Comic Book Corner: Spider-Man, Scully, and the ‘Sheriff of Babylon’

Reading Time: 9 minutes

CBC Header, Image: Sophie Brown

GeekMom Shiri took over Comic Book Corner this month, bringing you a whopping seven reviews including lots from the Marvel Universe, plus more from Mycroft Holmes , and a look at the thought-provoking Sheriff of Babylon set in modern day Iraq. Elsewhere, Beth heads to 1930s Los Angeles for a new take on noir, and Sophie travels back to investigate the origins of agents Mulder and Scully.

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Spider-Man #8, Image: Marvel
Spider-Man #8, Image: Marvel

Title: Spider-Man #8
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Nico Leon
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Mr. Bendis certainly does know how to destroy his readers emotionally. In a… “good” isn’t exactly the word Shiri is looking for… she’ll go with, “Bendis is on his game in this one.”

The issue begins with Miles meeting Luke Cage and Jessica Jones on a rooftop, wherein there is a serious conversation peppered with much hilarity and bleeped vocabulary. It is meaningful but still, somehow, deft and light. Then comes the call from Tony Stark and a confrontation between the Avengers/Ultimates/Inhumans and Bruce Banner. Shiri doesn’t want to spoil the climax but the effect said event has on the younger Avengers is powerful and it changes everything for Spider-Man and guest stars Nova and Ms. Marvel. It’s possible Shiri had something in her eye as she read the last few panels.

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Mycroft Holmes #2, Image: Titan Comics
Mycroft Holmes #2, Image: Titan Comics

Title: Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook #2
Writer: Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Raymond Ostfeld, and Joshua Cassara
Artists: Luis Guerrero and Simon Bowland
Publisher: Titan Comics

Steampunk and science and monsters, oh my. Mycroft Holmes continues to be a delightfully snarky and surprising book, gifting readers a very different Mycroft from the stodgy, secretive bureaucrat Holmesophiles have come to adore.

This Mycroft is no less plausible for being the polar opposite of his older self; Shiri is, in fact, rather enamored of this origin story and finds it entirely likely that Sherlock’s elder brother spent his youth running about kissing Queen Victoria’s body double and foiling conspiracies against Her Majesty’s Empire. Issue #2 features several historical cameos Shiri would never have anticipated or considered but which make quite a lot of sense. This book is pure joy in which everyone should partake.

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The Sheriff of Babylon #10, Image: Vertigo
The Sheriff of Babylon #10, Image: Vertigo

Title: Sheriff of Babylon #10
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Publisher: Vertigo Comics

Shiri has tried to write about Sheriff of Babylon several times, both in the context of review and of her Padawans column, but she hasn’t been successful and that is because this comic leaves her speechless every month. The depth of character and emotion King and Gerads convey with tight, sparse dialogue and stark art is incredible. The story is an honest and unflinching contrast to the sanitized version of life in post-war Iraq most Americans have garnered from the nightly news.

Sheriff of Babylon is not an easy read and it is graphic in places but the truths therein are necessary ones; the world created a monster and then left it to devour itself, unfulfilled potential and broken promises scattered haphazardly, lives sacrificed in the name of power and dominance. Whether or not the invasion was right at the time is moot; its consequences deserve our attention and consideration.

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Alters #1, Image: Aftershock
Alters #1, Image: Aftershock

Title: Alters #1
Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artist: Leila Leiz
Publisher: Aftershock

Humans suddenly develop powers. Things go well, at first, but as time goes on these powers cause “accidents.” Five thousand people die in Chicago when someone manifested as antimatter. “All of a sudden, if wasn’t good to be special.” Being an Alter, however, isn’t Charlie’s only secret; she is also transgender (male to female) and has started hormone therapy but hasn’t yet come out to her parents.

Alters is the first book to feature a transgender hero as the main character and, while it should have happened sooner, Shiri is glad Charlie is in Jenkins and Leizs’ hands. There is no dodging or hiding, no euphemism. Charlie is an Alter. Charlie is transgender. Charlie is the middle of three brothers. Charlie is trapped and it’s difficult and painful. Charlie wants nothing more than to be who she is, to be “her.” Charlie’s life is further complicated by a team of super-scientists trying to convince her alter-ego Chalice to join them. Shiri appreciates the successful melding of superhero book and “real-life” issues explored in issue #1 and she is excited to see what comes next.

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Daredevil #11, Image: Marvel
Daredevil #11, Image: Marvel

Title: Daredevil #11
Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Ron Garney
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Daredevil‘s new arc has taken a turn for the decidedly creepy and Shiri is quite pleased about it. Soule’s exploration of the mysterious, infamous blood mural and its connection with the Inhumans melds perfectly with Garney’s muted, pared back, and distinctive style (especially the dichromatic but for boots, weapons, and emblem Devil–a thing of harsh beauty) to create a perfect autumn read. Fair warning, this issue gets a bit graphic in terms of both nudity and violence but far from being gratuitous, all is in service of the story.

Daredevil, while in the same universe and continuity as the other Marvel books, has stood somewhat aloof from the main storylines and Shiri is curious if the addition of the Inhuman element is a way to draw the Devil into Civil War II or if he is going to remain essentially separate and street level.The final panels of issue #11 are eerie to the Nth degree and Shiri is glad she was reading this one in broad daylight. Very much looking forward to seeing where the arc goes and how it gets there.

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The Vison #11, Image: Marvel
The Vison #11, Image: Marvel

Title: The Vision #11
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Publisher: Marvel

There is a reason two of Tom King’s books are on Shiri’s list this month: King is an incredible author who elevates every comic he writes, be it a story of synthezoids in capes and cowls or contractors in post-war Iraq, into something remarkable. The powerful emotions evident in the pages of The Vision, the longing for understanding and peace, are palpable in this issue, a physical force leaping off the page to demand the reader’s attention. This is the best of humanity and the worst reflected back to us by an artificial man who has finally found what he is looking for only to have it destroyed by those he trusts.

Coupled with Hernandez Walta’s sketchy, pared-back, muted style punctuated by the Vision’s bright pink and green, the reader is reminded that no matter how hard the Vision tries, he will never truly be human and the fact he works so hard to achieve that which his friends take for granted only to be denied once more is all the more tragic.

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Deadpool v Gambit, Image: Marvel
Deadpool v Gambit, Image: Marvel

Title: Deadpool V Gambit #5
Writers: Ben Acker and Ben Blacker
Artist: Danilo Beyruth
Publisher: Marvel

Shiri was slain by this issue of Deadpool V Gambit. Despite being in public while she read it, she laugh-snorted so hard, she fell out of her chair. She doesn’t want to spoil the delicious comedy, but she will say the least insane thing that happens over the course of the mini-series’ final issue is Deadpool, having inherited the powers of Kun-Lun, using narration bubbles as shuriken.

Shiri is rather bummed this deliciously absurd, wonderfully hilarious team-up has come to a close and desperately hopes Marvel resurrects it at some point in the near future.

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Angel City #1, Image: Oni Press
Angel City #1, Image: Oni Press

Title: Angel City #1
Publisher: Oni Press
Writer: Janet Harvey
Artist: Megan Levens
Colorist: Nick Filardi

This month, Beth previewed the new Angel City comic from Oni Press. Angel City is an instantly addicting story told in 1930s Los Angeles. It begins with the discovery of Frances Faye’s body, a struggling actress trying to find her place in the California spotlight. No one cares about Frances’ murder: not the police, and apparently not Frances’ former friend who shared all those times with her in the beginning. But things aren’t always what they seem, and Dolores Dare cares more than she realizes about solving Frances’ murder and putting her to rest. Dolores isn’t your typical crime noir lead: she went from struggling actress and cigarette girl to two-fisted mob enforcer. She roughs up those who try to stiff her employer, and never skims off the top. Los Angeles has put a hard edge on Dolores, and she doesn’t take crap from anyone, including the cops on mob boss Gino’s payroll.

Angel City is a refreshing take on almost every true-crime-style story from the 20th century. Beth has listened to lots of 1950s-era radio crime dramas of the time, and always winced at the stereotypes and sexism foisted onto women characters. Either a woman is a bad girl, unredeemable and must pay the price, or a damsel in distress. In Angel City, there are two main characters, both women. One alive, one dead. Both strong, driven, and ambitious, and only one can unravel the story of the other. Written and illustrated by female talent, this book perfectly captures the genre and eliminates those “damsel in distress” wincing fits. At the end of the comic is a brief and real Hollywood crime story for noir aficionados.

Beth can’t wait to see more of Dolores Dare and her kickass style. The book drops on October 5.

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The X-Files Origins #1, Images: IDW Publishing
The X-Files Origins #1, Images: IDW Publishing

Title: The X-Files: Origins #1
Writers: Matthew Dow Smith & Jody Houser
Artist: Corin Howell & Chris Fenoglio
Publisher: IDW Publishing

Sophie picked up issue one of IDW’s latest X-Files limited-run series, Origins, a double-length book which features two separate stories that follow Mulder and Scully as youngsters. She was somewhat nervous about this series because anytime something with such a deep and detailed history as The X-Files starts going back into its own past, there’s the possibility for mistakes to arise–inconsistencies with the canon or scenes that just don’t seem to tally with the people we know these characters will become. Thankfully, there was nothing here in either story that made Sophie feel that way.

Mulder’s story is a tale of boys looking for adventure. Set the summer after his sister’s disappearance, a 12-year-old Fox is starting to come to terms with a new family dynamic while still dealing with an overbearing sadness and a sense of guilt that is clearly too huge a burden on his young shoulders. Not yet a believer in the paranormal–he finds it annoying that so many people claim to have seen strange events yet no one witnessed his sister’s kidnapping–he sneaks into the woods at night with his friends on a UFO hunt, not because he thinks he will see anything, but because he needs to escape the atmosphere of his home. When the boys do stumble across something strange, his sense of fear is palpable, he’s still a kid after all, and the story leaves us hanging when a mysterious light appears in the woods

Where Mulder’s story leaps straight into adventure, Scully’s is slower and more introspective. Rather than coming across as dull in comparison, Sophie felt that it came across just right for a tale set around a young girl thrust into a new city at a vital age and is narrated as if we are reading the 13-year-old Scully’s private diary entries. Her story is based on something mentioned on the show just once, the murder of Scully’s Sunday school teacher, and the impact this will have on her. Already we can see Scully’s childhood innocence being stripped as she begins to question the world, her faith, and her family. This is a really great beginning to Scully’s story that so far feels true to the woman we know and love.

Sophie can’t wait to find out what happens next in both tales, although she will admit that right now, Scully’s is her personal favorite.

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GeekMom received some comic issues for review purposes.