June 11, 2018

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Rob's Single-Minded for June 6, 2018

Here's little old me, talking about what I read from the weekly comics stack this past week. Looks like I'm back on the horse of talking about single issues again. Let's see how long I can keep it up!

Dazzler: X-Song #1
Written by Mags Visaggio
Line Art by Laura Braga
Color Art by Rachelle Rosenberg
Letters by VC's Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics

Alison Blaire never wants to be a hero, as the intro text points out, but her sense of responsibility keeps drawing her back in. When her attempts to bring Mutants and Inhumans together leads to conflict between two ostracized groups, Dazzler must once again fight for those who can't help themselves in this one-shot that absolutely nails the heart of Alison's character--and the queer community.

For someone who is queer, it's impossible read this comic any other way than a metaphor for the fact that despite being marginalized as a whole by society, especially in the United States, we can still find ways to divide ourselves instead of uniting together. I'm not going to get further into that, but when I see the mutant bigot trying to say that inhumans don't get to be marginalized like mutants do, I see the same discussions within the queer community about who is and is not one of us. Mags is taking the use of mutants to stand in for oppressed people in the world world to a new height here, with one of my favorite heroes of all time standing up for all of us and I fully admit, I was crying by the end.

Laura Braga's art really works well for this, even if her mutants/inhumans in this comic aren't as, well, mutated as I would have liked. She captures Dazz's energy and powers well, and the expression of freedom and love in the music scenes really shines. In the few action scenes, not quite so much. As per usual, Rosenberg's coloring is top-notch. This was a really amazing comic and I'd love to see Mags take a run at Alison in a full-on limited series, conflicted between her needs and those of the mutant/inhuman community. Maybe someday...

Brother Nash #1
Entirely by Bridgit Connell
Published by Titan Comics

A trucker named Nash with some mysterious secrets works to get his cargo to its destination safely, but when he's attacked, all bets are off, as we learn there are more than human monsters roaming the lonely interstates. Meanwhile, the trucker's friends are in danger from a land squeeze, but not even Nash's skills may be enough in this webcomic receiving a print debut in double-sized issues from Titan.

Katie from Books with Pictures put this in my hands, and of course she knew I'd be immediately hooked. A supernatural story with creatures, mystical dreams, and a weirdo loner who isn't all he seems to be? Yup, just go ahead and mainline that right into my comic veins. I'l forgive a lot if that's your premise, but there's no need here, as Connell's linework is perfect for her story, full of great facial reactions, haunted things that look otherworldly but still recognizable, and a color scheme that switches between being "normal" and "not-normal" without effort. (It reminds me of Marissa Louise, especially in the use of pinks, purples, and oranges.) A few times the action is a bit on the stiff side, but I was impressed by how the page and panel breakdown switches easily from webcomic to the printed page. Connell's got quite a lot of talent, and I can't wait to see where this goes.

If you aren't hooked yet, let me add one last thing: Evil Telephone Poles.  Come on, now!

Red Sonja/Tarzan #2 
Written by Gail Simone
Line Art by Walter Geovani
Color Art by Adriano Augusto, 
Letters by Simon Bowland
Published by Dynamite

Sonja and Tarzan race to face their tormentor, only to learn that it's not going to be as easy as they thought. Underlings are one thing, but Duul may be more powerful than either of them can stop, even working together. Worse, if an old friend of Tarzan is right, their actions may be causing the entire world to fracture. It's a breakneck plot ramped up to 11 in this second issue of one of my surprise series favorites of the year so far.

The first issue of this series was brutal and often difficult to read, but it set the stakes extremely high for the characters. Now we see there's more than personal issues facing the pair, who aren't exactly jumping for joy at working together. Gail's threading some really strange stuff here, in a good way, taking these characters and putting them into a plot that I for one didn't expect. And given she's one of the best-ever at writing Sonja, this has been a blast. I still don't want to reveal who Tarzan's friend is, but we'll leave it "time period-appropriate futurist" and leave it you to guess!

Walter Giovani's linework here feels like he's hitting his stride again--the first issue was good, but didn't have the dynamic, Romita-like feel to it that drew me to him initially. The layouts are especially strong, highlighting action in smaller panels while still keeping a feel of scope and scale. I'm not too keen on this is being colored, though. Some of why I'm not seeing the clean linework is due to the flesh tones being too heavily applied to the characters, I think. Regardless, this series is well worth picking up if you, like me, enjoy comics that revel in their pulp roots.

Sherlock Holmes The Vanishing Man #2 
Written by Leah Moore and John Reppion
Line Art by Julius Ohta
Color Art by Ellie Wright
Letters by Simon Bowland
Published by Dynamite

The game is afoot, but so far, it looks like Sherlock is still one step behind as the attempts to locate Michael Williams continues, even as other plots involving an old foe for Holmes and Watson heat up in this second issue of yet another strong series featuring these characters by Moore, aided this time by John Reppion.

I haven't read all of the Dynamite Sherlock Holmes books, but if I notice that Leah Moore is writing it, I'm always on board. She really has a handle on what makes the character so fascinating, including showing some of his darker impulses and their consequences, which in this story have put at least one innocent person in deadly danger. I read a LOT of Holmes material not by Doyle, and I've grown quite picky. Moore's version of the character is very close to the source in my opinion, arrogant but not cruel, five steps ahead but never expecting anyone else to match him. I think I know the solution to this series' mystery, but Moore has successfully fooled me before. We'll see!

As mentioned when I previewed the issue, Ohta's depiction of Holmes is a little off-model to my eyes. It's more of a generic gentleman instead of the razor-sharp profile of Rathbone and Jeremy Brett, but it's also not a copy of Cumberbatch or, God help us, Downey Junior. He's made the character his own, and I have to respect that from a creative perspective. (Oddly, Watson and Lestrade feel very much as I'm used to seeing them. Weird.) Regardless, his panel layouts are spectacular, such as Lestrade ascending a staircase, Holmes peering in a window, or the look of shock at seeing so many children in one home. It's really solid work that aid the story and keeps the pace. I'll have to keep an eye on him as a creator.

Death or Glory #2
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Bengal
Letters by Rus Wooten
Published by Image

The fallout from Glory's attempt at crime continues as this bloody series continues and involves extremely unpleasant things that I don't want to list in detail.

Lots of folks like Rick Remender. I am not one of them, but I keep trying to see if maybe I just missed something, and his next creator-owned series will click with me. No such luck here. Yet again, we have foul characters, torture porn, and violence everywhere. Bengal's artwork captures exactly what Remender is going for, but it's not anything I want to spend time reading. I included it here in this roundup because I really don't think people talk enough about this link that flows from this work to Black Science to Deadly Class, just to list three of his Image books. It's one thing to be dark, it's another to be attempting to out-Kirkman Robert Kirkman. We can recognize a creator's talent while also wondering why he needs to go to this level. (For example, this series ended for me at the point of gratuitous sexual abuse, included only to make a rotten character even more rotten. I find that lazy.)

Still, if you need a good artist, these books are always well-drawn. I just wish I'd like the story for once. Maybe next time.

Demi-God #2
Written by Ron Marz
Line Art by Andy Smith
Color Art by Michael Atiyeh
Letters by Steve Dutro
Published by IDW

The loser who gets the power of Hercules continues to narrate his story in some really clever opening and closing panel work, fighting off evil minions and running afoul of the police and some mysterious people in this second issue of a series picked up from a creation by Bart Sears.

If I was still asked to give a number to this comic, it would be your classic 4 or 5. It's trying really hard to be clever, but the problem is that Marz is overdoing it here. Demi-God is just too obnoxious to work as a feature character, and if there is a humanizing side to him, we aren't seeing it here. He can't even remember that his friend died a few moments ago, and his creepy obsession with a co-worker doesn't play to a modern reader very well. The villains are played for a laugh, but it's not broad enough farce, and Smith's linework is too standard hero stuff to give Ron a hand. There's nothing wrong with what Smith is doing, but he can't seem to get Demi-God to mug enough for the reader to wink at the joke, leaving us with a big, beefy buffoon who isn't nearly as funny as other send-ups.

Heck, I'm not even sure if this is meant as a send up, and that's part of the problem. I'll likely try another issue, because I like Marz as a writer, but I think this one is a swing and a miss, which is ironic given the origin of Demi-God's club.

Well, that was my last week. How about you? Let's chat on twitter, where you can always find me at @rob_mcmonigal or on the site's @panelpatter.