Like anything else, reading comics can be something of a crapshoot. Sometimes you read some great comics—Ironheart, X-23, Gideon Falls, and Outpost Zero were all standouts for us this week—but sometimes you get some real stinkers. Sometimes books that are normally great are just mediocre. While there’s a lot to cover in this week’s Comic Book Corner, I’m not gonna lie—we had some stern words about some of these books.
Writer: Eve Ewing
Artist: Luciano Vecchio
Colors: Matt Milla
Cover Artist: Amy Reeder
Kay: HOLY. CRAP.
I was hoping that Eve Ewing would keep up the pace from her brilliant first issue on Ironheart, and WOW OH WOW did she deliver on this one.
Quick recap: Issue #1 saw Riri struggling to figure out how to be Ironheart. She has a lab at MIT but can’t get along with the administration, and her suit is very much still a work in progress. She reconnects with an old friend from Chicago, and kind of accidentally creates an A.I. for her suit that resembles her friend Natalie, killed by gun violence when they were kids (back when Bendis was writing the series).
It’s important to me to be careful in talking about this comic, and for me to keep in the front of my mind that I’m a white person writing about a Black character that is (now, finally) being written by a Black woman. I have no idea how the representation reads to a Black person, especially a Black person from Chicago. I know that, for myself, it reads as fresh and not the stereotypes that I’m accustomed to seeing, which makes me hopeful.
In this issue, we see some of Riri’s childhood in high school, including Daija, an older girl she connected with at the time. We see Riri struggling with what looks like PTSD related flashbacks of the violence that killed Natalie and Riri’s stepfather. And we see what appears to be a continuation of the main plot arc—which now includes Daija. Daija has gone missing, and she’s not the only one…
The writing in this book is tight and the art is fantastic. The plot hasn’t had a ton of time to develop, and so far seems secondary to character development. You know what, though? I’m cool with that. Riri hasn’t had a lot of time to grow and stretch her wings, either as a person or a character. I’m willing to wait and see a bit on the action in order to keep seeing her as a person. All in all, this book serves as a great example of the power of #ownvoices writing; Ewing understands her character in a way that I can’t, and I feel like I’m getting a glimpse into a world that is absolutely not mine. That’s how empathy happens, after all.
Ironheart is one of my favorite great comics right now, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next issue.
Nightmare Knights #4 (of 5)
Writer: Jeremy Whitley
Art: Tony Fleecs
Colors: Heather Breckel
Kay: This issue is a looooooooooooot of exposition. All of the Equestrian ponies are trapped in nightmares, and a few characters are talking to the shadow-world ponies to understand what’s happening and what’s going on.
The backstory shows how the history of Ponyville parallels the history of this shadow-world, and how one simple change—the ponies not being able to defeat Discord—could change the entire course of Equestrian history. The parallels are carefully connected, so a young reader should understand what’s going on here.
There are also some funny moments; seeing that the Great and Powerful Trixie’s nightmare is being in a constant magical battle with Twilight Sparkle and never defeating her, for example. There are some moments that feel very brave, such as Luna convincing Stygian that he doesn’t have to make the same choices now that he did in the past. But the bulk of this book is moving us from point A to point B so that issue #5, the last issue of Nightmare Knights, will conclude properly.
It’s a good book, and will read much better in a collected trade than in a single issue. Whitley also sneaks in some excellent sentiments that are very applicable to our modern world instead of just Ponyville. For example: “the thing about dictators is that they would take any opportunity to seize power, so they believe everyone else is the same.” The art is consistently good, as it generally is on the MLP franchise books. But as a standalone issue, it fell flat for me.
Gideon Falls #9
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino
Colors: Dave Stewart
Cover Artist: Andrea Sorrentino
Publisher: Image Comics
Luke: Need to catch up on Gideon Falls? The first collection is reviewed here, and the most recent issue review can be found here. It’s been a pretty wild ride so far, and this is definitely a series that it is difficult to jump in on mid-story arc.
Our two main plotlines appear to be ready to come crashing together. In the small town of Gideon Falls, the priest and the sheriff are edging closer to the realization that the Black Barn is at the heart of the recent spate of deaths, as well as the disappearance of the sheriff’s younger brother decades ago. Meanwhile, Norton is stuck in a mental health ward on lockdown, and only his psychiatrist believes his visions of a mystical door hidden in the city are true. As bits and pieces of commonalities begin to crop up in the different Gideon Fallses, what will unlock the door between realities?
This is the first time I haven’t had at least a couple issues of Gideon Falls to read together, and I’m realizing that it might read better in chunks. Each issue ends with a cliffhanger, but the issues don’t have a beginning/middle/end structure to them. It was a little disorienting jumping into this issue after a month.
The writing and art continue to be strong. In particular, I like how all the people are beginning to be tied together through different elements of their background. Clearly, Lemire and Sorrentino went into this series with a plan, and they are doing a beautiful job unfolding it. As more pieces come to light, I’ll be curious to see where they take this title.
Gideon Falls continues to be a solid read, but it might be better suited to reading in a collection. Fans of off-beat, gritty science fiction with a heaping dose of delusions and ominous shadows should give this title a read.
Writer: Sam Humphries
Artist: Jen Bartel
Colorist: Trionna Farrell
Cover Artist: Main cover, Jen Bartel, Variant cover, Sana Takeda
To recap: at the end of Issue #3, Nina has just seen her mother, who she thought was dead. In this issue, she tries to confront her mother and speak to her, but her mother completely ignores her, instead speaking to Clint, who has been leading Nina through the world. Clint’s father and Nina’s mother argue back and forth about territory and cabals and alliances. Eventually, Gloria looks at Nina and commands her in a presumably magical voice to forget her.
Like in the first issue, Nina does not forget; she lies and says that she does. The second half of this issue focuses on Nina’s distress over the whole situation, and probably deserves a minor trigger warning for suicidality. It’s not explicit, but it’s there. By the end of the issue, Nina’s blowing stuff up and telling the witnesses to tell her mom that she wants to talk.
While the art and colors remain exceptional in this book, I’m getting lost in the story. There’s too much going on too fast, and I’m not understanding what’s happening in this world. Without something to hang my hat on, all this talk of cabals and territory and everything is just confusing to me. I’m pretty good at otherworldly fantasy, but I’m having serious trouble following what’s happening.
It may be that this story will be easier to read in trade; until it’s done, it’s hard to be sure. But I’ve now hit the point where I’m frustrated by single issues. I refuse to read every issue—and would prefer not to have to read last month’s issue—to know what’s going on. I hope that the story somehow evolves very quickly, or I’m going to give up on a book that had me so excited I was bouncing in my chair. I don’t want that, but I’m also not spending $4 a month on a book that makes no sense.
Outpost Zero #5
Writer: Sean Kelley McKeever
Artist: Alexandre Tefenkgi
Colors: Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Cover Artist: Alexandre Tefenkgi & Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Alea is pushing Sam to help her follow up on Steven’s last words before he left the outpost and entered the storm. Meanwhile, Lyss has the day off and is living it up as best as she can. But when the excavation team’s mission into the ice goes catastrophically wrong, all three of them need to decide how they will approach their futures.
I continue to love Outpost Zero. It is such a strong example of young adult science fiction that will appeal to adults as well. The characters are fully fleshed out, both through their dialogue and the fantastic art, and it is these characters that carry the story. Outpost Zero has a science fiction setting and is certainly full of excitement, yet at its core, it is about a group of teenagers trying to survive being teenagers in a pressure cooker situation.
Outpost Zero is highly recommended for readers interested in character development and drama. You will get attached quickly, and find yourself drawn into the story. Check this one out!
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Penciler: Diego Olortegui
Inker: Walden Wong
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Cover Artist: Ashley Witter
Kay: So to briefly recap; Laura (X-23) and Gabby (Honey Badger. I’m not lying. This codename needs to die) are investigating another potential clone-sibling when they are attacked by soldiers. Beast is working on getting them out with an X-Copter (I can’t make this stuff up), and the sisters are arguing about whether or not to bring the clone with them as they escape.
It’s no secret that I basically adore everything Mariko Tamaki has ever written. Her work at Marvel, first on She-Hulk and now on X-23, is intelligent without being obtuse. Her fascination with sisters is nearly as ridiculously intense as mine. So the interplay between Gabby and Laura is fantastic. Cute moments like Gabby saying “Okay! I’m gonna go do the thing I do when there’s all the shooting people!” before bounding all over the place to take out the shooters. “Got your face! Flippee thing here! Ta-da!”
The sisters do bring the new clone with them, but while Laura is intensely suspicious of her (she repeatedly insists on calling the clone “it”), Gabby is quick to embrace her new sister. We learn that the clone has significantly reduced to no healing factor (fun fact: Laura’s is said to be superior even to that of Wolverine) and that she is the product of experimentation by Medi-X-Tronics, yet another company that purchased X-23 DNA for cloning purposes. It always goes so well when shady companies attempt to produce super soldiers.
What I really appreciate is that Tamaki makes sure to humanize Laura’s distrust of the clone and ground it in her fear of her own dark past. Through the art, we see some crucial moments of Laura’s killing, particularly the moment she killed her own mother (Sarah Kinney). This highlights much of the difference between Gabby and Laura; although Gabby and her other clone-sisters were all assassins, they never had to experience Laura’s heartbreaks.
At the end of the issue, Laura goes to sleep at the X-Mansion while Gabby sneaks downstairs to talk to her new sister, sharing her life story.
This issue blends action, plot, and internalized emotion in the way that makes Tamaki’s work so exceptional. It showcases how comics can tell stories in ways that are unique to the medium. And it points to “that new Sandra Oh show” which just flat out made me go full on *heart eyes*.
I will basically Stan for Laura Kinney forever, but this book is exceptional. If you have any interest in sisters, mutants, or just damn fine writing, you should be reading it.
Writer: David & Maria Lapham
Artist: David Lapham
Cover Artist: David Lapham
Publisher: Black Crown (IDW)
So far, this crime comic has been stellar. In what might be viewed as a crime comic renaissance, Lodger has managed to stand out from the pack. Does that trend continue this month? Let’s find out!
Ricky continues to track down the man she knows as Dante. Their twisted relationship from the past continues to come into light, while Ricky turns to her father—in prison for murder—for advice on how to stop Dante. Or, short of that, some money. As Ricky keeps creeping closer, will it push Dante over the edge?
Lodger #3 suffers a little from following two strong issues to start the story. Nothing jumps out as bad here, by any means, but the story does seem to slow down a bit. I’ll be curious to see how the Laphams swing this title into its penultimate issue, and how they draw both the present and past storylines to a close. Based on their work thus far, I don’t doubt for a moment that it will be deftly accomplished.
Despite being an issue that was good but not great, I still strongly encourage fans of crime comics to jump on board Lodger. This story has loads of potential and creators who will make sure to deliver.
Life Is Strange Dust #2 (of 4)
Writer: Emma Vieceli
Artwork: Claudia Leonardi
Colors: Andrea Izzo
Cover Artist: Claudia Leonardi and Andrea Izzo
Publisher: Titan Comics
Kay: As I said when I read issue #1 of Life is Strange: Dust, I’m inherently suspicious of tie-in comics. They can be really great or really terrible. I liked issue #1 and was intrigued to see where the story was going. Issue #2 kept me satisfied.
To briefly recap, Chloe and Max are heading back to Arcadia Bay after Max has started to experience flashes of alternate realities—specifically a continuation of the reality where she allowed Chloe to die to avoid the storm that destroyed Arcadia Bay. Issue #2 starts as the girls pull into town. Max is continuing to experience tiny skips. Chloe has oil on one cheek and then the other, for example. There are several specific callbacks to imagery from the game—a doe in the street, for example, or the blue butterfly. The girls visit two locations that were featured prominently in the game—the diner, and then Chloe’s house.
In both locations, Max experiences lengthy flashes from that alternate reality where Chloe died and where her mom lived. The second one, where Joyce and Max talk while Chloe looks on, unable to speak to her mom one last time, is absolutely heartbreaking.
The story in Life Is Strange continues to intrigue me, and I’m interested to see where this four-part series ends up. There’s got to be something bigger going on in Arcadia Bay, and I wonder if it can actually be explained in just two more issues without the ending feeling rushed. I’d love to see this book continue at this quality; the subsequent Life Is Strange games haven’t had anything to do with these two girls who I very much like.
I have one complaint about the art: Chloe is wearing a flannel shirt, like she did in the game. This is so badly done that I can’t stand it. The lines of the shirt are never affected by the shape of Chloe’s body, or even breaks in the fabric. I don’t know if the artists are using screentone or what, but get rid of the shirt and find her something else to wear. Please. Otherwise, the writing is solid and evokes the voices of the characters, the art is absolutely adorable without being twee, and the subtle color choices showcase the differences between destroyed and intact Arcadia Bay.
Writer: Chris McFeely
Cover Artist: Sara Pitre-Durocher
Luke: IDW recently concluded their Transformers universe, with the final climax appearing in Transformers: Unicron (review here). Few publishers can point to a product as well constructed and thoroughly developed as IDW’s Transformers, and its conclusion after 13 years of publication is significant. It is not an overstatement to say that this run of titles has shown more storyline consistency and overarching plot than titles from Marvel and DC over the last few years. I’m thrilled to see where IDW takes their new Transformers universe when it launches because of how adept they have proven to be at managing this property.
To mark the occasion, IDW released the one-shot Transformers: Historia. Historia is a beefy issue that recounts, in prose, the entirety of the IDW Transformers universe. Following chronological rather than publication order, the narrative is highlighted by images from comics across the entirety of the IDW Transformers publishing line. Compressing over a decade’s worth of comics into one issue’s worth of text is impressive, and that is accomplished here.
I see two downsides to Transformers: Historia. The first is the amount of content smashed into this one issue. While the title does a fantastic job of covering an enormous number of issues, trying to do all of this in such a limited space means that the action and drama is completely removed, replaced with what reads at times like a history textbook. Historia is informative and comprehensive, but not always engaging.
Second, I’m not sure what the audience is for this title. New readers likely won’t find a lot of excitement out of a dry recounting of a universe that just ended as it will completely spoil every title in the line. Current readers will find nothing new here, and the transition from comic to prose does not seem to add anything to the material.
Transformers: Historia isn’t bad, but it doesn’t really seem to be necessary or much wanted. Perhaps worth a grab for Transformers completionists or those wanting one last guided tour through an amazing universe.
So that’s what we have for you this week, lovely readers. Not every week can be full of rave reviews, and we’d always rather be honest than flattering. And as always, if there are great comics you think we’re missing out on, tell us in the comments so we can check them out!
Disclosure: Some comics were provided to GeekMom for review purposes.