In the wake of San Diego Comic-Con, the Escapist Comics and Cosplay crew relaxes with summer one-shots, short horror series, superheroes, and sci-fi thrillers.
San Diego Comic-Con has passed us by, but the Escapist Comics and Cosplay team has some great recommendations to help you come down off all of the hype. Once you’re done reminiscing about the gremlins cosplay, Wonder Woman costume reveal, and the Warcraft movie teaser, dive into iconic superheros with Stew Shearer’s assessment of Uncanny X-Men #24, Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #4 and Adventures of Superman #15. Still feeling too overwhelmed by the SDCC blitz? Marla Desat recommends pulp one-shot The Shadow Over Innsmouth and horror miniseries Bodies to ease you back into comics, and gears up for the next big story arc in the dystopian sci fi Lazarus. Marshall Lemon checks out the new science fiction series Low from Rick Remender, catches up with the Bat-family with Grayson, and gets a taste of homicidal cybernetic rooster with the Chew: Warrior Chicken Poyo one-shot.
Bringing you recommendations this week: Stew Shearer, Marla Desat, and Marshall Lemon. First up, it’s…
This eight issue horror series from Vertigo sets up a brilliant mystery over four time periods. All set in London, England, four detectives investigate four murders happening in the 1980s, the 1940s, today, and a post-apocalyptic 2050. Written by Si Spencer, each time period is given its own flavor because it is illustrated by a different artist: Dean Ormston, Phil Winslade, Meghan Hetrick and Tula Lotay.
The first issue introduces us to each of the detectives and their first encounter with the body. The world so far hints at magic and science fiction in all the right ways, though it is a little slow to start with only six pages for each time period. I’ll reserve my enthusiasm for the story until I get my hands on the second issue, but the art makes it worth picking up right away. Each artist captures the feeling of their time period perfectly, helping each part of the story to stand out. A very promising first issue!
Favorite Moment: “Scarper!”
The Shadow Over Innsmouth One-Shot
Lovecraftian horror and turn of the century pulp collide in this one-shot from Dynamite. Written by Ron Marz with art by Ivan Rodriquez, the infamous pulp hero The Shadow arrives in a foggy little town on the coast where things are not quite what they seem. Along with his assistant Margo Lane, The Shadow uncovers a plot that involves a cult worshiping the Deep Ones.
The Shadow Over Innsmouth is more than just putting The Shadow up against unknowable, unspeakable horrors. The mystery is more pulp action than existential terror, with spectacular gun battles and strange fish-men all seamlessly combined by Rodriquez. If you’re a pulp fan with a Cthulhu sweet tooth, this is a great summer read.
Favorite Moment: “Stories about Innsmouth go way back.”
Grimm Fairy Tales: Tales of Terror #1
This new ongoing horror series from Zenescope is a horror anthology, with issues retelling classic horror stories, urban legends, and original tales. Writer Ralph Tedesco and artist Antonio Bifulco deliver a creepy first issue, perfectly paced and full of heart-pounding moments. Like comedy, comics can struggle to deliver horror because the writer and artist have little control over the pace that you read the comic, but Grimm Tales of Terror nails it. A mysterious woman hints that some of these stories may eventually combine, or share a common thread, but this issue is a complete, self-contained story, with a twist on classic horror monsters.
Favorite Moment: “I really think we need to call the doctor.”
This grim hard sci-fi book about a corporate-run future has pulled me in deeper with every issue. Written by Greg Rucka, known for his work on Action Comics, Batwoman, and his novels, this series explores a dystopian future where corporate families have taken over control from governments. Wealth is concentrated exclusively with those families, shared only partly with the serfs that they elevate to service. Everyone else is Waste. The series follows Forever Carlyle, a bio-engineered warrior who defends her family from all threats.
Issue #10 begins to answer some questions about Forever’s brother Jonah, who betrayed the family and disappears into enemy territory in issue #3. For the first time, we get to see what life is like for the general populace under a different family. Jonah’s failed assassination and coup puts him in the hands of Jakob Hock, the head of the Hock family who controls most of the Eastern US. Hock uses medicine and drugs to control their people. Each issue of this series includes world-building back matter, but here we see Hock brought to life by Michael Lark’s stark and beautiful art and Santi Artas’ moody colors. Issue #10 sets up the next major story arc for Lazarus, where the sixteen families will meet for a Conclave for the first time in 65 years, and Carlyle will negotiate the ransom of Jonah.
Favorite Moment: “You came to bargain and you had nothing with which to deal.”
Rocket Raccoon #2
Skottie Young continues to deliver a smart and zany book. Wanted for a murder he didn’t commit, Rocket knows he needs some less reputable contacts if he’s going to figure out who is trying to frame him. Rocket’s plan to clear his name means he has to get into, and then break out of, the high security prison Devin-9. Young gives us a hilarious, wacky, and detailed prison break, including a two-page montage that deserves to be a poster.
This new series is laugh out loud funny, smart, and gorgeously drawn. No matter how familiar you are with the Guardians of the Galaxy, even if you’ve only giggled at the trailer, you’ll be able to follow and enjoy this book. The art has a cartoon quality, punctuated by Jean-François Beaulieu’s electric bright colors, but never sacrifices detail. Young manages to mix funny with adult without giving in to black humor or excessive sarcasm. This issue has secured Rocket’s place in my subscription list.
Favorite Moment: Six fingers on purpose.
Adventures of Superman #15
The Superman book I’ve been looking forward to the most recently is Superman 32. To my delight, my comic shop had it in stock this week and I brought it home. That being the case, I also, on a serendipitous whim, picked up Adventures of Superman 15. For what it’s worth, I enjoyed Superman 32. The story’s decent and John Romita Jr’s art style fits very well with the series. That said, if you only buy one Superman title this month, make it Adventures 15.
It’s funny because both books deal with similar beats, namely Superman feeling lonely because of his alien origins. Whereas Superman 32 uses this idea as the launching pad for a new story arc that could very well suck by its end, Adventures 15 tells a self-contained story that manages to be fast-paced and action packed while still nailing the notes of melancholy that tend to define my favorite stories starring the Man of Steel.
Favorite Moment: “I was alone before… So I suppose I haven’t really lost anything.”
Uncanny X-Men #24
With the exception of the now numerous ongoing solo character series that Marvel’s launched in recent months, I haven’t been too enthusiastic about the X-Men as of late. While the main books haven’t been bad by any means, they haven’t been fantastic either. Uncanny X-Men 24 however, looks like it could be turning down a path toward the sort of genuinely interesting material I’ve been wishing for for awhile now. The second part of the Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier storyline that began in issue 23, it focuses in on She-Hulk bringing together the split factions of the X-Men to read through the will of Charles Xavier, who died at the hands of a possessed Cyclops during the Avengers vs. X-Men event.
I should say that not much really happens in this issue. The X-Men all gather, it’s implicated that Scott could wind up taking ownership of the Jean Grey School for Gifted Youngsters and it ends on a cliffhanger. Just having these unfriendly forces together in the same room however was wonderfully tense and liked the fact that the X-verse is going to be shedding a bit more light on a major issue that’s been somewhat sidelined by recent conflicts. Scott Summers killed Charles Xavier; facing that down directly is something this book should have done a long time ago.
Favorite Moment: “I can read their minds. It’s not a trick. (And they don’t like you anymore.)”
Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #4
Sigh… You may recall back in May that I reviewed the inaugural issue of Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man and I didn’t like it. The death of Ultimate Peter Parker was a big deal for me and the idea that writer Brian Michael Bendis would toy with that or even potentially reverse it felt cheap and just plain wrong. And now, here we are three issues later and I’ll be damned if this hasn’t grown on me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still kind of annoyed on a certain level. That said, watching Miles Morales team up with the potentially revived Peter to take down Norman “Never-F’ing-Dies” Osborn brought a genuine smile to my face.
Moreover, the issue also packed some fairly nice emotional punch thanks to a well-crafted opening section focusing on Miles girlfriend Katie reacting poorly to the revelation that he’s Spider-Man and even better bit at the end where Aunt May realizes her nephew might still be alive and understandably get a tad choked up about it. Granted, this could all still go heart-breakingly bad for everyone involved. Either way however, Bendis has caught me in his web (nyuck, nycuk) and Ill be eagerly awaiting issue 5 next month.
Favorite Moment: “I see you haven’t work-shopped any new material since our last get-together.”
Kick-Ass 3 #8
While there are more than a few who haven’t been too keen on the Kick-Ass books or where Mark Millar has taken them, I’ve been a consistent fan of the franchise even in its lower moments (except the movie sequel, which sucked). That being the case, as the franchise comes to its close with issue 8 of Kick-Ass 3, I’m happy to report that the ending the book opts for is pretty danged satisfying.
With New York’s real life superheroes slaughtered and Hit Girl busted out of prison, she and Kick-Ass decide to take on one final mission against the eastern seaboard’s entire mafia leadership. The resultant ultra-violence is a pitch perfect final bout for the book followed by on overall resolution that finally makes the overarching story mean something. One of the running problems with Kick-Ass on the whole has been the franchise’s tendency to make the title character an unlikable person arguably responsible for everything bad that happens around him. Kick-Ass 3 closes on a note of genuine growth that’ feels really appropriate.
Granted, this all comes at a sticker price of $5.99 (way too expensive), but if you’re a fan it’s worth it.
Favorite Moment: “I told you this was the last time and a superhero never breaks his promise.”
A few of us in The Escapist‘s newsroom were a little skeptical when Grayson was first announced, uncertain whether Nightwing faking his death to infiltrate an intelligence agency would pay off. Thankfully by the second issue, Grayson isn’t just proving to be a good book, it has all the elements to become a great one. The standalone story seamlessly blends superheroics with the wackier elements of 1960s spy thrillers; imagine the British Avengers TV series if John Steed was an acrobat who carried Batman’s phone number. There are also extensive references to DC Universe lore: Batman uses his Malone identity as a code name, Dick Grayson’s partner is Helena Bertinelli, and the pair take on an investigation tangetically tied to the superhero community. Then there’s the several clever touches which help its characters stand out, like a top-secret SPYRAL superior whose face can neither be photographed or drawn from memory, but Grayson‘s core essence addresses Dick’s internal struggle. His moral standards are already beginning to clash with SPYRAL and Bertinelli’s “by any means necessary” practices, and the final heartwrenching page shows how lost he feels without the support of his Bat-family. That’s a lot to pack into two issues, and I’m incredibly excited to see where it goes next.
Favorite Moment: “Your funeral… it was nice.”
Chew: Warrior Chicken Poyo One-Shot
I’m all about comic books being taken seriously as an art form. But sometimes, it’s more fun to open a book and read something that’s hilariously ridiculous from start to finish. Warrior Chicken Poyo is one of those books, taking a joke from Chew about cock fighting to its absolute extreme. After saving the President from terrorists and a contagious nano-plague in the first three pages, Poyo is summoned to a magical fantasy world everyday vegetables have become murderous monsters. To stop the curse, Poyo must team up with 23 of the multiverse’s best heroes and confront the evil Groceryo-mancer. Chew‘s trademark food humor is in full force here, along with the occasional callback to the original book, but in a straightforward and light-hearted spirit this time around (even with copious blood and gore). To say much more would be giving jokes away, but rest assured that this is offbeat. This is insane. This is kinda stupid.
This is Poyo.
Favorite Moment: “This is no ordinary secret agent chicken.”
In the distant future, the sun’s expansion has irritated the Earth, forcing humanity to live deep underwater until a new habitable planet can be discovered. Resources are dwindling, and hope seems slim… except to central character Stel, whose unmeasurable optimism drives her forward where others, including her husband, would give up in favor of pragmatic realism. That optimism will be needed when new enemies attack her family ship outside the dome, threatening not only an important hunt, but the lives of her youngest children. Future issues promise to address the discovery of a solution to the incoming apocalypse, but in this opening chapter the stakes are far more personal, using the setting of a dying underwater world to fuel a uniquely original sci-fi story. Optimism should prove to be a core theme however; even with the scientifically-established sense of impending doom, Low has a very strong Jules Verne vibe, with fantastic technologies implying anything is possible, even at the end of days. Just because the story is positive doesn’t mean it won’t be dark, as the violence of Stel’s antagonist proves, but it is quite refreshing to see science fiction offer something other than straightforward death and destruction.
Favorite Moment: “Listen to Dad. Between all his longwinded stories he can say some smart stuff.”