Groot tells stories in Rocket Raccoon, Wytches creep out from the woods, and Superman Unchained comes to an end.
The Comics and Cosplay crew has been getting hyped up for the next big comics events. DC Comic’s Convergence crossover event was revealed this week, and Marvel’s Secret Wars event is teasing a massive conflict with every cover it reveals. While we can’t wait to get our hands on those issues, we’re still here to bring you reading recommendations for this week!
Stew Shearer recommends the trope-subverting fantasy Birthright #2, and reflects on the end of a series in Superman Unchained #9. Stew has high praise for Thor #2, and finds a satisfying conclusion of the massive battle between Justice League heroes in Batman #36. Marshall Lemon checks out Django/Zorro #1, the official sequel to Quentin Tarantino’s western revenge story, and reconnects with David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor in Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor #4. Marshall also places Grayson as his favorite new series in DC’s New 52, explores Tony Stark’s narcissism in Superior Iron Man #1, and digs into the mystery of Wytches. Meanwhile, I gush over Groot in Rocket Raccoon #5, deal with an intergalatic incident in rhyme in Captain Marvel #9, and meet a girl and her T. Rex in Terrible Lizard #1. I also fell under the spell of the over-sized first issue of Tooth & Claw, a brilliant new epic fantasy series, and headed to Burnside for the latest adventures of Batgirl.
Let’s get right to the recommendations with:
Rocket Raccoon #5
After wrapping up its first story arc in issue #4, Rocket and Groot take a break to go camping with some Space Scouts. Gathered around a campfire, Rocket regales the young aliens with tales of adventure and derring-do. When Groot suggests a story that Rocket isn’t interested in telling, the large tree-like alien tells the story himself, using, of course, the only words he has: “I am Groot.” Those three words, and fill-in artist Jake Parker’s expressive art, tell the story of Rocket and Groot following a complicated map to an unexpected treasure.
Rocket Raccoon is a joyful standalone issue. Having Groot tell a story is just as hilarious as you might guess, and Skottie Young has punctuation and pacing working overtime to deliver engaging dialogue using only three words. Young has been both writer and artist on the series so far, but this issue brings in Jake Parker to give Young a break as artist. Parker’s style meshes perfectly with Young’s, retaining the Saturday morning cartoon feel as well as the background gags and wild explosions that have made me adore this series.
Favorite Moment: “We want to hear the one with the map!”
Terrible Lizard #1 of 5
This limited series from Oni Press is all about a teen girl and her T. Rex becoming friends and battling kaiju-like prehistoric monsters. Jess lives at Cosmos Labs, where her father is working for the military on temporal displacement technology. When the experiment goes awry, a Tyrannosaurus Rex is ripped from the distant past and brought into Jess’ life. The dinosaur forms an instant connection with Jess, which becomes helpful when mutant monsters begin to attack. Written by Cullen Bunn with art by Drew Moss, what really stands out in this first issue is Moss’ dynamic and powerfully drawn T. Rex. As a book about monsters, communicating that scale and power is key, and Moss nails it.
Terrible Lizard is a little simplistic at times. The military men are violent and aggressive, her father is distant and dedicated to his work, and her mother seems to be out of the picture. However, the fun premise, lovely art, and deeper themes of lonely adolescence and unexpected friendships will keep me reading. And the kaiju fights. I’m a sucker for kaiju fights.
Favorite Moment: “A lot of things are built here at Cosmos Labs… but lasting friendships… not so much.”
Tooth & Claw #1
This new high fantasy series from writer Kurt Busiek and artist Ben Dewey does everything right in the oversized first issue. Unlike some other high fantasy comic series I’ve tried recently, it doesn’t talk down to you. It lets the art be as much a part of the story as the words, and both contribute to building its strange and fantastic world of animal-like wizards. The Seventeen Cities are already well imagined, and instead of prodding the reader with inscrutable references or obfuscating secrets with unfathomable nouns, Tooth & Claw gives you all the information you need to follow its story while leaving you curious to discover more about the wider setting.
The art in this issue is beautiful. Dewey’s anthropomorphized animals, ranging from bats and raccoons to chameleons and goats, are fascinating to study. The roles of the main characters are made clear through their clothing, and the sheer detail given to background characters is staggering. Jordie Bellaire’s colors give depth to the magic of the Seventeen Cities, creating powerful spells in stark white that blossom into a rainbow, like light through a prism. It’s one of the best illustrations of magic I’ve ever seen. I can’t wait to pick up the next issue of this series.
Favorite Moment: “My lady- and gentle-wizards of the Seventeen Cities, we are going to repair all.”
Captain Marvel #9
Intergalactic rock star and mutant teleporter Lila Cheney needs Captain Marvel’s help to avoid a diplomatic incident. As a child, Lila’s powers were poorly controlled, and so she often teleported across the galaxy, discovering planets. In the process, she became betrothed many years ago to the Prince of Aladna. Now that Prince Yan is ready to marry, Lila wants out of the deal and asks Captain Marvel to help. That means negotiating a solution with the rhyming aristocrats of Aladna, and navigating their social customs.
This issue is a writing feat, with almost all of the dialogue delivered in rhyming couplets. It’s even more impressive that writer Kelly Sue Deconnick is able to craft rhyming dialogue that fits the established characters she’s writing, with Cap, Tic, and Lila all rhyming in their own way. David Lopez’s art continues to deliver solid action and subtle maneuvering, creating all new-alien worlds for the intergalactic Avenger to explore – and punch! If you were looking for a good place to start reading Captain Marvel, issue #9 is a great place to jump on, as the series gears up for a new story arc.
Favorite Moment: “They speak in rhyme all the time. Like a song-play along.”
Following the change in creative team after otaku take their cosplay to a villainous level, Batgirl has to track them down. The new villains give Barbara some trouble, but it’s the reason behind their attacks that suggests something much more sinister is happening in Burnside.
This issue has an authentic grad school feeling. Barbara and her new friends are probably reading PHD Comics and xkcd when their code is compiling. I’ve had a hard time getting into the DC comics universe, despite have a deep and abiding love for the Batman. Batgirl has been an easy starting point, with the new creative team taking the book in a new direction and, so far, a suite of new villains that makes Barbara’s series accessible. Of course, if you’re already steeped in Bat-lore and up on your Birds of Prey, Batgirl will be just as fun, and you’ll catch the subtle (and unsubtle) references. In either case, it’s nice to read a Bat story that’s confident enough to take the action out of the grim alleyways and darkest of dark nights. Batgirl is quickly building a cast of great new characters that I want to get to know, alongside awesome fight scenes and a compelling mystery. Even if you missed issue #35, you can jump on here and follow the action.
Favorite Moment: “You are my favorite person in the entire world. Never leave me.”
Django Unchained was a solid Western story, and I enjoyed it immensely. But I never imagined it would get an official sequel, or that said sequel would feature the original pulp hero Zorro. Not only does this tale exist, it’s co-written by Quentin Tarantino himself.
Several years after Django Unchained, Django is still a bounty hunter working across the western states, sending his earnings back to his wife Broomhilda. But during a job, he has a chance encounter with an elderly Diego de la Vega, who is so impressed he promptly hires Django as a “bodyguard”. But Django quickly learns the capable Diego has little need for protection. Instead, he needs a partner to assist him on a new adventure: freeing indigenous slaves captured by the Archduke of Arizona.
This first issue is a fairly straightforward introduction, showing how these two characters might meet. But outside of the shock factor of this “official” sequel, it’s a surprisingly fitting match. The time period fits, and the personalities mesh nicely; Django even notes that there’s a lot about Diego that reminds him of King Schultz. But most importantly, despite the differences in their fighting styles, both characters represent similar values, so it will be very interesting to see how they work together.
Even if Tarantino’s name wasn’t enough to sell you on Django/Zorro, that might be enough to make the series worthwhile. The only real difference is that the R-rated language is trimmed somewhat, but the violence and racial tensions are still noticeably high. If you can handle that, you might like this book.
Favorite Moment: Printed paper? But what does one do if it burns?
Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor #4
While Peter Capaldi has certainly grown on me, it’s David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor who I still look at as my Doctor. That’s why I’m so glad that his adventures are continuing in comic book form. (Not that I’ve stopped holding out for a Tennant/Smith/Capaldi/Eccleston TV crossover at some point.)
Issue #4 continues the adventures of Ten between Season 4 and “The Next Doctor”, as he agrees to take Gabriella Gonzalez on “just one trip” for her help in saving the world. (Yeah, like that’s ever worked out.) The issue starts out as a slower-paced, emotional tale, as Gabby recounts a walk through an alien art gallery prompting equal parts wonder and sadness. About halfway through, the story shifts gears once the Doctor learns that a prominent artist has taken a hundred year sabbatical, fleeing to a retreat center on the moon. Investigating further, the Doctor and Gabby realize the artwork is coming to life and attacking visitors, thanks to the influence of the artist’s new apprentice.
The entire issue does a great job of reflecting the beauty and melancholy that marked so much of David Tennant’s run, especially the scenes rendered from Gabby’s diary (in a different art style no less). But there’s quite a bit of humor too, as well as a little referential foreshadowing when the Doctor admits bow ties don’t look half bad. It’s quite a bit to pack into a single issue, and this is only part one of a storyline! Doctor Who fans who miss the Tennant years should definitely check this series out.
Favorite Moment: “Vernon! It’s been a long time!” … “It has indeed, sir. Pleased to see you.”
When we first heard the elevator pitch for Grayson (Nightwing fakes his death and becomes a spy), there were concerns that it would just be a dark spy series. Boy, is that not the case; while there’s certainly a moral aspect that these stories, Grayson it’s balanced with a sense of humor that sets it apart from the New 52. Part 4 strongly sticks with that tone; even with last issue’s bleak ending in mind, Grayson uses this filler chapter to show he’s still a mad man on the flying trapeze, and his carefree attitude is actually rubbing off on Spyral itself.
While there’s a few moments hinting that Spyral is onto Grayson, that takes a backseat to the female college spy students chasing him around campus. There’s also some great bonding moments between Grayson and Helena, which may be setting us up for tragedy down the road. But when that happens, I’ll feel a far more for these characters than if we’d spent issues where they sat around morose all the time.
More and more, I’m suspect that Greyson might be my favorite new series from the New 52. If you’ve complained that the New 52 is too grimdark, and haven’t read this book? I strongly recommend you check it out.
Favorite Moment: “Outed to the world. Murdered. Surrounded by crazies. Maybe covered in evil mini robots that could eat my skin. And chased by college girls.”
Superior Iron Man #1
When Iron Man first appeared in Marvel Comics, the entire point was that he was a not-quite-likable superhero. He profited from war. He mistreated women. He was a raging alcoholic. But over the years, his personality has softened to the point that he’s a much more decent human being. And Superior Iron Man will ruin that for everyone.
During Marvel’s AXIS event, the world’s heroes and villains had their personalities flipped to their polar opposite. But where most heroes were cured once the threat was resolved, Tony Stark is regressing into a sociopathic narcissist. This issue opens as he activates an Extremis nanite app that gives most of New York supermodel-quality bodies. But this action has dark consequences for the city as a whole… a detail, it turns out, that Tony was fully aware of.
Iron Man’s personality shift isn’t so different than the carefree Playboy that you’ve seen in the movies. But now there’s a subtle edge to his interactions that’s surprisingly chilling, especially once you realize how little he actually cares about his fellow human beings. What’s different is that his behavior is attracting the wrong kind of attention from his superhero peers, some of whom won’t allow Iron Man’s corruption to go unchecked.
It’s a promising start to an opening storyline, and very soon it’s going to come to blows. Here’s hoping it only gets better from here.
Favorite Moment: “I just launched the cornerstone of the new Stark Industries. I let them all feel perfection.”
Last month, readers were introduced to the wytches, monstrous creatures of the forest who can provide your heart’s desire if you pledge a life to them. Issue #2 gives us a closer look at them, which is a mixed blessing. One the one hand, like any good horror story, monsters are a little less scary when you can see them. On the other hand, we’re getting a clearer picture of what they want with Sailor, suggesting her story will not end very well.
It turns out that Sailor’s mother, who lost the use of her legs outside a forest years ago, already faced these creatures. While it’s not stated outright, it’s strongly implied that Sailor was pledged to the wytches that day, although what that means isn’t exactly clear. Is Sailor a sacrifice the wytches arrived to collect? Or is there something more going on here? Either way, Sailor now bears the wytches mark, and it may be impossible for her to escape.
Meanwhile, the increased appearances of the wytches do have something of a Slenderman tone, even if they’re so different visually. Every time they appear they’re immensely powerful and imposing, and we don’t even know the full extent of their abilities yet. The mystery of Wytches continues to thicken, and I’m uncomfortably curious to see where it leads.
Favorite Moment: “What’d you really hit?”
My only complaint about the second issue of Birthright is just how little actually happens between its covers. Granted, some of that disappointment might stem from the fact that the first issue packed more than a year’s worth of events into its pages whereas the second issue could conceivably cover the space of fifteen or twenty minutes. That arguable issue set aside, issue two is still an engaging and entertaining read that, overall, does a great job of balancing the story of a grieving family faced with an unthinkable possibility with the tale of a young boy being thrust into a world of high fantasy. I also have to give some serious kudos for some really neat action sequences towards its end. The violence is both visceral and engaging and personally left me dying to read issue three.
Favorite Moment: “I’m done explaining myself.”
Superman Unchained #9
I’ve had some high praise for Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr’s Superman recently. And while my positive remarks were definitely deserved, the best Superman book on the marker for my money has been and remains Scott Snyder’s Superman Unchained. Sadly, issue nine brings this series to a close, but it does so with a conclusion that delivers that satisfying, heartfelt feeling that Superman as a character is such a good tool for.
In the wake of his multi-issue bout with the U.S. government and their long hidden alien “hero” Wraith, Superman is faced with a final fateful decision. An alien armada from Wraith’s homeworld is barreling toward Earth and the only way to stop it is to use an injection of liquid sunlight provided by Lex Luthor to transform himself into a living bomb that can destroy them all in one fell swoop. It’s a one way trip, of course, and while I spoil the ending I’ll say that Luthor’s narration throughout the final pages is simply wonderful. Pick up issue nine and the whole series for that matter if you haven’t already.
Favorite Moment: “And perhaps, now at the end, I can admit that in being the farthest thing from answer to that equation he might have been the closest we’ll come to one.”
The epic Justice League vs. Batman bout from issue 35 concludes pretty quickly in issue 36. And while I’d admit to being a tad disappointed that we didn’t get a little more one-on-one between Supes and Bats, I’ll say that their fight is still fantastic if only because of the inclusion of a single line of fourth wall breaking awesomeness. It also doesn’t hurt that the rest of the issue also pretty danged fantastic, setting up what looks to be like another epic and unsettling confrontation with the Joker. Scott Snyder’s Batman has been excellent from issue 1 and as his run nears its end, it seems clear that he intends to go out with a bang. If you’re a Batman fan there’s no reason not to read this book.
Favorite Moment: “Ssssoo, Bruce. Who winssss in a fight? Batman…. or Superman? Hahaha!”
So Marvel’s chosen to be all mysterious and coy with the identity of its new female Thor. And while I’ll admit to being a tad annoyed that I hadn’t discovered the name of the person behind the mask by the end of issue 2, those feelings were very much outweighed by my sheer enjoyment of the book itself. With Thor: God of Thunder Jason Aaron mastered using Thor as a tool for epic storytelling. In Thor issue 2, he’s clearly heading down a different but equally entertaining path.
Without spoiling too much, the new female Thor spends much of the issue basically just trying to get a handle on her powers. This results in a lot of dialogue where she’s actively trying to ape what male Thor would do and say, with frequently humorous results. In fact, while there are some obvious differences, she almost reminded me of the Kamala Khan in Ms. Marvel. As anyone who reads that book can tell you, that’s currently some pretty high praise.
Favorite Moment: “Oh, man. Oh, wow. Quick say something badass.”