In this week’s pull list, a few of our comics mixed it up a bit – with great results! Sam enjoyed Lantern City’s new direction for the series – pulling it from what could have been a clichéd tyrannical government route. Kylee read Dark Horse’s latest issue of Harrow County and found the calm before the storm refreshing for the southern gothic horror series.
Jackson had high praise for Garth Ennis and All Star Section Eight and for New Suicide Squad, which he calls one of DC Comics’ best titles. Deadly Class offers more of a challenge with its pacing and short-term bland storyline as a whole.
Read the reviews to get our full opinions! And let us know what you thought of this week’s issues and what’s on your pull list that needs to be on ours in the comments!
Lantern City #5
Author: Matthew Daley and Mairghread Scott
Artist: Carlos Magno
Source: BOOM! Studios DRC
The last issue ended with a surprise as Sander found himself face to face with the tyrant king Killian in the dregs of the city. But the two quickly partner up in their attempt to escape Pont’s men. Unfortuantely, it doesn’t go very well. Trapped in the underground, they are in Pont’s territory. While trying to hide in a building currently being attacked by Pont’s men, Sander in his despair and frustration, the young ruler tells him the truth about everything – who he is, what’s going on in Killian’s city, how he came to be where he is now.
Killian claims he knows very little of the outside world; his worldview is crafted by advisors who never let him really see what’s going on in the city. That’s why he came to the underground. He needed to see it for himself. Using a trick his grandmother taught him, Killian manages to create a diversion that allows them to escape. Sander leaves a note for Lizel warning her not to trust her father and then heads back to Terna and Jom only to find Killian waiting. He thanks Sander for saving his life and asks him personally to join his guard – to be honest with him. Despite Terna’s mistrusting the wealthy in the tower, the three of them accompany Killian back into the adder’s nest.
A lot changed in this issue and it changed for the better. I was really starting to wonder where this series was going to go and I like what we’ve got happening here. I like that this isn’t turning into yet another mindless, stereotypical tyrannical government but that there might be a lot more going on in this story than we’ve seen so far. Sander working from the inside with Killian at his side is going to be a far more interesting story moving forward.
Harrow County #5
Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook succeed in making readers feel much like the townspeople in this issue. Emmy has eschewed the life of evil they thought she would embrace as soon as she learned of her origins, in favor of diplomatically finding ways that the townspeople and the supernatural can live together in harmony. What the townsfolk assume is a feared and troublesome demon is drawn almost as docile as a housecat in some of Crook’s most gorgeous work to date on the series – Emmy even helps it pick out a name for herself!
Kicking off the second arc with a jarringly different tone from the attempts to murder a child that the first arc followed is genius in the way it feels very much like the calm before the storm. Even Emmy herself is not on solid ground as she tries to befriend the beast that Hester left alone, with murky results. As a literal storm rolls over the plains, readers get the answer to the cliffhanger from issue #4 in the form of a sister for Emmy. Different from what we have come to expect from Harrow County to date, this issue served as a necessary and exciting bridging issue – still uncomfortable, but difficult to pinpoint how or why – into the second arc and the mystery of how a reincarnated witch could have an unknown sister and what this means for Emmy as she begins to settle into her new circumstances.
All Star Section Eight #4
There’s a line in new-wave crooner Elvis Costello’s 1977 song “Radio, Radio” that I often thought of while reading this week’s issue of All Star Section Eight. Costello sings to the sound of rapidly rising electric guitars, “I want to bite the hand that feeds me/I want to bite that hand so badly/I’m wanna make them wish they’d never seen me.” Garth Ennis has always had an odd, antagonistic relationship with mainstream superheroes and comics publishers, one far more interested in interrogating the strange, often inscrutable rules publishers place on their heroes and the contexts those characters are superficially forced to operate within. This issue explores that dynamic wonderfully and more than ever, it feels like Ennis chomping at the too slow fingers of DC Comics.
After failing to recruit Batman, Martian Manhunter, or Green Lantern to his newly reformed team, alcoholic dreamer SixPack tries to recruit Wonder Woman by having his demon bartender/buddy, Baytor, hit her over the head with a mallet. What follows is mostly a long, stream of consciousness discussion over whether the now mentally impaired Diana can ethically join the team if she’s no longer acting on her own volition. In the same vein as Preacher, Ennis makes larger points about sexual violence, misogyny, and a culture of male privilege but he does it with enough humor that I can’t imagine many will be too offended by issue’s end. One of Ennis’ greatest comedic talents has always been putting awful, horrendously offensive words in the mouths of characters we mock and hate the most and it’s easy to laugh at a blustering idiot who refers to himself in the third-person as “The Grappler” as he babbles about his archaic views on women and as the rest of the team wonders how they can beat him up. John McCrea’s art still keeps the same punch he brought to the pair’s previous collaborations in Hitman and The Demon and he nails a hilarious wedding scene with a sense of icky aplomb. There’s little more one can really ask out of a humor comic this biting, weird and thrilled to be sticking it to one of comics’ most venerable institutions.
Deadly Class #16
Rick Remender has been slowly ratcheting up the heat in Deadly Class over the last five or so issues and in this week’s #16, the pot is prime to boil over. After putting a fellow classmate in the literal line of fire, Marcus wants to extricate himself from his own grand, frequently drug induced schemes by any means necessary. Like many previous issues, things are complicated, generally by the protagonist’s own awful decision making.
This arc of Deadly Class has had frequent pacing problems and it’s hard to tell how much of those issues were intended to be deliberate. In a story arc entirely about Marcus descending into cocaine, unprotected sex, frequent LSD induced hallucinations, and easy alienation of your friends, spending an awful lot of time with characters sitting around, self-indulgently whittling away their time is about par for the course. It’s understandably going to cause some weird pacing but this issue concluding the arc lacks punch with so little momentum pushing Marcus forward. Moments like him trying to check if he has herpes and absentmindedly wondering if he could fall for a girl at the health office have more spirit than his poorly thought out assassination attempt on Viktor. Still, that action sequence is a thrilling page turner to the end, proving Remender and artist Wes Craig have an eye and a feel for putting these characters in pulse-pounding danger. I get the feeling readers will look back fondly on this arc, if just for its fantastic cliffhanger ending but, in the short term, Deadly Class #16 does little more than offer an invigorating final issue to a lackluster storyline.
New Suicide Squad #12
Since relaunching a little more than a year ago, New Suicide Squad has quietly been one of DC’s best titles. Eschewing the purposeless, poorly paced violence, awful character work and grating, poorly thought out and executed sexual content of the first volume, Sean Ryan and a rotating team of artists have turned Amanda Waller’s and Vic Sage’s Task Force X into a thing of grotesque, violent beauty. Issue #12 sees the team behind enemy lines in Afghanistan, with Harley Quinn in prison, Reverse Flash left for dead in the desert, Parasite under a doctor’s knife, Captain Boomerang gut-shot and Black Manta putting the team and Middle East in danger as he gets closer to Saladin and his League of Assassin splinter group who wants to send a powerful weapon back in time to literally bomb their enemies to the Stone Age.
Ryan takes the time to give every character at least one great moment, with Reverse Flash finally deciding to push himself to be a team leader and Deadshot trying to interrogate Manta’s motives before he betrays all of Suicide Squad. Their conversation is great, a powerful moment for the nihilistic, usually apathetic Floyd Lawton and Manta, who increasingly feels drawn to the sense of fearful order the terrorists could bring to his life. Even Harley, who has traditionally been a bit of a problem for Suicide Squad writers to find a place for, gets a great moment where she entertains a group of refugees by making fart noises with her hands. A moment near the end of the issue where she realizes that she still inspires more fear than joy is truly heartbreaking and could be worth exploring in future issues. I have nothing but faith that this creative team can pull off a great finale to a fantastic story in New Suicide Squad Annual #1 at the end of the month.