What a week for comics! This might be our longest pull list yet. Sam took a look at Lumberjanes and Backstagers, both from BOOM! Studios. Kylee reviewed Skybourne, also from BOOM! Studios, as well as the first issue of D4VEOCRACY from IDW Publishing. She also read Briggs Land, Harrow County, and Spell on Wheels from Dark Horse.
Jackson read Deathstroke from DC Comics and Daredevil from Marvel Comics while Renee enjoyed Civil War II: The Oath, Captain America: Steve Rogers, and Spider-Woman, all from Marvel Comics.
Want to hear more about what we thought about these issues? Read on – and let us know what you thought in the comments below.
Author: Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh
Artist: Carolyn Nowak
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Source: BOOM! Studios DRC
Now that things with Diane, the Zodiac cabin, and the giant chicken monsters turning people to stone have been resolved, it’s time for the Lumberjanes to embark on their next big adventure! What starts out as simply Jo’s desire to get around Rosie’s ban on handheld devices ends up putting the girls in the middle of a battle between Yetis and Sasquatches.
In the search for a power source, the Roanoke girls discover that someone has been leaching power from the mess hall. This has the added bonus for causing all the ice cream in the freezer to melt, meaning all the campers get to eat copious amounts of ice cream and popsicles. But it also leads the Lumberjanes to discover that some familiar Yetis are stealing power because they got kicked out of their own home and need to charge up their batteries. (Because apparently Yetis still use battery operated, tape-based Walkmans to play their music.)
Basically, some Sasquatches (who appear to be female counterparts to the Yetis) came across their super swanky treehouse while they were out and decided it belonged to them now. Since the Yetis are total pushovers, it’s up to the girls to settle things on their behalf, which somehow leads to them challenging the Sasquatches to a roller derby match.
While the issue did a brief introduction to the sport of roller derby earlier on when they happened across a possible roller derby rink in an old, dangerous part of camp it’s pretty clear that only one of the girls has ever played. I suspect the next couple of issues are going to get a bit more down and dirty as far as the actual rules go and we may see some decent character development and team building as the Lumberjanes and the Yetis learn to come together as a team. As far as creative ways to resolve differences with the Sasquatches go I guess roller derby is a pretty decent and moderately non-violent approach.
Of course, considering the woods can be crazy dangerous, I doubt things are going to end simply with a badass roller derby match.
All in all, this was a really great introduction to the Lumberjanes’ latest story arc. I’m really glad that we’re getting to spend some more time with the Yetis. I really like when the series brings back older characters and locations – especially when we get the opportunity to see them in a different light. And I really like that we got to see Jo exploring her love of electrical engineering in the same issue that Mal gets to talk up her love of roller derby. It helps flesh out the girls and their interests – and it show any girls reading that there’s a whole wide world of opportunity in both science and sports for them to explore.
Author: James Tynion IV
Artist: Rian Sygh
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Source: BOOM! Studios DRC
Backstagers really kicked the creepy factor into high gear this week. The opening scene in particular was pretty damn creepy even for me. Jory wakes up in a cardboard set version of his bedroom with all of his friends turned into various talking tools and set pieces without any real memories of their real lives. I mean, one of the Penitent Angels turned into rope in front of him and his boyfriend was turned into a magic power drill.
I mean, the anthropomorphic features added to the various tools representing the Backstagers and the Penitent Angels techies were pretty cool. Rian Sygh did a really good job of turning eyes into ear pieces and adding little tufts of hair here and there to identify everyone in their new forms. The best one was probably Aziz who turned into a plain board of wood with his features worked into the knots and lines.
Still, this was all a little messed up for an all-ages book.
And apparently this all happened to the kids that went missing thirty years ago, too. Whoever Polaroid really is led them down there presumably in search of answers. But really everyone just lost track of their sentient forms and became a part of the broad, generalized idea of ‘theatre’ and became items related to their backstage jobs. We get a bit more information about the backstage area from Polaroid, at least, including a magic notebook that when drawn in can bring new pathways, rooms, and creatures to life. Luckily Jory is able to get it and put his artistic skill to use rescuing his friends and the Penitent Angels before using the notebook to get them all home.
Except then they return to find two months have passed back home and the backstage crew has been permanently shut down. After a second massive tragedy involving the disappearance of an entire stage crew can you really blame the school? And how are the kids supposed to explain their disappearance to the school and their families?
There’s still a lot left to be resolved as we head into the last two issues. And despite everything that happened this issue and the inevitable consequences, the Backstagers are at least armed now with a few more clues to the mystery of the backstage and it’s creepy magic. I’m really excited to see what comes next and how the story is ultimately resolved. I’ll be sad to see the series go but these last few issues have been amazing and I have full faith that the creative team behind Backstagers has something great planned for us at the end.
Sam Wildman is a co-founder and co-editor at Nerdophiles. She probably would have gone missing in the backstage on her own just by accident if her high school theatre program had been like the Backstagers’.
Author: Ryan Ferrier
Artist: Valentin Ramon
Publisher: IDW Publishing
For sanity and self-care reasons, we’re going to avoid the discussion of actual politics and instead dive headfirst into the return of D4VE in his third arc from creative team Ryan Ferrier and Valentin Ramon. Why? D4VE’s running for President in D4VEOCRACY!
After a shocking robo-political assassination, D4VE decides to run for office, but the perfect political opponent may prove to be too much. Newcomers to D4VE can easily jump on board the series here, but Ferrier has also provided a primer to get audiences up to speed on the state of 34RTH if you’re curious as to why the average robo-citizen might care what D4VE has to say during the campaign.
Author: Frank Cho
Artist: Frank Cho
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Source: BOOM! Studios DRC
There is meant to be a history in Skybourne that I just never feel when reading the limited series. At least with this issue, Thomas gives a more complete backstory to Merlin and his intentions, while also revealing some of his own mysterious past. If you didn’t remember that his wife is dead, there are also two full pages of reminders that look awful familiar. I understand Cho is both writing and drawing this book, but some things are just lazy.
Still not in peak condition, Thomas struggles to win another fight while Merlin closes in on their secret base in hopes of breaking open Pandora’s Gate. He brings with him a host of dragons, who already chomped their way through scores of men, and a historic grudge against Thomas. It’s faster-paced than the previous issues and the dragons do call for pause as they are beautifully rendered in all modes of battle.
Things are coming to a head in issue #3 and it remains to be seen if Thomas will get his ultimate wish (to join his wife in death), but Frank Cho does well to move things closer to that tipping point. Mainly focused on Thomas and Merlin’s mutual past in this issue, the next promises to be a clash of titans and a test of Thomas’ immortality.
Briggs Land #6
Author: Brian Wood
Artist: Mack Chater
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Source: Dark Horse DRC
The third issue in this arc opens with an interestingly diverse group of employees awaiting Bud Hillson, who isn’t there to open Hillson Home Value. The security guard saves the day, but it’s an interesting point to note now that Caleb is supposedly in charge of the cash cow.
Meanwhile, Grace isn’t finished pulling strings and uses the saying, ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’ to her advantage as she plays both sides of the field with the ATF and the neo-Nazis first called in to acquire Hillson for the Briggs’ family. At the same time as she is consolidating power, Caleb is getting a lecture from his wife who feels that he should’ve taken the family from his mother as his right. Things between them are tense, but neutral for now, but Grace’s decision at the end of the issue may prove to be another huge catalyst for in-fighting amongst all of Briggs Land.
Brian Wood continues to write a poignant, moving story that explores the morally gray areas and leaves readers questioning just what means to an end they’ll accept. Mack Chater’s art showcases a stunning array of emotion and serves the story perfectly to give a heartbeat to the underlying tension amongst all of the characters. Grace’s choices this issue prove she’s not one to be underestimated, but also that her work isn’t nearly complete in cementing herself as the new head of the family.
Harrow County #20
Author: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Tyler Cook
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Source: Dark Horse DRC
This issue broke from the norm in more than one way. What is usually a gorgeous shot of some type of landscape spelling out ‘Harrow County’ was absent in the face of some truly mesmerizing gore (that could also arguably be beautiful thanks to Tyler Crook’s masterful art) and there was no one-shot ending story, but that may have been for the best in order to allow Emmy’s choices at the end of the issue to linger in audiences’ minds.
Picking up where issue #19 left off, Malachi enlists the boy’s own hunting dogs to find him, but certain someones might have found Luke first. This entire issue serves as a stark reminder that, though Emmy may have it easier than most with the haints of Harrow County, they’re still dangerous beings. Crook spares no expenses with the red in this issue as Emmy flexes her powers in more ways than one, ending with a question as to whether or not she made the correct decision and if someone from her past is back to haunt her again.
Harrow County continues to be one of the best ongoing series and Cullen Bunn does a fantastic job of taking readers through the woods while staying in sight of the over-arching story. As this arc comes to an end, here’s hoping that the next one brings Emmy back to her townsfolk and her best friend Bernice (still my favorite) after exploring her extended family and the outside world they’ve moved through.
Spell on Wheels #4
Author: Kate Leth
Artist: Megan Levens
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Source: Dark Horse DRC
Has Spell on Wheels been modified to an ongoing series? Are there already plans to revisit these girls at a later date? No? Can we all agree to do that as soon as possible?
Colorist Marissa Louise really shines in this issue, embracing the moody blues and purples as the girls face down the final night before the new moon – intent on collecting some of their rare herbs from a spooky house out on the woods. Things pick up this issue, as there is only one more showdown to go, when the girls confront Paul, a Satyr living out in the boonies of Bowie and better known as The Goat Man.
It’s a rather humorous issue and it’s refreshing to see Kate Leth write a shirtless male monster, whom Claire is almost instantly smitten with. He assists them in finding the culprit who stole from the girls in the first place and they speed off to catch him in the act, though not before Claire can leave her number for Paul.
This series is such a quirky, supernatural delight that I’m sad to see it ending with the next issue. Claire, Jolene, and Andy are breaths of fresh air, each with distinct personality quirks and interests absent of witchcraft that makes them all endearing in their own ways. It’s nice to see the series tie in a one-shot story to the overall plot and I’m eager to see how the ultimate showdown will turn out!
Author: Christopher Priest
Artist: Denys Cowan
Publisher: DC Comics
For a certain kind of blathering conservative wingnut, our president included, Chicago is a hell without escape or redemption, a city ravaged by violence and injustice. In reality, Chicago is one of the most racially and economically divided cities in the country, a place where the have-nots struggle just out of sight of those who wield an enormous amount of power and influence, where the fight for survival is a battle often fought in the most literal of terms.
Gun violence is a reality in Chicago, and in nearly every large city in America, and it’s a problem that doesn’t have any easy answers. In a sane world, it’s not a problem Deathstroke is equipped to handle. It is, however, an issue for a creative team like Christopher Priest, Denys Cowan, and Bill Sienkiewicz to address in a year defined by division.
Deathstroke #11 sees a random moment of violence, one with a host of interpretations and perspectives all shifting just who the guilty party is. Journalist and host of the psychopathic Creeper, Jack Ryder is on the scene to figure out just what happened and how a vigilante is cleaning up the streets by spreading a whole lot more blood around.
There have been plenty of comics with a message about gun violence. It’s an issue that comes up frequently in Batman, Punisher, Superman and Spider-Man stories and, most recently, in an ill-conceived Deathstroke story in the Love is Love anthology but it’s rarely addressed with the nuance that Priest’s script applies here. It’s not a story with any clear heroes or villains, but one that emphasizes how much perspective and narrative shifts our understanding of tragedy, that the only people who know what happened are silenced in a moment of violence.
Deathstroke #11 is a comic with no easy answers. It’s a book that acknowledges that violence will always happen, that circumstances push people into desperate situations that demand desperate actions. In a haunting final scene, Deathstroke #11 reminds readers that the only chance to save people is to minimize the damage we do in a bit of sarcastic, blacker than black wit but it’s an issue that goes far beyond a pithy joke. It’s also a fantastic introduction to one of the most idiosyncratic creative teams in comics.
Author: Charles Soule
Artist: Goran Sudzuka
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Daredevil has a power set that lend themselves to creative visual storytelling. For the last few years, this has been shown through echolocation but creators like Frank Miller and Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr. used creative spacing, coloring, and framing to emphasize the way Matt Murdock experiences the world and deals with the everyday.
Daredevil #16 by Charles Soule and Goran Sudzuka tells a small story by breaking down one moment, as Bullseye makes a potential fatal shot at Matt Murdock. Meetings between these two characters are always loaded with history and decades of transgressions and Soule’s script digs into that history remembering the many murders committed by the shooter and the way he’s torn apart Matt’s life so many times.
For longtime Daredevil fans, it’s an awful trite look back at these two characters, generally lightening Matt’s many transgressions in favor of emphasizing Lester’s crimes. Still, Sudzuka manages one fantastic double-page splash and a number of creative layouts in telling the story and manages to load the b-story, a flashback to Matt’s encounter with a combative priest, with plenty of foreboding atmosphere.
As has been the case with the whole run thus far, Daredevil #16 suffers from a lack of strong authorial direction. Soule is a strong writer and his personal connection to practicing law seems like it would offer him greater insight into this character but he just hasn’t grasped the conflict at the center of Matt’s character.
His Daredevil is violent and wrathful but he doesn’t have that all consuming quest for righteousness, that vivid self-loathing, that unquenchable need to save others, even if it means damning himself. It’s hard to take this portrayal of him seriously when it neglects to include Matt’s own willingness to engage in the same terror his archenemy does, especially when that aspect of their relationship is among the most compelling things about these two characters.
Daredevil #16 should feel like a landmark issue, with Bullseye returning to his old ways after years out of the limelight but it feels hobbled by an ill-fitting portrayal of its protagonist and a fairly light central story. Still, this book remains an artistic showcase, with Sudzuka’s clean lines and Matt Mila’s moody, evocative colors. Luckily, both are still a good enough reason to pick up this comic.
Civil War II: The Oath #1
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist Rod Reis
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Though an unpopular opinion, I loved Civil War II. I felt that Tony had grown as a character and it opened up different avenues for character development while addressing major social issues. Civil War II: The Oath shows the aftermath of the superhero civil war and how both the public and the remaining superheroes have responded. Inspiring as ever, Cap does deliver some truly inspiring quotes, as well as some harsh truths.
Civil War II: The Oath opens with Captain America visiting Tony’s body which is presently in stasis. Cap laments that he hates that Tony wound up in stasis and that he misses their back and forth. Cap tells Tony that he has faith that Tony will come back from his physical wounds, but the emotional hurt of knowing that a friend who cared for him was responsible for nearly killing him would be difficult to handle.
In a flashback, Steve is being sworn in as the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. The issue flashes through different reactions to Steve being sworn in and then switches to Hawk-Eye telling Wolf that nobody would want him there after he killed Bruce. Wolf confronts Hawkeye and tells him to stop blaming himself. Miles is sitting away from the inauguration because he still feels like he might somehow be responsible for killing Captain America. Miles explains to Wasp that just because the event didn’t happen the day the fight happened doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t occur in the future.
Cap makes a very inspired speech that ends with, “Let’s not just seek to survive these tragedies – let’s build something better, something nobler, something truer in the face of them. Let’s not just save this world – let’s prove this is a world worth saving.”
Cap announces to Tony that it’s too late for Carol and the rest of the superheroes because the people trust none of them. Cap explains that people are angry and afraid and they were ready for a new regime. Cap calmly states that he is going to destroy everything Tony ever built. The ending scene of the comic has Hydra rising and the people raising their fists in front of a crumbling Capitol Hill that proudly displays the Hydra flag.
Civil War II: The Oath was very dialogue heavy and felt like it dragged a bit in some places. It was a rather grim read in light of recent world events, particularly as it accurately reflects the unrest and anger of people who wanted any change available to him. Though Cap’s acceptance speech was hopeful, the monologue he gives to Tony belied his Hydra brainwashing, but also indicated that subconsciously he wanted Tony to stop him. Unfortunately, The Oath alludes to the fact that Ulysses’ vision will come true.
Captain America: Steve Rogers #10
Written by: Nick Spencer
Artist: Ted Brandt
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Captain America: Steve Rogers is a comic series that I wanted to hate on sheer principal because Cap would never be Hydra. However, I have been pleasantly surprised by this reiteration of Captain America. The writers have beautifully rewritten and reworked Steve’s entire history while keeping faithful to his characteristics that make him Captain America. It is interesting to see Cap give his hope-inspiring speeches and turn around and be evil and manipulative to the people that believe in him.
Issue 10 of Captain America: Steve Rogers, opens in a flashback showing Steve being sent to America to assassinate Erskine as his first Hydra mission. True to his original storyline, Steve continues to be sent away due to his health issues. Flashing forward to present day, Maria Hill has just been found guilty at her trial and relieved of her duties as the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Sharon Carter and Russo meet, and they discuss the threats that are facing them right now. Sharon threatens Russo with the loss of Cap’s endorsement for political office. While this is occurring, Maria Hill escapes and steals the planetary defense shield files that she needed from S.H.I.E.L.D, all the while waving to Cap as she does so. She finds herself at Captain Marvel’s space station and provides Captain Marvel with the plans. Cap meets with the Red Skull, who announces that the plan was to have the Chitauri fleet attack and destroy the world.
Red Skull is unhappy with Steve’s inability to kill Jack Flag, who had previously discovered that Steve was loyal to Hydra. Steve feels like he would not be able to complete his mission, but he would try, despite Red Skull’s misgivings. Steve struggles with the decision to kill Jack, and the issue flashes back to the 1940 mission to kill Dr. Erksine. A thief steals one of the waitress’s purse, and Steve jumps into action, proving himself to Dr. Erksine and the general without meaning to.
The issue flashes to the present and shows Cap about to inject Jack with a poison that would kill him when he is interrupted by Cathy, who saves Cap from having to make the decision to kill Jack by telling him that they are going to turn off the machines, leaving Cap’s conscience clean.
Cap and Sharon discuss the future of S.H.I.E.L.D and Sharon tells Steve that she declined the Director job because the Shield Act was a lot of authority and people should be worried if that got into the wrong hands. Sharon tells Steve that Captain America needs to be the Director and lead this initiative.
The issue ends in a 1940 flashback of Erksine and the general deciding to choose Steve as the subject for Project Rebirth. The issue ends with Cap’s inner monolog of, “Like I said, you never know when we will be called upon, what matters is that we are ready.”
The ending to this issue is both chilling and a tad cliche, but it’s incredibly interesting to see how Steve maintains his sense of morality, despite the fact that his end game is to throw the world into chaos and watch it burn. Also, given Cap’s last line in this issue and Miles’ increasing fear that he will be the one to kill Cap on the Capitol, Cap’s fate is looking a bit grim.
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Penciller: Veronica Fish
Publisher: Marvel Comics
I love Jessica Drew as Spider-Woman. I love that she didn’t choose between having a family and being a superhero and did both. I love that she is always willing to take care of the younger superheroes and is ready to give people second chances, as shown by her relationship with Porcupine and through her loyalty to Bruce. Jessica is a loving, fiercely loyal, and caring person who will beat down everyone who stands in the way of the people she loves, and I admire that about her.
Spider-Woman #15 encompasses all of Jessica Drew’s traits and the lengths she is willing to go through to help save or avenge the ones she loves. In this issue, Jessica is tailing a person in the porcupine suit, hopeful that it is her sidekick and friend, Rodger, who was killed by the Hobgoblin in the previous issue.
After apprehending the porcupine and discovering it wasn’t Rodger, and being told that the Hobgoblin killed Roger over the Porcupine suit, Jessica is hellbent on going after the Hobgoblin for justice. On her way there, Jessica is attacked by Hobgoblin’s goons and is not faring too well when a man in a hoodie comes to her aid.
The man is Rodger, and he explains that he survived the fall by using Jessica’s alien protection maternity belly and that he stayed away because if the Hobgoblin wanted him dead, he wouldn’t stop looking for Rodger. After fifteen issues of seeming unrequited love on Rodger’s part, Jessica kisses him. They are about to discuss what that means when the Hobgoblin comes and kidnaps Rodger, leaving readers hanging and anxiously awaiting for next month’s issue.