Comic Book Corner: Caravaggio, Vader, Strange & More

In this month’s Comic Book Corner, Shiri catches up with the latest goings-on in the Marvel universe and gets to spend some time with one of her favorite artists, Anika is reminded of why she has loved Darth Vader since childhood, Beth meets a professional bad girl with morals and hangs out at the roller derby, Sophie ventures into the Haunted Mansion, and Mark meets up with the Torchwood team. No April foolin’!Break 2

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Doctor Strange #18, Image: Marvel
Doctor Strange #18, Image: Marvel

Doctor Strange #18
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Chris Bachalo
Publisher: Marvel

All the Doctor Strange feels in this one: Wong is a prisoner of Strange’s own Misery and the living embodiment of decades of hurt and regret is also infecting Strange’s former patients. Thor to the rescue! Sort of.

The most compelling part of this team up is that it isn’t between the Sorcerer Supreme and the Goddess of Thunder but between Doctor Stephen Strange and Doctor Jane Foster. Jason Aaron nails the perfect blend of dire suspense and trademark Strange snark augmented with some fantastic gross-out moments even Thor has a difficult time stomaching, and Bachalo’s singular style continues to suit the story perfectly. Shiri has been enjoying the heck out of the new Doctor Strange run since issue #1 and its creators continue to outdo themselves with each issue.

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Jessica Jones #6, Image: Marvel
Jessica Jones #6, Image: Marvel

Jessica Jones #6
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Michael Gaydos and Matt Hollingsworth
Publisher: Marvel

This one definitely earns its “Parental Advisory” stamp, both for the subject matter and its graphic depiction of violence (no “sweet, Christmas” here). Jessica’s plan is revealed: why she took Daniella and ran, how she ended up in jail, and why she’s been avoiding Luke. Both her pain, and her husband’s, is honest, raw, and may have provoked a few tears from Shiri.

This Jessica Jones revival was scheduled to be a six issue arc, but there’s a preview of number seven at the end so it appears, finally, Marvel is finally extending a lady-centric book rather than cancelling it prematurely (Shiri is a huge Marvel fan, which is likely evident from these monthly peeks at her pile but she isn’t blind to that ongoing issue).

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America #1, Image: Marvel
America #1, Image: Marvel

America #1
Writer: Gabby Rivera
Artist: Joe Quinones, Joe Rivera, Paolo Rivera, José Villarubia
Publisher: Marvel

America Chavez gets her own book and it’s about time. She is the hero the world needs right now.

Self-proclaimed “super-strong, queer, brown girl who can punch star-shaped holes between dimensions” America presents herself to the world as is, no qualms, no hesitation. She is real and layered and she is a perfect example of what Shiri is talking about when she uses the term “strong female character.” Physically powerful, yes, but also smart, dimensional, and imperfect. She has a life which includes other women as lovers and friends and teammates rather than competition. She’s cocky and a little insecure. She’s amazing. Also, she punches Hitler in the face.

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I Hate Fairyland #11, Image Image: Comics
I Hate Fairyland #11, Image Image: Comics

I Hate Fairyland #11
Writer: Skottie Young
Artists: Skottie Young and Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Publisher: Image Comics

GERT GOES TO DUNGEONFESTEXPOCON! If you’ve been reading I Hate Fairyland, that’s really all Shiri should have to say to entice you to this issue. Or if you’ve ever even to a con–Shiri’s husband is playing catch-up with this series but, even out of context, he was laughing his butt off at this particular installment. There’s blood, gore, guts, barbarians, and rabid fans, trademark Gert-Larry snark, and plentiful explosions Also, a recap of the time Gert eviscerated the moon.

I Hate Fairyland continues to blow Shiri away with Young’s ability to keep a story moving, shifting, and growing while simultaneously presenting hilarious and very, very accurate, cutting commentary on social expectations surrounding fairytales and geek culture. Young’s art, always a standout, is absolutely flawless and serves both the story and the commentary perfectly. Can you tell Shiri really loves this book? You will too. Provided you don’t mind a little blood. And some guts. And whatever that thing over there used to be…

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The Unbelievable Gwenpool #13, Image: Marvel
The Unbelievable Gwenpool #13, Image: Marvel

The Unbelievable Gwenpool #13
Writer: Christopher Hastings
Artists: Alti Firemansyah, Gurihiru, and Rachelle Rosenberg
Publisher: Marvel

Gwenpool is ridiculous, absurd fun, and, given the general mood of pretty much everyone Shiri knows right now, the world could use more of that.

This issue finds Gwen and her team still trapped in RPG land by Arcade and they must, of course, defeat the Dungeon Boss to escape. Unfortunately for them, the Dungeon Boss is the man himself, Deadpool. Who “once he’s paralyzed and chopped up, he’ll still regenerate.” Ruh-roh. Both -pool’s spend time breaking the fourth wall simultaneously and at each other, which makes the whole thing even more fantastic. Admittedly, Shiri doesn’t always know what’s happening and, quite frankly, she doesn’t care because whatever it is, it’s flat out wonderful.

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Caravaggio Vol. 1, Image: Dark Horse
Caravaggio Vol. 1, Image: Dark Horse

Caravaggio Vol. 1: The Palette and the Sword
Writer: Milo Manara
Artist: Simona Manara and Milo Manara
Publisher: Dark Horse

Comics and art history: two of Shiri’s favorite things and this particular comic illuminates the life of one of Shiri’s favorite painters, Caravaggio (well, played, Dark Horse). Though fictionalized, this gorgeous book follows the young Caravaggio as he becomes a painter of renown even in his own time. The path is not a straight one, however, and not smooth.

Passionate in all things from art to love, Caravaggio finds himself in the sights of dangerous men unlikely to forgive and forget, the fault for their attentions very much his own. A keen observer of the world around him, an artist willing to break taboo and use prostitutes as models for sacred figures, Caravaggio is unafraid in all things and one can’t help but love him for it. The art accompanying the story is rich and beautiful, even when portraying the ugly side of humanity, and uses a variety of color palettes to great narrative advantage. Shiri very much hopes there will be a volume 2 post-haste.

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Star Wars: Vader, Image: Marvel
Star Wars: Vader, Image: Marvel

Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 1
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Salvador Larocca
Publisher: Marvel

Anika recently pre-ordered a digital copy of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and received a comiXology promotional code to redeem a digital copy of Darth Vader (2015) #1. She logged into her comiXology account for the first time in months to find she had already purchased the first trade paperback and then promptly forgot. Comics can be incredibly difficult to keep up with. Anika cannot afford to buy a stack every week, she doesn’t have a friendly local comic store, and her iPad recently died, which made reading digital comics more cumbersome. And on top of that, lately it seems there is always some kind of controversy or event or controversy about an event that turns her off from the whole concept (don’t talk to her about Magneto). At least that’s her explanation for why she forgot she’d purchased Darth Vader comics despite being in love with Anakin Skywalker since she was seven years old.

But there is a two-part happy ending to this odd story. Part one is how much she enjoyed these comics! She’s not sure if issue one is really enough to draw a film fan of Rogue One into the world of Star Wars comics (however, she does applaud the effort!), but issues one through six were enough to reignite her interest in comics and specifically Star Wars/Marvel stories (still: don’t talk to her about Magneto). Gillen gave Anika a Vader she can drop into the timeline of Anakin she’s been building since childhood for the purpose of lovingly obsessive over-analysis. He tinkers! He broods! Boba Fett shows up! Anika’s happy.

Part two of her happy ending is there are 20 more issues of this series and a second series chronicling the time immediately after Revenge of the Sith is coming soon. She doesn’t have to wait for more!

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Henchgirl, Image: Dark Horse
Henchgirl, Image: Dark Horse

Henchgirl TPB
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Creator/Artist: Kristen Gudsnuk

Beth discovered a hilarious and fun world thought up by artist and writer Kristen Gudsnuk. Henchgirl stars Mary Posa, a professional bad girl who loves schemes and making money, but there’s a hitch: she also has a pesky habit of doing good deeds as well. She’s part of the Butterfly Gang, a not-so-famous criminal ring trying to establish its brand in a city filled with over-the-top criminals and heroes. This collection follows Mary through all her ups and downs, from refusing to steal funds from an orphanage to getting injected with an evil villain serum when she’s found out. But Mary has some incredibly supportive roommates, a possible boyfriend who works at Cthulhu Burger and fights crime, and a superhero family who cuts her out of their bestselling memoirs, so her days are packed. This comic is reminiscent of what NBC’s Powerless is trying to do, but Gudsnuk’s story is funnier and has way more whimsy and heart. There are small gags and large in these pages, from Dr. Maniac’s sign: “Dr. Maniac: Nothing to See Here!” to Mary’s theory of street robbery: “And I don’t get why people take the whole wallet,” she says as she and a colleague rob a rich guy on the street, “cancelling credit cards is such a hassle.”

Afterward, the victim gets his wallet back and they share a chuckle over the DMV. It’s a truly funny series that deals with youthful rebellion, forging your own way in the world, and why no one is completely good or evil, especially in Crèpe City. There are hat tips to Superman, Sailor Moon and lots of other characters, but readers should keep their eyes on Tina and her carrot-producing superpower, especially when the time traveling starts. Who knew beta carotene contained thoughts of world domination?

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Slam! #1, Image: BOOM! Studios
Slam! #1, Image: BOOM! Studios

SLAM! #1
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Pamela Ribon
Artist: Veronica Fish

Forget chocolates; life is like the roller derby. SLAM! introduces readers to two characters: Jennifer Chu and Maise Huff, who come to roller derby from different places in life. Chu’s life is on the upswing, with a loving family behind her and a career ahead, while Huff is trying to pick up the pieces after a bad breakup. Together they go through training for the roller derby, and they become fast friends, even when they’re picked for opposing teams. The storyline sets them up for future conflict, and in the rest of the four-part series, readers discover if their friendship can last.

The first issue sets the stage nicely, showing how roller derby can build you up or tear you down, but the shared blood and bruises mean you always belong. After their first outing, the women pick their derby names; Chu becomes KnockOut, and Huff builds her own confidence by naming herself IthinkaCan. They are new and different people, and no one can hold them back. Writer Pamela Ribon has an impeccable resume, from Disney’s Moana to bestselling novels like Why Girls Are Weird, and she brings that talent effortlessly to this book. Along with Fish’s bright, compelling art, SLAM! almost feels like the graphic novel treatment of an indie movie. Beth will be collecting the rest of the issues, just to see how these characters roll.

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The Haunted Mansion, Image: Disney Kingdoms
The Haunted Mansion, Image: Disney Kingdoms

The Haunted Mansion
Publisher: Disney Kingdoms
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artists: Jorge Coelho

Sophie finally found the time to sit down and complete The Haunted Mansion mini-series from Disney Kingdoms. The short series is one of several from the Marvel imprint which produces short arcs based on attractions and characters from the Disney theme parks, and Sophie had been especially excited for a Haunted Mansion tale thanks to it being her favorite ride.

The Haunted Mansion follows Danny, a young, nervous boy who recently lost his beloved grandfather to an accident while he was climbing the Matterhorn mountain. Danny is contacted by the ghostly Madame Leota who begs him to visit the mysterious nearby mansion, promising that if he helps the ghosts inside, he will be able to see his grandpa once again. Danny soon finds himself working his way through the mansion, trying desperately to avoid running into the Pirate Captain who has cursed the mansion and trapped all the ghosts inside, or Constance the murderous bride who lurks in the attic. Danny soon discovers that Leota has lied to him, and has to decide whether to continue helping the ghosts escape the curse or risk become the 1000th guest of the mansion himself.

Sophie found The Haunted Mansion to be a stunning book, filled with an almost spooky level of detail that can only come from a deeply held affection for the source material. Disney parks fans will find dozens of fun references scattered throughout each of the five issues, from lines of dialogue featured in the original attraction to beloved characters hanging around for some extra haunting. The story is wonderful too, portraying a touching family relationship that even death cannot pull apart. Sophie enjoyed watching young Danny grow in spirit (heh) and bravery as he made his way through the mansion, and discovered what it takes to turn your fear around. It’s a story we could all hope to use in these worrisome times.

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Torchwood #1, Image: Titan Comics
Torchwood #1, Image: Titan Comics

Torchwood: “World Without End” #1-4
Publisher: Titan Comics
Authors: John Barrowman, Carole Barrowman
Artists: Antonio Fuso, Pasquale Qualano

Despite the run already having been reviewed by Sophie in February, Mark, another avid Whovian and Torchwood-ian (is that a word?), decided he needed to see if he concurred with her estimation of the run. Because of Sophie’s self-proclaimed preference for the darker nature of Torchwood, he thought it possible that he’d enjoy the lighter tone of “World Without End.” While in some ways he did, he too wasn’t overly impressed with the run.

The biggest problem for him was the cliffhanger-heavy writing style. Rather than telling a coherent story from beginning-to-end, the comics are made up of a series of almost-reveals that are more frustrating than they are compelling. Despite reading the run in one sitting, Mark was often left confused and re-reading pages to make sure he hadn’t missed something. Characters are thrown in the picture randomly, settings and timelines changed without warning, and the reveals were held off so many times that the comic actually made a joke of it when it was time to actually reveal some of the information.

All told, while he wanted to enjoy the humor of the series, Mark found the story lacking.

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GeekMom received some titles for review purposes.