With just a couple issues left, it looks like The Fade Out is promising to end strong. Meanwhile The Paybacks is continuing on to become a pretty great book even just two weeks in. Teen Titans, though, hits a low note and Giant Days fails to be anything but average. These books are just a few of the ones we read last week.
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Giant Days #7 (of 12)
Author: John Allison
Artist: Max Sarin
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Source: BOOM! Studios DRC
End of the semester exams are here and at least one of the girls is not prepared. Instead of studying, Esther went out to concerts and things. And instead of paying attention in the lectures she did attend she heckled. So she’s kind of screwed. With a little help from Daisy, Jesus, and faith in herself she manages to pass at least one of them. Barely. Not that the wake up call really does her much good.
While she’s dealing with that, Daisy is trying to figure out what’s going on with Susan. If you remember right, McGrew and Susan started hooking up gain. But Susan’s not willing to let the others know. She doesn’t want this relationship to change the one she has with the girls. Except – as McGrew points out – she’s just avoiding them and lying to them now. Not really the stuff strong relationships are made of exactly.
All in all a good, fun issue. Nothing spectacular. That’s generally how the series has gone, though. It’s a great read. I’d definitely recommend it. But don’t expect more from it than what it has to offer. On a side note, this is the first issue with new artist Max Sarin. It doesn’t look too different but there’s an obvious change. I like it.
Author: Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh
Artist: Carolyn Nowak
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Source: BOOM! Studios DRC
This is it folks. We’re finally getting the band back together! Rather, April is getting the band back together and she’s going to force all the others to miss the night-time jamboree to help her if it comes to it. Geared up with a diving suit Jo made she goes down to the merwyn rock concert with a plan to force Harlow and Taylor to be friends again. She actually gets on pretty well with everyone and by stealing a volunteer badge she almost pulls it off.
Until she accidentally plays a sea serpent war cry and brings death and destruction down on everyone.
The saddest thing in this whole issue is the other girls trying to explain to Ripley that they might not be able to make her glittery dress or get back to camp in time for her big night. She doesn’t mean to be inconsiderate – she just gets ideas in her head sometimes and goes for it. Getting mixed up in someone else’s business is just part of that. She’s not thinking of her friends. I think this is great because for kids who read this book – and quite a few adults out there, too – it’s a good reminder that as excited and sure about something as you might be that doesn’t necessarily mean you get to ignore your friends and their feelings. This is very much an arc with a message but I don’t necessarily mind it at all. (We’ll just have to see how preachy it really gets.)
The Paybacks #2
The winks and nudges continue with The Paybacks #2, and a concept that could easily become trite and overused manages to stay fresh and hilarious. Donny Cates’ and Eliot Rahal’s writing manages capture the tenuous feeling of working with people you have to tolerate in order to clock in and clock out of the office, making the dysfunctional repo team that much more hilarious in the face of their latest job: repo-ing from The Command and High Guard, who may just be the most powerful being in the universe.
Artist Geoff Shaw and colorist Lauren Affe deliver on another chaotic and kinetic issue, doing justice to unconventional fight scenes and bringing more than one nod to other pop culture staples with a gorgeous two-page spread. Night Knight, whom the team seems to have accepted all too easily (though if we look to the first issue, perhaps the team doesn’t bother too much with the specifics when the entirety of Miss Adventure’s team was taken out that quickly – perhaps indebted heroes don’t stick around for long), provides the reader foil to better explain some of the inner workings of the team.
And thrown into his first assignment with little explanation, Night Knight’s skepticism leads to an interesting cliffhanger with larger implications for the Paybacks and their mysterious boss, Mr. Pierce. I’m eager for the next issue to see how the creative team can spin the latest revelation into something as witty and hilarious as the first two issues of this new series.
The Fade Out #10
There’s only two issues left of Ed Brubaker’s and Sean Phillips’ Hollywood noir, The Fade Out, and this week’s issue #10 pushes the players closer and closer to dealing with the central mystery of the series. There’s still lots of corruption, darkness, and misanthropy to deal with as Gil and Charlie get closer to learning all the details of Valeria’s death but, in a lot of ways, it feels like there’s still a sea between them and the truth. It’s hard to tell how much of that is purposeful and how much of that is failing to put together the small clues the series has laid out.
Here, Charlie attends a party and makes a series of tough calls before getting the big break that he needs about the night of Valeria’s death. Like previous issues, it’s tough to see Charlie continue to overlook his problems with alcohol and the people around him as he confronts those he blames for the woman he loves’ death. There’s lots of bruised feelings throughout The Fade Out #10 and it’s going to be interesting to see how many of those little niggling issues will be resolved in the book’s finale.
Unlike past Phillips and Brubaker series like Criminal and Fatale, The Fade Out lays out its central mysteries in small moments and small clues, expecting that readers will put together its puzzles and clues as its protagonists do. It’s a clever decision that can only work here. Unlike Fatale, which used Lovecraftian imagery and noir tropes to create a sense of a mystery that can never truly be solved, The Fade Out is entirely about the petty nastiness of cruel men, the evil that people do to satisfy their basest instincts. The smell of cigarettes, cheap liquor, and cheaper sex consume this series and it’s a mystery that can be solved, even if there aren’t going to be any easy answers.
Star Wars: Darth Vader #11
The best double-crosses are the ones that aren’t. There’s nothing more satisfying than watching a character realize how thoroughly they haven’t played their target but instead how thoroughly they’ve been played themselves. Breaking Bad mastered this repeatedly in its third and fourth seasons as Walt and Gus circled each other, playing each other as they searched to seize and hold dominance, if only just for a moment.
Right now, reading Star Wars: Darth Vader #11, you can feel that same, relentless sense of tension as characters pivot and manipulate each other, each thinking they hold the high ground for a moment. Here, Aphra buys Luke’s location from a criminal information broker, all while his space station is boarded by Vader and Thanoth who are each following the trail of Aphra’s seized Imperial credits, each wondering exactly what the other is doing and planning.
Thanoth and Vader setting traps for one another forms the spine of the issue but a moment between Aphra and Vader is the highlight here as the not-so-good doctor wonders if her time of usefulness to the Sith has come to an end. It’s a bleak, brutal moment between two characters, both aware of how much their relationship is based on practicality is electric and dangerous. It’s the kind of exciting unpleasantness only a book as relentlessly focused on the intricacies of villainy and power can show off and it’s another testament to how delightful this comic so often is.
Teen Titans #12
Outside of comics, one of DC’s most visible properties has been the Teen Titans. Between the first cartoon series and the more recent Teen Titans GO!, kids are exposed to these characters from a young age and develop connections to the concept on television. Theoretically, it should be easy to introduce young readers to the Titans in the company’s comics but that sadly has rarely been the case. When DC relaunched the series a little more than a year ago, it seemed like Will Pfeifer and Kenneth Rocafort were actively trying to make a series teenagers could get into. The Titans were fun, talented, sexy and had that electric sense of being a teenager who think they’re on the top of the world. Much of that success had to do with cutting out the complications introduced before the relaunch.
Unfortunately, this week’s Teen Titans #12 no longer offers that same open, welcoming situation and relationships and that’s all thanks to Scott Lobdell. Lobdell, who ruined the concept when Teen Titans launched with the New 52, is back co-writing the series and he reintroduces Harvest, a frankly terrible villain that requires a massive amount of explanation, backstory, and knowledge in order to keep up with. Pfeifer’s voice on the series is basically nonexistent in this issue.
Instead, readers are subjected to page after page of Lobdell’s ‘90s inspired bullshit. I hope you remember the details of his terrible homicidal Kid Flash story because it all gets referenced here. Did you enjoy the mystifying, almost intentionally idiotic Superboy storyline Lobdell wrote two years ago? I hope so because it all gets referenced here. Did you like the awful explanation for the relationship between Trigon and Wonder-Girl because, you fucking guessed it, it’s all back here, as dumb and mildly inappropriate as it’s always been.
There’s a reason Lobdell was taken off this series. He never understood the characters, he frankly is a poor choice for writing teenagers and his love of his own unmitigated terribleness is hard to read month to month. He’s a relic of the worst bits of Marvel’s boom and bust years, one DC has desperately tried to distance itself from in the last few years. His return on this title is embarrassing and mystifying in equal measure. Teen Titans #12 reads like as much of an artifact as Lobdell is, something best left forgotten by issues of X-Force and Danger Girl and ultimately, it’s one of the worst, most disappointing comics of 2015, to be avoided at all costs.