Champions #2 — Writer: Mark Waid; Pencils: Humberto Ramos; Inks: Victor Olazaba; Colors: Edgar Delgado
Occupy Avengers #1 — Writer: David F. Walker; Pencils: Carlos Pacheco; Inks: Rafael Fonteriz; Colors: Sonia Oback
Marvel released a number of Avengers-related books this week. Avengers #1 is really just a continuation of All-New, All-Different Avengers, with writer Mark Waid now teaming up with artist Mike del Mundo; the kid Avengers (Nova, Ms. Marvel and the Miles Morales Spider-Man) have left to form the core of the Champions, so Peter Parker offers to bankroll the Jane Foster Thor, Sam Wilson Captain America, the new Wasp, and the Vision, along with Hercules, and, as the cover up there to the left indicates, they become the new team. The villain for the first arc is Kang, and Waid, who’s an expert on Marvel continuity and a smart writer, looks like he’ll be combining a number of the time-traveling despot’s incarnations — Kang himself, Immortus, Rama-Tut, the Scarlet Centurion, the kid Kang, etc. — in a great big pile-on, which starts with targeting all the current members of the team as infants, in their cribs (or, in the Vision’s case, on a lab bench) and erasing them (uh-oh…). Waid’s got the skill to make this a compelling story, and del Mundo’s fluid, painterly art looks more than able to handle the surreal, time-broken visuals that result from the Kang gang’s machinations. Waid’s also helming The Champions, as our young-Avenger splinter group, having already added the Hulk and Viv, the Vision’s daughter, go on a camp-out to get acquainted and figure out their mission, and pick up the kid version of Cyclops, too. Lots of character interaction (and some surprises, especially on the last page), as you’d expect from Waid, and Ramos, as always, offers just the right combination of light touch (the cartoony expressions of everyone really add to the dialogue, in both the humorous and the dramatic scenes) and action. This book has barely gotten started, and is already establishing a solid footing. Occupy Avengers sees Clint “Hawkeye” Barton, having killed Bruce Banner a few months ago, wandering in the American Southwest and encountering the town where the now-time-displaced Red Wolf lives; naturally, they get involved with one of those bad-guys-exploiting-the-local-Native-Americans deals. Old pro Pacheco delivers some nice Western/wide-open spaces art, and a couple of decent splash pages, and, given the book’s title, there are the inevitable speeches about taking back the power for the little people, but without knowing more about how the book’s cast is going to gel we’ll have to put it in the wait-and-see category for now.
Foolkiller #1 — Writer: Max Bemis; Pencils: Dalibor Talajic; Inks: Jose Marzan Jr.; Colors: Miroslav Mrva
Scarlet Witch #12 — Writer: James Robinson; Art: Annapaola Martello; Colors: Matt Yackey
Spider-Woman #13 — Writer: Dennis Hopeless; Art: Veronica Fish; Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
There were a few other Marvel debuts this week, too — Unworthy Thor is a mini-series chronicling the adventures of Thor Odinson, the former hammer wielder (as distinguished from the character I think of as the “Jane Foster Thor”), as delivered by current Thor scribe Jason Aaron and artist Oliver Coipel, who drew the God of Thunder’s adventures back during the J. Michael Straczynski era, and can do brawny, bearded otherworldly battles with the best of them. The Odinson’s currently trapped on an alien planet, and this looks like it’s going to explain how he got there, starting with a fight with a bunch of trolls and ending with a search for another hammer, and an encounter, in what little remains of the original Asgard, with an old friend. If you like Aaron’s previous volumes about this character, especially the Thor, God of Thunder/God Butcher arc, or if you’re just entertained by the whole sprawling Asgardian soap opera, then check out this comic. Foolkiller has less of a reason to exist, at least on the surface, but its tongue-in-cheek examination of a (partly) reformed killer-turned-psychotherapist has at least some of the oddball humor and social satire of the character’s creator, Steve Gerber, and that’s enough to buy it another issue (I read an article last week that speculated that the reason for books like this, Solo, etc. is that Marvel/Disney wants properties it can sell as TV series, a bit of corporate-synergy insight that makes as much sense as anything else). Scarlet Witch finishes its second arc by showcasing yet another young woman artist, Annapaola Martello (who’s done single issues of Silk and Ant-Man), who offers a carefully-rendered, subtly-sexy version of a Wanda who discovers another important piece of her heritage, and readies for a long journey that will form the spine of her next long adventure; the cover’s once again by David Aja, who’s been conducting a master class for the last year on how to craft effective, eye-catching and downright beautiful comic-book covers. Spider-Woman, after a fun little beach romp last issue, shifts gears and turns deadly serious, as a cast member crosses the Hobgoblin (not a spoiler, since there he is over on the cover), with startling consequences. Veronica Fish, last seen over on the new Archie comic, turns in a surprisingly-dramatic job, with her appealing just-slightly-caricatured face-and-figure work balancing out some decent superhero poses and compositions, too; the result is both effective and chilling.
Shade the Changing Girl #2 — Writer: Cecil Castellucci; Art: Marley Zarcone; Colors: Kelly Fitzpatrick
Superman #10 — Writer: Peter J. Tomasi; Pencils: Patrick Gleason; Inks: Mick Gray; Colors: John Kalisz
Batman #10 — Writer: Tom King; Art: Mikel Janin; Colors: June Chung
Of the DC books this week, Catwoman:Election Night is the most timely, since it involves politics — but, sadly, she’s neither stumping for Clinton nor setting Trump’s hair on fire. Instead, Oswald Cobblepot (you all know that’s the Penguin, right?) is running for mayor, and Selina gets involved investigating an old scandal with major implications for the outcome. Batman has a couple of guest-appearance panels, but the “Prez” cover is misleading — that character is not President, or running for it, in current DC continuity, although there’s a subtle last-page call-out to the her. The cover doesn’t totally lie, though: there’s a back-up story that does involve the teen-girl President, written by Mark Russell and pencilled by Ben Caldwell (and inked by Mark Morales and colored by Jeremy Lawson); that’s the creative team of the recent Prez comic, so fans of it should seek out this book. Shade the Changing Girl‘s second issue establishes that book’s premise more solidly: she’s an alien from the planet Meta who’s stolen the original Shade’s madness vest and transmitted her consciousness to earth, where she’s inhabiting the body of a brain-dead teen girl. So: alien experiences the weird social life and traumas of high school (“What fresh hell is this?”), while her madness vest starts to infect the reality around her, and back on Meta the authorities resolve to track her down. Since high-schoolers feel like aliens in their own bodies, navigating weird social mores, persecuted by authorities and surrounded by madness anyway, this set-up ought to resonate with them, and maybe turn the book into the kind of cult hit that the ’90s Vertigo version became. If you’re more interested in the Big Two DC characters, Superman #10’s cover tells you all you need to know: it features the super-sons, Jon and Damien, who cross paths and really don’t like one another… and then their fathers get involved. Nicely done, with decent all-around characterization that starts to rebuild the dads’ World’s-Finest relationship — and, since the Jon/Damien team will be getting its own comic soon, a good place to start reading about their relationship, too. Batman #10, meanwhile, continues its arc about the Caped Crusader’s hand-picked Suicide Squad (Catwoman, the guy who used to be the Ventriloquist, Punch and Jewlee, and the Bronze Tiger) and its assault on Bane’s island fortress of Santa Prisca, with a number of Mission Impossible-style twists and turns: a canny bit of plotting and casting that should keep attracting readers, and continue author King’s already-impressive tenure on this book.
Mayday #1 (of 5) — Writer: Alex de Campi; Art: Tony Parker; Colors: Blonde
Motro #1 (of 10) — Writers: Ulises Farinas with Erick Freitas; Art: Ulises Farinas; Colors: Ryan Hill
Three indy first issues; Motor Girl is the newest offering from Terry Moore (Strangers in Paradise, Echo and the recently-concluded Rachel Rising), so it gets first billing: Moore has a clear, attractive drawing line, and a smart, humanistic approach to scripting and plotting that lets him excel in a number of different genres (Strangers in Paradise was relationship soap opera mixed with political thriller; Echo was hard-core sf, and Rachel Rising was supernatural horror). This new book features a woman mechanic who’s an ex-soldier, and been traumatized; she has a sidekick who’s a talking gorilla — yes, that sounds like Angel and the Ape, but, true to form, Moore goes in an unexpected and poignant direction with it. If you’ve liked his other series, get this book; if you haven’t read him before, get it too. Mayday takes its name from both the Soviet holiday and the international signal for distress: it’s 1971, and a top Russian spy has defected and is in LA; two CIA agents compete with two Russian ones to get ahold of the microfilm with all his secrets, with the Russians (a male/female duo) encountering hippies, LSD and American and British rock and roll along the way. A typically hard-nosed and twisty script from de Campi (No Mercy), equal parts humor and suspense, combines with the art from Parker (This Damned Band) to create a high-energy thriller that recreates its time period, all its highs and lows intact, in sometimes-grim and sometimes-trippy detail. That leaves Motro, an sf/fantasy comic with a uniquely indy feel, like the love child of Brandon Graham and Moebius; it makes sense that it’s got a cover pull-quote from the guy who created Headlopper, because it has some of that book’s cleanly-drawn, hallucinatory visuals and quick violence, with a lead character who’s like Conan the Barbarian, if Conan was actually a teen emo fan. The editorial material inside calls it “a heady blend of Mad Max, Adventure Time and Masters of the Universe,” which is as good a description as any — and should be enough to get you to check it out.
Faith #5 — (First Story) — Writer: Jody Houser; Art: Meghan Hetrick; Colors: Andrew Dalhouse (Second Story) — Writer: Louise Simonson; Art: Pere Perez; Colors: Andrew Dalhouse (Third Story) Writer: Rafer Roberts; Art: Coleen Doran; Colors: David Baron
Deadly Class #23 — Writer: Rick Remender; Art: Wes Craig; Colors: Jordan Boyd
Southern Bastards #15 — Writer: Jason Aaron; Art/Colors: Jason Latour
Bitch Planet #9 — Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick; Art: Valentine de Landro; Colors: Kelly Fitzpatrick
Liberty Annual 2016 — Creators: Various
Of the remaining smaller-publisher stuff, Josie and the Pussycats sees its title trio getting stuck playing in a dive bar; it continues to be a worthy companion to that other girl-group comic, Jem and the Holograms, with Bennett’s script lighter on the soap opera and heavier on the satire than that book, and Mok’s art more manga/realistic. Faith has Hillary Clinton on the cover, which makes sense for a book so focused on diversity and inclusiveness, and in fact the second story features the two women meeting, by long-time comics writer Louise Simonson; there’s a third story drawn by Coleen Doran, all for the book’s regular $3.99 price, so that’s a lot of value for the money, depending on your political affiliations…). Deadly Class is early into its second season, following a new crop of freshmen attending its school for assassins; there are lots of interesting kids here, although it’s best not to get too attached to any of them (the book itself has a scene explaining that, and considering that its now-main character, the Japanese girl Saya, killed the last main character, that’s probably good advice…). Stylish art and clever period writing (the comic’s set in 1988, and the nerdier students, naturally, play Dungeons and Dragons) make this a book that repays multiple readings, and deserves its relatively-long-running status. Southern Bastards returns from a hiatus with the start of a new arc, as its hard-nosed, downright-murderous small-town football coach sees his team and his legacy spiraling downwards, out of control — and he doesn’t even know that the ex-soldier daughter of the man he killed has come into town. Southern-fried noir, from a creative team who won Eisner Awards this summer for Best Continuing Series and Best Writer — and, considering that the Eisners are voted on by the professional comics community, that says a lot for the quality of this comic. The Wicked and the Divine tries an experimental issue: the whole book is an issue of “Pantheon Monthly,” a People-like fan magazine from the alternate earth where the title’s story takes place. It also serves as a breath-taker after the events of the last few issues, giving everyone a chance to catch up and process the death of the god-avatars’ creator, Ananke, and untangle the complicated alliances and secrets that led to her being killed. Pretty cool, and accessible to new readers as a summary of what’s happened so far, although it’s the longtime fans who’ll get all the references and little Easter eggs scattered throughout the issue. Bitch Planet has had an… um, let’s say unsteady publishing schedule, but has always been worth it: its tale of a global patriarchy that exiles troublesome women to the planetary prison of the title is moving into high gear, as a revolt gives the inmates control of their jail — and, by extension, of the whole world on which it’s based — so that now it really lives up to that title. DeConnick and De Landro continue to provide a heady, good-looking mix of female empowerment and B-movie energy and action, with a story that looks like it’s just getting warmed up. That leaves Liberty Annuel 2016, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s annual fundraiser and tribute to the First Amendment; as always, it boasts a top-notch set of creators: Paul Pope on Muhammad Ali; Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett on Ida B. Wells, the African-American woman who became one of America’s first investigative journalists in the late 1800s; MK Reed and Lisa Rosalie Eisenberg on Jane Addams, who founded Hull House and co-founded both the ACLU and the NAACP; and a host of others, including Brandon Graham, who did the alternate cover and three interior pages: in a political environment where the press, and creators generally, are being hounded by idiots, religious extremists, white supremacists and others of evil intent, the CBLDF continues to provide a strong voice for reasoned argument, freedom of expression, diversity and the right to dissent, and contributing to that effort while getting a decent comic out of it too is the very definition of a win-win scenario.