Welcome to Comic Book Corner, that little spot in cyberspace where members of GeekMom and GeekDad share with you their thoughts on some of the comics they’ve read throughout the week. Feel free to weigh in with your opinion, geek out over things you love, or tip us off to titles you think we should read. We’re glad you are here. Luke is out this week, but he’ll be back next week with some great reads. Kay and MAJK are serving up a full course of mutants, mayhem, and magic.
FROM THE DESK OF KAY
This week was full of gorgeous comics for me; X-23 is always a good book to read, given that Laura Kinney is my all-time favorite character, and Mariko Tamaki is a fantastic writer. I’ve had a chilly relationship with the recent Iceman comics (sorry, I couldn’t help myself), but the new issue got into exactly what I want from a Bobby Drake book: snark on top of quips on top of goofy humor. And the second issue of Blackbird with Jen Bartel on interiors is so exceptionally beautiful that I’m at least going to do my best to describe it.
This week also made me think about the way more recent comics—i.e. since maybe the 2000s—are often written towards the trade. Let’s look.
Written by Mariko Tamaki
Art by Georges Duarte
Coloring by Chris O’Halloran
Cover Art by Ashley Witter
Issue #6 of X-23 is fine. It’s a fun story where Laura and Gabby go undercover at a high school. Information they got from Beast indicates that there’s some serum with their genetic material. Now, they’re tracking down the person that the serum was delivered to. They find the person, a high school girl, they defeat her, it’s all very cute, and then it’s done. They’re ready to move on to the next mission.
Reading this, I felt quite sure that this particular issue was written to be the sixth issue in the trade. It’s a monster of the week (month) issue. That’s fine, in theory; I don’t mean either of these to be negative terms. I grew up on the X-Files, where MOTW episodes usually deepened our understanding of Mulder and Scully’s relationship, put the characters in an environment where they were uncomfortable, or just gave me a welcome laugh.
But this issue didn’t do much for me. I giggled a little, but that was it. I don’t feel like I know more about Laura or Gabby; after all, they’re under “deep cover,” so the likes and dislikes that Gabby reveals are fake. The story is self-contained, so it’s not likely to do anything other than confirm that the sisters are tracking down info from Beast. The interior fill-in artist is fine, but not to my taste, and felt like a poor match for the series. Which is a damn shame, because cover artist Ashley Witter’s work is beyond gorgeous, and put me in mind of the cover from Marjorie Liu’s X-23 series from 2010, issue #4, by Leinil Francis Yu. You can see it as the cover of the X-23 Complete Collection Volume 2. I like Witter’s better by a lot—and given that I almost started crying when I dropped my copy of volume 2 and thought I bent the cover, that’s saying something.
The narration for the issue is done in lined notebook paper, which is a cute touch, but I liked it better in Nancy Drew.
I’m excited for the new arc to start in issue #7, and I hope Witter does a lot more cover work for the series.
Written by Sina Grace
Art by Nathan Stockman
Coloring by Federico Blee
Cover Art by W. Scott Forbes
Speaking of monster of the week episodes, this month’s issue of Iceman is a fantastic example of how this can be done so well. Issue #2 ended with Bobby finally getting a match on his dating app. Issue #3 starts out with Bobby out on a date with Carlos. We also see Peter Parker (Spider-Man) out on a date with Mary Jane while Angelica Jones (Firestar) is also on a first date. A monster attacks; Spidey, Iceman, and Firestar all suit up to fight the baddy. I didn’t realize at first, but this is a direct call-back to the ’80s cartoon Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. Having the cover issue tagged with “Iceman and His Amazing Friends,” as well as the interior joke (Spidey: “That doesn’t sound right”) gave me a laugh, once I figured it out.
The book is exactly what I want from Bobby Drake. He’s snark on top of sarcasm on top of quips. Add Spider-Man and Firestar into the mix, and you have fantastic, beautiful punning around. The issue made me laugh over and over—and I have to admit that when Bobby and Carlos kiss on page like it’s no particular thing at all, this queer demigirl teared up a bit.
But by the end of the issue, we have a little more information that advances the main plot—we know a little more about Mr. Sinister, a little more about what’s happening with the Morlocks. Bobby’s commitment to the conflict is just a little bit deeper. I wasn’t sure how much I was liking this series, and if I wanted to continue to read this book; it’s definitely staying on my pull list now.
Iceman is a notoriously hard character to draw, to the point where legendary X-Men artist John Byrne never completed his plans to get “the real X-Men” back together with collaborator Chris Claremont because he never felt comfortable drawing Bobby’s ice form—it took the prolific artist 18 more years before he even tried, with his series X-Men The Hidden Years. Stockman has really come into his own in this area. The sheen and shadow on Bobby’s form are fantastic, and he’s always crystal clear (these ice puns really are addictive).
Before this, I’d wondered how long Iceman would stay on my pull list with other recent comics; this issue has me committed.
Written by Sam Humphries
Art by Jen Bartel
Layout by Paul Reinwald
Coloring by Triona Farrell
And now we turn to Blackbird. I’m not going to lie here; Jen Bartel could draw nothing but piles of sticks, and I’d buy at least the first two arcs. Sam Humphries continues to create a magical world that is pulling me in, inch by inch, explaining just enough to make me more and more interested without ever letting me feel like I’m having a bunch of info dumped on my head.
But what I’m here to talk about right now is the use of colors in this book. Holy crap. I was absolutely blown away by the different ways that color created mood and a sense of place in this book, so much so that I specifically looked up the colorist—Triona Farrell. She is also doing colors on Rainbow Brite and West Coast Avengers, and her talents are equally on display there. She is so beyond incredible.
Early in the book, we have a two page spread where the family is eating dinner. The colors are homey and comfortable—oranges and browns, with black gutters. And then the last two panels on the second page are virtually monochrome gray, as Dad walks in. The shift in mood is tangible.
We see and hear the fight between Mom and Dad on the following page; after that, we see Nina thinking about Marisa, her sister, and how close they were. She remembers skating with her mother, then shifts into the present, remembering the Paragon she saw at the end of issue #1. The gutters shift from black at the top of the page to white at the bottom.
When Nina finally finds her way into the alternate world where she’s searching for Marisa, she enters a world so bright and vibrant that I wondered when I picked up Jem.
I could write about the plot, and the story is great, exciting, and fun (though trigger warnings about addiction are incredibly necessary). But in truth? This book is worth it for the art alone.
FROM MAJK’S COFFEE CORNER:
I’m all about the magic and mayhem for this week’s comic reviews. I really digging Shadowman #8, which I cover here. I’ve snagged a copy of Jook Joint #1, which I can’t wait to read and share with you. I’m half-way through Wytches: Bad Egg Halloween Special, and I’ve just finished Rat Queens #12. I guess I’m not quite over Halloween yet. Let’s take a peek at a couple of my favorites:
Published by Valiant
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Renato Guedes
Cover by Tonci Zonjic
Synopsis: “As Shadowman returns to New Orleans with a revelatory new understanding of the immense abilities within himself, he won’t have long to adjust… because a war for control of the ultimate magical artifact—the bones of Master Darque, his old arch-nemesis—is about to erupt out of the underground and into the harsh view of day!
On one side: The Brethren, a society of wealthy and powerful occultists obsessed with Darque’s resurrection and ushering in a millennia-long reign of darkness. On the other: Shadowman’s old allies from The Abettors… and Darque’s own sister, Sandria, who would like nothing more than to grind her brother’s bones to dust…
The endless cycle of death and rebirth stops here as Shadowman and the Darque clan usher in the reckoning they’ve waited ten lifetimes to achieve—with massive repercussions for the future of the Valiant Universe—as renowned writer Andy Diggle (Green Arrow: Year One) and high-octane artist Renato Guedes (Action Comics) return to heed the call of RAG AND BONE!” ~Source Valiant Comics
MAJK says: If you are new to this series then this is the perfect issue to jump in on. We’re starting a brand new arc, RAG AND BONE. Shadowman #8 opens part one of this arc begins just as Jack is finally getting a few moments of peace. He’s taking some downtime with his love, Alyssa, while working through the revelations of his trip back in time (check out the recent comic reviews for Shadowman if you don’t have time to go back and read) and all that he has learned about the loa, including its name. Armed with a new understanding of the immense abilities he possesses and the love of a powerful mambo, Jack is doing better than ever. Not too bad for a formerly dead man.
Unfortunately, he and Alyssa don’t get much time to chill… because there’s a war brewing and it’s heading for their doorstep. The Brethren, a society of wealthy and powerful occultists, are determined to gain control of the bones of Master Darque and all the power that goes with them. Convinced that The Shadowman is out of the picture they set their sights on The Abettors, a secret cult organization with a mission to assist The Shadowman in any way possible.
Henry and Earlene barely learn about Jack’s return before The Brethren, obsessed with Darque’s resurrection and ushering in a millennia-long reign of darkness, have them cornered. Before Jack has even finished breakfast, The Abettors have been pared down to a skeleton of their former network. Now, Jack and Alyssa find themselves on their own and in possession of The Abettor’s most prized possession and a map of Scotland. Their only chance at stopping The Brethren lies in hunting down Darque’s sister, Sandria.
For those who’ve never heard of Shadowman, it’s a comic series that follows the adventures of a voodoo warrior who protects the world of the living from the threat of evil, not just ordinary evil but those that cross over from Deadside as well. I highly recommend this for those that love dark stories of magic with a strong good vs. evil theme. You can catch up on the current series pretty easily by grabbing Shadowman Vol 1 and Shadowman Vol 2. These two will bring you right up to date on everything prior to Shadowman #8
Best Line: “Turns out you’re pretty spry for a dead guy.”
Published by Image
Written by Kurtis J Wiebe
Art by Owen Gieni
Covers by Owen Gieni, Jim Valentino
Synopsis: “THE INFERNAL PATH, Part Two In a wicked daze, Dee finds herself in the far edges of reality, on a grand, otherworldly stage. Meanwhile, the rest of the team do their very best to either kill or befriend a pack of recently deflowered were-owls.” ~ Source Image Comics
MAJK says: Rat Queens is definitely a not-for-kids-or-delicate-people comic. That said, it’s an amazing comic that plays havoc with heteronormative mentalities and gender stereotypes. In Rat Queens, love is love, people are entirely themselves… except when they are, you know, possessed by a demon or something, and Sisterhood is King or, more accurately, Queen.
This issue is the second part of The Infernal Path arc and it drops us right into the action exactly where we left off. Sadie is back with the Queens (at least temporarily), Dee has gone off looking for Evil Hannah, and Dave has joined the Queens on their journey. When we left them, Dee had been apparently kidnapped by a half-naked, curvy smidgen and Vi was facing down all of her sisters plus Dave who are under the control of something nasty that was lurking in the Underpit.
Things are looking pretty bleak for Vi because she just can’t bring herself to harm Braga, but when an Orc female with the strength of a hundred men is trying to beat you bloody, fighting defensively is just prolonging the painful end. Luckily for Vi, Maddie shows up out of nowhere and frees Braga from the thing’s control.
The return of Braga to her senses evens up the odds a bit. Vi, Maddie, and Braga work to free the remaining Queens. Elsewhere, Dee finds herself in the realms of the gods, and it’s nothing like she was expecting. Mostly because she was setting off on a journey not planning to hang out with a bunch of party animal gods. To be fair, compared to the Queens, these gods are partying low-key. The most shocking part of Expermentia (where she winds up) is five words she never even dreamed she’d be hearing. “Welcome to the God Club.”
If Dee is a God, she might want to hoof it home as the Queens are going to need her. It’s out of the frying pan into the fire for our ladies of mayhem. They got free of whatever that nasty mind-controlling creature was only to find themselves on the edge of a flesher camp. Maddie decided to sneak off and attempt a heroic rescue of the captives, while Hannah is seriously going to attempt illusion magic. You know, the one magic at which she sucks horribly. It seems she’s been taking classes.
You’d think the fear on Braga’s face would have clued our Queens in that this is some serious mess. Nope. Our ladies head in with Hannah leading the way and you might want to cover your eyes because they appear to be outmatched.
You really should check out the recent comic reviews of this series before you start this one. The comic is rife with humor but also nudity, adult situations, innuendos, and more F-bombs than a Fortnite match and a League of Legends match combined. If, however, none of that is an issue for you, and you are a fan of Dungeons & Dragons, World of Warcraft, or Elder Scrolls but you are tired of damsels in distress, stereotypical gender roles, and hetero-normative assumptions, then pick up Rat Queens.
If you want to catch up on the story thus far and not have to hunt down a ton of issues, I recommend grabbing the huge hardcover collections Rat Queens Deluxe Edition Volume 1 and Rat Queens Deluxe Edition Volume 2. If trade paperbacks are more your thing then you have a list to collect:
- Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass & Sorcery
- Rat Queens Volume 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’Rygoth
- Rat Queens Volume 3: Demons
- Rat Queens Volume 4: High Fantasies
- Rat Queens Volume 5: The Colossal Magic Nothing
- Rat Queens Volume 6: The Infernal Path