It’s a great time to be a comic book fan.
There are tons of awesome television series out there bringing out heroes to life. Gotham, Arrow, and The Flash have all returned. We’ve got shows like Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Outcast, and more on the horizon. We also have some really great books releasing monthly. Really, no matter what sort of stories you enjoy there is a series out there for you. This week Jackson’s got some great reviews for your\ from DC and Marvel – including Darth Vader #10 which is just the latest in what people keep telling me is one of the best on-going books out there right now.
Read on! See what we’re reading. And let us know what you’re reading in the comments.
John Flood #3 (of 6)
Author: Justin Jordan
Artist: Jorge Coelho
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Source: BOOM! Studios DRC
The latest issue of John Flood starts out with a body. I guess that’s not surprising – he and Berry are chasing a serial killer after all. But this body has John’s name carved into his torso. He also happens to be the man that tried to kill John in the first issue. Yikes. It turns out that the cat and mouse game John has been playing with the serial killer is picking up. And maybe John’s not the cat like he thought.
John calls Mrs. Markham (the woman whose cat he rescued) to warn her that she might be in danger. The killer already has her, though, and directs John and Berry to an abandoned building. John in his infinite wisdom forces the killer to up his timeline by setting the building on fire. Then telling Berry to go find Markham while he goes to find the killer. Great plan, John. Of course it doesn’t go very well. The killer catches up to John at the last minute… and they are both still in the building at the end.
Presumably John isn’t going to die. We still have three issues to go. But still. It doesn’t look good.
There’s a certain comfort and calculated excitement to competence porn. That thrill of seeing smart, talented people pull off tricky plans and beat seemingly impossible odds is electric but it can often be hobbled when the illusion breaks and when it suddenly appears as if the protagonists can never lose. A character like Midnighter, someone whose superpower involves calculating every possible situation to win, carries that intrinsic risk. It seems as if Midnighter can never lose when he can see every possible option.
Steve Orlando’s run on Midnighter has often dodged this problem by upping the ridiculousness of the situations its hero finds himself in. In this week’s Midnighter #5, our only-as-psychopathic-as-he-needs-to-be anti-hero teams up with secret-agent Dick Grayson to fight a group of Russians running a monster fight-club. Orlando has a real talent for blending Midnighter’s raging ego with a constant need to prove himself just a little more, regardless of if it’s in the bedroom or the battlefield. Here, he handcuffs himself to Grayson, walks right into a trap and beats the hell out of every werewolf, bat-monster, and walking-nightmare the Russian mafia can throw at him.
There’s a manic, almost Nextwave-esque spirit at work in this issue, with two great, incredibly competent characters absolutely destroying every challenge placed in front of them, regardless of how over-the-top things get. The issue climaxes with a moment highlighting just how ahead of the game Midnighter is. It could feel a little unearned but it’s to the credit of both Orlando’s writing and artists Stephen Mooney that Midnighter always feels fun, dangerous and more than a little risky.
Secret Wars #6
Secret Wars #6 is a perfect example of the perils of examining single issues as their own product rather than a part of a whole. On its own, from a strictly formal and stylistic perspective, this issue is straight forward and a little expected, filled with characters telling each other things the reader already knows. From a larger perspective, Secret Wars #6 is the final bit of calm before the storm. It’s where the last card is placed on the carefully constructed castle before the whole thing topples in a satisfying, exhilarating heap.
Valeria Storm, on a mission from Doom is learning that her surrogate father’s stories and godhood are built on apocalyptic lies. Meanwhile, Peter Parker and Miles Morales learn the origin of Doom’s power and encounter an increasingly mad Molecule Man. At the same time, Namor and Black Panther gain the last tools they’ll need to bring down the mad god as Thanos unleashes The Thing in what could be the end of Doom’s reign.
There are a few surprises here, namely the reveal of how Doom has broken the Fantastic Four and how the Reed Richards of the 616 and the 1610 have become http://premier-pharmacy.com/product-category/gastrointestinal/ wildly different people but most of the plot here is rehashing things the reader has known for months. We all know that Doom and Strange lied in creating Battleworld. We all know how Doom has manipulated Molecule Man. We’ve known that the Cabal has been plotting to bring down a god since the second issue of the series. It’s all a bit rote.
Granted, all of this is executed extremely well by Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic and it’s obvious that what’s coming is going to be explosive but this issue is just a bit sedated. It’s the story we’ve been waiting for “Secret Wars” to get to since July and Marvel’s constant delays to this book have only made the lethargic pacing tougher to handle.
The Goon: Once Upon a Hard Time #4
There’s a certain misogyny baked into the fabric of Eric Powell’s The Goon franchise. It’s the kind of comic that’s trafficked in “dames,” “broads,” and much worse in its portrayal of the ol’ lug Goon and his alcoholic, whoring buddy Frank. What’s important is that women are usually in service of characterizing that pair, showing Goon as a masculine power-fantasy and Frank as something of a sexual and moral degenerate, equally worthy of scorn and laughs.
Over the course of the last two storylines, “Occasions of Revenge” and “Once Upon a Hard Time,” that antiquated take on gender role has been twisted and changed in ways both refreshing and haunting. Much of the b-story of “Occasions of Revenge” focused on a rage-filled paramour being consumed by anger after being rejected by a woman, his bitterness eventually creating an unstoppable supernatural force that only added to The Goon’s woes. “Once Upon A Hard Time” which wraps up this week with issue #4 sees Goon directly dealing with that male internalized rage turning into external violence. It’s a storyline that feels eerily prescient and heartbreakingly familiar for those who’ve kept up with today’s culture of mass shootings.
The story also acknowledges that there are no easy answers. There’s a real sense here that Powell recognizes how much unrequited romance can turn into something worse and how much that can hurt more than just the smitten. Still, it’s a story that smartly recognizes that it’s impossible to make your hurt the responsibility of others. This is also the first story in The Goon’s more than a decade long history that’s acknowledged the haunting violence Goon has inflicted and how much it has permanently scarred him and the people he encounters.
In a way, this much more serious, much more thorough plotting and character analysis does rob “The Goon” of some of the humor and irrepressible comedic pacing that made the series such a fan favorite. It’s an interesting trade though. This is the closest it’s felt to self-analysis that the series has ever come and, if anything, it’s an intriguing change of pace and style for a series that’s so often seemed to pride itself on its own period-piece affectations.
Star Wars: Darth Vader #10
Darth Vader is not a subtle character. The original Star Wars films portray Vader as an attack dog, desperately pulling at the end of his short leash. He lashes out at those who challenge his religious beliefs, breaks those who fail him in even the smallest way, and shamelessly bows to those with any authority over him. That makes him a little bit of a difficult character to build a story around. Vader is intrinsically a subservient character, one whose actions are strictly governed right up until his last moments. He’s brutal but, more importantly, he’s controlled.
What’s most interesting about Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca’s Star Wars: Darth Vader #10 is that it casts Vader as a proactive character. On the outs with Palpatine following the destruction of the Death Star, Vader is jockeying for power and under the thumb of a host of Imperial commanders he refuses to see as superiors. In a lot of ways, it’s cast Vader as an almost Walter White-esque character, someone desperate for power he doesn’t entirely deserve to hold.
At this point in the series, he’s deep in the midst of a scheme involving destroying Imperial ships and capturing the loot for his own purposes while his assistant, Doctor Aphra, builds a mercenary army and hunts Luke Skywalker. However, much like “the man who knocks” Vader’s hubris threatens to be his undoing as as the enterprising Inspector Thanoth begins to unravel the Sith’s schemes.
The best part of Darth Vader isn’t the subtext or an examination of the nature of power and what men will do to hold onto it. It’s in the relentless ratcheting up of tension as the series’ protagonist tightens the noose. What’s most exciting though is seeing him actually tie the knot himself.