There’s nothing I love more than a week of exciting comics. That may not be surprising to hear from a comics nerd, but it’s really true. Especially now that I’ve found a local comics store that I feel comfortable going to, I look forward to Wednesdays and finding new issues of books I love and browsing for new books that I’ll grow to love.
This week, Mathias, Eric, MJAK, and I, talk about some of the most exciting comics we read this past week—and a couple that bombed hard. Keep reading to hear about Eve Stranger, The Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, Marvel Team-Up Featuring Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel, Wizard Beach, Knights of the Dinner Table, Marvel Rising, and Fairlady.
Eve Stranger Issue #1
Writer: David Barnett
Artist: Philip Bond
Backup Feature Artist: Liz Prince
Colorist: Eva de la Cruz
Publisher: Black Crown
Kay: The first issue of Eve Stranger is a wild ride. The cover caught my eye in my comic store, and when I flipped to the first page, with its Memento style opening, I was intrigued. Eve Stranger reminds me of the aforementioned Memento (without the personal revenge issue, at least so far), Dollhouse (minus the questionable sexual consent stuff), and La Femme Nikita.
Eve is guided through the first issue by a letter she has left herself. She wakes up on a Friday morning; she has a job to do, and a place to be by next Thursday. If she’s not there, she’ll die. She remembers general things about the world—how to use her credit card, riding a motorcycle, language, and bodily functions. It’s only her short term memory that seems to be wiped each week. She also has memories of her father; the letter informs her that while she’s basically a slave, and that she could suicide if she wanted to, her father is out there, and he is the key to everything.
There is a B plot revolving around someone who is trying to contact an E.V.E. agency; he swallows a pill and begins to view confidential information in front of him. When he attempts to convey the information to someone else, however, he is warned; when he doesn’t stop, he rather gruesomely dies.
The art in the primary story is just gorgeous, switching easily from the innocent girl with purple hair thing that Eve has going on when she’s sitting in a cafe to the significantly more intense expressions and movement of the action pages.
The issue also contains a back-up feature that offers a very different picture of Eve’s life. She’s a reporter, approached by an old woman who needs help saving her cat. The results are almost dreamlike—firefighters ripping off their shirts, Eve commenting that the man is about to “grab her pussy.” She asks, “Am I a reporter who dreams about being a secret agent or a secret agent who dreams about being a reporter?”
I’ve often said that the job of a first issue is to make me read the next one. Eve Stranger #1 has done its job, and well. I can’t wait to see the next issue.
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man Issue #5
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Yildiray Cinar
Colorist: Nolan Woodard
Cover Artist: Andrew C. Robinson
Eric: Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #5 serves as somewhat of an interlude issue after Tom Taylor’s first arc, which found Spider-Man dealing with threats from an underground version of New York. Issue #5 picks up with the plot that was introduced in the backup story in #1, with Peter Parker sitting down with his Aunt May as she tells him about her cancer diagnosis. Peter has a difficult time accepting the news, so he basically runs away from this conflict to gallivant around the neighborhood as Spider-Man and try and convince himself that he can deal with the bad news. Along the way, he stops a supposed young car-jacker and ends up actually assisting the misguided kid while paying a visit to Dr. Strange, who helps Peter work through his own struggles in order to reconcile with Aunt May.
As I’ve mentioned in other Comic Book Corner reviews, I’ve really enjoyed this iteration of Spider-Man, and that enjoyment continued here in issue #5. Tom Taylor has a great grasp on Spider-Man’s personality, and it comes out through both Spider-Man’s inner monologue, where he struggles to accept Aunt May’s news, and his quippy, sarcastic dialogue with other characters. In the initial issues of this series, Taylor has brought in two other well-known Marvel heroes (Human Torch and Dr. Strange). Both of them have provided fun outlets for Spider-Man’s banter while assisting him with whatever challenges he’s addressing. And I continue to appreciate the focus on small-scale action scenes that center around Peter Parker’s neighborhood—here, Spider-Man meets a local teenager who steals a car to flee from an abusive situation, and Taylor’s story is able to display the empathy Spider-Man has for people who face hard times.
For the art, regular series artist Juann Cabal took a break for this issue, which allowed Yildiray Cinar to fill in for this interlude story. While I’ve loved Cabal’s work in the first four issues, nothing is lost in Cinar’s artwork in issue #5. Cinar both ably renders a strong, agile Spider-Man during the car chase scenes and captures the emotional beats of the story during the scenes with Aunt May and Dr. Strange. He thoroughly utilizes both facial expressions and Spider-Man’s body language.
The only plot point I worry about right now is the storyline with Aunt May’s cancer. Admittedly, when I read the first couple pages of this issue and Peter basically ran away from Aunt May after hearing of her illness, I was a little put-off. I thought it was somewhat out of character for Spider-Man; I would have expected him to step up and support his aunt from the outset. But Taylor’s story eventually guided him back to a reconciliation with Aunt May that ultimately worked. Illness for Aunt May has been used as a plot device other times before, sometimes to lackluster success (the cringe-worthy Clone Saga comes to mind), but I’m optimistic that Taylor and the art team will be able to use Aunt May’s storyline to develop strong character traits in Spider-Man and his supporting cast.
If you’re a Spider-Man fan who hasn’t yet checked out Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, I recommend taking a look at this book. The first trade will be available in July.
Wizard Beach Issue #5
Writer: Shaun Simon
Artist: Conor Nolan
Colorist: Meg Casey
Cover Artist: George Schall
MJAK: Wizard Beach #5 wraps up in a delightful manner, including a twist that even I wasn’t expecting.
Hex has returned home leaving Uncle Sally, Agnes, and the beach behind. Once home, Hex uses the magic that he has learned from his uncle to eliminate the Frost, which also eliminates the misery besetting his home. At least, that’s what he thought.
As Hex relaxes in the grass, enjoying the feeling of a job well done, his father appears covered from head to toe in ghastly looking red lumps. The waterfalls have brought forth a new evil scourge. Hex’s father insists that swarms of insects, immune to magic, prevent the collection of fresh water and fish. Hex realizes the truth of Sally’s earlier statement: Hex’s father has chosen a life of constant fighting and misery.
When Hex confronts his father, attempting to make him realize that he is choosing to be miserable, his father rebukes him. Hex is called soft-brained and compared to his Uncle Sally. At that moment, Hex realizes where he truly belongs. Of course, readers knew this back in issue #2 when The Keep, a hotel where your room is the place you most need to be, dropped him right back on the beach.
Hex rushes back to the beach determined to rescue Sally and apologize to Agnes. Unfortunately, when he arrives he faces a serious Agnes and a missing Uncle. Agnes offers to help him look for his Uncle, but will they find the elder wizard in time before the people he believes are friends enact their scheme. Moreover, will Hex finally learn to heed Sally’s advice?
This issue wraps up the series, and I highly recommend that if you haven’t been following along in single issues, you order a trade from your local comics store or online, although the trade won’t be out until October. You can also collect back issues of the singles, which shouldn’t be that difficult.
Wizard Beach is a refreshingly relatable fantasy ride that offers us a well-deserved break from the tsunami of angst and gore that often populates the comic shelves. I highly recommend this family-friendly beach romp that packs a solid life lesson in its cauldron of fun.
Marvel Rising Issue #2
Writer: Nilah Magruder
Artist: Roberto Di Salvo
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Cover Artist: Audrey Mok (Variant Cover Artist: Savanna Ganucheau)
Kay: Back when I read the first issue of Marvel Rising, I wasn’t impressed. I said the book had one more issue to win me over before I quit. I’m not sure where this issue leaves me. I found it marginally better than the first issue, but enough to keep reading? Ehhhhh…
More characters turn up in this issue—primarily Quake—but the cast was already crowded, so this is just another face. Quake doesn’t get an intro on the recap/credits page, and has no introduction in the book other than people shouting her name.
After a schtick about how Quake and Inferno are old flames (ha ha ha), Quake reveals that she’s tracking the baddies that the others were fighting because they stole a necklace from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The baddies, who seem to be under the control of Morgan Le Fay (you can tell because their eyes are don’t have irises or pupils, but are just a wash of white), were stealing it for her. There are several pages that are way too talky, with way too many panels and not enough development, either character or action. We get a brief scene with Morgan Le Fay getting ready to take over New Attilan. After that, our main heroes are back to fighting a wave of Le Fay’s creatures in the city. Squirrel Girl calls in America Chavez, who punches some stuff. Inferno gets bitten by something, and he’s probably bad now because his eyes are glowing green in the last panel.
I don’t know who this book thinks Marvel is for, but it sure isn’t a younger age group than generally reads comics. There is absolutely nothing in this book that skews younger for preteen readers. It’s too wordy, and the art is too complex; I’m an actual adult and I’m having trouble following what the heck is happening here. It’s a real shame. My 11-year-old loves the Marvel novels that have come out so far—The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 2: 2 Fuzzy 2 Furious, and Miles Morales: Spider-Man—so someone over there is capable of writing things that appeal to middle-grade girls (who, whether you like it or not, are the future of comics readers). But this book? This absolutely isn’t it.
If I happen to notice it on the shelf, I might flip through another issue in the store, but I’m pretty well over the series.
Fairlady Issue #1
Writer: Brian Schirmer
Artist: Claudia Balboni
Colorist: Marissa Louise
Cover Artist: Claudia Balboni & Marissa Louise
Eric: Fairlady, Image’s new series from writer Brian Schirmer and artists Claudia Balboni and Marissa Louise, promises complete, self-contained stories in each 30-page issue. The premise is an intriguing one, explained by a few introductory lines of prose at the beginning of the issue: in the aftermath of a war in a place called the Harshlands, some former soldiers became specially-trained investigators, called “Fairmen.” The book’s heroine, Jenner Faulds, had posed as a man in order to enlist, and once the war ended she too began to moonlight as an investigator. She is the only Fairlady in the land, who gets the cases no one else wants.
Fairlady #1 doesn’t waste its time with any more backstory than that. Instead, it dives right into Jenner’s current investigation, in what the issue calls “The Case of the Blue Rock.” In a city called “The Feld,” which is built around what appears to be the ruins of a massive robot (I presume this maybe-robot was “felled” during the war? Like I mentioned, the book doesn’t yet ingratiate readers with a lot of backstory), we follow Jenner and her anthropomorphic feline friend, Oanu, who effectively serves as the muscle for the partnership. They were hired by a merchant to investigate the disappearance of a woman who stole some money from him. As they search, they encounter other interested parties who are owed a debt by their target, and they find a blue rock (hence the book’s title) that inevitably leads them to a location that had been important during the war.
Schirmer, Balboni, Louise, and company have introduced a world of interesting possibilities with Fairlady. There are so many fascinating concepts that will hopefully be explored in further issues, including the war of the Harshlands, how The Feld came to rise around the ruins of a massive robot, or details about the Jessu, the race of humanoid cats that Oanu belongs to. There’s even a mysterious tower that houses a wizard, unseen in this issue, who, along with the tower’s administrator, seems to serve as a sort of oracle for Jenner and Oanu when they are struggling with leads on a case. It’s all very fantastic; Schirmer seems to have let his imagination run wild in creating this world, and it should be fun to see where it all goes.
That’s to say nothing of the main storyline involving the investigation and search for the missing woman, which blends compelling mystery and detective work in a story that might make a certain dark knight envious. The art accompanies the story well too: Balboni’s lines are simple yet effective in portraying the action, while Louise’s colors provide nice tones to the different story beats, from the blues and blacks of the nighttime investigations to the browns, oranges, and grays as the protagonists seek leads in the city. It all comes together in a nice package, and the fact that it wraps up in this single issue is an added bonus. I’m curious to see if issue #2 continues with any of the threads that began in this first issue, or if it goes in a completely different direction, unencumbered by any dangling plot lines from issue #1.
Image may have found a new gem of a comic with Fairlady. Check it out.
Knights of the Dinner Table Issue #264
Writer and Artist: Jolly R. Blackburn
Mathias: Knights of the Dinner Table remains the one and only single issue series that I currently read, and for good reason. This long-running comic that covers the fictional tabletop roleplayers of Muncie, Indiana (primarily playing HackMaster) is five parts comedy, three parts in-game drama, one part soap opera, and, currently, on a storyline that’s a departure from the norm. The eponymous gaming group isn’t using their traditional GM (named B.A.) but Sara, the group’s one and only female character. Not only are they playing Hackwurld, a game that resembles Fallout more than anything, but her approach is also different. She’s more intensely character-oriented than the sandbox style that so often leads to adventures going off the rails under B.A.
The book is anthology-like, splitting between the exploits of Weird Pete’s Game Store, the Knights of the Dinner Table, The Black Hands, and Patty’s Perps as the story sees fit. This issue has Patty’s Perps and the Knights: the former dealing with Gods in roleplaying, an often overlooked bit of character fluff that, like everything else old-school roleplayers employ, is taken with deathly seriousness. The Knights’ story, with space horror and in-game secrets taking the forefront of their adventure, is an innovation that hasn’t been seen since the beloved story of GM-turned-rules-lawyer-player Brian stepping behind the GM’s screen for the first time in the comic’s history.
Author and illustrator Jolly Blackburn recently had some eye trouble, which led to delays, but hasn’t caused any issues regarding the quality of the art. Knights of the Dinner Table is, after all, largely people talking at the table as they play their various RPGs, leading to reused art assets as often as possible—a sensible solution for someone who isn’t an illustrator, and decades of work have led to more than enough assets to make it relatively seamless. The art style is functional and has its own charm to it, and its crudity is more than made up for by strong dialogue and characterization. And lest you think that the characters sitting at the table is an excuse not to show the “real” action, the out-of-character banter, the secret meetings between players with a secret as they both “have to get something to drink,” and all the other parts of roleplaying are fully on display here.
The Knights’ plot is largely about how to level up their characters. Gripping, you might think, but you’d be right if you weren’t being sarcastic about it. B.A. and Patty (a guest player for this campaign and B.A.’s girlfriend) have special mutagen points that they can spend, causing random effects on the characters. Some good, some game-breaking, some awful. There’s fear that using them could out themselves as mutants, rather than humans with special abilities. In-game, the Knights are dealing with a different problem—one they can’t hack their way out of. Stuck on a desolate space station and desperate for supplies, one such cache that they desperately need is stuck behind a horde of monsters.
Patty, with her outsider’s perspective, realizes that they can go around outside of the station rather than through. While the rest of the group agrees, it goes against their instincts of “hack first, ask questions never.” Whether they’ll be able to stay on a smarter, more roleplay-oriented path is a question that lingers over every moment of the game, leading to a tension that hasn’t been present in prior campaigns. Before, the characters were merely ciphers. In Sara’s game, their characters are special, and they want to come out the other side victorious. After the last big storyline, a multi-year inter-campaign war that I can’t wait to read again in trade, a story like this was essential to keep things fresh. I’ve been loving the story so far, and can’t wait to see what’s next.
Marvel Team-Up Featuring Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel Issue #2
Writer: Eve Ewing
Artist: Joey Vazquez
Colorist: Felipe Sobreiro
Cover: Stefano Caselli and Triona Farrell (Variant cover: Tradd Moore and Heather Moore)
Kay: I found the first issue of Marvel Team-Up Featuring Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel to be absolutely adorable. The long and short of it is that the first issue saw Peter Parker and Kamala Khan body-switched while trying to defend a scientist from having her memory-stealing device snatched by a supervillain.
In the second issue, Peter and Kamala are trying to survive a day in each other’s lives while they figure out what to do about the villain. There are a lot of typical gags here, but they’re played in an interesting way. Peter has to give Kamala’s bio presentation, but instead of following her notes, he goes off-page, and Kamala ends up being accused of plagiarizing, you guessed it, Peter Parker. Before the presentation even ends, Kamala-Peter is suddenly struck by such severe abdominal pain that he thinks his appendix has ruptured. Of course, he’s having cramps. I loved it.
Meanwhile, Peter-Kamala has to do an interview for a job that Peter Parker sorely needs. It involves tech way out of her depth, and when the coding start-up asks what “synergy he can bring to that vision,” the best Peter-Kamala can come up with is “blockchain?”
What’s particularly great about this issue is the way each character is dealing with this whole body-switching thing. Kamala is completely panicked; she has no idea what to do and will do anything to get this fixed as soon as possible. Peter, who is no stranger to ending up in the wrong body for periods of time, is much calmer about the whole experience. He wants it fixed because it’s inconvenient, but there’s a much more “Body switched… must be Tuesday” feel about the whole thing.
We get the fun of watching the two mess around with each other’s powers, and even though they can’t manage to stop a low-level mook, they’re getting the hang of things. The issue ends with a quick panel of the scientist (Yesenia) being held hostage by the supervillain and the note that the next issue will give us a final fight as everything gets sorted out.
The beauty of a short issue like this is that we all know, eventually, Peter and Kamala will get their respective bodies back. The joy is in the journey. How is Ewing going to pull this off? What shenanigans will occur?
I can’t wait to read the next issue.