Periods, Monsters, and Dystopias: Our Recent Comic Faves Bring It All

Reading Time: 9 minutes

The Comic Book Corner team took last weekend off, but we’re back, and our list of recent comics is bigger than ever. No, really, because this week, we’re catching up on a lot of the books we read last week but didn’t have time to review. Some of our favorite comics showed up this most recent new comic book day, and we’re in for some fun.

West Coast Avengers #4

recent comic books, West Coast Avengers #4
Cover of West Coast Avengers #4

Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Stefano Caselli
Colorist: Triona Farrell
Cover: Stefano Caselli and Nolan Woodard, with Humberto Ramos & Edgar Delgado and David Nakayama providing variant covers.

Kay: This issue wraps up the first arc of Kelly Thompson’s new book, and it is every bit as adorable, fun, and pretty as the first three issues. At the end of the last book, Kate Bishop had been transformed by B.R.O.D.O.K., who is totally not M.O.D.O.K. in disguise, into a giant hawk. Like the other women who were not swayed by B.R.O.D.O.K.’s “charm,” Kate is unleashed on an unsuspecting Los Angeles, where the team must break her mind control and turn her back to human—especially since her arrows are now ALSO giant sized.

Quentin Quire nullifies B.R.O.D.O.K.’s psychic powers, complaining the entire time, while Clint finds the predictably named “Aversa” machine. (My kids informed me that aversa clearly means “back” in Latin; conveniently, Quentin also confirms this for the reader.) Clint starts by transforming B.R.O.D.O.K. back to M.O.D.O.K., then gets to work on the other women-monsters (including giant size and mind-controlled Tigra) trashing Santa Monica beach.

By the end of the issue, Kate is back to her normal size and de-feathered, and the other women have also been de-monstered. They’re considering a support group… or just destroying B.R.O.D.O.K. on social media. America Chavez saves Ramone, Fuse’s sister, and they are clearly into each other. One of the transformed women, Bridgette, has taken the form of a giant dragon and wants to stay in that form. Captain America is calling, and Kate’s trying to figure out what in the world she’s going to say to the First Avenger.

What I love about this book is that it’s simple and fun. Show monster, punch monster. But the underlying theme here—a dude flips out and seriously hurts women because they won’t date him—is something that many people can relate to in their real life. Seeing all my beloved superheroes identify that as something horrible, and immediately decide that it must be fixed (often by punching), is a small thing that makes me believe the world can be a little safer. It reminds me of that time someone came to the Marvel offices threatening violence against Jews working there, and Jack Kirby (a Jewish person) said to hold on, he’d be right there. The lobby was empty by the time he arrived.

I’d still put this book at an upper-middle grade to teen level, but not because of the content per se; I just don’t think (based on my 10-year-old’s reaction) that she quite understands why all this is happening. If she were interested in the book, I’d let her read it without hesitation.

Also, after three issues mocking the hip-holes in Kate’s costume, they just aren’t drawn in this issue. I don’t think this is an oversight, and I hope to see the choice continue. Hip holes? Really? Come on now.

William Gibson’s Alien 3 #1

Recent comics alien
Cover of Alien 3 #1

Story: William Gibson
Adaption Script: Johnnie Christmas
Artist: Johnnie Christmas
Colorist: Tamra Bonvillain
Cover: Johnnie Christmas and Tamra Bonvillain

I love science fiction horror. That includes things like The Thing, sure, but I really get excited when it is set in space, a space opera horror so to speak. And within that sadly small subgenre, few stories are as iconic as the films Alien and Aliens. So, of course, I was thrilled to see that Dark Horse was releasing an adaption of an unused script for Alien 3, written by William Gibson, no less.

Imagine my sadness when William Gibson’s Alien 3 #1 ended up being… just ok.

The good parts first. Johnnie Christmas does a great job of making a movie script into a comic script. The two are very different mediums, and if I hadn’t known that this began life as a movie script, I never would have guessed. The story flows smoothly. Christmas’s art is also spot on, effectively telling the story without dominating it.

That said, the story does not seem to transcend its predecessors. Now, it does have more time to develop, and there is enough done well that I will continue reading it. But given both Gibson and Christmas being attached to the project, and the absolutely iconic cover by Christmas and Bonvillain, I was ready to be blown away. Instead, the story seemed to rely on frequent shifts between scenes to create the illusion of tension and pace rather than creating actual tension and pace.

There is nothing wrong with the occasional issue of a series that is workmanlike without being standout. However, for a first issue, that’s a much more difficult proposition. I’m going to give this one another opportunity with the hope that it grows into the dark science fiction masterpiece I know it could be. But unless you are a really big fan of the series, I would consider waiting to see how this series shapes up, and see if you want the trade paperback.

Man-Eaters #3

recent comics man-eaters by Chelsea Cain
Cover of Man-Eaters Issue #3

Writer: Chelsea Cain
Artist: Kate Niemczyk
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Cover: Lia Miternique

Kay: As the world building continues in Man-Eaters, this issue really seemed to kick into gear for me in terms of what’s going to happen next with the plot. As a brief recap—in this world, hormones are being put in the water to stop girls from getting their periods. It doesn’t always work. The first issue ends with our main character, Maude, getting her first period.

Issue #3 kicks off with a flashback to three months ago—health class. Instead of reading the sort of cheerful “What’s Happening to My Body” book I remember from that age, Maude and her class are reading “What’s Happening to Me And Can It Be Stopped?” Maude stepped out to go to the bathroom, but instead of getting a drink of water from the nasty, cracked water fountain marked “Girls Only,” she goes into the boy’s lounge and gets a bottle of Estro-Pop. This certified hormone-free water comes in a variety of flavors and keeps boys from drinking all that extra estrogen and progestin.

It turns out that Maude loves Estro-Pop. And so do her friends. They figure that all the hormones in the water can’t actually be good for them. And now, with the cat attacks… it’s less a question of why it’s happening, and more a question of which of them is doing it.

The art continues to be exceptional—neat and clear, with great layouts that combine realistic information about menstruation with Maude and her friends. Small details—like seeing Maude’s bike helmet on her shelf after the S.C.A.T. team notices that there are bike tracks leading away from the murder scene—add to the story without shoving it in our faces. And the realization that this transition for Maude isn’t an accident, that she has chosen to menstruate, unlike 99% of the women in the world, feels powerful.

This book is gorgeous, subversive, and needs to keep going forever. I’ve said before and I will say again: I do hope that the team finds a way to touch on how trans kids navigate all of this (especially as a non-binary person). But I’m here for this book, and look forward to it every month.

Bettie Page #1

Cover of Betty Page #1

Writer: David Avallone
Artist: Julius Ohta
Colorist: Ellie Wright
Cover: John Royle & Mohan

MAJK: Welcome to the secret life of Bettie Page, the iconic Pinup Queen Bettie Page, who lit the pop culture world on fire more than sixty years ago. After the success of her first run, this buxom beauty returns for more adventures in comic book form as an undercover operative.

Bettie Page #1 Vol 2 drops us right back into the action as Bettie, still dealing with nightmares from that tentacled alien god that she faced down, is called up for service on a most secret mission. Move over James Bond, Bettie’s here to save the Queen. No, really, Elizabeth, Queen of England has been kidnapped by aliens who’ve nabbed the napping Monarch from under the noses of British Intelligence Agents. Now our friends across the ocean need a helping hand from the world’s greatest model/spy. Bettie and her new friend Byrne rush to recover the missing monarch before the news gets out and widespread panic consumes all of Great Britain.

Low Road West #1-2 (of 5)

recent comic book images, Low Road West
Cover of Low Road West #1

Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Artist: Flaviano
Colorist: Miquel Muerto
Cover: Flaviano

Luke: Time for some real talk. Group of teenagers who are previously strangers but have to come together to survive in a post-apocalyptic future is incredibly low on my list of preferred story tropes. Dystopias feel pretty overdone at this stage, and I’m over them. So why on Earth am I reading Low Road West? Because when I was looking at a list of new comics, I thought the name was cool enough to take a look at the cover, and based on the cover art I decided to take a look without actually having a complete grasp on what Low Road West was about.

Why do I share this moderately embarrassing story about the lack of prep I put into my comic review selection (on an admittedly busy week, he cries out to the universe)? Because I want you to know how jaded I was going into my reading of Low Road West.

Which is why I was all the more impressed that this comic absolutely wowed me.

Across these first two issues, Phillip Kennedy Johnson does a brilliant job of layering in mystery and characterization in equal measure. In only two issues, the teenage cast is full of distinct individuals with backstories and challenges. The reason for the dystopia is subtly left at “bombs dropped.” Much more fascinating is the city that mysteriously appears and its even more mysterious inhabitants. And as Johnson does an expert job of crafting the plot, Flaviano does an equally masterful job of illustrating it. With gorgeous colors from Miquel Muerto and deft lettering from Jim Campbell, Flaviano brings this world to life. The creatures look sufficiently creepy, the characters have expression and body language, and the shifts from magical to gritty are tone perfect.

Low Road West is an absolutely wonderful comic. The third issue hit stands this week, and you can be sure that you will hear about it in the next Comic Book Corner. I can’t remember the last time I have felt so engaged in a story, and that’s coming on a strong week of comic reading. Check this one out.

Gideon Falls #7-8

recent comic books, Gideon Falls
Cover of Gideon Falls #8

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Cover: Andrea Sorrentino

Luke: Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino are an incredible fit to each other’s work. I didn’t get the chance to read their run on Green Arrow, but I loved what they did with Old Man Logan. Seeing them reunited, and on a book full of deep topics, I knew this was an immediate grab. I had to drop out of comics for a while, but now that I’m back, I had to get caught up on this because I had very high hopes. I started out with Gideon Falls, Volume 1: The Black Barn, and for those interested in starting at the beginning (HIGHLY encouraged), be sure to snag a copy. If you’re on the fence, there is a handy review available on GeekDad by yours truly! Totally not plugging my own work here…

Anyway!

The start of the second arc of Gideon Falls picks up right where the first one ended. The pieces that connect Norton Sinclair and Father Wilfred Just-Call-Me-Fred are becoming both more established and murkier. There is something seriously funky going on with space, time, parallel realities, mental health, faith, and who knows what else.

What I’ve always admired about Lemire’s work is that, even when it is at its most esoteric, out-there weirdness, it never feels like he has lost control of the story. Lemire could have made Lost a better show. He balances the intricacies of his story in an organic way, meshing in character growth, twists, and painful gut-check moments without ever seeming to be off the rails.

Meanwhile, Sorrentino does a fabulous job of balancing Father Fred’s small-town saga with Norton’s big city catastrophe. While I do occasionally feel like I lose some of the finer details of Sorrentino’s art (oversized rerelease, anyone?), his ability to create dynamic flows not just to his art but to pages and scenes is impeccable. Characters enter new dimensions and seemingly leave the comic page, all through Sorrentino’s mastery.

Gideon Falls rewards you for paying attention and promises to create cohesion out of seeming chaos. It explores important aspects such as the intersection of mental health and belief and does so without being preachy. And it is a joy to look at. Fans of psychological suspense with a hint of science fiction would do well to check out Gideon Falls as soon as possible!

Wytches Bad Egg Halloween Special

Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Jock
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Cover: Jock

MAJK: Wytches is a coming of age story in which Sebastian trying to figure out his place in the world. The problem is that his world is not quite normal. His mother is part of The Irons, a group of Wytch Hunters. She’s overprotective because she recognizes what she has to do to keep her son safe from the Wytches, monsters that would quite literally eat him alive.

Wytches Bad Egg Halloween Special wraps us in a story of friendship. Sebastian and his mom move around a lot—after all, being a Wytch Hunter isn’t exactly conducive to settling down in one place. For Sebastian, it’s tough to get close to anyone. Couple this with the fact that his mother is overprotective and given their line of work, friends are not a luxury they can afford.

But Sebastian and Jackson are two innocent teenagers who bond over racing. Jackson is the first real friend Sebastian has ever had, giving them a very special relationship. That relationship is complicated because the two boys have been reared on opposite sides of the eternal struggle between good and evil. Sebastian discovers that Jackson’s family are “High Horn” Wytches and they plan to feed Jackson to the newborn Wytch they are raising. Can Sebastian save Jackson, or is his best friend’s fate already sealed?

This is a very real quality that Snyder brings to this story. It’s the kind of tale that evokes images of you and your best friend growing up. The writing is so good that you are pulled right into this world. Snyder writes characters so familiar that you can’t help but become wrapped up in their lives. It’s this bond that makes the horror elements all the more frightening. Easily one of the best horror comics to come out this Halloween.

***

There’s something special about reading recent comics; trades are a great way to read comics (no matter what people say about trade waiters), especially as more and more writers “write to the trade.” But waiting for a monthly comic, enjoying a serial story… there’s something special about it.

These are a few of the recent comics that are catching our attention. What have you been reading?

Disclaimer: Some comics have been provided to GeekMom as review copies.

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