We’ve got four-star ratings all around this week – except for Joyride #6 which Sam has mixed emotions about. Over all, though, this was a really good week for our writers as far as comic books go. The Backstagers remained solid and gave itself some added dimension in both story and character development. Meanwhile Hadrian’s Wall and Harrow County hold strong. And Tom King is putting his own unique spin on the ever ubiquitous Batman.
Did you read any of these issues this week? What did you think?
Author: James Tynion IV
Artist: Rian Sygh
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Source: BOOM! Studios DRC
When I first started reading this issue I was for some reason surprised to realize that it’s just the third issue in this series. The Backstagers story just feels so familiar and it has become one of the books I look most forward to each month. A lot of it has less to do with the book itself than it does the plot and setting. When you grow up as the weird theatre kid, it’s great to relive all that again – with the added benefit of all kinds of crazy, kooky supernatural elements.
This issue in particular Beckett who is, it appears, the resident techie. Beckett is an introvert and he’s sort of turned the tech room into his own personal getaway. But with the two stage managers graduating at the end of the year it’s time for Beckett to step up and start to train a replacement so he can in turn replace them. Unfortunately, that means he’s got to start teaching Sacha how to run things. And, predictably, that doesn’t go very well. When Sacha breaks a priceless, mysterious crystal that Beckett has been using to power the lights and sound board, Beckett absolutely looses it. This in turn sends Sacha on dangerous mission to find a replacement in the tunnels all on his own.
We spend most of this issue outside of the tunnels which is a bit of a departure from the last couple issues but it was a nice change. I’m sure in the next issue we’ll be right back to exploring the unknown as Beckett’ attempts to make things right. But it gave us an opportunity to spend more time with the kids, meet a cool new character, and lay some more foundation for the setting and upcoming story. We got to know a little bit more about the school’s production of Les Terribles, which is apparently a Les Miserables parody that’s about clowns? And we get to learn how the Backstagers deal with all the crazy stuff in the tunnels during productions! (Apparently they desperately board everything up and hope no one goes missing again.)
It’s the little things and the silly details like that in this story that I love so much.
Author: Jackson Lanzing & Collin Kelly
Artist: Marcus To
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Source: BOOM! Studios DRC
I think I’m jumping ship and getting off this joyride with this issue. As much as I like the idea behind the series and the artwork, it’s just hard to keep coming back to it each issue. I mean, is it just me or does anyone else out there think that Joyride would have been a way better premise for a graphic novel than it has been for an on-going series? I’m not really digging this month-to-month thing. The story just doesn’t seem to flow as well as it could because it’s so broken up. Every issue has it’s own start, beginning, and end which can be good but with Joyride it feels weirdly limiting.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not giving up on the series as a whole.
I’m just… probably going to wait for the trades from here on out.
This wasn’t a bad issue. The writers did a lot of really great stuff with the mysteries behind the weird ship that our heroes have commandeered. It’s just that the whole unrequited love thing was old by the second issue and it’s just continued to drag on. In this issue it looks like Dewydd may be moving on to a degree but the relationship between him and Uma is still going to be on the rocks for a while and it all goes back to that. It’s realistic, yes. But it’s also kinda distracting from the sci-fi elements and Dewydd and Uma’s relationship basically overshadows all the others.
So, basically, this was a really good issue for the series. It does a lot to advance the science fiction elements and kicks the mysteries of the ship. (Seriously, I’m incredibly intrigued by the inner workings of this ship.) But I’m already over the drama between Dewydd and Uma and at this point it just seems like it’s going to get any better any time soon. It looks like things are going to get antagonistic now and that’s hardly an improvement. It’s just frustrating because I really want to enjoy this book more than I am right now.
Hadrian’s Wall #2
Author: Kyle Higgins & Alex Siegel
Artist: Rod Reis
Publisher: Image Comics
Source: Image DRC
While last issue set the stage and introduced some of the major players, issue #2 of Hadrian’s Wall begins to dig into the suspects as Simon slowly realizes the death of his former friend wasn’t an accident at all. With smart dialogue and a few panels, readers get a feel for each crew member. There are no groundbreaking character reveals – the captain was lenient on Edward’s whims to space walk, someone else is glib about the entire thing, a woman is nervous about the entire situation, and someone clearly didn’t get along with our victim – and yet it’s the embracing of these tropes that highlights our story is not really about the whodunnit, but the why.
Kyle Higgins and Alex Siegel do a fantastic job of sprinkling out the information, as well as giving some high-tension emotional moments, both for Simon when he finds his pills gone, and for Annabelle who reacts as one would expect to her ex-husband questioning her about her dead husband. Rod Reis’ art also does a fantastic job of conveying the differing crew members, as well as their reactions to the death – nerves, apathy, anger, and more all play well on the faces of the harangued crew. Add the gorgeous character work to the expected cliffhanger and Hadrian’s Wall has me eagerly awaiting the next issue.
Harrow County #17
Author: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Carla Speed McNeil
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Source: Dark Horse DRC
When we spoke with Cullen Bunn at San Diego Comic Con this year, he told us that there would be a two-issue arc from Carla Speed McNeil and it appears that we’ve made it to those issues. I think that me sentiments echo his, ultimately Harrow County is Tyler Crook’s baby and any other artist working in his domain gives me pause.
McNeil’s work is beautiful and haunting in its own right, but her renderings of The Family gave me that split-second pause in each panel where I had to reconcile what I was seeing on the page with who I was already familiar with. However, she did get the first crack at giving a more defined look at The Abandoned with her arc and the creature does come across more menacing, with vulnerabilities still, than in past issues.
Still, readers begin somewhat in the middle of the story with The Abandoned talking of their interactions with The Family and not necessarily everyone’s origins overall, though they’re briefly touched on in the narrative. It’s a slower issue with Emmy listening uninterrupted to the story that ends on a telegraphed cliffhanger that doesn’t necessarily build suspense for the second part.
The one-page short story written by Bunn at the end has more visceral and immediate impact than the main story, but I’ve no doubt Bunn and McNeil will pull us towards a satisfying conclusion regardless.
Author: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Publisher: DC Comics
Since about 2010, two voices have defined Batman more than any other, the cerebral, symbolic, psycho-odyssey of Grant Morrison and the grand Giallo pulp of Scott Snyder. While the two have a host of writing similarities, namely an attention to the failings of Bruce’s self-destructive relationship with his surrogate family and the women in his life, their approaches to the character are vastly different.
Morrison’s Batman is cold and detached, a man desperately attempting to stop being a boy while Snyder’s was the eternal pragmatist, the ultimate survivor, defined by his refusal to be broken by a world devoted to bending him to his will.
It’s still too early to tell what DC’s rising superstar Tom King will do to define his take on Batman but Batman #9, the beginning of the new “I Am Suicide” storyline shows a canny blend of the two previous creators. His Batman is headstrong, willing to throw himself into assuredly deadly situations while the rest of his family notes that he’s increasingly falling apart. It’s all showcased well here, with Bruce leaving the still recovering Gotham Girl in the hands of Alfred and Duke as he prepares to hunt down Bane and Psycho Pirate with a handpicked Suicide Squad of his own.
Batman #9 is almost entirely a recruitment mission, with Batman handpicking his team of criminals and supervillains to take on Santa Prisca but it’s still a wonderfully atmospheric issue. Artist Mikel Janin is generally known for his highly detailed action sequences, but here, he’s devoted entirely to the oppressive nature of insanity and segregation of Arkham Asylum.
Everything’s arranged in tight boxes, replicating the narrow cells of the Asylum and hiding secrets and hidden references wherever possible. Eagle-eyed readers and longtime DC fans will spot plenty of minor villains, as well as one time-displaced original member of the Legion of Superheroes.
It’s a thrill seeing both who Batman does and doesn’t pick and it admirably builds excitement for King and Janin’s upcoming storyline but it also offers a compelling example of what to expect from King as his run continues. After an introduction heavy on establishing new characters and taking a back seat on the Night of the Monster Men crossover, it’s nice to see King take a step away from his comfort zone to define a character who’s been so well established in his own way.