There were a lot of great comics this week, starting with Sam’s reviews of Mega Princess and The Backstagers, both from BOOM! Studios. Kylee enjoyed Hook Jaw from Titan Comics and Jackson took a look at The Belfry, a one-shot from Image Comics, while Renee reviewed Spider-Gwen and Spider-Woman 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.
Mega Princess #4 (of 5)
Author: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Brianne Drouhard
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Source: BOOM! Studios DRC
We’re another month into the mystery of what happened to Prince Bobs. At the end of the last issue Max and Justine were imprisoned in ‘sea jail’ after following clues that led them under the sea. While Justine loses all hope, Max puts on her thinking cap and starts thinking of ways to escape. One of the main concepts behind this series was that Max inherited the powers of all the other fairytale princesses. That means she has a lot of tools in her toolbox – at least in theory.
Rapunzel probably wouldn’t have been the princess whose powers I would have chosen because I wouldn’t have thought of the prehensile hair. So go Max! She uses her magic hair to get a key and escape. And then in a real teaching moment she refuses to release a shark that she had met in jail. They worked through their differences but in the end she tells him he has to stay and go to trial for whatever his crimes may be. Most of the time you see heroes in shows releasing the seemingly nice guy in the next cell without a second thought or releasing fellow prisoners to use as a diversion. Max shows restraint and since she doesn’t know why he’s there she can’t put anyone else in danger.
Afterward she and Justine go look for Bob and find Princess Star who is upset because her own baby brother is also missing. When Max realizes that cattails were found at both crime scenes, she puts two and two together to track down the missing princes to a kingdom ruled by an evil witch with a pond full of frogs. Evil witch and kidnapped princess? Sounds like the right culprit this time.
This was an excellent penultimate issue for the series. Max get to show off her smarts, she shows some really great decision making, and she finds the last clue she needs to go find Bobs. This issue got to show off Max’s princess powers in a really creative new way. It also got to poke a little fun at her conversations with Justine (and how no one else can understand her because she’s a horse). It was cute, clever, and fun. And I can’t wait to see how the next issue plays out. Unfortunately, Mega Princess ends next month with the fifth and final issue, sadly. Hopefully we’ll see the series return at some point with Max solving another mystery!
The Backstagers #7 (of 8)
Author: James Tynion IV
Artist: Rian Sygh
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Source: BOOM! Studios DRC
So last issue we discovered that the Backstagers’ latest jaunt backstage was actually two months long and they were considered missing like the stage crew that went missing three decades prior. The aftermath was pretty much what I expected. The stage crew was shut down, the boys have been told to stay away from each other, and their faculty advisor is getting fired.
The problem is that the show must go on and everything. So the theatre hasn’t shut down. The backstage is just being run by a private company and the McQueen brothers are still acting like drama queens. Until Kevin goes missing after Polaroid abducts him and drags him into the backstage hellbent on bringing the magic out into the real world.
This issue is pretty great because the kids face some actual consequences. Sure in the end the team gets back together to face the threat posed by Polaroid and everything. But still. Jory’s mother is pissed. Hunter isn’t allowed to hang out with any of them. Aziz’s parents made him join track with his brothers. Sasha is playing football (for some reason). They disappeared and this is the cost. The Backstagers aren’t coming back – at least not as an official school club. And, honestly, that’s a very realistic reaction – one that probably should have happened back in 1987 when the first group disappeared.
Apparently not all of them did disappear, though. “Monkey” – one of the missing Backstagers – is still alive and well. The boys’ faculty advisor is actually Monkey and I suspect he’s the reason the Backstagers program stayed alive. He knew there was an evil that needed to be contained; that he decided to enlist generations of high school kids to fight his battles for him is a bit irresponsible. But I guess there weren’t a whole lot of options when the entrance to this creepy backstage was in the theatre and he kept getting older.
Now that we know who Monkey is I’m sure we’re in for an epic finale next month. I’m really going to miss this book because it’s one of the best looking books I’m reading right now. I love Rian Sygh’s artwork and the character designs are amazing. I think if I have to point to one person who really brings this book together, though, it’s the colorist, Walter Baiamonte. This book is so brigkhtly and uniquely colored that despite the at times darker themes and locations it still remains vibrant and alive at all times. I just wanted to give him a shout out one more time before the book ends.
I’m really going to miss this book when it ends next month. This was such a great issue. Despite the everything that has happened and the consequences they’ve faced after disappearing for two months, the boys don’t hesitate to get the gang back together. In the end they’re ready to take on Polaroid no matter how badly it can go for them. Backstagers is such a positive, upbeat all-ages comic – even when facing certain doom. There better be a complete, hardcover release of this series once it’s over because I need that in my life pronto.
Sam Wildman is a co-founder and co-editor at Nerdophiles. Her years working backstage were never as exciting as the Backstagers’ seem to be.
Hook Jaw #3
Author: Si Spurrier
Artist: Conor Boyle
Publisher: Titan Comics
Source: Titan DRC
Conor Boyle’s artwork is what saves this issue for me. Horrifying at times (we are dealing with shark attacks after all), especially after one of the revelations in this issue, the ocean life and scenery it allows Boyle to depict really is masterful. As Mag and some of the CIA boys descend into the depths after a shipping container, the dark blue to black ocean depths feel claustrophobic and imposing. The attack in this issue is jarring, chaotic, and terrifying thanks to Boyle’s art and Guilia Brusco’s coloring.
Unfortunately, the issue is wordy and Spurrier is compelled to spell everything out for readers. Jasper makes a call early on in the issue, but to who? Don’t worry, you’ll know exactly who. When things on the ocean floor aren’t as expected, you’ll find out exactly who thwarted the recon mission. The issue also starts with a two page spread that ham-fistedly trips into politics, even more so than the previous ecological conservation.
For a series rooted in shark attacks, they’re used sparingly in this new iteration in favor of a much larger conspiracy. More questions are posed and very few answers are given, which feels too frenetic in a five-issue miniseries. It’d admirable to try to give some real substance to this character and the world Hook Jaw inhabits, but with so much going on and such a short amount of time to convey it all, I don’t know that I anticipate a satisfying conclusion.
The Belfry #1
Author: Gabriel Hardman
Artist: Gabriel Hardman
Publisher: Image Comics
There’s something so innately personal about dreams and that factor is exactly what makes them so exclusive. The way our subconscious dredges up our anxieties, fears, and regrets into a nocturnal horror all our own. It’s that intimacy that allows us to look past often glaring gaps in logic, total lack of consistency, and any sense of something reminiscent of day to day life. All that’s left is fear and it’s a fear uniquely our own.
The Belfry one-shot, written and drawn by Gabriel Hardman operates on nightmare logic. It’s a semi-lucid story of bats, vampires, transformation, flight, and the unnamed desire to cause pain. For those looking for a linear, traditional horror story, this isn’t it. There are the bones of traditional vampire mythology, the transformation and the consumption of blood, the fear of becoming an inscrutable other, but the pieces don’t connect, not entirely. That’s purposeful and it’s clear The Belfry isn’t a comic where readers are meant to have a clear picture of everything that’s going on. What’s important is the feeling, the horror of the beast inside, of unleashing pain outside of our control.
Ultimately, The Belfry is about the fears we have about the extent of our own capabilities to inflict pain to the ones we love. It’s the rare comic that uses its non-linear structure and opaque storytelling to focus on character and relatable human fears. Like those dreams it draws its structure from, the horror of The Belfry is derived not from the recounting of the nightmare but the recognition of the fears deep within ourselves.
Writer: Jason Latour
Artist: Robbi Rodriguez
In this issue, Peter Parker has rounded up S.I.L.K. agents as Miles and Gwen attempt to figure out what they are supposed to do next. The bad guys beam back to Earth-65 and Gwen explains to Miles that it looks he and Gwen robbed the trucks and pulls him away, promising him that they will work together. Miles refuses to go to the other superheroes because they might end up punching each other and does not want to go to any adults. Gwen figures out that the bad guys and Evil Twin dad are trying to replicate the teleporter on Miles’ wrist and that S.I.L.K. has already figured out how to teleport without it.
Ms. Marvel shows up and gives Gwen the equivalent of the shovel talk and reminds Gwen that Miles is a nice person and not to hurt him. Miles reminds Gwen that how they do things is important and Gwen admits that she’s been twisted up for a long time.
S.I.L.K. accidentally transports themselves not very far from where they stole the batteries (they’re goons for a reason), and Miles steals their transporter to go back and find his dad while throwing his transporter to Gwen. Gwen takes the other transporter to go back as well, telling Ms. Marvel to let the champions know what’s going on because she and Miles have teamed up and it’s important. The issue is to be continued with as Gwen disappears into the teleporter light.
Spider-Gwen and Miles have arrived on Earth 616! I love them together, I really do. There are genuine moments where Gwen and Miles are the vulnerable teenagers that they are, and remind the readers just how different their worlds can be. Gwen, in particular, is able to acknowledge that she’s not been the person or the hero she wants to be, and Miles, in contrast, shows her what heroes are supposed to be. Plus, Miles is quite frankly adorable in this issue as he fumbles through awkwardly trying to tell Gwen he likes her. I mean, how precious is that?
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Veronica Fish
This issue picks up where the previous issue left off. The Porcupine is now hanging by a rope from the Hob-Goblin’s hovercraft as The Porcupine monologs about his love for Jessica and her commitment to others, and that despite being hurt, she would always be willing to fight for the things she loves.
Jessica, despite being hurt, leaps into the fight and sacrifices her bike. After being nearly burned to death, Porcupine helps save himself and joins Jessica in the fight against Hob-Goblin. The two can fight the Hob-Goblin, and as they are about to engage in one last battle, the Hob-Goblin is smooshed by Captain Marvel arriving and saving the day.
Carol gives a speech about Jessica needing to forgive her so they can move on and be friends. Jessica gives Carol a thumbs up and tells her that is fine as Jessica and Porcupine kiss quite a bit. The issue previews a road trip with Jessica and her family.
This issue of Spider-Woman just punched me right in all the feels, in a good way. Finally, something good happens to one of my favorite spider superheroes, although it took them some time to get there. Jessica has always been loyal to the people she cares for and loves, and she tends to be more compassionate towards people. Jessica and Porcupine are finally able to express their feelings for another, and no one died. She and Carol even made up in the end, so Jessica has all of her people again.
Renee Marriott is a staff writer at Nerdophiles.