April is done and with it a whole month of comics had passed us by. That being the case, we know that not all of you walk into the comic store every week like we do. Many of you probably just make the occasional stop to glance, browse and maybe peruse the wares and products of local den of geekery. Knowing what to buy and read can tough, and that’s why we here with The Escapist‘s Comics & Cosplay crew are back (after a brief hiatus) to gift our beloved readers with our personal recommendations for your comic book library. Now with no further ado, let’s get this spandexed demigod on the road.
Can I just say how surprised I am that I love Ant-Man as much as I do? Before the launch of this book I had zero interest in the character. I regarded the first issue as required reading; a primer to get me ready for the movie. I never thought that I’d find myself looking forward to it just as much as (if not more so) than many of my other monthly favorites.
Issue 4, in turn, is exemplary of why I enjoy it so much. When issue 3 left off, Ant-Man’s (aka: Scott Lang) daughter had been kidnapped by the evil corporation Cross Technological Enterprises. Their plans for her obviously being bad, he suits up with his trusty employee Grizzly to mount a rescue mission. Unfortunately, Cross’s security systems are too advanced and with the rest of the superhero community ignoring him Scott’s forced to seek out an unlikely ally.
What I find so special about this issue, and the series overall, is the expert way that it balances the seriousness of the situation with the humor that makes it so enjoyable from moment-to-moment. Ant-Man 4 is easily one of the funniest comics I read all April. That said, it also does a great job of telling a dire and serious story. The stakes are high here. Scott is desperate and the writing balances his struggle the book’s laughs. Long story short, Ant-Man is awesome and even if you don’t see the movie, you should read the book.
Favorite Moment: “Boss, we gotta get some air-conditioning in here- I’m wearing a bear suit in Miami, s’bad enough.”
The Multiversity #2
I’m really going to miss The Multiversity. It was perhaps the most ambitious concept of Grant Morrison’s career – a mega-crisis event spanning all of DC’s obscure parallel universes. Its characters and worlds have been a joy to visit, including everything from the slapstick Captain Carrot to the post-9/11 Watchmen. Now The Multiversity has come to a close, but thankfully this finale is the most spectacular ending you could hope for.
In past issues The Multiversity introduced the Gentry, an invading force seeking to conquer the multiverse. Now their plan is finally revealed – launch simultaneous apocalypse events on every Earth, including the dozens we’ve only glimpsed so far. But what the Gentry didn’t count on was the multiverse fighting back, using scattered dimensional gates to invite every single hero to an epic final battle.
The Multiversity #2 centers on the linchpin Earth 8 conflict, but its scope reaches well beyond that. The battle truly does rage across multiple dimensional fronts, yet everything ties together without overwhelming the reader. That’s a real achievement considering Morrison’s encyclopedic knowledge is out in full force – if you had fun tracking down obscure references before, wait until you see all the multiversal heroes standing in one place. This is the event Morrison’s been itching to do ever since Crisis on Infinite Earths made it almost impossible. Thankfully, he really did find a way to make it work.
There are some minor drawbacks. Most cliffhanger endings of previous issues are hand-waved away, so what happened to your favorite character might not be clear. But there’s still enough resolution to make it satisfying – especially when it comes to those pesky Sivanas. Although given how much content is featured here, maybe it did give me the answer and I just missed it completely. Regardless, I’ll be re-reading this book again in coming days, and looking forward to what Morrison does next.
Favorite Moment: The Marvels saving the Hall of Heroes. Perfect.
Howard the Duck #2
Right now a new generation of Marvel fans only knows about Howard the Duck thanks to a brief cameo in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie. So after last week’s fantastic first issue, it only seems appropriate that Howard give fans what they want – by teaming up with the Guardians to escape the Collector’s clutches.
When we last saw Howard, his investigation was rudely inturrupted by the Collector’s forces, and locked in a cell with Rocket Raccoon. But it turns out Rocket wasn’t only captured – he gave himself up as part of a heist to steal an object that could save a distant planet. Now Howard has no choice but to get caught up in the Guardian’s explosive hijinks, all while hoping he’ll survive long enough to return to Earth.
Howard the Duck is proving to be a hilarious read, showing the Marvel Universe’s insanity through the eyes of its most mundane character. But this incarnation is doing a solid job of getting in the action beats as well, which you kind of need with a story about superheroes and explosions. Few superhero comics can laugh at themselves while still respecting their source material, but Howard is doing so fantastically. So as frustrated as Howard may be be with his lot, I’m still looking forward to seeing where he goes next.
Favorite Moment: “Good God an actual treasure trail.”
Uncanny X-Men #33
I rather enjoyed Uncanny X-Men‘s last big story arc, The Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier. Why you ask? Last Will was about mutants; the challenges they face, the decisions they have to make and the consequences that their powers can carry. When it comes to the X-Men, Marvel and its writers often have a tendency to sideline mutant issues in favor of things like outer space adventures and time travel (so much time travel). Last Will had some elements of the latter but they were more muted and in service to the plot.
It was good stuff and Uncanny 33 manages to be similarly great by sticking to that same vein of focus. When the book begins Magik and Kitty Pride are arguing their way through their latest bout of bad blood (a recurring problem for many of the X-Men) They soon set aside their differences however, to embark on a perilous journey to Monster Island where a new mutant has been abandoned by her father after the manifestation of her powers.
I won’t go into too much more detail, but the book overall just dies a really good job of tapping into the base sympathy that you have to feel for these people who, through no fault of their own, have been endowed with abilities that doom them to be the outcasts of human society. In a month where the dialogue surrounding the X-verse has been dominated by controversy, it’s just a nice to have a simple book that’s well-written and possessing more than a few touching moments.
Favorite Moment: “You have powers.” “Like Mighty Thor?”
Jupiter’s Circle #1
There are a lot of people in the world longing for “the good old days” – when society had values, people were idealistic, and things didn’t seem so dark. That was the thrust of Jupiter’s Legacy, where a spoiled and entitled generation of superheroes overthrow the old in a violent coup. But the prequel, Jupiter’s Circle, turns that concept on its head – what if our parents generation was just as confused as ours was? Would they have made the same mistakes in their youth, or other rash decisions with horrific consequences?
The year is 1959, and six idealistic superheroes have changed the course of history. Yet despite their principles they keep secrets from each other, especially Blue-Bolt, a closeted homosexual lying to everyone about his hook ups. But when Herbert Hoover uncovers compromising photos, it puts Bolt’s future at risk – unless he’s willing to share information about his teammates.
The original Jupiter’s Legacy compared 1950s ideals with the failings of modern life. Jupiter’s Circle brilliantly turns that spotlight back on the baby boomers themselves, suggesting that history is never cut and dry. The artwork is fantastic to boot, reflecting the styles and colors of the era while shocking readers with a more sexual outlook. What’s more, it’s a perfect jumping-on point for the Jupiter series – nothing about Legacy is referenced or foreshadowed here, so you can enjoy it as a standalone story. Sure, I would have liked a sequel instead, but there’s enough fascinating opportunities here to make Circle a very worthy follow-up.
Favorite Moment: “Oh God! My wife is gonna kill me!”
Southern Bastards #8
When the first Southern Bastards storyline ended, you probably hated Coach Boss. Then the second story arc began, and you realized you actually liked him – or at the very least sympathized with him more than before. The tale of a young Euless Boss using sports as an escape from reality, only to let it turn him into a monster, is just as captivating as the first four issues. And it’s here that we finally get the emotional payoff, where Euless stops being a football player and starts being a Boss – in the worst way possible.
When we last saw Euless, we learned his old football coach destroyed his career – calling up everyone who might hire him and telling them not to. But instead of being one more insult, this is the final crack that bursts the dam. Euless has a plan that might fix his prospects and make Boss a name to be reckoned with. But that means doing something Euless hoped never to do – reuniting with his estranged father.
Where the story goes from there deserves to be experienced for itself, but it’s well worth reading. It’s also the point where Boss reveals that excelling at sports wasn’t what motivated him – it was all about crushing opponents and getting back at those who hurt him. Boss is that bullied kid who takes all the lessons to heart and eventually becomes a bully himself, the kind that’s much worse that what came before.
All told, it’s a fantastic flashback story. But the only thing more exciting will be revisiting the Tubbs family – which Southern Bastards will do when the series returns this summer. Stay tuned…
Favorite Moment: “There’ll be a free ticket for ya at the gate for every game we play, home and away. You ever miss one… I’ll fuckin’ kill ya.”
Star Wars #4
Star Wars continues to be strong as it enters into its second story arc. Following the Rebel’s successful destruction of an Imperial weapons factory Lukee, Han and Leia are resting up in preparation for more action. Not all is well with the Force, however. Luke, discouraged by his easy defeat at the hands of Darth Vader, finds himself floundering and decides to leave the Rebellion temporarily for a bit of soul-searching. Vader meanwhile continues his work to help shore up the Empire’s losses, finishing negotiations with Jabba the Hutt.
I recommend Star Wars 4 mainly because it marks the beginning of a new storyline and represents an easy jumping on point for comic readers who didn’t hop on the bandwagon when they should have back when the new series first started. The comic itself is, of course, really good. Jason Aaron’s writing and John Cassaday’s art both remain solid and attractive while the story unfolding is adding more moving parts that includes some notable fan favorites. If you’re a franchise fan and haven’t read it yet, now the time to start.
Favorite Moment: “Who knew anyone of note was ever born on Tatooine, eh?”
Star Wars: Kanaan #1
In case you haven’t heard, Star Wars: Rebels is kind of fantastic. Managing to couple the space opera of the original film trilogy with the ship crew dynamic of Firefly, it’s one of the best additions to the Star Wars universe in a good long time. In the least, I’ve personally enjoyed it a lot more than Star Wars: The Clone Wars, a series that was acclaimed by many but never really managed to caught my interest despite multiple attempts on my part to watch it.
Kanaan, in turn, takes place in the Clone Wars era, but has its roots firmly set in the narrative of world of Rebels. Focused on the back story of the Rebels-protagonist, Kanaan follows the title character as a young Padawan joining his master in battle as she leads an army of clone soldiers against an army of Separatist droids. The battle itself is fairly short-lived with most of the book’s pages focusing in on the aftermath as the young Kanaan (called Caleb here) converses and trains with his master Depa Billaba and the clones.
What I especially liked about this book was how it attempted to paint a more diverse picture of the Jedi. While Billaba is clearly loyal to the Jedi order, she’s portrayed as being willing to question the decisions of her superiors. Kanaan likewise is painted as being a bit brash, but also inquisitive and curious. My favorite part of the comic though, had to be the interactions with the clones. If I can give Clone Wars any credit, it’s for how well it managed to create unique and interesting characters from a literal army of identical people. The clones in The Last Padawaan don’t have the time to distinguish themselves quite as deeply, but are still shown to be actual people with appreciation for the Jedi and their leadership. That appreciation works to make the closing cliffhanger all the more suspenseful.
Favorite Moment: “Execute order sixty-six.”
Darth Vader #4
I was already enjoyed Marvel’s Darth Vader for basically being an action flick starring one of fiction’s deadliest villains. But I am adoring it now that Vader has a personal supporting cast to call on. When Vader realized his position with the Emperor is tenuous, he began creating forces that would follow his command without question. He’s off to a great start with homicidal Threepio and R2-D2 units, and a morally ambiguous archeologist who’s quickly realizing she’s a Vader fangirl. But he’ll also need an army, which means obtaining a droid construction unit from Genosis – a planet with obvious personal significance to the Dark Lord.
The character developments are kept to a minimum here. This issue is almost entirely about Vader absolutely crushing enemy forces before him. And in this case, the enemy is unique – droids constructed to resemble the Genosian army the Republic wiped out long ago. It’s clear right from the start these soldiers don’t stand a chance against Vader – hell, they don’t stand a chance against evil Artoo – but this book excels at making one-sided battles fun.
That said, the issue also teases that a real conflict is on the way – with none other than Darth Vader’s replacement. If you needed more proof that Marvel’s Expanded Universe is shaping up nicely, Darth Vader is proving to be a fantastic example.
Favorite Moment: “If I get a choice, I’d like the lightsaber right through the neck.”
The Fade Out #5
The Fade Out is one of those books that doesn’t really have many singularly jaw-dropping moments. Rather, it’s a series that’s just wholly captivating and only becomes more so the deeper you go into its twisting tale of murder and Hollywood sleaze. Issue five represents the beginning of the series’ second plot arc and, in turn, is a decent point of entry for those unfortunate comic readers who have yet to step into its world of grimy noir.
Following the production of a major movie in post-WW2 America, the comic opens with a murder and then follows the efforts of a screenwriter to uncover the identity of the murderer while also contending with the rigors, personalities and ethical compromises that come with his life in Hollywood. All in all, it’s just an incredible book and one that I (and most everyone else that’s read it) would wholeheartedly recommend if you’re looking for a comic about something else besides the shenanigans of the world’s various superheroes.
Favorite Moment: “And that’s how Gil finally makes a decision. He’s going to all these bastards down. No matter what.”
The first issue of Nameless didn’t wow me at the time. To be fair, that was a story of a British magician and occult expert, which was already done to death with John Constantine. But the later issues are really growing on me for a simple reason – it’s basically John Constantine in space. Welcome aboard, indeed.
Nameless is a freelance magician so dedicated to his practice, he’s removed all record of his real name so enemies can’t target him. But even he’s out of his depth – drafted into a mission to stop a world-destroying asteroid bearing powerful magical symbols. Issue 3 is the inevitable point where everything goes sideways. Not only does Nameless’ patron betrays the team while they chart the asteroid’s chambers, the crew accepts an infected crew member into the ship. And unlike, say, Alien the effect of this intruder is far more twisted and psychedelic than you’d expect.
Every issue of Nameless has gone into incredibly bizarre territory and it will be fascinating to see what happens next. The mythology along is a combined of science fiction and religious lore (it turns out the war in “Heaven” created the asteroid belt) and that was before we caught a glimpse of whatever monster’s behind the scenes. We’re only halfway through and I have no idea where it could go – it’ll be exciting to find out.
Favorite Moment: “Don’t rub off the protection!”
Convergence: Superman #1
I’ve defended DC Comics’ New 52 in the past, but make no mistake: The absence of the old universe still feels like a punch to the stomach. That’s why Convergence really interests me – it resurrects historical versions of classic characters for one final crisis event. There are countless specials this month for anyone needing a nostalgia fix, but my hit was always Superman. The one who arrived after Crisis on Infinite Earths, came back from the dead, and actually married Lois Lane. This was my Superman, and seeing him again is like revisiting an old friend – thanks mostly to writer Dan Jurgens, who defined much of the run.
When the events of Flashpoint wiped out the old universe, Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen were preserved in Brainiac’s Gotham City dome. But with every dome unlocked to fight for Talos’ amusement, Superman’s Gotham is pitted against the Flashpoint Gotham, where heroes have no problem killing. Superman thinks he can unite both sides against a common enemy, but only if the Flashpoint heroes will listen – and the life of a very pregnant Lois lies in the balance.
I love so much about this book. I love that Superman and Lois can talk like an adult couple again. I love his immediate refusal to take lives, despite the stakes. I even love Convergence‘s new touches – like how depowered Supes fought crime like Batman, with Lois acting as his Oracle. Or how Flashpoint Batman doubts himself when he figures out which universe he’s fighting. It’s too early to say which Convergence series will be best, but Superman will very likely be my personal favorite. Maybe it will be yours too.
Favorite Moment: “Deny me — Your people will be destroyed.” “No.”
The Dying and the Dead #2
And here I thought The Dying and the Dead would jump into the action after all the world-building last issue. Instead, we have another issue of setup as the Colonel travels the country recruiting his team. But it’s a testament to both Jonathan Hickman’s writing and Ryan Bodenheim’s art that it’s still riveting, even when we have no idea what this universe is about.
Last issue, an underground immortal society hired a WWII Colonel to find something that had been stolen from them – the same man who bombed their city years before. The Colonel accepted the task in exchange for saving his dying wife, but he still can’t do it alone. He needs his entire unit beside him – the only trouble is some are in worse shape than he is. One is now a Senator who’s hands are tied with political considerations. Another is an oil baron unhappy with his current life.There’s a prisoner trapped for decades thanks to ancient crimes. And my personal favorite – a man in an old folks home dying of cancer who quickly proves he shouldn’t be trifled with.
Think back to every movie about “getting the gang back together” – that’s basically what Issue 2 is. Yet this book goes the extra step and drives home how old these men are, and how much they’ve changed. Which is really impressive because there are no flashback sequences – it’s all carried in the text, their bearings, and how they carry themselves around each other. Sure, there’s not a lot of action, but it’s incredibly solid character building that has me eagerly anticipating Issue 3. Here’s hoping it arrives soon.
Favorite Moment: “You know what I find enjoyable?”
For weeks now DC and Scott Snyder have been teasing that big changes are on their way to Batman and the city of Gotham, including a potential and dramatic change to the roster of the Bat-family. We were promised that it would all stem from the some big dramatic change coming in the issue 40, the final chapter of Snyder’s Endgame storyline. Well, issue 40 came out this week and I can very much confirm that the arc’s conclusion and the consequences of Batman’s latest duel are just as dire as we’d been promised.
The only criticism I can really offer (without spoiling things) is that I can’t see the changes brought on by issue 40 lasting. Anyone who’s read comics for any length of time has probably seen this sort of move before, especially from Batman. And while I don’t like to be cynical, it’s hard not to escape the feeling that the new status quo will be temporary at best.
Favorite Moment: “I’m just going to rest here a little while with my friend.”
Archie VS Predator #1
If you were to ask me what one of the craziest comics I’ve ever read was, I’d say Archie Meets The Punisher. Not because it was especially ridiculous, but because the book pulled off an amazing feat – perfectly capturing each character without compromising their values. Now Archie Comics is trying again by giving him an even deadlier enemy – a vicious alien Predator.
After Jughead wins a paid trip to Costa Rica, the entire Archie gang tags along for a well-deserved Spring Break. But even far from Riverdale, the group gets into their usual antics. Archie agrees to help Dilton judge a series popularity contests. Betty and Veronica continue competing for Archie’s attention. And some vacationing students are brutally murdered when they disturb a shrine the Predator was visiting. But when Betty finds a ceremonial blade she ultimately draws the Predator’s attention – all the way back to good old Riverdale.
The only reason this book exists is thanks to darker takes on these characters, like Afterlife With Archie. But these versions are very much their usual innocent selves, making for a bizarrely creepy read when the murders begin. It doesn’t quite reach Archie Meets The Punisher perfection – too many moments push too hard for Robot Chickenesque parody. But it’s still like nothing else you’ve ever read, while being exactly what’s advertised on the cover – something I never expected to see on a comic shelf in my life.
Favorite Moment: “Oh no! This is — polyester!”