From BOOM! Studios this week, Sam read issues of Lumberjanes and The Backstagers, rating them both with four stars. Kylee reviewed the second issue of Eden’s Fall from Top Cow, as well as Cryptocracy from Dark Horse Comics, which is picking up steam once again.
Jackson was thoroughly impressed by Rick Remender’s Deadly Class and its new arc from Image Comics.
Check out the full reviews below and tell us what you’re reading in the comments!
Artist: Carey Pietsch
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Source: BOOM! Studios DRC
With Mal and Ripley missing – and all of Zodiac cabin turned to stone (except for Diane) – it’s up to the remaining girls to track them down and figure out what is going on. Diane blames a gorgon. But it turns out that this may not entirely be the truth. I mean, sure, a gorgon takes Mal and Ripley but she may not be the bad guy. In fact, she thinks Diane is behind all the people being turned into stone. So who do we believe?
There seems to be a lot of mistrust towards one another on the part of the Greek gods and the gorgons. Diane thinks she’s on a quest on the orders of her overbearing father. Meanwhile the gorgon is on a mission to investigate all this people-turning-to-stone nonsense because, as you can imagine, it usually gets blamed on them. And this Gorgon, named Ligo, actually thinks that Diane is behind everything.
Once they know the truth, Mal and Ripley are more than happy to trust Ligo. She doesn’t look at them – instead she seems to look through the eyes of her snakes (which Ripley loves, by the way). It turns out, too, that it’s really not Diane. Because while Mal and Ripley and Ligo hang out in a cave trying to plan their next move, the other girls are getting attacked by giant birds that vaguely look like monster Spearrow’s that can turn things (like poor innocent possums) to stone.
This is a great twist and I can’t wait to see the two groups come together to work this all out. Hopefully Mal, Ripley, and Ligo manage to rescue everyone in the next issue. Though, Molly doesn’t seem to need much rescuing. She fights back against the monsters – with a little help from her raccoon buddy. She’s such a bad ass. She and Diane actually bond a bit this issue. Diane’s parents are hard on her but so are Molly’s. We finally learn what’s been bothering her. It turns out her parents aren’t very thrilled with having a bad ass, tomboy daughter who maybe likes other girls. They sent her to camp to get turned into a proper lady (but somehow she maybe wound up at the wrong camp).
Issue #31 can’t get here soon enough!
The Backstagers #2
Artist: Rian Sygh
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Source: BOOM! Studios DRC
After a pretty crazy first day, Jory is back to join the rest of backstagers prepping for the upcoming show. Well, he’s there in part to help but mostly he’s there to try and get answers about the crazy world underneath the school. No one seems to have answers, though, or even seem that interested in them. They all just accept it and defer to the instructions of Timothy and Jamie – the so far unknown stage managers. When the diva twins demand that part of the set be repainted in a hundred different colors, Hunter decides this is his chance to make Jory like him. They venture into the depths of the ‘backstage’ realm to find a paint room they found once.
Of course, it’s never that easy. The tunnels and rooms frequently change and as sure as Hunter is about where to find the paint room he doesn’t manage to actually track it down. Instead they wind up scrapping with some giant spiders and look like they may get lost just like a group of backstagers who went missing in 1987 and were never seen again. Luckily they manage to escape the spiders, find the paint, and – with a little help from the stage managers – get back safely.
But the mysteries don’t end there. While everyone claims the backstagers who went missing are just a myth, Hunter and Jory see their names painted on a wall deep underground. Even the stage managers deny it – which just makes Jory more suspicious. I’m suspicious, too. I suspect that the 1987 backstagers will be back…
I’m in love with this series. I love the story. I love the world they’re exploring. I love the artwork and the vibrant colors on each page. It’s awesome. It’s such a fun, positive series. And it’s empowering. It’s empowering for the nerds, the theatre geeks, the often overlooked backstage kids and LGBT readers of all ages.
Eden’s Fall #2
Artist: Atilio Rojo
Publisher: Top Cow / Image Comics
Source: Top Cow DRC
This issue, more than the last, relies on the different series that Eden’s Fall draws on. The mayor of Eden breaks with the spirit of her town in order to clean up the mess that both James and Thornton create by being there. She offers James a chance at redemption for his mission, but at a heavy cost. Even up until the confrontation, she continues to offer him a way out – he only asks for a letter to be sent a month after he leaves Eden for Mexico. However, the ending lacked some of the emotional impact it could have had if I were more familiar with the other series’ and took away a little bit of the enjoyment I found in the first issue.
Between that, an actual asterisk that pointed readers to a separate issue and series, and leaning heavily on James and Thornton’s history in another separate series, as a new reader to this universe, I felt somewhat left behind. It was also a distraction to stop and wonder how the events of this series will affect the other series at this one’s end.
Even so, Atilio Rojo deserves a lot of the credit for this issue, effortlessly inking Mayor Shiffron’s medieval tale and the brutal confrontation between James and Thornton. The harshness and the angles really serve to give credence to the brutality of the sequence. Rojo’s artwork serves to drive home the emotional script and doesn’t flinch away from the reveal at the end of the issue, promising a completely new ballgame when the series returns with issue #3.
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Source: Dark Horse DRC
Pete Woods absolutely shines in this issue of Cryptocracy, which allows him to flex his muscles as an artist through showcasing the Preserve, the all-important neutral ground for families and cryptids alike. What starts as a harmless hunt for information quickly becomes a huge mistake when Grahame and his companions realize that Hum has infiltrated the Preserve and turned some of the cryptids against the families.
It’s a double-cross at lightning speeds, fulfilling another aspect of the prophecies and bringing the Nine families that much closer to ruin. There’s also a side plot that begins to solidify Bela’s role in all of this as she meets with a familiar face and is heralded as an asset in the fight against the families’ control. And the cliffhanger ending may just shift the priorities of the Mars family.
Van Jensen has hardly given his characters a chance to rest in the first four issues of this series, with little breathing room in sight, but pushes towards higher and higher stakes may finally be reaching a breaking point. The problem I’ve been facing in all of this frenetic energy is in connecting with the characters themselves. Perhaps with some implied interaction between Grahame and Bela next issue, readers will be able to reconnect with the human elements of such a fantastical story.
Regardless of the disconnect I felt in even the most emotional of scenes in this issue, it was probably my favorite since the first. Gripping action with compelling character elements that grounded them again and reminded readers of the stakes is everything I want to see in this series.
Deadly Class #22
Author: Rick Remender
Artist: Wes Craig
Publisher: Image Comics
There are few creators as obsessed with blowing up the premise of their own books quite like Rick Remender. From Uncanny X-Force to his Captain America run, from Fear Agent to Black Science, Remender tends to build books to the point where he can dramatically change a status quo or character or team. In Uncanny X-Force, his best book and one of the best Marvel comics of the last decade, he and Jerome Opena did that by refocusing the series solely around the consequences of the team’s first actions, arguably turning them into the series’ villains by the emotionally wrenching final issues. In Black Science, he and Mateo Scalera revealed the full depths of the multiverse by introducing a heroic replacement for the emotionally compromised Grant.
The relative grounding of the setting of Deadly Class, Remender and Wes Craig’s ‘80s period piece about would-be-teenage assassins, made it seem like it would be difficult to walk back the last arc’s brutal cliffhanger which left most of the main cast dead and one member revealed as a much more sinister force than anyone could have imagined.
Instead of walking away from that darkness, the real twist in Deadly Class #22 is how much the creative team leans into the aftermath of the ugliness. Despite the nihilism at the center of her character, we find Saya tortured by her betrayal, realizing the depths that she’s been pushed to by Lin and what she’s given up in the search for purpose.
She’s not the only one still dealing with the pain of finals though. Shabnam’s desperately trying to hold his alliance of convenience together but, without an enemy to rally against, finds leadership difficult, especially with Brandy and Viktor jockeying for their own taste of power and control.
That sense of loss, of the potential that everything could fall apart in a moment, hangs over the issue, with no moment more potent than when Saya visits the graves of her former friends and victims. It’s a chilling moment, especially for readers who grasp all of the implications of how deep Saya’s betrayal of Willie and Marcus went.
Just as gut wrenching is Shabnam’s speech. For a character so often portrayed solely as a backstabber and cretin, his drugged up advice for the new class is a brutally sad peek at the character’s psyche. He recognizes how little those who surround him actually care and how mercenary his relationships are and when he shouts “None of these people are your friends!” readers will feel the hurt as acutely as he does.
I wasn’t sure just how this book would rebuild itself in the wake of the main cast’s death and, frankly, Deadly Class #22 doesn’t offer a lot of answers for just what the book is going to look like next month or even next year.
Instead, it offers a lot of hints at the implications of last issue’s bloodletting. It reinforces the manipulative, cynical role of Lin’s school of killers and the pain it inflicts on those who survive while letting the remaining class, wittingly or not, engage in the same emotional and psychic sadism.
Deadly Class #22 still has the same brutal, oftentimes deliberately abrasive tone and language the series has always used but it’s sharpened with self-awareness, with characters who recognize what they’re doing but unwilling or unable to avoid inflicting the same pain that’s so scarred them on others.
It’s a wonderfully well-realized reinvention, one that re-contextualizes the evil of the series’ first two years in character rather than setting in a genius way. It’s an issue that changes everything without destroying a premise, one that fundamentally alters characters without taking them off the playing field and it makes for one Remender’s best reinventions in years.