June 2015 saw the continuation of big events and the emergence of new beginnings for comics from both the Marvel and DC. On the Marvel end of things, Secret Wars and its multitude of mini-series continue their march forward, entrancing readers with new takes on a ton of the company’s old favorites. DC, meanwhile, closed out its own Convergence event and continued back into its regular plot lines with game-changing chapters for some of its most beloved characters. Ever wonder what it would be like to have Commissioner Gordon become Batman? DC answered that question this month.
The big query for you, of course, is what, out of all of this, you should be spending your hard earned dollars on. As we do every month, The Escapist‘s Comics & Cosplay crew, led this time by Marshall Lemon and Stew Shearer, have delivered a selection of suggestions that we think should do the trick of sating your nerd thirst until July.
Secret Wars #3
Last month I recommended Secret Wars number one because it’s the biggest Marvel event in some time and the sort of thing you really want to read from the start, if you can, rather than jumping into it later. I’d be lying though if I said that it was a book I especially enjoyed over some of the other things I read in May.
That said, I can happily report that with issue three, Secret Wars is finally beginning to pick up some genuine steam after spending the first two issues destroying the old Marvel universes and establishing the Battleworld. Now, in issue three, the conflict of the series has been put into play with Dr. Doom’s post-apocalypse paradise having been invaded by surviving heroes and villains from the old continuums. Long story short, I started off interested in Secret Wars. Now, however, I’m started to get excited as to where it intends to take us.
Favorite Moment: “God. Who is this god you’re talking about?”
Thors sounded like a joke from the very start – a cop story where every member of the police force is a parallel version of Thor. Hell, I’ve been following Secret Wars and reported on the freaking press release, and I was still waiting for the other shoe to drop. But Thors is exactly the book that’s advertised – a police procedural that just happens to involve dimensional mergers and excessive uses of Mjlornirs.
When Secret Wars merged every surviving Marvel timeline into a planet ruled by Doctor Doom, it was the Thors who were tasked with policing its walls. Yet even among the Thors, Ultimate Thor is a poster child – the hero who solved every case and once arrested multiple Hulks in a single battle. So when someone starts murdering the same female victim across parallel domains, Ultimate Thor is given the case – with the caveat that it be solved before Doom himself is motivated to get involved.
I don’t know which Asgardian Jason Aaron prayed to so Thors was greenlit, or how he pulled off the task of spinning a parody from canonical Battleworld lore. But he did, and it’s absolutely amazing. It even has a Thor commander telling subordinates to “get the Hel” out of his office, and a Thor bar that everyone hangs out at after a long day. And that’s not even getting into Marvel-specific jokes, like the Groot Thor who I demand to see more of.
Thors is insane, and funny, and action-packed, and just a little creepy with the threat of Doom around the edges. If you can only read one Secret Wars spin-off book, I’d recommend this one. There is literally no other like it.
Favorite Moment: “Is it my fault they add more Hulks every time they tell the story?”
Years of Future Past #1
I love the X-Men and, while I enjoy them in all manner of situations, I tend to think they’re at their most natural best when Marvel has them squaring off against the issues of bigotry, fear and hatred that at the arguable core of their concept. Years of Future Past struck a chord with me, in turn, because of the fact that that’s basically all it’s about.
Another mini-series produced as a part of Marvel’s ongoing Secret Wars event, Years focuses primarily on Christina Pride, the daughter of Kitty Pride and Piotr Rasputin, as she struggles with her fellow mutants to survive a rebellion in an alternate future where humanity’s fear of mutants has led them to all but extinguish the species Now, with time running out for homo superior, the X-Men and their allies must rise to fight for freedom one last time.
It’s good stuff and I’d definitely recommend it.
Favorite Moment: “What every species wants, what every species needs is a fighting chance.”
Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #1
Like I’ve said before in this space, I’m a sucker for superhero romances and family stories. So there’s no way I wasn’t going to check out The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows, the Secret Wars tie-in that restored Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson’s marriage – at least in another universe. But whether you’re reading this Peter’s marriage, the young May Parker, or simply to show displeasure for One More Day you’re still in for a treat, because Renew Your Vows has the makings of a great Spider-Man story.
Renew Your Vows opens in one of Marvel’s Secret Wars universes, presumably before they were mashed together. This version of Spider-Man is facing another difficult decision – join the Avengers full-time, or slow down to better support his family as Peter. But the same night the Avengers start hunting a villain who kills superheroes, Spider-Man learns one of his enemies escaped from prison and targeted his home. This prompts a decision that won’t just end Spider-Man, but every single superhero in New York City.
Renew Your Vows is proving to be a clever twist on the Spider-Man formula. Sure, his motto may be “with great power comes great responsibility”, but what happens when you have to choose between responsibilities? Do you pick the greater good, or the needs of your immediate family? Right or wrong, the decision has huge consequences for his moral compass and the entire world, like injecting a tiny hint of The Last of Us into Spider-Man.
And that’s only Issue 1 – next we’ll see how this version of New York has changed after Secret Wars and more of Peter’s relationship with May. After such a strong start, it’s going to be a long wait.
Favorite Moment: “Dad, c’mon. You don’t have to hold my hand.” “Yeah? Show me that in writing.”
X-Men’ 92 #1
Ba na na na na na na! Ba na na na na na na! Ba na na na na na na….NAH! NAH!
The true test of whether or not you’ll be able to fully enjoy X-Men’ 92 is what the collected bas and nas above look like to you. If it’s just gibberish, then you might want to pass. If you read it and your mind fills in its melodic blanks with the greatest cartoon theme song every recorded, then this is the book for you. A re-visitation of Fox’s beloved early-90s animated adaptation of the X-Men comic, X-Men’ 92 follows the cartoon’s version of the famous characters as they embark on new adventures.
Honestly, what’s special about this is how closely it manages to emulate the look and writing of the original 1992 cartoon series. If you grew up watching the show like I did, you should come away from issue one with one heck of a nostalgia trip. The problem with this comic though, is that it’s not really good enough that I could soundly recommend it to average-Joe comic reader on the street. It’s not bad by any means, and I do think X-Men fans of all stripes can enjoy it on some level. That said, it’s very clearly geared toward a specific audience.
If you happen to be a member of that audience though, go get this comic. You won’t regret it.
Favorite Moment: “Somethin’ in your eye, bub?”
Howard the Duck #4
Wow, do I love Howard the Duck! While the rest of the Marvel U is swept up in the chaos of Secret Wars, this book makes the best possible choice by rolling out a Secret Wars tie-in… as in, the 1984 mega-event. And that’s all while continuing its regular storyline, revealing the true cosmic threat Howard faces, and having some fun at each superhero’s expense.
After last issue, Howard and Tara are finally realizing their client isn’t who they believed – it’s actually Talos the Untamed, who’s attempting to collect gems of incalculable power. (No, not those gems – another set.) Realizing that he’s completely out of his depth, Howard tracks down Doctor Strange for answers, who reveals that this threat has ties to the original Secret Wars.
Okay, flimsy tangential ties – but still! It’s canon!
Howard the Duck is a comic that absolutely loves Marvel superheroes – as proven by its encyclopedic references – even as it pokes fun at their absurd foibles. From Doctor Strange using astral planes to avoid Wong, to Peter Parker defensively protecting Aunt May, to Johnny Storm “Captain Kirking it up” on Battleworld, Howard the Duck is a wonderful read for superhero and comedy fans alike. Check it out.
Favorite Moment: “Compassion. Laughter. Dance. Respect. A second Dance gem.”
Darth Vader #6
Darth Vader 6 is, in many ways, exemplary of why Darth Vader is the best of Marvel’s Star Wars comics. It’s not because of its action, which is very good. It’s because of the emotional punch it packs and the way it manages to flesh out Darth Vader’s character in real and meaningful ways.
Case in point, at the end of issue six, Vader learns that Luke is actually his son. It’s funny because, up until now, it’s a moment I never thought much about. Somehow I think I always just assumed that Vader just knew and chose Bespin as the time to spring it on Luke. That being the case, Kieron Gillen’s treatment of the realization probably stands as my favorite comic moment from this franchise since Marvel took over. The way the comic cuts back and forth between Vader’s mask and his memories of his past life feels genuinely tragic.
His resultant rage, in turn, is quiet but intimidating, exactly the way it should be for his character.
Favorite Moment: “Skywalker.”
Justice League of America #1
Justice League has always been one of DC Comics’ biggest titles, highlighting the best and brightest its heroes have to offer. But while I’ve enjoyed Geoff Johns’ New 52 run, it is getting a little convoluted for first-time readers – a problematic detail when a major film is underway. Perhaps that’s what motivated DC to launch a second standalone series that follows the League’s adventures without getting tied down in current cosmic shenanigans.
The book opens when Superman is summoned to Infinity Inc and learns that he’s about to die. Some undisclosed near future event has killed Superman across multiple timelines before wiping out reality, and now Infinity hopes to break the cycle by asking him not to be superheroic for a while. But while they’re telling the truth, Infinity has their own agenda – one that may or may not involve the giant Kryptonian spaceship that just arrived in orbit around Earth.
Despite being a New 52 book, Justice League reads a lot like Mark Waid and Bryan Hitch’s JLA run, a huge boon for anyone missing the good old days. In fact, Bryan Hitch is both writer and artist for this run – a major rarity in mainstream comics – and he succeeds in crafting an gorgeously impressive opening chapter. There are still lots of mysteries moving forward, but we get some great character moments with the team and a massive fight with the Parasite to boot. If you’re looking for a great DC comic to follow from the ground floor, Justice League is a fantastic choice.
Favorite Moment: The room of dead Supermen.
The biggest compliment I can offer Batman 41 is that it manages to overcome its somewhat dicey concept to deliver a solid and entertaining comic. Taking place some time after the Endgame story arc that closed in Batman 40, it follows the beginning of Jim Gordon’s tenure as a new version of the Caped Crusader, complete with a mechanized combat suit and official sanctioning from the city of Gotham.
I’ll confess that when I first read about this idea back in March, I was more than a bit skeptical. Setting aside the fact that we were once again getting a new Batman, the whole mecha-Bats thing went completely against what I enjoy most about Batman: the challenges posed by his human frailty. That being said, Scott Snyder is a really good writer and he manages to execute the transition to Gordon being the man beneath the cowl in a way that feels rather natural and realistic. It feels like it makes sense when, really, it shouldn’t.
There is a small reveal at the book’s end that had me rolling my eyes, but besides that the new era of Batman has gotten off to a good start.
Favorite Moment: “Waitwaitwait. You want me to be who?”
All-Star Section Eight #1
I never expected this day would come.
Back in the 90s, before Preacher and The Boys, Garth Ennis created one of his most memorable comics: DC’s Hitman. The series was a joy for many reasons, but perhaps its most unique trait was that it absolutely took the piss out of mainstream superheroes – usually by contrasting them with “Section Eight”. This deviant and dysfunctional superhero team, led by the raging-yet-sincere alcoholic Six Pack, hasn’t been seen seen Hitman‘s final issues.
Guess who’s back in DC’s All Star line?
When an accidental encounter with rye and coke turns Sidney Speck into Six Pack once more, his first (cohesive) thought is to reunite his beloved team. But after finding seemingly resurrected versions of his old friend’s at Noonan’s Bar, he’s still missing an eighth member – and who better to ask then Gotham City’s Dark Knight?
Hitman fans will be waxing nostalgic with this book, which brings back favorites like Hacken, Baytor… hell, even Bueno. But first-time readers will still appreciate Ennis and artist John McCrae using their unique brand of humor to tear Batman to shreds just by reframing some iconic moments. All Star Section Eight probably won’t ever fill Hitman‘s shoes, but I’m happy to see its brand of insanity survived DC’s cosmic reboots all the same.
Favorite Moment: “I AM BAYTOR!”