August 3, 2020

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Stuck at Home? Go Visit Keiichi Arawi's City

City Volume 1
by Keiichi Arawi (translation by Jenny McKeon)
Published by Vertical

Midori Nagamu is your typical comedy manga character: she's in college, has no money, and tries to manipulate her friends into helping her out at every turn. The trouble for Midori is that she's not in the usual world for her trope. Instead, the City is full of quirky as hell characters, ranging from a landlady who won't let her weasel out on rent and is stronger than she looks to a slapstick cook who puts orders in the worst places to a policeman who's happier gazing at the sky than doing his job. In other words, she's just one more weirdo--and perhaps one of the more normal ones--in the word of Arawi's City.

August 1, 2020

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The Great Paper Girls Re-Read - Follow Along with #PaperPatter




I have been reflecting on Paper Girls recently, and I’ve decided that I think the series just might be my favorite comic of all time. 

But why bore you with details here when I can re-read an issue a day to break down everything I love about the book. 

Today, July 31, marks the one year anniversary of the conclusion of the series. Starting Monday, I’ll read an issue everyday day and provide a few tweets highlighting my takeaways. I’ll only read on weekdays, so we’ll have five issues, or one trade, each week. The project as a whole will take six weeks, and will wrap up mid-September unless something weird happens.

I’d love to make this a group discussion, so I’ll be tagging each tweet with #PaperPatter. Each weekend, I’ll compile the best of that hashtag into a post to archive where at Panel Patter. You can locate me on Twitter @triggercut_ .

Hope to see you reading along!

July 29, 2020

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Birthright (Series Review)


Birthright (Series Review)
Written and Co-Created by Joshua Williamson
Illustrated and Co-Created by Andrei Bressan
Colors by Adriano Lucas
Letters by Pat Brosseau
Published by Image Comics

Birthright (which just wrapped up its 9th story arc) is an absolutely fantastic read. It's got consistent and consistently gorgeous, detailed, dynamic artwork.  And it's got action, adventure, family drama, humor, and more. It's a story that's also bursting with really rich ideas. Writer Joshua Williamson excels at genre mash-ups, and this is definitely one. This is probably reductive, but I'd say it's sort of like Lord of the Rings meets Kramer vs. Kramer meets The Fugitive. If that doesn't appeal to you, I don't think we can be friends.

July 28, 2020

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Catch It at the Comic Shop July 29th, 2020

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

James' Picks:

Pulp HC by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips and Jacob Phillips, published by Image Comics
Pulp is a wonderful, self-contained read. I'm a huge fan of any Ed Brubaker/Sean Phillips project, whether it take place in the Criminal universe or otherwise. But this feels pretty special. It concerns a pulp novelist in the 1930's who has a real connection to the sorts of Old West stories he tells, and a Pinkerton agent who used to be on his trail many decades before. That's all I want to say about it. This is a great read, and the art and coloring from Sean and Jacob Phillips is really fantastic. They work together seamlessly as a team. As do, of course, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. This one is engaging, dramatic, sad, and just a terrific read.

July 27, 2020

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Jimmy Olsen Series Review


When I was a little kid, my favorite activity was sitting with my dad at the kitchen table to read the Sunday “Funnies,” my dad’s colloquial term for comic strips. Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen is the type of book that brings back that feeling. There is a complexity to this series, but there is also heart - a kind of joy that grounds the book and makes it one of the more enjoyable mainstream series in recent memory.

July 22, 2020

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Debut Issue Review: Transformers '84: Secrets and Lies #1


I often joke with my friends that I have a special fondness for things that are better than they have any right to be. The central conceit is the proverbial artistic distance from the concept to the content. My go-to example for this phenomenon is Tom Taylor’s Injustice, ostensibly a digital first videogame tie-in that managed to become one of the best DC stories of the 10s.  

July 21, 2020

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Catch It at the Comic Shop July 22nd, 2020

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

Neil's Pick:

The Resistance #3 by J Michael Straczynski, Mike Deodato Jnr, Lee Roughridge published by AWA Studios
The first issue of The Resistance was so terrifyingly close to the current global pandemic I didn't know if I wanted to continue reading. When a deadly new virus wipes out over half of the human race a new step in human evolution rises up against a radical incoming President. This Comic couldn't be more of an analogy for our present-day if it tried. Straczynski has a knack when it comes to building both plot and character, The Resistance is no different. Plot is dealt with perfectly in issue one, giving readers the full background on what has happened globally when it comes to the deadly virus. By issue two, main protagonists are defined to the point that I already strongly despise one of them. That's not a bad thing because that shows how invested in this story I already am after two issues. Deodato's photo-realistic style and Loughridge's colour work adds to the realism that a comic with this kind of narrative needs. This may be a comic that introduces a new shared universe and new superheroes over at AWA but I'd be happy with this being a completely solo story.

July 20, 2020

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The Unneeded Obligation of Fire Power: Prelude by Robert Kirkman and Chris Samnee

Origins Are Just No Fun Anymore


Art by Chris Samnee

The emotional flatness of Fire Power Volume 1: Prelude makes this a comic that is a task to read. Robert Kirkman, Chris Samnee, and Matt Wilson seemingly go out of their way to produce the least offensive and also least risky comic that they can. A mishmash of so many other Kung Fu and spiritual quest stories; this book becomes a guidebook for anyone else who may want to do this kind of story in the future.

Orphan child? Check.

Hidden temple? Check.

Antagonistic rival? Check.

A love interest? Check.

A rough-hewn but good hearted-mentor character? Check.

Sure, there’s only so much that you can do with this kind of story and Kirkman writes all of it but no more. As Owen tries to find his past in an ancient martial-arts temple, he finds that the truth of who he is may be something he doesn’t want to learn. It’s an old story that Kirkman and Samnee fail to dress up in any unique way.

Art by Chris Samnee
Samnee has developed into one of the great visual storytellers in comics, treating each panel as an individual instant of time within the greater narrative. In his work, every panel tells a story in itself. This gives him the ability to be as detailed or as minimalistic as the moment requires. Technically everything that Samnee is doing here is near perfect— the ways he stages scenes convey both physical and plot movement, creating a momentum that this story desperately needs. Samnee is one of those artists who can identify the “moment” of a panel, visually finding the heart of the story beat and putting it to paper. It’s amazing how many comic artists flounder around a page, failing to convey anything more than a plot point.

While Samnee is able to find the moments, he struggles here as he tries to find any pulse or blood for this book. He moves through each page with an all-too steady pace. Each panel and each page reads with the same intensity as the page that came before it and every one that comes after it. One thing happens after another with no sense of build-up, tension, teasing, or reflection of the story. Fire Power is a comic that exists to serve some expectation of an origin story and isn’t able to find any footing other than that for all of the effort that Kirkman, Samnee, and Wilson put into it. This is thrown together with the passion of an average TV show recap on a website, trying to tell us what happened without any panache or attempt to make something more than a plot summary. Prelude lacks any passion in its pages. Samnee turns out page after page of solid storytelling that fails to convey any real emotional commitment to Owen’s struggles.

Art by Chris Samnee
Kirkman’s writing suffers as it drowns in cliches and surface-level emotions. None of these characters exists with any kind of agency or meaning outside of what we already know they have because of what kind of story this is. Owen is a searcher and a believer but he’s an enigma because he’s not given anything more than a base motivation in this story. He wants to find out who he is because he’s adopted. That’s Superman and Spider-Man. That’s Luke Skywalker. Owen is the prototypical hero of these kinds of stories, driven by a mysterious past while he tries to find a purposeful future for himself. He just wants to be loved; is that so wrong? Ok, it may not be wrong but it is hardly a compelling reason to care about him on this quest.

Fire Power #1 offers a far more compelling issue, one that could have been a mysterious, cool and engaging introduction to this world if it wasn’t for the tone-deaf exposition of the Prelude comic. Picking up fifteen years after the events of Prelude, the issue finds Owen with a life completely divorced from what we’ve seen, already with his own family and living the life of a quiet suburban dad. This is the true start of whatever story Kirkman and Samnee want to tell and it’s painfully obvious that they’re much more invested in this than they were in Prelude. You can read this issue without knowing the other stories and be caught up in the hint of Owen being more than he appears or the mystery of Owen’s past coming back to haunt him. The excitement that those missing details could generate could easily drive their eventual reveal and been so much more powerful to have learned where these characters came from rather than having to have it all spelled out in such a lumbering manner.

For Samnee’s first real book in a couple of years, the disappointingly mixed-bag launch of Fire Power demonstrates that good intentions (a $9.99 introductory trade followed up by an FCBD first issue (with a series launch to follow next month)) can make for lousy comics. Skip the trade for now; buy it and stick it unread in a longbox somewhere and dive into the comics themselves. Prelude is a paint-by-numbers origin story that listlessly moves through its paces after it checks off the required plot points. It borrows and borrows and borrows from so many stories that came before it but adds nothing to this tradition of storytelling. Fire Power Volume 1: Prelude takes but it doesn’t give anything back.


Art by Chris Samnee, written by Robert Kirkman
Fire Power Volume 1: Prelude
Written by Robert Kirkman
Drawn by Chris Samnee
Colored by Matt WIlson
Lettered by Russ Wooton
Published by Skybound/Image Comics

July 14, 2020

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Catch It at the Comic Shop July 15th, 2020

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

Rob's Picks:

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Too Long a Sacrifice #1 by Scott Tipton, David Tipton, Greg Scott, and others, published by IDW.
Deep Space Nine is the best Star Trek series. Fight me. Because of that strong feeling, I'm super excited to see the Tiptons take their incredible talents as writers on one of my favorite franchises to the series I like best. Poor Odo has a mystery on his hands and because the station is never what it seems, just about anyone could be a suspect (but Odo will be happy if Quark is involved somehow). I'm not super-familiar with Gregg Scott's work, but it does a solid job of covering the likenesses without resorting to photorealism, though they're a little on the stiff side. The character work is top notch, however, and any fan of the show will be happy to get more stories in this world, which appears to be set some time during the Dominion War. Looking forward to seeing where this one goes.

July 13, 2020

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Celtic Legacy, Arthurian Legend, and Their Modern Implications in Once and Future

For the better part of the decade, Kieron Gillen has been one of my favorite writers. He builds unique worlds and spreads himself across genres with an ease that most writers cannot achieve. I’ve always found Gillen to be a very literary kind of writer. I have some trouble explaining exactly what I mean by “literary,” but if pressed, I would start by highlighting that I think Gillen brings a different set of sensibilities to crafting his texts; his approach feels more like that of a novelist. Gillen isn’t unique is this regard, but I would say I think he is exceptionally adept at bringing a novelistic feel to his scripts. And, to be fair, I don’t necessarily think that such an approach makes Gillen’s books inherently better, that it’s some sort of on-face qualification for superior comics. There are exceptional comics writers whose styles differ greatly from a novelist, and there are also writers who try such a method without as much success. What I believe elevates Gillen’s work, though, is that he is exceptionally well suited to his approach.

July 8, 2020

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"We Get the Time We Do. Any More is an Abomination." - A Look at Killadelphia Volume 1 - Sins of the Father


I've thought hard about how I would write about Killadelphia. It stands as such a thoughtful creation itself, a true emblem of what the comics medium can accomplish in ways other media can't quite (or don't until proverbial ground is broken by a comic book). I knew I wanted to wait until the end of the first arc. The story would be far too sprawling to unpack issue by issue. Rarely are books as ambitious as they are successful in meeting those ambitions, but Killadelphia is one of those rare books. Warning: some spoilers after the jump.

July 7, 2020

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Catch It at the Comic Shop July 8th, 2020

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

Rob's Pick:

Bitter Root #9 by David F. Walker, Sanford Greene, Chuck Brown, Sofie Dodgson, and Clayton Cowles, published by Image Comics
Things go from worse to even worse as the scattered members of the Sangerye family try to stamp out an evil that goes far beyond anything even their ancient matriarch has seen before. The power of evil threatens to take advantage of the division of good as this amazing series just keeps getting better and better. It was a long wait for Bitter Root to get started, but it's been worth it. The series is really hitting its stride now in this second arc, showing the link between the hatred we are seeing every day in the United States with the hatred of our past, and using literal demons from the pen of Greene as stand-ins that go side-by-side real world issues instead of supplanting them. Walker's excellent character work in the dialogue keeps a large cast varied and Greene's linework is perfect in its exaggerated style. This is one of the best comics being printed right now.

Neil's Picks:

Money Shot #6 by Tim Seeley, Rebekah Isaacs and K Michael Russell, published by Vault Comics
Great news to see the return of Money Shot. I read the first run during a time when I was worryingly told I’d tested positive for COVID (all clear now!). Believe me, I needed the humour in my life and bloody hell did Money Shot deliver. When scientists-cum-pornstars in a not to distant future struggle to fund their projects, they become intergalactic pornstars. Hoping that the strangeness of their quests into fair flung galaxies and having inter-alien sex will make people back home subscribe to their “shows”. Seeley and Beattie have written a stupidly original and hilarious comic, which is nice to see someone daring enough to go this far. Rebekah Isaac’s art is gorgeous to look at, with some wonderfully designed alien species and relatable human characters that I fell in love with immediately. Especially Annie Leong aka Trinity Spheres, oh Annie.

Archangel 8 #3 by Michael Moreci, C.P. Smith and Snakebite Cortex, published by AWA Studios - Upshot
Michael Moreci is somewhat of a favourite when it comes to the family at Panel Patter. With his Wasted Space comic appearing in a lot of our top 10s from the past two years.  As was with Wasted Space, Moreci once again writes an engaging and mysterious story. Set within a modern-day narrative, Archangel sees the 8th assassin of God’s legion fighting under his own code. The first two issues haven’t really given too much of the story away but it does a great job of building a world that is dark and violent. The main plot is centred around Number 8, who is somewhat of a Punisher type of character. Investigating his way to his intended target and pulling out enough firepower and tactics to get the job done. C.P. Smith and Snakebite Cortez’s art and colour work build on the dark atmospherics of the story as well as giving off a sense of realism. Archangel 8 has the potential to be an overlooked gem for comics in 2020.

James' Picks:

Adventureman #2 by Matt Fraction, Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson, and Clayton Cowles, published by Image Comics
I really enjoyed the first issue of Adventureman. This is a great, big, fun, pulp story set in the golden-age, and then it jumps to a modern story where almost no one seems to remember the stories of the hero Adventureman. Fraction's dialogue is sharp as ever, and the art from the Dodsons is just wonderful. The first issue was triple-sized, and this issue appears to be double-sized, so I'm excited to see the creators flesh out this fun world.

Empyre Fantastic Four #0 by Dan Slott and R.B. Silva, published by Marvel Comics
Thus far I've enjoyed what I've read relating to the new Empyre series. It's got the Kree and Skrulls and Avengers and FF. Last week was an Avengers-centric issue and I enjoyed that (even though I really need to look some stuff up on Wikipedia), and I'm really interested in seeing the FF-side of things. I just want to feel like the FF are reintegrated into the broader Marvel Universe again.

Mike's Picks:


Killadelphia Volume 1: Sins of the Father by Rodney Barnes, Jason Shawn Alexander, Luis MCT, and Marshall Dillon, published by Image Comics
A mash-up of history, horror, and current events unfolds in this first volume. Barnes crafts a multi-generational neo-noir horror story of conspiracy and cover ups. His narrative is deep and multi-layered, and each issue of this series offered new revelation. Jason Shawn Alexander’s art easily magnifies the impact of Barnes’s story. His richly textured painted scenes sell both the horror and procedural scenes of this book and adds an extra element of noir tone. This has been a great series, and if you’ve missed the first arc, take this opportunity to jump on.



Undiscovered Country Volume 1: Destiny by Scott Snyder, Charles Soule, Giuseppe Camunicoli, Daniel Orlandini, Matt Wilson, and CRANK!, published by Image Comics
This creepily prescient brainchild of Snyder and Soule feels like it gets better each issue. I’m not sure if that is a result of the team leaning into and understanding their own story more each go-around, if it’s some byproduct of shared writing duties, or if it’s from a deliberate expository burn that offers just the right amount of background pieces each issue. Regardless, Undiscovered Country continually grabbed me each issue to the point that by said issue’s end, I’d be keyed up for the next installment. Credit to the entire creative team for breathing new life into the relatively familiar concept of post-apocalyptic America, all the while crafting a prophetic vision for our mid 2020 world. Undiscovered Country is the perfect read for the Covid quarantine world. Maybe too perfect?


Batman: The Adventures Continue 2 by Paul Dini and Ty Templeton, published by DC ComicsIn a better world, this series would be ongoing. In the best of worlds, we’d have an entire imprint devoted to DCAU stories, a beautiful hybrid of the DCAU style with an Ultimate Marvel approach to continuity and storytelling. But alas, this is the world in which we live, and we should at least be thankful that a digital first Batman Adventures story gets a floppy edition. Anymore, I’ve decided that *this* Batman is really my Batman, and the first issue of this mini was more than enough to hook me for the whole series.

June 30, 2020

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Catch It at the Comic Shop July 1st, 2020

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

James' Picks:

The Goddamned: The Virgin Brides #1 by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera, published by Image Comics
I was a big fan of the first Goddamned series from the fantastic team of Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera. It was a look at the Biblical world, before the Flood. It was really a depictionof how the world had gotten so terrible that God decided that the only real option was to destroy it and start over. And it was a great series, in that the world it depicts is a truly awful place. I'd recommend that series, and I'm very excited that the team is returning to tell more stories. Presumably things will go from bad to worse in these stories as well. But Aaron and Guera are such engaging storytellers that you'll want to dive in. 

June 24, 2020

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Catch It at the Comic Shop June 24th, 2020

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

Rob's Picks:
Bleed Them Dry #1 by Hiroshi Koizumi, Eliot Rahal, Dike Ruan, Miquel Muerto, and Andworld, published by Vault
The tagline here is right on the cover: A Ninja Vampire Tale. If that concept doesn't make you want to flip through this one, then I'm probably the worst person to take comics advice from. It's a fun concept, and set in the future to boot, where someone is murdering vampires. The Van Helsing/Buffy/Blade wanna-bes are upsetting an apple cart and that's the initial story in this really strong debut by a whole host of creators I'm unfamiliar with. The art on this, by Dike Ruan, is especially notable, doing some great work with panel construction, perspective, and other little touches that take it from solid to superior. Vault books are always worth a look, but this one feels like a keeper.

June 16, 2020

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Catch It at the Comic Shop June 17th, 2020

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

James' Picks:

Darth Nights: Death Metal #1 by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion and FCO Plascencia, published by DC Comics
I was a huge fan of Dark Nights: Metal and all of the tie-ins and related series that led up to that series. It was big and ridiculous and completely excessive, in the best possible way (the Justice League formed a Voltron at some point!). It's definitely Scott Snyder channeling his inner Grant Morrison. But it ties together a lot of threads he established in his Batman run with Greg Capullo almost 9 years ago. It'll be sure to be even bigger and more bonkers and more over-the-top, and I can't wait for more.

June 10, 2020

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Catch Up at the Comic Shop June 10th, 2020

When new books went on hiatus, the Panel Patter team dug into our bookshelves and longboxes for great comics that you might have missed that we hoped were still available in your favorite local bookstore or comic shop. Well, new comics are back (yay!) but there's still a ton of great older books to finish, so we'll be keeping Catch Up as a recurring feature for the foreseeable future. Enjoy and maybe find your next favorite book!

James' Picks:

Pax Romana by Jonathan Hickman, published by Image Comics
Pax Romana is, in my view, the purest distillation of what Jonathan Hickman's work as a creator is all about. It's hugely ambitious, it's a fascinating examination of complex systems, it's full of great infographics, it plays with all sorts of interesting philosophical ideas, and it's a hell of a lot of fun. The premise is that in the mid 21st Century, the Catholic Church funds research that leads to time travel, and sends a team back to Roman times in order to strengthen the Church and the Empire. Things don't exactly go as planned, which makes for a great story. This is jam-packed with maps, timelines, detailed discussions, and is just a really fun, smart, dense read.

June 9, 2020

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Catch It at the Comic Shop June 10th, 2020

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

James' Picks:

Adventureman #1 by Matt Fraction, Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson and Clayton Cowles, published by Image Comics
If Matt Fraction writes a comic, I'm going to give it a read. He's got such a great sense of humor, and has an excellent ear for naturalistic dialogue. He also comes up with incredibly engaging and thought-provoking dialogue. I've loved November, and I of course adore Sex Criminals when I read it collected. And From what I've read in the first issue of Adventureman, this is another must-read story. Long ago there was a pulp character called Adventureman, but only single mom Claire and her son Tommy seem to remember him. However, there are hints that that's about to change. This is such a fun debut issue. It's also a triple-sized issue so you're definitely getting your money's worth. And it is absolutely GORGEOUS. The Dodsons do an amazing job on this book, as the colors pop, and Terry Dodson's glamorous style is perfect for both the classic 1930's setting, and the more modern portion of the story. Just reading the first issue of Adventureman will feel like a satisfying read, but I think you'll want more . 

June 2, 2020

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Catch It at the Comic Shop June 3rd, 2020

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

Rob's Picks:

Paul is Dead by Paolo Baron and Ernesto Carbonetti, translated by Adrian Nathan West, published by Image Comics
Anyone who is a fan of the Beatles knows about the infamous "Paul is Dead" rumor that becomes increasingly ironic as it looks more and more like he may be the last of the group to die. But what if it wasn't a rumor? What if McCartney did die, right about the time of Sgt. Pepper? That's the story that Baron and Carbonetti are here to tell, with bright colors that fit this period of the band's music perfectly. The likenesses are easily picked up on, but they remain fluid enough to tell whatever story the creators wish, not like a set of shuffled photographs as we so often get in these kinds of stories. The mystery of Paul's death and its consequences will enthrall you, as you see just how much the creators love the iconic band that gave us all so much over the decades.

May 28, 2020

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The Horror of Being Alive in Junji Ito’s No Longer Human

In most of his work, Junji Ito explores the things that terrify us. In some of his most known books— Uzumaki, Gyo, and Tomie— he finds images that are shocking, disturbing, and maddening and shapes the stories around them. These visual motifs are practically their own stories (spirals, beautiful women, horrific sea creatures) but he doesn’t just stop there. Those images are hooks into our imaginations, an entry into our souls where Ito plants these horrors and watches them grow. His stories act as carriers of an idea that he just can’t keep to himself. That may be why so many of his stories are about obsession on some level or another.

So where his horrors have been something other than human before (even Tomie was a supernatural terror,) No Longer Human focuses on the horrors of being human. In this book, Ito casts us into a pit of our own ridiculously shallow view of our own worth. At a young age, Yozu Oba tries to be the clown of his school. He finds that role to be easy but also to be free of responsibility so it fits him. If he can be a clown, it’s all that he needs to be. At a young age, he recognizes a futility in trying to amount to anything grand so why even try. He definitely doesn’t have the ambition to follow in his father’s footsteps so really all that’s left is to be the clown and skate through life. He even studies Buster Keaton, understanding what Keaton did without ever comprehending the why. He wasn’t being the clown to bring joy to others but to try to escape the watchful and judging eyes of everyone.

As Yozu gets older, he grows up but he never matures. He never becomes a man, just a boy who refuses to hold himself accountable for anything. In school, he acts as the clown to avoid any kind of responsibility. No one, not his family, his teachers, or the other students see it as any kind of performance. They just think that the clown is who he is. The only one to see through his facade is Takeichi, a boy everyone sees as just a weak simpleton. If Yozu was the kid everyone laughed at, Takeichi was the kid everyone picked on. He was the true outcast, much more than Yozu ever was, so he had a perspective that Yozu could never understand. And Takeichi understood Yozu like no one ever had or ever would. Yozu thought he had everyone fooled but his world ended when Takeichi told him that he knew that Yozu’s foolishness was just an act.


Once Takeichi breaks nearly all of Yozu’s self-illusions, Yozu’s life begins a spiral of destruction. Even while his family, particularly his cold father, does everything he can to protect Yozu from himself, such as sending him to live with his cousins, there’s already a corrupt nature to Yozu’s life that just destroys everything good around him. His two girl cousins love each other as only sisters can until they both fall in “love” with Yozu, resulting in one of their deaths and another’s pregnancy. No Longer Human is a cataloging of Yozu’s sins against everyone who tries to like or love him. Ito doesn’t sugar coat anything at all as every good gesture by and for Yozu rots both his and everyone else’s soul just a bit.

Following the path laid out by Dazai’s novel, Ito crafts his manga with sobering clarity. His pages are full of images that convey both the hope and the despair that Yozu lives his life in. In a lot of ways, everyone who moves through this tale is a ghost, either fully or on their way to being a specter of themselves. The book opens in the midst of a mysterious suicide attempt, bathed in a light and strangely eerie blue hue. The man almost looks like he’s already crossed over to the other side and she is only too happy to join him. Ito will come back to this moment in the last pages of the book but these opening pages set the tone for the rest of the book. It starts in death; and not even a natural or accidental death but a purposeful and directed one. We may not know them but there’s a reason, a despair, that has brought them to this moment. This isn’t Yozu’s suicide or death but his story begins and ends with this suicidal couple’s story.


As Ito progresses from this pair trying to kill themselves to Yozu’s life story, he never lets go of that absence of hope that’s so overpowering from the opening pages. That’s what makes this such a great read even as it’s possibly one of the most depressing things you could read this year. Ito’s more well-known works connect with the reader because their threats are so otherworldly. He brings a maddening realism to them but they’re largely fantasy. It’s easy to disconnect from those books. No Longer Human occasionally delves into dreams and visions but the book operates on an emotional and spiritual plane that’s not too far removed from our own. This is a book where we identify with Yozu and become wrapped up in him. He’s our protagonist and antagonist.

It would be an easier read if Yozu was clearly a bad guy and the way he destroys lives does give him an air of evil. He falls in and out of love, looking for a savior but only ever finding people who can fall under his influence and give him the love, the drugs, or the validation that he longs for. His father is one of the only people who ever see what Yozu really is and even that eats at him, seeing his son living his life more as a parasite than as a fully formed human being.

Eventually Yozu is a ghost walking through this world, creating more ghosts with everyone he touches, even a writer who writes under the name of Osamu Dazai who Yozu meets in a sanatorium. And oddly enough, “Yozu Oba” was the name of one of Dazai’s characters. In these final chapters, the book becomes a disorienting conversation about the lines and boundaries of fiction. Dazai and Yozu form a bond in their loneliness and isolation. It gets difficult to tell where Ito is merging fact and fiction or even at this point is there even a difference. Is this book fiction or biography (autobiography in its original novel form) or does it even matter as Dazai enters into this story inspired and originally told by him?

Dazai’s moments bookend Ito’s tale as he was one of the people at the beginning contemplating suicide, which even further muddies any lines dividing story and reality. By adapting Dazai and Yozu’s lives, Ito delivers one of his most powerful horror stories as the root of this madness is far more internal and personal than his other books are. There’s no external or fantastic threat to his characters here. There’s no spirals or unseen creatures injecting their madness on us; there’s just the madness that’s actually part of the human condition. It’s innate and that’s the most troubling thing about this book.

No Longer Human
Written and Drawn by Junji Ito
Adapted from the novel by Osamu Dazai
Published by Viz Media

May 27, 2020

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Catch Up at the Comic Shop May 27th, 2020

When new books went on hiatus, the Panel Patter team dug into our bookshelves and longboxes for great comics that you might have missed that we hoped were still available in your favorite local bookstore or comic shop. Well, new comics are back (yay!) but there's still a ton of great older books to finish, so we'll be keeping Catch Up as a recurring feature for the foreseeable future. Enjoy and maybe find your next favorite book!

Tetris: The Games People Play by Brian "Box" Brown, published by First Second
Box Brown is a fantastic graphic storyteller and creator, and I've loved all of his books that I've read. I just recently reread Tetris: The Games People Play (Tetris for short) and it's a fascinating read. It was also an easy sell for me - I'm not much of a video-game player, but I have loved Tetris since the first time I played it, more than 30 years ago. Tetris doing a number of different things. First, it's a history of the creation of Tetris by a Russian computer scientist Alexey Pajitnov, who simply created this game because he loved games and has always been fascinated with the way playing games was beneficial for the human brain. Tetris chronicles the fascinating story of how Tetris (the game) became a widespread phenomenon. Second, it's a deep-dive into the sometimes fly-by-night world of computer software licensing, and the more wild west feel that it had back in the 1980's. You wouldn't necessarily think that contract negotiations would make for an exciting comic, but Brown brings his storytelling skill to this, and weaves a compelling tale of various characters. Lastly, Tetris takes a broader look at the origins of game-playing, and the reasons for it and its importance over the course of millenia. It's a terrific read.

May 26, 2020

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Catch It at the Comic Shop May 27th, 2020

Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

James' Picks:

November Vol. II by Matt Fraction, Elsa Charretier, Matt Hollingsworth and Kurt Ankeny, published by Image Comics
I previously wrote about how much I loved the first volume of November, which was brought together by an incredibly talented crew of creators. It's written by Matt Fraction who's such a gifted storyteller, and has an incredible ear for the way people actually talk to one another. Well, volume II is coming out this week.  If you are a fan of crime stories (like Stray Bullets, or Criminal), then I highly recommend November. The first volume followed the interconnected lives of three different women, and the way in which their lives all intersect on a fateful night.  Elsa Charretier's art is gorgeous and stylized, and will feel right at home for any fans of Darwyn Cooke or Bruce Timm. And he art pairs perfectly with the atmospheric colors from Matt Hollingsworth and the detailed hand-lettering from Kurt Ankeny. Trust me, there's a lot going on in November and so when you get these first two volumes, you're going to want to read and reread them many times. It's a great story. 


Bog Bodies by Declan Shalvey, Gavin Fullerton, Rebecca Nalty, and Clayton Cowles published by Image Comics
Artist Declan Shalvey does absolutely spectacular work. You probably know him from his game-changing six-issue run on Moon Knight with writer Warren Ellis and colorist Jordie Bellaire (if not, go read that now). Or, you might know him from his work on the wonderfully dark and weird sci-fi series Injection (also with Ellis and Bellaire). What you might not know is that in addition to bring a truly outstanding artist, Shalvey is also now a writer, having previously written the graphic novel Savage Town and returning with a new graphic novel called Bog Bodies. I've read the first part of it and it's a highly compelling, tense story. There are people on the run and they're trying to escape various things (including people trying to kill them) and they're making their way through the bogs and forest outside of Dublin. This story feels incredibly authentically Irish - there's definitely a lot of slang I didn't know, but, you get the gist of it as you're reading. And the whole series is brought to terrific life by relative newcomer Gavin Fullerton, who's got a slightly cartoony style but his art is still very squarely depicting a real, gritty, dark, and brutal world. Fullerton’s art is paired seamlessly with dark, atmospheric, powerful coloring from Rebecca Nalty and excellent and appropriate lettering from Clayton Cowles.  There’s a lot of great talent involved here, and this feels like an excellent addition to the genre of crime graphic novels.

Rob's Picks:

Disaster, Inc. #1 by Joe Harris, Sebastian Piriz, and Andy Clarke, published by Aftershock Comics
Rich tourists are often assholes, as anyone who has read the great Jamaica Kinkaid is well aware. The idea of an underground tourism agency taking people places they don't belong, such as the site of the Fukishima disaster, which forms the setup for this first issue. Because this is Joe Harris, there's a supernatural element at play, too, and the promise of various hot spots being explored, probably with gruesome ends for plenty of characters (along with the thoughtful sociopolitical and cultural observations for which Harris is known). This looks like it has a lot of promise, depending on how Harris handles the premise, and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens.

Frankenstein Undone #2 by Mike Mignola, Scott Allie, Ben Stenbeck, Brenn Wagner, and Clem Robbins, published by Dark Horse
Mike Mignola writing a story about Frankenstein's Monster is definitely eye-catching. We all know how well he handles creatures caught between good and evil, and seeing how Mignola skirts this line while staying within the concepts created by Mary Shelley will be interesting. (He also can't just make this Hellboy 2.0, especially since this fits in Hellboy's world.) Long-time collaborators Scott Allie and Ben Stenbeck are along for the ride, and while neither are personal favorites, they have a great understanding of Mignola's style, pacing, and plotting. This series is set to lead into a larger role for the creature in Mignola's universe, and fans of the world definitely need to make sure they keep up on this, while fans of the Monster himself should find a few new twists along the (occult) way.

Rogue Planet #1 by Cullen Bunn, Andy MacDonald, Nick Filardi, and Crank!, published by Oni Press
Anyone who reads this site knows I'm a big fan of sci fi, horror, and writer Cullen Bunn, so his latest creation at Oni Press is a no-brainer pick for me this week. There's space treasure to be had, if you can brave the horrors of a planet lacking a solar system. And someone just might, but the rest of the crew is going to be in deep shit, courtesy of the fertile imagination of Bunn, along with MacDonald and Filardi. It's a fairly quick slow-burn, too, which is nice. This one starts the awful horror right from issue one. MacDonald's figure work is a little stiff so far, but the horrors more than make up for it. Definitely worth grabbing if your taste is anything like mine.

May 20, 2020

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Catch Up at the Comic Shop May 20th, 2020

When new books went on hiatus, the Panel Patter team dug into our bookshelves and longboxes for great comics that you might have missed that we hoped were still available in your favorite local bookstore or comic shop. Well, new comics are back (yay!) but there's still a ton of great older books to finish, so we'll be keeping Catch Up as a recurring feature for the foreseeable future. Enjoy and maybe find your next favorite book!

James' Picks:


Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples, published by Image Comics
Here's something you may not have heard previously - Saga is a really great comic. In other news, the Beatles are good and ice cream is delicious. But seriously, Saga is one of those comics that is so good I think it's actually become underrated as one of those things people take for granted. I read every issue of Saga as it was being published, but I have never really returned to it until this past week. In part, I was inspired by the terrific podcast Binge Mode and their deep dive into Saga (great podcast, give it a listen).

May 19, 2020

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Catch It at the Comic Shop May 20th, 2020


Welcome to Catch it at the Comic Shop, where the Panel Patter team looks at what's coming out at your favorite store or digital device this week. Each one of us that participates picks up to five items due out this week, with a little bit about why we like them. (NOTE: We use solicitation material for this, so if we miss creators, please talk to your publisher!) Sometimes we might only have a few items to share, other weeks, keeping it to five will make for hard choices. Here's what the team wanted to highlight this week...

May 13, 2020

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Catch Up at the Comic Shop May 13th, 2020

We're going to be doing something a little different for a while. With all? most? publishers taking a hiatus from new books, the Panel Patter team will be doing some curated picks of "evergreen" or recent titles that should be easily mail-ordered from your favorite comic book shop or indie bookstore. (And digital, too, if you're like Rob and out of space!) We'll keep this up for at least the month of May, but if there's a call for it, we'll keep going, so let us know what you think!

James' Picks:

Blacksad by Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido, published by Dark Horse Comics
I've read thousands of comics, in many different comics. So, I have a decent frame of reference to say this: Blacksad is one of the most stunningly beautiful comics that I have ever read, and I am willing to bet that it will be one of the most beautiful comics you will ever read. Blacksad is created by Spanish writer Juan Diaz Canales and artist Juanjo Guarnido, and originally published in France. It's a crime noir story about a detective named John Blacksad. The thing to know about this story is that John Blacksad is a cat. Everyone in Blacksad is an anthropomorphic animal. Cats, dogs, bears, lizards, etc. When I first started reading the book, I found that a little weird. It made me think I was reading a funny or silly comic. And, to be clear, Blacksad is full of moments of humor. But the emotions feel very real and grounded, and these are very much detective noir stories, they just happen to take place in a world of anthropomorphic animals.  Be aware, this is an adult comic with adult themes (and some sex and nudity)

About that art and those animals. Juanjo Guarnido was previously an animator for Disney, and it shows. In Blacksad (and there are two additional volumes) he is cartooning at the absolute highest possible level. The world of the story is completely believable and immersive (it very much evokes a post-war New York City). Guarnido is a master sequential storyteller, but you're just going to want to linger on some of the art on every page just because it's so stunning. The facial and body-language acting in this comic is just stunning (among other stunning parts of the artwork). Blacksad is an absolute joy. Go read it.

The Wild Storm by Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt, published by DC Comics

The Wild Storm is a story about the Cold War that engulfs our world, and the disastrous possible consequences if these two warring powers don't exercise some wisdom and judgment. I'm speaking, of course, about the cold war between International Operations ("IO") and Skywatch. Who, you might be asking, are IO and Skywatch?  Both were originally government organizations that basically went rogue. IO essentially controls everything on Earth, and Skywatch controls everything off of Earth, through an enormous (cloaked) space station. They have achieved detente through a complex series of treaties. But...if there wasn't conflict, there wouldn't be a very interesting story.

Each organization is itching to get the upper hand and destroy the other. Oh also, there are aliens. And alien technology has been used to enhance humans, so each side has their own enhanced humans In addition to there being aliens walking around in human form. But things begin to go awry when an IO employee steals some stolen Skywatch tech and puts an experimental flight suit inside of herself.  From there, things get wilder and weirder. This is a big, complex, incredibly engaging comic. There are definitely a lot of characters involved, but this is a comic that rewards careful reading. While it's a story about aliens and people with amazing abilities, this is ultimately an espionage thriller, where there are lots of parties playing 5-dimensional chess against multiple opponents. 

The Wild Storm is also an amazing-looking comic, thanks to the terrific artwork of Jon Davis-Hunt.Davis-Hunt has a style that's detailed, but very clear. Much of the comic is quiet moments, and Davis-Hunt is great at those. But when the action cranks up, he's absolutely able to bring exciting action to the reader. His style is very appealing and readable, and feels very modern to me. I also really like Davis-Hunt's character designs in this story. The Wild Storm is a reboot of characters originally created in the 90's, and this reboot feels very modern. This is an incredibly fun, dense, engaging series.

Rob's Picks:

Keiler Roberts' Autobio Comics: Rat Time/Chlorine Gardens/Sunburning, published by Koyama Press
The freedom of the autobiographical comic is that it's the most catholic form of comic--anyone can create one, and all it takes is a drawing implement and some paper or an electronic tablet. The only problem with this freedom is that there are so many out there that it's easy to overlook any particular creator in the genre, and it's even easier to get burned out on them entirely. One of the things that sets Roberts apart from the pack--and likely why she got a deal with the high-quality publisher Koyama--is that she's honest with her reader. That's what made Jeffrey Brown and James Kochalka so good back in the day, and why Liz Prince and Gabrielle Bell are names to follow from book to book.

In these works, Roberts deals with being a mother, a partner, a person dealing with mental illness, and just trying to lead her daily life. It's the kinds of things, both in her past and present, that any reader can relate to. And best of all, there's a nice layer of humor to the whole thing, not in a broad farce but seeing the absurdities in living in the 21st Century. Roberts' linework matches the tone perfectly--she's more advanced in terms of drawing figures and backgrounds than a lot of other autobio creators, but it doesn't overwhelm the page. The focus is still on the actions, not in the details of a particular panel unless it's essential for us to understand her life story.  These are great comics that will remind you that no matter what happens, we all have to keep living--an important message right now, I'd say.

May 12, 2020

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The Weatherman (Series Review)

The Weatherman
Created by Jody LeHeup and Nathan Fox
Written by Jody LeHeup
Art by Nathan Fox
Colors by Dave Stewart and Moreno Dinisio
Letters by Steve Wands
Design by Tom Muller
Edited by Sebastian Girner
Published by Image Comics

The Weatherman is an absolute blast of a story from a fantastic creative team that excels at the weird and chaotic. It’s also an incredibly profound story about coping with tragedy, the ultimately futile quest for vengeance or justice, and an in-depth exploration of ideas of memory and identity. And The Weatherman is brought to life by an exceptional artistic team that knows how to balance chaos and introspection and provide an overwhelming entertaining visual experience.

May 6, 2020

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Catch Up at the Comic Shop May 6th, 2020

We're going to be doing something a little different for awhile. With all? most? publishers taking a hiatus from new books, the Panel Patter team will be doing some curated picks of "evergreen" or recent titles that should be easily mail ordered from your favorite comic book shop or indie bookstore. (And digital, too, if you're like Rob and out of space!) We'll keep this up for at least the month of May, but if there's a call for it, we'll keep going, so let us know what you think!

James' Picks:

Nameless by Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham, Nathan Fairbairn, and Simon Bowland, published by Image Comics
Few writers are more skilled than Grant Morrison at creating a detailed, richly imagined world in a short amount of time. With detailed, vibrantly weird and unsettling art from Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn, Nameless creates a scary world where the apocalypse is coming soon, and the line between nightmares and reality is breaking down. It's psychological horror, and a great entrant in the "horror in pace" genre, and it's epic science fiction, all done with Morrison's dark wit and vivid imagination.

Burnham and Fairbairn provide some spectacular art in Nameless. Burnham's style is dynamic, visceral and detailed; he does some really virtuoso work, particularly in a sequence where Nameless has been captured by the weird, existential threats. The panel design echoes the structure of the weird, nightmarish box where the characters are located, framing them in a location that doesn't seem possible and could only exist in a dream (or in the mind of talented artists). Fairbairn colors this all with a great variety of styles, from the drab gray of an afternoon in England to the sunny colors of-o a lush jungle, to the weird, boxlike dreamworld full of a disorienting variety of colors. The entire comic is incredibly well-illustrated, with every panel getting tons of great detail. There's a lot of thought put into the world-building here.  Fair warning - Nameless is not a book that you should read on a full stomach. There is a lot of art that's legit terrifying and disgusting (seriously, so gross). Nameless is a book where the horror is existential and visceral and horrifying and just so engaging  This is one of the best times you'll have reading a story where the world is completely f&%ked. Nameless will scare the hell out of you.

May 4, 2020

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COSMIC DETECTIVE is now live on Kickstarter


As soon as I saw there was a Kickstarter from Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt, and David Rubín I was like "shut up and take my money!" I love all of these creators, and together? That's an uneatable creative team. Kindt and Rubín have been working together on Ether, and once you add Jeff Lemire into the mix? Sign me up.

Many folks clearly feel as I do, since the Kickstarter is already fully funded! But check it out, it seems like a fantastic project. Press release below. 
(May 4, 2020) For over two years bestselling writers Jeff Lemire (BLACK HAMMER; DESCENDER), Matt Kindt (BANG!; MIND MGMT), and internationally acclaimed artist David Rubín (ETHER; BEOWULF) have worked in secret on an all new, original graphic novel. The book, titled COSMIC DETECTIVE, is an epic science fiction mystery that asks: when a God is murdered, who solves the crime?

In COSMIC DETECTIVE, a God is found dead. Foul play is suspected. But who investigates the murder of a god? Not just anyone, that’s for damn sure. Enter our Detective. He’s got a wife, a kid, and a seemingly normal day job as a private eye. But for years, he’s been working for a secret underground cabal of shadowy figures, an organization committed to an uneasy alliance with cosmic forces beyond our imagining.

April 30, 2020

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A Rigged Game — thoughts on Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume IV: The Tempest


Have you ever taken the time to read Alan Moore’s proposed Twilight of the Superheroes? It’s basically his take on Kingdom Come before there ever was a Kingdom Come. It’s interesting because Moore ended up never really doing one of those big Crisis-type stories, at least not within the mainstream Marvel or DC characters. Moore’s ABC Comics line, particularly Tom Strong and Promethea, ended with that kind of universe redefining event so we got to see how he could have done it. Of course, we’ve also seen how Moore’s approach could have been done in nearly every Geoff Johns-penned mega event at DC. Johns never read an Alan Moore story where he didn’t think that it could have used more capes and arms being ripped off (look for Geoff Johns’ From Hell, with Rob Liefeld and coming from Dynamite next Spring.). Johns used to try to hide it but beneath his Marv Wolfman schtick but just whole-heartedly embraced it with Doomsday Clock, a unneccessary cape-and-cowl sequel to Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen. Moore did get to play around with the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, using the Marv Wolfman/George Perez series as a springboard in his Swamp Thing to launch into its own kind of supernatural Crisis. So even when he did his official tie into the original “Crisis” story, Moore still worked within a defined structure, following its rules even as he pushed it to see what he could do with it.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume IV: The Tempest is Alan Moore doing a Crisis story and not really giving two fucks about it.

When Marv Wolfman and Geoff Johns write their grand superhero stories, you can tell that they honestly believe in the nobility and righteousness of their characters. In Crisis of Infinite Earths, it’s all about the heroic sacrifices, the drive and persistence of Supergirl and the Flash, and even the most obscure DC characters. It’s a might-makes-right story where everything is solved by punching your way through life’s problems. Doomsday Clock is pretty much Johns bearing his soul about his gosh-darn honest belief in Superman. But those stories (and admittedly every huge DC and Marvel story from Jim Shooter’s Secret Wars to Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars) are told at the pleasure of DC and Marvel Comics and, ultimately, their corporate overlords AT&T and Disney. They’re stories for stockholders, for the bottom line. And that has to be said of pretty much every writer and artist at Marvel and DC, no matter how pure we may want to believe that Grant Morrison, Jonathan Hickman, or Russell Dauterman’s motives are. We may hope for the best but eventually, these stories end up being Research and Development for television cartoons and big-screen movies. And as we’ve seen in the last ten years, they make stockholders their money when the stories are translated into other mediums.

If we’re being completely honest, Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s original The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series was as much R&D for the Warner Brothers machine as The Infinity Gauntlet ever was for Disney. But so far, none of the Marvel or DC movies have driven Sean Connery into retirement the way that Stephen Norrington’s big-screen adaptation of The League movie did. They can’t all be winners.


Even with the bloody stain of that movie hanging over their work, Moore and O’Neill have kept at it (which is more than we can say for Sean Connery,) continuing to semi-regularly create League stories over the years but those stories have reached their end with The Tempest and what better way to go out than with a good-old-fashioned end of the world story? The first two League stories were their own things, explorations of genre and characters but remained largely self-contained. In hindsight, they were positively restrained compared to everything that came after them. Starting with The Black Dossier, Moore and O’Neill tried to create this large meta mythology around these classical characters. Mina Murray and Alan Quarterman were still the center of these stories but The Black Dossier established that this was a world made up of fiction. It was made up of all fiction. Nothing was safe from being absorbed into Moore and O’Neill’s meta-narrative. Superspy James Bond and genderfluid Orlando could exist in the same fiction and suddenly anything and everything was fair game to these creators. So why not use the final League story to explore (among other things) superheroes from the silver age to the modern age. So many recent comics have stolen from Moore so why shouldn’t he steal them back while having his last word on the subject.

For as much as Moore and O’Neill may love the old pulpy stories like Dracula and King Solomon’s Mines, The Tempest is their love letter to the comics that they read and enjoyed as kids. You can see this in each individual issue’s covers and in some fascinating side trips their story takes over the course of its path, including an old-fashioned backup serial about a group of Silver-Age superheroes. As much as this is Moore trying to bury his involvement with superheroes once and for all, it reads like he’s trying to remind himself one last time why he was originally drawn to these kinds of stories. You don’t throw in 3-D glasses for the second time into a book (the first being The Black Dossier (and countless reprints)) if there’s not a bit of love behind the work.

As each cover pays homage to a particular old comic (Classic Illustrated, Beano, 2000 AD, Justice League just to name a few,) Moore and O’Neill also pay homage to the history and variety of comics within the pages of the story, telling it through different historical lenses and takes on comics. The Tempest is a romance comic that’s in love with comics. Moore is earnest in his love for stories even as he tries to be scathing in his judgment of the bad ones. It almost feels like poor Kevin O’Neill is being pulled along with the writer on whatever windmills Moore feels like tilting at.

As the “silent” partner here, O’Neill is as boisterous here as possible. Sure Moore can write a story that fits a silver age template or a military/spy one but this book wouldn’t be the work of conjuring that it is without his ability to adapt to these changing environments and styles. If this is truly O’Neill’s storied career’s swan song from comics, he is schooling everyone on his way out the door. His aggressive and blunt artwork remains a defiant challenge to his readers. He’s not a pretty artist or even a particularly fluid storyteller but there’s nothing pretty or fluid about these stories. They’re presented on two levels; the plot that takes us from point A to point B and the meta-narrative, the picking at the threads of the history of storytelling to try to see what is real and what is just a flash-in-the-pan blip in our collective consciousnesses.

And that’s what they’ve been attempting to do with the series from the beginning, exploring these fictions beginning with those from the late 1800s and going all the way up to Harry Potter. These are the fictions of our time, the myths and legends that we’ve all grown up on, and, for a lot of us, still live in. If we’re going to keep living in them, shouldn’t we be a bit critical of them to see if they really warrant the love and affection that we have for them? Somehow Alan Moore has appointed himself judge and jury in this 20+ year critical exercise and maybe, just possibly, he’s not the most impartial judicial body we could have here. To say that his judgment may be clouded by his grievances with both Marvel and DC is probably barely scratching the list of charges Moore has against comics.

Of course, I don’t know if anyone made Alan Moore write Spawn/Wildcats. That’s probably all on him. They all can’t be 1963.

As his final word on comics and particularly superhero comics, The Tempest demonstrates that Moore lost touch with his targets ages ago. There’s nothing new here that his contemporaries or those that came after him haven’t covered. Rick Veitch has been on this beat for at least 30 years, chronicling the failings of so-called superheroes. As Moore and O’Neill try to burn their creation to the ground to leave nothing that could be resurrected by some hack following them, it’s great to see that this writer and this artist can still have fun with these stories. Honestly, if they continued well into their old age churning out these stories, we’d have a lot of fun and great comics to enjoy. It almost feels like it would be better for everyone if we had these adventures but somehow didn’t have the subtext that’s buried in them. But it’s hard to tell if they would add anything to any discussion of these stories and that seems to be Moore’s whole issue with superheroes. The conversation stopped whenever we were 12 years old; that’s our own personal golden age so that everything else that comes after that is obviously inferior and will never be as good as the old stuff was. But Moore and O’Neill seem to be as guilty of this as everyone else is.

The outcome is The Tempest is rigged from the start and the verdict is nothing other than guilty. The only question that remains is what will the sentence be so let’s go back to the idea that this is a Crisis-type story. Moore and O’Neill take their time in this book, waiting to reveal the endgame of their long term plan. When Moore wrapped up the ABC books, essentially the apocalypse there was more of a Ragnarok, revealing a cycle and creating a new reality for Promethea and Tom Strong. Those stories ended on a note of optimism for the future. We could go through the end times and come out better on the other side. And that’s really how a lot of these large mega-events end. The heroes come out of the eye of the storm better and stronger than they were at the beginning of it. For Promethea and Tom Strong, Moore gave them an ultimately happy ending.

And then in the last few years, DC Comics realized that, like the Watchmen characters, they owned most of the ABC characters and revived Promethea and Tom Strong during their Rebirth initiative. In the last 15 years, DC has taken all of these Alan Moore concepts whose stories were told and over with and made them like nearly every other comic character in their library, just more fodder to feed the hungry Wednesday crowds. And whether justly or unjustly, DC was perfectly within their rights to do that because they own all of those characters. After whatever made them special in their original stories, they’re now just the cold intellectual property of DC. Think about this— there have now been far more Watchmen stories written by other writers than were ever written by Alan Moore. Does that seem right?

Somehow even though they debuted at DC/Wildstorm at the same time as Promethea and Tom Strong, Moore and O’Neill have managed to hold onto the rights for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which is really a funny statement when The League is really Moore and O’Neill doing to Bram Stoker and so many other storytellers what DC is doing to him over and over. It’s just when Geoff Johns does it, it’s crass; when Moore does it, he never seems to recognize the irony or contradictions of his actions. So are the stories of Orlando, Mina Murray, and the descendants of Captain Nemo over and done with forever, or are we just waiting for someone else to come along and change just enough of these characters so that we call it a Moore/O’Neill homage instead of a ripoff?

Finally getting to a plot summary, there are two stories running concurrently in The Tempest, one featuring our regular characters on the run from James Bond (yes, that James Bond) and another featuring a Silver-Agey group of superheroes teaming up one last time to save the world. Moore and O’Neill dig into all of these different modes for telling superhero and action stories, diving into what they love about the comics and stories they grew up on and what they think is everything wrong with comics today. They deliver one of the most just straight out fun editions of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen even if it is not quite as challenging or insightful as past ones have been. For a final story, they hit the points they want to and no one can deny them that whim. The Tempest is a rip-roaring tale.

In its end, The Tempest, like LOEG: Century before it, devolves into satire but it’s probably much more obvious this time. People melted down when they figured out that Harry Potter was the big bad of Century. But here, the world-ending bad guy is just a character who has been part of the background story that no one had any particular sentimental attachment to. The Tempest has come and gone with a collective shrug of the shoulders from those who have in the past proclaimed that Moore is the G.O.A.T. But other then, there’s nothing substantial at stake other than our own feelings about our favorite superhero stories that Moore and O’Neill are picking apart here. And even with that, there’s not that much new ground left for Moore and O’Neill to dig up that hasn’t already been excavated over and over by other post-Moore and post-Watchmen writers and artists. In the final moments of this book, you can see a love for these stories but also a belief that these stories should be left behind as unrealistic childhood fantasies. Which, when you think about it, is a weird way to cap off the career of the man who wrote “This is an imaginary story. But aren’t they all?”

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume IV: The Temptest
Written by Alan Moore
Drawn by Kevin O’Neill
Colored by Ben Dimagmaliw
Lettered by Todd Klein
Co-Published by Top Shelf Productions and Knockabout