New Comic Book Day Brings ‘Blackbird,’ ‘X-23,’ and More to the Corner

X23 Blackbird Rainbow Brite Captain Marvel Ironheart

This week’s comic book corner belongs entirely to Kay, and I have some awesome books to share with you. This week includes some of my favorite ongoing titles, and all of the books that I’d been a little worried about have picked themselves up and are back in the swing of their stories. I’m so happy to have these great books to read, and I can’t wait to share them with you.

We’re going to talk about: Blackbird #5, X-23 #9, Captain Marvel #2, Ironheart #3, and Rainbow Brite #4.

Blackbird #5

A red haired girl with an orange feather in her hair and a red dress, both the background and her skin shaded in blue
Cover of Blackbird #5

Writer: Sam Humphries
Artist: Jen Bartel
Colorist: Triona Farrell
Main Cover: Jen Bartel
Variant Cover: Jenny Frison
Publisher: Image

Kay: By the end of issue #4 of Blackbird, I was entirely fed up with the convoluted backstory and intricate politics of cabals. This was especially aggravating as it seemed to rely on the layout of a city I’m not even a little familiar with. I was ready to quit reading issues and just buy trades since it seemed like the story would read much better in a faster to read format.

Issue #5 has redeemed itself for me, at least temporarily.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not like Nina’s story is suddenly simplified. But there are throughlines now that I can hang my hat on. Marissa and her mother are both paragons. They have deliberately hidden the world of magic from Nina, and they don’t seem to show any regret for the pain this has caused her throughout her life.

After a physical and magical fight with her mother and sister, Nina ends up at a bar. She’s deliberately not drinking in that way that addicts do when they are trying to stay clean; Clint, her guide from earlier issues, shows up and again asks her to let him help her. After arguments, she goes with him to the Zon Citadel, which belongs to his family. Nina makes the choice to join the cabal and become a Paragon. But the process of doing this uncovers memories that have been buried for many years. The night of the earthquake that was featured back in the first issue? Nina died that night.

What exactly does this mean? I don’t know yet. But for the first time in a few issues, I’m excited to find out.

Jen Bartel’s interior art continues to settle into the groove of motion and placement that distinguish panels from covers. The tremendous colors provided by Triona Farrel continue to be exceptional, and a real boon to the book. And I’m hoping that, now that Sam Humphries seems to have gotten over that part of the fantasy story where you’re overloaded with unnecessary backstory, the book will pick up steam and get back to the intricacies of Nina’s story. I’m looking forward to it.

The first trade for Blackbird is up on Amazon for preorder; if you like Jen Bartel’s art, I think this is worth at least a look, and if you like intricate urban fantasy, I think you’ll like this book a lot.

X-23 #9

X-23 in the foreground holding up the head of a robot, Gabby in the background with a frightened expression
Cover of X-23 #9 (2018)

Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Penciler: Diego Olortegui
Inkers: Walden Wong, JP Mayer, Scott Hanna
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Cover Artist: Ashley Witter
Publisher: Marvel

Kay: This issue of X-23 picks up immediately after issue #8 ends. Gabby has been up most of the night, talking to the new clone (who, by the end of the issue, is named Toques). As Gabby leaves the room, however, Toques may have used Gabby’s forgotten cell phone to send a signal to Med-X-Tronics, the company that has created her using a damaged version of Laura’s DNA. We learn a bit more about the clone; the alloy on her skeleton is not adamantium. This is good for Laura and Gabby, neither of whom have the adamantium-laced skeletons of their father, Logan.

Laura goes off to investigate the origins of the new clone while Gabby talks to Beast about DNA and family in a scene that made my heart twist. When Laura finds a room full of clones like the one back at the X-mansion, she tells Gabby to hurry over to help. Gabby says “we’re on our way”—because Toques is now active and coming with Gabby.

Artwise, this issue is very interesting. Instead of our usual inker, Walden Wong, we have three inkers. I’m not astute enough to tell one inker from another, but there is a different feel to certain sections of the book. But there’s also a gorgeous (but EXTREMELY visually busy) two-page spread where Laura gets to really cut loose for the first time in a very long time. Somewhere before Tom Taylor’s run on All-New Wolverine, Laura swore to herself that she’d never take another human life. But cutting her way through robots? That’s a free-for-all.

I liked this spread because you rarely get to see Laura in her more acrobatic moves without spine breakers and cheesecake, but the intensity of the background made it difficult to SEE her. Still, gorgeous, and I hope at some point it’s possible to see just the foreground art; I think it’d be incredible on its own.

And how can you not love Mariko Tamaki’s writing when she ends issues on notes like “This is going to be like Blanche and Dorothy, with claws!”

The first trade of X-23, Family Album, is already available on Amazon, and volume 2, X-Assassin is available for preorder. I highly recommend these books.

Captain Marvel #2

Captain Marvel stands at the center front of a group of female superheroes
Cover of Captain Marvel #2 by Amanda Conner

Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Carmen Carnero
Color Artist: Tamra Bonvillain
Cover Artist: Amanda Conner & Paul Mounts
Variant Cover Artists: Carmen Carnero; Chris Bachalo
Publisher: Marvel

Kay: I haven’t said much about the new series of Captain Marvel because I need to do a deep dive on the status of Carol overall before the movie comes out, but this new series is too good for me to ignore.

The first issue sets up that Carol is back in New York after returning from space and then handling her family concerns (Life of Captain Marvel, highly recommend). She’s not adjusting well at all. Thompson takes a moment to introduce some of the supporting cast, primarily Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman) and Hazmat. Side note: I love that Thompson seems to really love grabbing older, underused teenage Marvel heroes, aging them up, and pulling them into her stories. The last time I remember seeing Hazmat was in that awful Avengers Arena series, and her costume and concept were dumb. Now, Hazmat has a new, more confined suit designed by Starktech, containing her radioactive powers. She can actually move around and show expressions and just…be a person. I love it.

Back to the story. Carol gets sucked into a post-apocalyptic version of Roosevelt Island where time is clearly moving at a different pace than the outside world. Only women seem to be able to pass through the barrier into the world, and Nuclear Man seems to be trying to kidnap them. The normally superpowered women are also finding that their powers are weakened or non-existent in this new world.

It’s so hard to say much about issue #2 in a series. Thompson is still world-building, and I have some concerns. Whenever you have a setup that divides men and women, I immediately start wondering about trans people, nonbinary people, intersex people. I’m hoping that Thompson will take these conversations on; she’s a good enough writer that I have some faith. There is a character named Som who is “the only man who’s managed to escape the citadel.” I’m curious to see where that goes.

Thompson also includes Echo in her book, which I’m very interested in. Echo is a Bendis character from Daredevil. She’s deaf and Native American, but unfortunately carries the kind of problematic backstory that Bendis is known for in certain segments of comics fandom, most recently discussed with Riri Williams’ stereotypical loss of her step-father to random gang violence.

I’ve loved how Thompson handles Clint Barton’s deafness in West Coast Avengers. Seeing Echo’s characterization makes me so thrilled that Hawkeye’s portrayal isn’t a one-off. Carol tries to talk to Echo while facing away from her, and is immediately reminded by Jessica that Echo needs line of sight to read lips. During a team meeting, Hazmat uses basic signs combined with audible speech to ask questions. Carol wonders why with internal monologue—then realizes that Hazmat wears a mask to control her radioactive powers, and therefore Echo can’t read her lips.

What I love about the representation here, and in WCA, is that it’s all very matter of fact. There’s no big OH NO I HAVE TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO COMMUNICATE WITH THE PERSON moment. The adaptations are obvious, and made without comment. I’m not d/Deaf/HOH, but as an autistic person, I dream of people adapting to my needs so quickly and with so little drama.

The book ends with a big battle, and on the last page, Jen Walters in her Hulk form is falling through the rip in the world, ready to fight—but as she falls to earth, her powers fade, and suddenly she’s just regular Jen, plummeting towards a broken bridge, apparently unconscious.

Way to cliffhanger me, Kelly. Thanks a lot.

I’m all in on this book, and ready for more issues. Gimme.

Ironheart #3

Riri Williams in her Ironheart suit flies over the city
Cover of Ironheart #3

Writer: Eve L. Ewing
Artist: Luciano Vecchio
Color Artist: Matt Milla
Cover Artist: Amy Reeder
Publisher: Marvel

Kay: In issue #2, Riri is back in Chicago, connecting with her old friend Xavier and investigating the disappearance of an old friend Daija. She and Xavier are trying to connect the dots around the disappearing girls and the thieves stealing electronics in the area. But as Xavier and Riri begin to put the pieces together, they learn that Daija has been found. Riri tries to see her, but Daija stonewalls her; a shadowy figure informs Daija that Riri will die because of her curiosity.

But that’s not really the part of the story that’s most engaging for me. Riri chases the dark figure across the city and ends up in a choke hold that pushes her into a flashback of being crushed and almost disintegrated by Thanos. As she flies off, her A.I. (based off her deceased best friend, Natalie) urges her to speak to the Champions, get professional help, something. Riri is so closed off to the idea of help that she deactivates the A.I.

The last page of the issue includes parallel images of Daija and Riri crying, facing each other over the gutter. “Being alone is the best way to make sure you don’t let anybody down. That’s why I fly solo.”

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

Ewing’s writing is lovely and her story is developing on a perfect pace; Vecchio’s art is gorgeous and clean; Milla’s colors create mood and scene without being intrusive. I love the story this book is telling, and if you’re not reading it, you’re missing out.

Rainbow Brite #4

A young girl in a rainbow dress rides a white horse with a rainbow mane
Cover A from Rainbow Brite #4.

Writer: Jeremy Whitley
Artist: Xenia Pamfil
Colorist: Valentina Pinto
Cover Artist: Paulina Ganucheau
Publisher: Dynamite

Kay: Issue #3 of Rainbow Brite left us with Wisp and Twink leaping onto the Red world and meeting the Red Color Guard, Red Flare. Issue #4 picks up right after that leap. Twink explains more about the world—there’s a rainbow castle at the center of the color worlds, and each color world is protected by a Color Guard. Most of the Color Guards have been captured, and Twink doesn’t know where they’re being held. In a neat bit of color theory, Red Flare points out that they would be kept where they’re the weakest—in their direct opposite world. Red and green are directly opposite on the color wheel; so are purple and yellow, blue and orange. Red Flare would be weakest on the Green World, and so the Green Color Guard is being held on the Red World.

Twink, Wisp, and Red try to rescue the Green guard. They meet Starlite, the white stallion with rainbow hair who was Rainbow Brite’s faithful companion in the comics; they attempt their rescue, but Red is caught in the last few panels, and Wisp is left trying to figure out how to save him.

There were several magnificent touches in this book. We’ve already established that Rainbow Brite is as much a title as it is a person. When Twink talks about Rainbow Brite, he refers to “them” instead of him or her. This leaves open the possibility of Rainbow Brite being any gender, which makes my nonbinary heart sing.

Next, if you remember the cartoon, you remember that Starlite was a little arrogant, kind of fussy, and just generally… well, a little bit of a snob. Whitley turns that up a notch, making Starlite flat out arrogant to the point of rudeness. He isn’t going to help rescue the Green Color Guard; he doesn’t have a reason to. This does such a delightful job of flipping the stereotype of the devoted horsey companion on its head that I was giggling all through the book.

This book also saw a switch in artist from Brittney Williams to Xenia Pamfil. The overall feel of the comic was still kid-ish to me (as it should be) but I noticed that Wisp was a little less round and kid-like. She still has the body type of a pretty typical preteen, though, and I’m really happy about that. Red Flare seems older than her, but is still kid-ish. I love the art, and Valentina Pinto continues to do a phenomenal job on colors.

I loved this issue, and I’m now completely committed to the series; I’ve been reading single issues, but I’ll absolutely be picking up the trades for my kids. Totally for my kids. Not at all for me.

***

It’s always great to have a week of truly excellent comics. This week really exemplified the beauty of serial media for me. Too many books right now write to the trade, expecting that the reader will remember what happened last month as they pick up this month’s issue. Between strongly memorable stories and the return of story summaries at the beginnings of issues (bless whoever pushed that change through, truly) I didn’t have to go back and look up a single thing this week. Beautiful, just beautiful.

So that’s what I loved this week. As always, if you think there’s something missing, drop some titles in the comments!

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