive for any book that isn’t a video game adaptation, so I decided I had to see what the fuss was about. As it turns out, Injustice is an absolutely fantastic series, reading like Mark Waid’s bleak Irredeemable was set in the DCU.
Injustice: Gods Among Us is set in a parallel universe where Superman, distraught over Lois Lane’s death, takes over the world to prevent future disasters. But where the game depicts the end of Superman’s story, the Injustice comic follows Superman’s full descent into madness, starting with the destruction of Metropolis. By Year Two Earth’s heroes have already taken sides, but now the Justice League has to contend with the Green Lantern Corps, who suspect Superman is the next great threat to the universe.
There are several “What If Superman went bad” stories out there, but what’s delicious about Injustice is that it drags the entire DCU along for the ride. As an ongoing series, we see that the Justice League still has as many alien invasions and crisis events as before; it’s just that Superman doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty to fix them. What’s more, Superman isn’t so evil that you can’t sympathize with him. He regrets fighting his friends and wants to do the right thing, but constantly finds himself crossing moral lines to achieve his goals. That alone elevates Injustice to a superhero tragedy, one that I hope continues for years to come.
Favorite Moment: “Ah. Now I see it… The ambition. You want Superman to fail.”
I’ve been pretty upfront about my dislike of the New 52 Lobo. Not only was it unnecessary to reboot his character (twice), but the latest interpretation seemed to completely miss the point of what every Lobo fan enjoyed about the character. The New 52 Lobo is now a played-straight version of the personality he once parodied, and anybody who grew up with the DCAU Lobo will feel confused and disappointed. This is an entirely new character in everything but name, and I’d probably enjoy this more if they just went ahead and replaced even that.
That being said, the first issue of Lobo does offer an interesting premise. After finally tracking down and killing the alien that stole his name, Lobo is offered a new mission: Head to Earth and stop eight of the universe’s worst bounty hunters from killing their target, by any means necessary. Issue #1 show Lobo confronting the first of these adversaries while facing a conundrum. If someone was willing to hire eight bounty hunters, what stopped them from hiring Lobo himself?
That concept alone is enough to get one through Lobo #1, and the ultra-hyper comic book violence is well presented, if you enjoy that sort of thing. It’s just too bad it couldn’t be the original Lobo carrying out this job in his usual, ridiculous fashion. If that’s a hindrance to you, perhaps you could rename him something else for your head canon. Like Pobo.
There, I feel better already!
Favorite Moment: “We’ll see how the history books remember it… ya bastich!”
The Lil’ Depressed Boy: Supposed To Be Here #1
I never read the original Lil’ Depressed Boy, written by Shaun Steven Struble and Sina Grace. But from the first issue of the new mini-series, it’s pretty easy to see the appeal. It centers on the absolutely ordinary adventures of Lil’ Depressed Boy, a character whose chronic depression isn’t represented by outward displays of sadness, but by being a ragdoll in a world of ordinary people. Following the previous series, LDB has found happiness in a new relationship, until a chance meeting with an old flame threatens to drive him back to old mindsets and habits.
Handling depression is a very common, but still tricky, issue for many. Representing these struggles through Lil’ Depressed Boy is surprisingly appropriate, as it brings to light the silent idiosyncrasies that many sufferers deal with on a regular basis. It’s also clear from the letter columns that LDB’s portrayal is something that’s touched a lot of people, since it showed they weren’t alone in their symptoms. If you’re interested in a reading a nuanced take on the subject, Lil’ Depressed Boy is a great choice.
Favorite Moment: “Let’s not let her ruin everyone’s night.”
The Fade Out #2
I was already very impressed with The Fade Out #1, and the next chapter also fails to disappoint. Following the events of the last issue, Charlie is trying to pretend that nothing has changed after Valeria’s murder is ruled a suicide. But even he’s surprised to see that Mir Thursby, one of the most likely candidate for covering up the truth, is upset emotionally over what’s happened. What’s not entirely clear is whether Mir was invested in Valeria romantically or professionally; now that all of Valeria’s scenes have to be reshot, there’s a good chance her movie could sink the studio if the director doesn’t come up with something fresh.
Meanwhile, flashbacks also explore the past of Gil Mason, Charlie’s writing partner who was accused of Communist leanings by the FBI. The experience has left Gil broken and unemployed, not to mention reliant on Charlie to help provide for his wife. It’s a very personal and sad story showing that the movie business never worked out for everyone, not just the murdered actress of last issue.
The murder investigation takes a back seat to the slow burn of character development, but like any good film noir story, that’s unlikely to keep for long. I still get the feeling that once The Fade Out is complete, this issue is one people will be look back to for hidden clues and character motivations. We’ll find out in future instalments.
Favorite moment: “Look at the headstone… they put her fucking stage name on it.”
Grayson is quickly proving itself to be a fantastic addition to the New 52. It’s clearly set in the DCU, despite having little to do with superheroics. It investigates the moral ambiguities of espionage through the eyes of a former Boy Wonder. And it manages to carry the quirky elements of 1960s spy thrillers into a modern storyline.
In this issue, Dick and Helena are partnered with another pair of agents to catch “The Old Gun”, an eyeless assassin who connected his optic nerves to his weapons. Everything Old Gun sees, he can shoot, which leads Spyral to think they’ll need weapons to take him down. But Dick has no interest in killing any of his enemies, preferring his martial art skills, acrobatics, and compassionate nature to achieve his goals. That all comes to a head as Dick’s peaceful solutions and the violent approach of Spyral agents culminate in a tragic ending that packs an emotional punch.
This issue gets just about everything right. The moral ambiguity. The Batman-esque fight sequences. And the attempts of a former Robin to hold onto the values he once knew. If that’s what it manages in three issues, I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Favorite moment: “That’s not my name.”
Up next, it’s Stew’s picks…
One of Marvel’s biggest recent announcements was that Thor, the God of Thunder himself, would soon see his mantle (and hammer) claimed by a new female Asgardian who would, in turn, receive her own ongoing series and be the Marvel Universe’s primary source of mythological ass kicking for the foreseeable future. It opens with the Odinson mysteriously unworthy of his magical hammer Mjolnir. Understandably devastated by his sudden tumble down the totem pole, he heads off to fight the dark elf Maleketh in a disastrous battle on Earth. While this happening the new lady Thor (identity still freaking unknown) emerges and claims the hammer for herself. I will say I was disappointed by how little actually happens in this book, but I can’t complain too much. Jason Aaron’s writing continues to be incredibly solid and the final pages left me pumped to find out what happens next.
Favorite Moment: “Worthiness should not be defined by the whims of magic weapons. Rise my son, and let the hammer be damned. Rise and remember the hero that you are.”
Silver Surfer #6
Silver Surfer is the most fun book Marvel is producing right now. Mind you, that’s no small statement; the company has a slew of books running right now that are guaranteed smile-inducers. That said, Dan Slott’s take on the former herald of Galactus is easily the cream of the crop. You will not find more natural, enjoyable chemistry between two characters in any other running superhero book than you will with the titular Silver Surfer and his current partner-in-adventure Dawn Greenwood. It doesn’t hurt that their adventures together continue to be a delightful mix of awesome and wacky. Issue 6, for instance, pits the Surfer against a planet of perfectionists that the two offend by transforming ice cream into gold. It’s absurd beyond belief and it’s a simple feat of writing that Slott and company are able to pull it off as enjoyably and believably as they do. Buy Silver Surfer 6 and then go out and buy the five issues preceding. You won’t regret it.
Favorite Moment: “Fine! I will use my cosmic senses and find you the greatest ice cream in the galaxy!”
Who misses Firefly? Now that I have the attention of the entire nerd hive mind, please feel free to go to your local comic store and buy Copperhead 1. A new series from Image, the first issue follows the enigmatic Sherriff Bronson. Newly hired to the backwater town of Copperhead, she’s immediately thrown into action dealing conflicts between its mixed population of humans and aliens. The book also deftly hints at a richer history, both for Bronson and its universe at large. Are there moments that reek of sci-fi westerns past? Absolutely. The creators actually admit this in the book’s final page/letter column. That aesthetic is still really charming though and when it’s coupled with the sort of solid writing and visuals Copperhead possesses, it’s hard not to find yourself hooked.
Favorite Moment: “You spelled ‘sheriff” wrong.”
Up next, Marla’s picks…
Writer Charles Soule and artist Ryan Stegman’s Inhuman series follows the newly revealed city of Attalin, kingdom of the genetically modified race of the Inhumans, and the sudden influx of new Inhumans, called NuHumans, created when a cloud of Terrigen Mist was released into the world. The series continues to struggle to balance the shaky power levels and expanding backstories of the NuHumans with the powerful court of Queen Medusa, but in the sixth issue things are starting to get a lot more cohesive. The Unspoken, the dangerous and cruel former king of the Inhumans, has returned to Attilan, and his successful coup (in issue #5) has Medusa in chains. The NuHumans band together to fight back against The Unspoken, and push their new powers to the limit. Stegman delivers some satisfying action, and some dark, mood-setting shots that help balance out the exposition explaining why The Unspoken is a threat. Also helping this issue is the fact that it manages to avoid introducing any new NuHumans, and some of the Inhumans are off on side missions. Soule is managing an intimidatingly large cast well, and the further this series gets from introductions, the better it gets at telling good stories.
Favorite Moment: “Maybe try The Avengers – This seems like their sort of thing.”
Cimarronin: A Samurai in New Spain #1 of 3
A rapier-wielding Jesuit priest and a disgraced samurai walk into a conspiracy in 1632 Spain. Seriously.
Cimarronin, from Amazon’s Jet City Comics imprint, is a collaboratively written, standalone three issue series set in the alternate history universe of The Foreworld Saga, where the martial arts traditions of Europe and Asia collide. Illustrated by Robert Sammelin and written by Neal Stephenson, Mark Teppo, Charles C. Mann and Ellis Amdur, Cimarronin opens like a great kung fu flick, with non-stop blood, swords, and combat. Amid it all, the ronin Kitazume Gonpachiro, and his friend, the Jesuit priest Luis Manuel Pérez de Guzmàn, end up aboard a ship to Acapulco protecting a Manchu princess who has already left a swath of bodies in her wake. Cimarronin gets right to the action, and Sammelin’s illustrations capture the frenetic power of swordfighting. All this book needs is a good soundtrack. It’s not the most outstanding debut issue (a little more background would go a long way), nor it the most deep story, but it is solid fun.
Favorite Moment: “Go ahead, stab me with your Spanish knitting needles…”
Princess Ugg #4
Pricess Ugg from Oni Press follows Princess Ülga, berserker warrior of the northern tribes, on her quest to find better way to end her people’s ceaseless war with the frost giants. After learning that the five lowland kingdoms have a place where princesses go to learn, Ülga set out to join the school, and quickly discovers that her fighting and survival skills don’t help much when it comes to weaving, royal etiquette, and the verbal sparring matches of the other princesses. Determined to learn diplomacy, Ülga ‘s first assignment is to become friend with her standoffish, prissy roommate.
Written and illustrated by Ted Naifeh, with colors by Warren Wucinich, Princess Ugg is fantastic blend of Conan the Barbarian and Disney-style princesses. Short sequences in each issues are done in watercolor by Naifeh, and the effect is stunning. Ülga ‘s accent can be a little jarring at times, but Naifeh’s writing deftly avoids the tropes that could plunge a series like this into boring territory. Ülga ‘s motivations are far from cliché, the princesses from the lowlands have different cultures and personalities, and the world hints deftly at wider magical concerns. Princess Ugg has been such a satisfying read that I’m hesitant to talk much about its plot and character development out of fear of spoiling it. If you’ve ever felt out of place, or misunderstood, or like chasing a unicorn with a battle-axe, you’ll find something to love in Princess Ugg.
Favorite Moment: “What do yeh take me for, a barbarian?”
Roche Limit #1
Written by Michael Moreci with art by Vic Malhotra, Roche Limit is the first of a three part science fiction noir from Image Comics. In astronomy, the Roche limit describes the distances where a satellite will disintegrate and become a ring. Saturn’s rings do not become moons because, within Saturn’s Roche limit, the dust, rocks, and ice cannot hold themselves together against the pull of Saturn’s gravity. The Roche Limit colony is a small outpost in the Andromeda galaxy, home to over 10,000 people. The colony, built on the dwarf planet Dispater, orbits a spatial anomaly with properties that make it similar to and very different from a black hole. The colony has become a lawless place, with a broad class divide and a drug problem. When Bekkah Hudson goes missing, her sister starts a search through the colony’s grimy underground.
Malhotra manages to capture the grungy sci-fi feel of the colony while keeping up the classic beats and look of a noir drama. The mystery of the anomaly, and the recent rash of disappearances is carefully built up. The stunning, full page views of space and precise scientific drawings promise a deeply researched, scientifically grounded story, thought the anomaly itself is like nothing we’ve ever discovered. It reminds me in many ways of Blade Runner and The Outer Limits. The Roche Limit is the second science fiction comic (after Lazarus) to make it to my regular reading list.
Favorite Moment: “Our only fate is to lie in the beds that we make.”