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This Week in Comics – August 7, 2019

Kicking off a new series on this blog, writing about the comics I pick up at the shop each week. There’s so much good stuff coming out right now, my brain is all itchy with that unmistakable desire to write about comics! So here we go.

HOUSE OF X #2 – It’s so awesome to be running into the shop with a spring in my step to buy an X-book again. We’re three issues into the double-helix combo series that is House of X/Powers of X from mastermind writer Jonathan Hickman and artists Pepe Larraz and R.B. Silva, and so far, each one has felt like an event. Big, starchy, filling portions of swinging-for-the-fences X-Men lore. Longtime fans will love it, lapsed longtime fans might cry, and newcomers are bound to be intrigued. For me, it feels like we’ve finally picked up on the future-trajectory set in motion way back around the turn of the century in Grant Morrison New X-Men. If you’ve enjoyed the X-Men in any way at some point in your life, get in here. The water’s fine.

Sensational Spider-Man #1 – I grabbed this because it was a reunion of Peter David and Rick Leonardi, the creative team behind the original Spider-Man 2099 run, which I loved. I didn’t realize that the story was actually a cool time capsule of sorts– the original idea for Spider-Man to don a new black costume came in the way of a pitch from a fan in the early ’80s. Jim Shooter liked it so much, he adapted it and folded it into Secret Wars and Amazing Spider-Man. This issue presents an adaption of the fan’s original pitch. My favorite bit: Tom Defalco’s notes on the original pitch, including a funny call out about New York City crowd’s not admiring Spidey. (“WRONG! New York City crowds don’t act this way!” he writes). A fun artifact.

Absolute Carnage #1 – This thing is as thick as a small town phone book, but a lot more fun. Just a big ol’ explosion of Venomy goodness. I don’t read Spider-Man or Venom on a monthly basis, but writer Donny Cates does a great job of serving up a super-dense story in a way that is totally newbie friendly. Ryan Stegman’s art is inspired and rich, with big Kirby-like splashes involving symbiote intricacies and dynamic figures. This kicks off a big, sprawling crossover that feels like a fun celebration rather than a corporately mandated chore. It’s $8, but somehow over delivers on that price tag.

Beserker Unbound #1 – Mike Deodato Jr. goes creator-owned, teaming with Jeff Lemire, maybe the most consistently solid writer working in comics today. Their joint effort- a barbarian story for the 21st century. The art is fantastic, with Deodato’s trademark athleticism but paired with some incredible details and density. Colorist Frank Martin gives things an otherworldy glow and wraps Deodato’s artwork in a brilliant way. Lemire taps into the tropes of the barbarian genre like he’s been doing it for 20 years, and then serves up a great twist at the end. Great ride from two of the best creators working in comics.

Doom Patrol: Weight of the Worlds #2 – It feels like it was just yesterday when we were collectively peeling gyro stickers off the cover of Doom Patrol #1, revealing cosmic secrets beneath. Crazy to think that was *three years* ago now. The original run of Gerard Way curated Young Animal books wrapped up and went on hiatus. Now it’s back, maybe not as big and bombastic as its first salvo, but still delivering on its mission of weird and wonderful funny books. Weight of the Worlds reminds me of the X-Men reboot in a lot of ways: if you’re an old fan, you’ll find a lot to love. If you’re a lapsed hardcore old fan, you might find yourself shedding a tear of joy. And if you’re a Doom Patrol neophyte, you’ll likely find enough weirdness here to spark your curiosity in finding out more. Ask your older brother’s friend, the one that’s always eating up all the Funyuns and playing bass loudly in the basement- he’s probably got a shoebox full of well-worn issues of Crawling from the Wreckage for you to discover. Artist James Harvey is a big standout here, somehow eclipsing a literal rock star writer. Harvey does it all- pencils, inks, colors, and even the danged lettering. He’s like John Byrne without the bad pop culture takes or penchant for Star Trek photo books. With a single artist handling all aspects of production, you get some really crazy and unique pages designs, ones that I think would be tough to orchestrate between a team of three or four disparate artists. End result: Very Doom Patroly.

Major X #0 – I’m a sucker for a few things going on here: Zero issues, Rob Liefeld, stories about magical swords, and reprints of legacy stories. Maybe that makes me a sucker overall? Whatever the case, Major X. Breathe it in. Smell that? That’s the smell of comic books. I found the series that proceeded this ancillary issue to be a blast, with Rob Liefeld not just doing his trademark stuff- action, ninjas, guns, Deadpool, etc. – but also channeling a very tangible sense of the art and craft of Bronze Age comics. To me, this isn’t done is some overly retro for being retro way, either- it’s more along the lines of a revival style. What I mean is, it feels “for real”, not tongue-in-cheek or overwrought homage. Major X strikes me as Liefeld actually rolling up his sleeves and unleashing some real creative juices, and the end result is right up there with his ’90s stuff. There’s time travel and alternate dimensions, X-family drama and, most impressive to me, something original and completely bonkers on almost every page. I felt a lot of Kirby in the panels, especially with Atlantis and the big cast of new characters. Liefeld’s work seems to have settled into a niche of love it or hate it, but as someone steeped in comics in all their glorious weirdness, I feel like Liefeld is if nothing else also 100% steeped in comics and has the proverbial “ink in his veins.” For this issue, you get a smattering of Major X setup pages, and then a big chunk of Liefeld’s run on Wolverine from circa 2000, where some seeds were planted that eventually came to fruition in Major X, almost two decades later. Some cool things about the Wolvie stories: The art is fire, with Norm Rapmund’s inks playing especially well with Liefeld’s pencils. The old comic dressings were still hanging around 19 years ago, including the little boilerplate intro text to each book, splashy title fonts, and “Stan Lee presents…” I don’t know why, but seeing that took me back. Those kind of formatting things gave Marvel Comics a certain unifying feel, whether you were reading Tomb of Dracula or X-Force. Brought a smile to my face to see it again.

The Walking Dead #193 – Confession: I’ve never read a single issue of The Walking Dead before today. I love indie comics, I love black and white comics, and I even love zombie movies- but for some reason I missed the boat completely on TWD. Obviously, the book did just fine without my support :). I saw a big stack of these second printing editions of what turned out to be the surprise last issue of the series. Square bound and meaty, it seemed like a decent amount of comic for $3.99, so I picked up a copy. I read it, and I loved it. I’m sure there’s a ton of details, nods, and callbacks that longtime fans are busy analyzing and dissecting, but as someone reading it with a fresh set of eyes I found it a very engaging and easy to flip through story. The end pages were genuinely moving. I can see why a lot of folks went ga-ga over Kirkman’s creation, and my comic shop tells me they have a significant number of subscribers who are pretty much just coming to the store for TWD (let’s hope they find something else on the racks that keeps them reading). I loved seeing Charlie Adlard art again. I was a big fan of the old Topps Comics (real ones remember) X-Files comics, and Adlard was the best artist of the bunch working on those books. I believe he did some of James Robinson’s Starman too, toward the end? Anyways, good stuff, and what an accomplishment. A little black and white comic that conquered the world, like TMNT before it. Congrats to Kirkman and Adlard on pulling off something special (sorry I missed the ride).

Books I picked up but didn’t read yet:

No One Left to Fight #2: Second issue of “the comic you always wanted!” from Dark Horse. I liked the first issue a lot, especially the incredible colors by Fico Ossio. Full-on comic book craziness.

Coffin Bound #1 – I got this because it had a Franz Kafka quote on the inside cover.

The Green Lantern #10 – Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp are steadfastly producing a modern classic with this run. The pages are so heavy with multiverse madness and thick organic artwork that I feel like I need a comfortable chair and a cup of something heavily caffeinated to fully take it in. Morrison is playing with the DC toys in the bizarre way only he can, and as a longtime Liam Sharp fanatic, it’s amazing to see him operating on Super Saiyan levels. Square lawman Hal Jordan thrown into a grimy, trippy universe is a blast, and each issue feels somewhat subversive and just completely unlike anything else on the stands, certainly unlike anything you would expect from the Big Two. I don’t know how they’re getting away with it, but I hope they keep on doing it for many more issues to come.

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