It’s a big week for Nerdophiles and comics – everyone’s reading something! Sam started the new Matt Kindt series Grass Kings from BOOM! Studios, while Kylee continues to love Harrow County from Dark Horse Comics.
Jackson read a relatively straight-forward issue of Action Comics from DC Comics, while Renee read Jessica Jones and Captain America: Steve Rogers from Marvel Comics, and Beatrice continues with Assassin’s Creed: Uprising from Titan 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.
Grass Kings #1
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Source: BOOM! Studios DRC
These days stories about backwoods criminals and deviant, off-the-grid communities can be found just about anywhere. You’ve got shows like Animal Kingdom and Outsiders (as well as the recently ended Justified and Sons of Anarchy) plus Dark Horse Comics’ hit series, Briggs Land, just to name a few. Grass Kings is the latest in the trend and it distinguishes itself slightly by how it does not appear to be a largely criminal enterprise. In fact, they may just turn out to be the good guys if the series description is to be believed.
The series follows members of a family that have been protecting this seized patch of land for around a hundred years or so. We’re introduced to the kingdom and it’s history through a particularly interesting point of view. Our introduction comes in the form of a lawman, the brother of the area’s leader, as he drives around an interloper from a nearby town. It’s actually a really cool way to tell the story. We get to meet some of the characters around town and we get to see some of the landmarks – like the ‘airport’ that doesn’t seem to have changed much since the 1950s. We also get a little bit of insight to the beliefs of the people in the Grass Kingdom.
Ultimately, not much happens.
We learn a little bit about Bruce’s brother Robert and his own personal tragedy. We learn that there’s a girl who has escaped from the nearby Cargill and that this is why the kid Bruce caught dared to enter their land in the first place. (Robert finds her coming out of the nearby lake in a particularly depressing parallel to his own tragic past.) We get the hint that while Bruce may not be a recognized lawman by any other authority, the sheriff in Cargill may not be a good guy. And we see the stage set for a lot more to come.
As far as first issues go, this one was pretty good. It was pretty exposition heavy but I liked the way they did it. I probably would have liked for the plot to move ahead a little bit more but Robert discovering the girl in the water coupled with the issues ending panel keep you interested enough to come back for a second issue. Really, the best part of this book was the artwork by Tyler Jenkins. I love his work; he’s got a great style. And it works well with the diluted, water-color inspired coloring throughout. All in all, Grass Kings has a lot of potential. I’m looking forward to seeing how things progress in later issues.
Harrow County #21
Artist: Tyler Crook
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Source: Dark Horse DRC
Well, my prediction at the end of the last issue was partially right. In the latest arc, Emmy did return to Harrow County, but not to the townspeople. Cowering in the barn, she finds Priscilla hidden away in fear of a hunter come to Harrow County to take care of the supernatural creatures. To Emmy’s surprise, the townspeople have gone around her despite her promises that the haints are harmless and found a new potential protector.
After tromping through the woods with Priscilla, and meeting some of her brothers, Emmy gets a feel for this mysterious hunter and how their knowledge of the supernatural may rival her own. It’s enough to rattle her and call back the haint investigating Kammi’s potential return, though the reveal of who is behind some truly horrific traps is done masterfully. The seeds were planted long ago and the twist of who has taken up the mantle for the townspeople is perfect and heartbreaking.
This issue rewards readers with a payoff that has been slowly building over time – the hints were there and the conclusion is an awesome moment, if not a little bit confusing. I’ve no doubt in Cullen Bunn’s writing abilities and Tyler Crook’s artwork is just as stunning and grotesque as always, with the added bonus of new haints. Together they manage to make some terrifying creatures look, at times, cute and scared in their own rights. Already, this arc is shaping up to possibly be my favorite.
Action Comics #975
Author: Dan Jurgens and Paul Dini
Artist: Doug Mahnke and Ian Churchill
Publisher: DC Comics
To say that Superman comics in the last year and a half have been weird would be an incredible understatement. Since’ DC’s poorly conceived “Convergence” crossover, there have been two sets of Clark Kents and Lois Lanes running around the universe and it wasn’t until last summer that those duos dwindled to singles. Now, with Action Comics #975, writer Dan Jurgens is clearing up another one of the mysteries of this run by revealing the identity of the second Clark Kent, a mysterious figure who claims to be the real journalist, friend, and would-be-lover of Lois.
And it doesn’t quite work, not really of any fault of Jurgens’ or artist Doug Mahnke. Jurgens picks a fairly straight-forward villain as the puppet master, a disappointing choice when the fandom had conjured up a host of theories, each more insane than the last. It’s a reflection on the writer really. While he’s rarely been the most radical or controversial scripter, Jurgens is one of the most consistent and his long run on Superman in the ‘90s similarly approached the idea of Superman and his villains representing something of a twisted family. The reveal here is a play on that theme and, on its own, it mostly works, even if it’s decidedly unambitious.
Less can be said about the long backup story that makes up the second half of this oversized issue. It’s mostly an explanation for how the villain has set everything up, using charming retro art by Ian Churchill. Still it’s a waste of guest writer Paul Dini, most famous for being one of the guiding hands of the Batman and Superman animated series, who’s saddled with delivering reams of playful exposition. It has its charms but feels, much like the main story, like too little creativity went into a super sized, special edition issue like this.
Still, Action Comics #975 does feel like a payoff for those who’ve stuck with the complexities of this character for the last few years and offers a mostly satisfying explanation for one of the strangest mysteries in superhero comics today. It’s also a testament to Jurgens’ continued mastery of this character and this universe, keeping the focus on how the Man of Steel impacts not only the DC universe but a host of heroes and villains who see him as a leader and fiend.
Jessica Jones #6
Artist: Michael Gaydos
Publisher: Marvel Comics
This issue opens with Luke and Jessica fighting over the location of their daughter, who Jessica has hidden from Luke. Jessica has also been arrested and been made a social pariah for the sake of a mission put on by Captain Marvel, who already is on shaky ground when it comes to making mission decisions. While all this is happening Jessica is also working a case, where a man claims to be from an alternate universe.
Issue six wraps up the Captain Marvel/undercover storyline but also leaves Jessica’s life in shambles. Carol has promised Jessica that she will call Luke and explain the whole situation, but Jessica is unsure that will mean much. Jessica asks Carol about the plausibility of alternate realities, which Carol sidesteps neatly. Luke has found their daughter and taken her back, leaving Jessica with the parting message that this was something he wouldn’t be able to forgive. The issue ends with Jessica falling to the ground in despair.
Jessica Jones has always had a bit of a rough time as a superhero. Though she loves her husband, Luke Cage, she also keeps him at arm’s length and tends not to trust him with information. Jessica Jones also highlights the volatile nature of relationships and the toll it takes on each person. However, Jessica also shows that she is capable of loving others and that her priorities are different now that she has a daughter.
Captain America: Steve Rogers #13
Artist: Ro Stein and Ted Brandt
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cap waffles between his original core values and Hydra values, and it seems like he is subconsciously aware of this. Like I’ve said in previous reviews, I just want Cap to go back to pre-Pleasant Hill mind warp, because it’s getting to the point where Cap needs to remember who he is or go full evil.
This issue begins with a flashback to 1944, where Cal finds out intel that Zeno is going to attempt to steal a rocket. Cap takes off on his bike to rescue Zemo, but he crashes through too late, and Bucky has sent Zemo to his death. Bucky exclaims happily that Cap had arrived just in time, and Cap is unable to stop Bucky without revealing his position. Cap is explaining all of this to Helmut and promises Helmut revenge. Meanwhile, Helmut has decided that he’s going to surprise Cap by getting all the other villains from Pleasant Hill to remember who they are and help in the long run. The issue ends with the Little Girl from Pleasant Hill smiling as Cap ends by saying, “And together we will change the world.”
Hopefully, we are one step closer to Cap enacting his plan that was foreshadowed in the Oath, but I feel like this story line is dragging on. Issue 13 of Captain America: Steve Rogers continues Hydra Cap’s train wreck of a storyline. I was not a huge fan of this issue, as I feel like Cap spends a lot of his time wallowing over killing his friend’s father, after reminding him in the previous issue that they were family. This issue reminded me a lot of Hamlet, in the sense that Cap continues to struggle with a decision.
Renee Marriott is a staff writer at Nerdophiles.
Assassin’s Creed: Uprising #2
Artist: Jose Holder
Publisher: Titan Comics
Source: Titan Comics DRC
Continuing with the bisectional storytelling, this newest issue of AC: Uprising follows the investigative exploits of Charlotte de la Cruz, a young assassin with particularly strong family history, and Juhani Otso Berg, the Master Templar who also moonlights as the Black Cross.
Following the mess of a mission in Hong Kong, Juhani Otso Berg converses over what possibly could have occurred there. Was it an inside job, or has the Templar order been compromised in some way? Shortly into the conversation, every employee within Abstergo headquarters receives the same cryptic message of only a Templar marking in the shape of a Black Cross. Obviously, the heads of the order desire a meeting with the newly appointed Black Cross, and want to know what information his investigations may be revealing. At the Abstergo executive retreat, the Black Cross, or a Black Cross, arrives to confront the heads, explaining that he believes there may a new column infiltrating the order, and that it may go as far as the heads. Even Juhani Otso Berg sits amongst them — a Black Cross indeed. We come to find out that he is working alongside another, so as to keep his own identity as the Black Cross a secret.
Charlotte similarly faces the confusion of who would be involved in the raid in Hong Kong, but more than that, she must deal with the ramifications of her own identity. Since she is from such a long line of assassins, she worries that she is no longer herself and has instead been “dreamt up” by one of her ancestors, as a creation of some sort within the animus. Is her ease at killing some sort of echo of who she is or isn’t?
The issue similarly humanizes Berg by seamlessly incorporating a backstory related to his little daughter. In several aside comments we see him concerned over her dance recital and harshly reprimanding her for her complaints about knee pain. Perhaps it will not be such a clear cut decision between Assassin and Templar this time around. Or perhaps, they will be forced to work towards a common goal. This remains to be seen.
The Assassins and the Black Cross head to Germany in the hopes of uncovering the truth behind the raid gone wrong in Hong Kong, only to all interact with the same individual: Heinrich Hart. The Assassins view him as a mole for their side, threatening him to find further information on the situation. He admits that he only hears snippets of what might be occurring, but that he is certain the intel he gave them was legitimate. Once parting with the Assassins, Hart is, unfortunately for him, confronted by the Black Cross, who is himself caught unaware by the truth of Hart. He works for the third, as yet unnamed entity, referring only to “her” and claiming that “we are but instruments of her will.” The issue ends with him igniting an endgame grenade, sending Berg into the waters below. We’ve found the third entity, but just who are they?