Welcome to Wednesday Comics Pull-List, here on Tor.com! Every week we (well, me, Matt and Annie are off for the week) post reviews of a select handful of this week’s comic releases. From those reviews, we let you know what we would pull for keeps.
This week’s batch includes:
- Brightest Day #15
- Buffy: The Vampire Slayer #39
- King City #12 (of 12)
- Shadowland #5 (of 5)
- Strange Science Fantasy #6 (of 6)
- Supergod #5 (of 5)
This week’s books are aptly heavy on the science fiction and half of them feature a Cthulhu monster of some sort, which probably means something dire for the human race at large. Either we’re encountering a spreading laziness in storytelling or noticing a slow emergence of the Elder Gods from our subconscious. Neither option is too stellar!
Brightest Day #15
Written by Geoff Johns & Peter J. Tomasi
Art by Patrick Gleason & Scott Clark
Pull: Ultimately? Probably not.
The Brightest Day and Green Lantern-related events that DC are in the midst of have been really hard to pierce, so I was glad to see that Brightest Day #15 functions well as a self-contained story. The story itself is a bit questionable, however. In this issue we follow the Martian Manhunter in an unspecified future as he and the Justice League celebrate the reconstruction of his home planet of Mars. All is, of course, not as it seems, and before long this paradise is rent with the blood of our heroes.
Writer Geoff Johns has a lot of great little bits and pieces in this issue. The Justice Leaguers have some good conversations that really capture the personal parallels and themes between these people, for one, but as soon as you settle into a groove with that, in comes some senseless slaughter. The juxtaposition between calm character development and bloody violence doesn’t quite work the way it’s intended to here, and by the time this issue reached its climax I just kind of wished it would be over. None of it quite coheres, so it all ends up feeling awkward.
Buffy: The Vampire Slayer #39
Written by Joss Whedon & Scott Allie
Art by George Jeanty
(Dark Horse Comics)
Pull: Yes. Bring a tissue.
All together now:
The final arc of Buffy season 8 started out strong, but got very muddled around issue #38, to the point where I wasn’t sure the finale was going to have any impact.
Yeah, I was wrong about that. In retrospect, the previous issue did a lot of the heavy lifting so the interactions in today’s issue could have some space to land. And boy oh boy are these some interactions (to put it mildly). The entire creative team is on their A-game here, and even George Jeanty’s art, which is often uneven, is in excellent detail and organically paced.
(Also, a note, if you want to talk about What Happened in the comments, please preface with a spoiler warning. Thanks!)
King City #12
Writing and Art by Brandon Gaham
(Image Comics & TokyoPop)
Pull: If you only pull one comic this week, this should be it.
I picked this book up on a whim this morning. The plaintive cover caught my eye, along with the fact that this is a magazine-sized comic that’s only $2.99. If it didn’t turn out to be any good, then the experiment was still worth it.
Thankfully, the experiment was well worth it. King City reads like a cross between the visuals of Transmetropolitan and the more reflective aspects of Scott Pilgrim. The mix is utterly charming and it’s hard not to flat out like the group of twenty-somethings you follow as they make their way through life in King City. Their resources are meager and their importance in the world non-existent, but they look out for each other in a myriad of ways, ranging from the smallest wants to the largest society-wide pressures. There’s a perfect example right up at the beginning of the book, when they’re cooking a simple meal but have run out of hummus. They have some left, but it’s nanotech-grown, and they don’t want to put that kind of stuff in their bodies.
There are larger stakes in this book, as well. The main character, a pale, mopey guy who also happens to be a cat master, is approached by his ex-girlfriend about freeing her current boyfriend (the guy she left the cat master for) from a very dodgy not-really-a-hospital. The cat master utilizes the tools specific to his world, be they cat talent scouts, random pterodactyls, or wrist lockpicks, but even though the cutesy-ness, the emotional core of their actions never gets washed out. Even though the cat master gives up the chance to fight to support his fellow cat master to help his ex, you still feel satisfied with his decision.
Good story, a lot of personality, and a LOT of pages, all for $2.99. There’s really no reason to not pick this one up.
Shadowland #5 (of 5)
Written by Andy Diggle
Art by Billy Tan
Pull: If you’ve been following this series, then you’re going to, but from a critical standpoint, this doesn’t deliver.
I think Shadowland works well as a concept. It brings the disparate, street-level characters in the Marvel Universe together into one overarching story and it brings a fresh angle to Daredevil, allowing him to exercise his nobility through crimelord tyranny. (Don’t ever let Daredevil get some serious funding!) The set-up provided ample room for lots of stories, from large to small, and Marvel really piled on the limited series in order to give these characters room to play within this concept. It’s a simple premise that can unfold in a hundred different ways, which makes it really engaging.
The main Shadowland series doesn’t deliver on the promise of the concept, however. In large part because the previous issue (#4) invalidated it by revealing that Daredevil had been controlled by a demon this whole time, divesting the character of any agency or responsibility for his actions. Everything you’ve read so far? Not the work of the beloved (if highly troubled) character you’ve been following. Just the work of a demon. This serves to snatch away the possibility of a satisfying ending, as well. In today’s issue #5, instead of a sticky, realistic approach to the situation of Daredevil being a ninja crimelord, we get a comic where our heroes beat up the demon then save Daredevil with the power of love. (Or in this case, the power of Elektra telling him to stop moping already.) This kind of conclusion pops up a lot in comics in general, and the going-into-your-mindscape trope is something I’d like to see disappear for a while.
Shadowland ends with the status quo returning, but it really shouldn’t have. This concept played out too quickly with an ending that was too rote.
Strange Science Fantasy #6 (of 6)
Writing and Art by Scott Morse, with Paul Pope
Pull: You’re not picking this up already? Go go go!
Strange Science Fantasy has to be the best thing IDW has published all year. It’s pulpy, done-in-one, stories skillfully recreate the explorative feeling you had when you first started reading science fiction, and Scott Morse’s artistic style keeps these stories concise without sacrificing that feeling.
Today’s issue #6 wraps up the series by, surprisingly, revealing it as an interconnected series all along. Here we follow charlatan explorers (curators of a “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not”-type museum) as they stumble upon a lost civilization that contains the stories you’ve read over the course of the entire series. The characters themselves quickly come to the realization that their own journey could be one of those stories, and suddenly everything that happens to them becomes part of a narrative that they are simultaneously excited and uncomfortable with. Excited because, well, it’s exciting. Uncomfortable because it means they’re not in control of their lives.
That revelation is followed with a further twist, but I won’t spoil that. Suffice to say, this was a great series and I hope IDW collects it into one volume.
Supergod #5 (of 5)
Written by Warren Ellis
Art by Garrie Gastonny
Man, I have no idea what’s happening in this issue but it looks amazing, right down to the very last page. Supergod is standard Ellis, and he does wry, plaintive post-apocalyptic observance really well, so you’re getting a good experience here, even if you’re not sure what that experience is.
Chris Greenland would just like to point out that the Cthulhu in Supergod wins over the others this week. Mostly for being constructed of millions of screaming human bodies.