The Best Comics We Read in March 2015
Silver Surfer #10 by Dan Slott, Mike Allred, Laura Allred, and Joe Sabino (Scott Carelli)
I’ve been reading and really enjoying Slott and Allred’s Doctor Who-ified take on Silver Surfer since its launch, but with the culmination of their 3-part Galactus arc that I’ve realized how special this book truly is. The Surfer takes his companion Dawn Greenwood to a new planet only to discover that it is inhabited entirely by the sole surviving members from all of the now non-existent planets that he lead Galactus to as his herald. He is shunned by the inhabitants of the planet as well as Dawn, who is horrified by his past as an accessory to a cosmic serial killer. But when Galactus arrives to take out the new planet of survivors, Surfer must step in to stop him from consuming the planet, and hopefully redeem himself in the eyes of these people he has wronged. He doesn’t succeed, and the inhabitants leave their new planet in a massive fleet made up of the escape pods they used to find salvation in the first place. So, Surfer vows to become a different kind of herald, and find these people a new planet they can call home. It’s a beautifully done story from Slott with incredible art by the Allreds that manages to balance the tragedy of this particular story with the pure comic fun the series has been since it started. Easily, the best Silver Surfer story I have ever read.
Action Comics #40 by Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder (Mart Gray)
I’ve seen a lot of interpretations of Bizarro over the years, from super-goofy to marauding monster. The latter has been in favour over the last few years, but not in the latest Action Comics by writer Greg Pak, artist Aaron Kuder and colorist Wil Quintana. Nope, here we have a classic, backwards-thinking Bizarro No1 living on a square world just to the left of Continuity. There, a dimensionally displaced Superman gets involved in a bonkers battle with Bizarro, Doomsday and … leprechauns? The Bizarro Justice League is a hoot, the sound-effects reversed, the local version of Metallo a surprise and the whole done-in-one a distinct delight. The admirably adaptable Kuder revels in indulging his silly side after the dark Ghosts of Smallville multi-parter, while Quintana channels his inner My Little Pony to bring this fantastic fairytale to artistic fruition. If you’ve still to try the Pak/Kuder Action Comics run – and this issue is the first time DC has given it any proper publicity – you won’t go wrong shelling out the shekels for this book.
Bitch Planet #3 by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Robert Wilson IV (Andi Miller)
Admittedly, I was not hooked on Bitch Planet at issue #1. While it showed promise, it just didn’t have its claws in me, but that all changed with issue #3, “Too Big to Fail.” In this installment we are immersed in Penny Rolle’s backstory, and it’s nothing short of gripping. While I don’t want to give away what makes this character tick, you’ll have to find that out on your own, I promise you it’s worth exploring and gives great insight into one of the series’ most intriguing characters thus far. I definitely hope we get glimpses into more of these ladies’ lives and motivations as we move along.
Ms. Marvel #13 by G. Willow Wilson and Takeshi Miyazawa (Preeti Chhibber)
This issue. THIS ISSUE, you guys. This issue sent me into a tailspin of capslock on Twitter. On the surface Ms. Marvel #13 starts out pretty quiet. It’s the launch of story arc #2 (after a pretty underwhelming standalone #12 featuring Loki, if we’re being honest). Kamala’s parents have invited family friends over to their home… family friends who have a son. A son named Kamran. Kamala is, as ever, her incredibly relatable and engaging self. She’s at first resistant to having to hang out with some kid she kind of remembers, but then super excited when he shows up to be all perfect in his pea coat and with his Bollywood nerd-dom. What I loved so much about this issue is that we get to see a brown kid who is a potential love interest. He’s not the nerdy best friend, he’s not the asexual math nerd. As always, G. Willow Wilson and team kill it in matters of representation and storytelling. Because beyond Kamran and Kamala and romance and being undeniably cute, there’s a whole new Inhumans arc kicking off with one helluva last page that I will not spoil for you. Just go read it and then geek out just as hard as I did.
Superman: Earth One, Vol. 3 by J. Michael Straczynski, Ardian Syaf, Sandra Hope, and Barbara Ciardo (Jess Pryde)
I tend to post quick reviews on Goodreads right after reading to capture how I feel right after reading, and the whole thing for this was literally “stop messing with my emotions, Straczynski” in all caps. It is in this volume that we are introduced to Zod-El, Clark’s uncle, who immediately cons his way into everyone’s lives by breaking a bridge and then helping Superman save people. All kinds of things happen and Lex[Squared] (I LOVE THAT, by the way) become government contractors. There is action. There are tears. Lisa continues to be my favorite person.
Big Man Plans #1 by Eric Powell and Tim Wiesch (Eric Margolis)
I don’t want to give anything away in this little blurb. I knew very little about it before I dove in aside from the fact that it was a revenge tale constructed by Eric Powell and Tim Wiesch as a result of numerous drunken conversations. That was enough to get me to pick up the first issue, and I loved it. If you’re into revenge stories, this book is for you. If you’re into Preacher, this book is for you. If you like dark comedy, this book is for you. If you need your comics to be politically correct, stay far, far away.
Southern Cross #1 by Becky Cloonan, Andy Belanger, and Lee Loughridge (Jenn Northington)
Sometimes, a comic finds you just at the right moment. Last week I was bemoaning the loss of gritty space operas post-Battlestar Galactica, and this week I noticed a stunning cover on the front counter at the comics shop. I picked it up, took it home, and LO AND BEHOLD: it’s a gritty space opera! Cloonan’s storyline includes vengeance, secrets, corporate malfeasance, and a hint of the supernatural—and we’re only one issue in. Belanger’s art and panel-work is almost crunchy, if that makes any sense, alternating sharp edges and flow. Loughridge completes the mood with a chilly palette that takes full advantage of blue and orange. I’ve fallen hard; can you tell?
Last of the Sandwalkers by Jay Holzer (Josh Christie)
The world of indie graphic novels is a goldmine for great, inventive stories, particularly of the for-all-ages variety. Last month, I found myself totally charmed by Jay Holzer’s Last of the Sandwalkers, which chronicles the adventures of a clan of exploration-minded beetles. (Yes, beetles.) It’s a story that fits squarely in the Disney tradition, with plucky anthropomorphic creatures standing in for people and exploring concepts like tradition, home, and finding your place in the world. It’s helped along tremendously by Holzer’s lively art, which does a great job conveying the world from the perspective of inches-high creatures. And, in a bit of my personal Kryptonite, the book ends with endnotes and annotations about the science behind the book (and Holzer’s creative process).
Batgirl #40 by Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, Babs Tarr, and Maris Wicks (Jon Erik Christianson)
Barbara Gordon is a wearer of many hats—er, cowls. She’s a great many things to people off the page (Batgirl, Oracle, controversy magnet) and on (hero, friend, graduate student, public menace). Stewart and Fletcher unite these threads—Barbara’s villains, supporting cast, and pieces from her pre-Burnside past—for a high stakes, emotionally resonant celebration. Tarr and Wicks articulate a Burnside that’s moody, mysterious, and exhilarating. Best of all, at least three members of Barbara’s supporting cast get elevated to a new status quo.
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (Brenna Clarke Gray)
I GOT AN ADVANCE COPY OF THIS AND I READ IT IMMEDIATELY AND IT IS SO GOOD YOU GUYS. So good. I was not a reader of the webcomic version so I had no idea what to expect, but my love of Lumberjanes made me want this. It has the humour, emotional core, and gender stereotype-defying heroism of Lumberjanes, but with even more shapeshifting and sometimes a dragon. I can’t even with this comic, you guys. It’s out from HarperCollins in May and you need to cram it into your eyeholes with speed and aggression.
D4VE #1 by Ryan Ferrier and Valentin Ramon (Chris Arnone)
Robots gaining self-awareness and taking over the world is a tried-and-true science fiction trope. But what happens once the humans are all gone? What happens once the robots defeat every alien invader that tried to strongarm Earth away from them? According to Ferrier and Ramon, the world looks freakishly just like our own. Robots have jobs, relationship, foibles, and their entire existence is informed by their code and the remnants of our own fallen human civilization. D4VE is a clever, witty, funny book. Ferrier does an amazing job incorporating computer code, archaic pop culture, and Silicon Valley deification into his dialog, helping D4VE feel like nothing else out there right now.
Silk #2 by Robbie Thompson and Stacey Lee (Ardo Omer)
I loved the first issue of Silk and #2 just got me to fall even harder in love with Cindy Moon. Cindy continues to figure out the superhero gig and is still looking for her parents when a robot and someone from her past throw a wrench in the whole thing. Robbie Thompson and Stacey Lee make such a dynamic duo with each installment acting as a link in an overarching chain but are also really great single issues. I am officially loyal all in with this series and I can’t wait to see what they do next. What are you waiting for? Pick up both issues now!
Photobooth: A Biography by Meags Fitzgerald (Hattie Kennedy)
Part history of the Photobooth, part travelogue and part memoir about Fitzgerald’s own relationship with the Photobooth, this was just a joy from cover to cover. I’m a sucker for an autobiographical comic and I love reading about people’s geeky passions so this was definitely a comic with my name stamped all over it. Fitzgerald’s art is beautiful and she has a great eye for page construction. If you have a yen for social history, a passion for photography, or enjoy a jaunt down someone else’s memory lane then I can thoroughly recommend this one
The Multiversity: Ultra Comics #1 by Grant Morrison, Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, David Baron, and Gabe Eltaeb (Brian McNamara)
It’s hard to encapsulate just what exactly Ultra Comics does without really spoiling the issue. However, it’s the most metatextual comic I’ve read, and this is Grant Morrison we’re talking about! Using that classic “If you don’t read this issue, Flash will die” cover conceit as a jumping off point, Ultra Comics makes you, the reader, a character in the comic. By turning the page—or even stopping reading altogether—you affect the story. Only by tapping into your imagination can Ultra Comics come into existence to fight off the Gentry invasion of our universe. The lifeblood of our hero is the CMYK ink of the printer, beautifully illustrated by Doug Mahnke with a vibrancy of color that leaps off the page, almost organic. Our hero is literally the text we hold in our hands. It’s conceptual, it’s a crash course in literary studies, and in many ways a fulfillment of the medium being the message. The medium is the superhero. It’s a celebration of everything that superheroes stand for, a celebration of our imaginations as readers and creators, and sits as the thematic core of The Multiversity.
Gotham Academy #6 by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl. Mingjue Helen Chen, MSASSYK, Serge Lapointe (Katie Schenkel)
I’ve been consistently loving this series since it debuted in the fall. Olive, Pomeline, Maps (especially Maps), and the rest of their classmates at Gotham Academy have found places in my heart. Not to mention Bruce Wayne and his stupid handsome face. I wrote about Killer Croc’s departure last week, but the whole of #6 is filled with great character moments along with hints of what’s behind the mysteries of both Olive and the school. And have I mentioned that epilogue?! Oh man, we have so much to look forward to after Convergence! I highly recommend this issue but it is the last one of the first story arc, so if you aren’t interested in tracking down the individual issues, make sure to invest in the first Gotham Academy trade coming out in June.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #3 by Ryan North, Erica Henderson, Rico Renzi, and Kyle Starks (Caroline Pruett)
We’re only three issues in, but this series is pushing so many of my buttons. It’s a “comedy” superhero title that actually makes me laugh out loud. It’s a female-character-centered book I would happily share with my nieces. It’s drawn primarily by a female artist, its primary relationship is a friendship between two young women (one of whom is a character of color, and both of whom are delightful weirdos.) It has a bright, varied color palette, and this month’s recap page is full of jokes about Tony Stark’s Twitter account. This is the Marvel book I would shove into the hands of Lumberjanes fans, and anybody who appreciates comic books that don’t take themselves too seriously.
We Can Never Go Home #1 by by Matthew Rosenberg, Patrick Kindlon, Josh Hood, and Amanda Scurti (Ali Colluccio)
There are some issues that rattle around in your head long after you’ve finished reading them. They stay with you, almost hauntingly, so that when you’re walking home from work or in the shower or doing the dishes you’ll randomly start thinking about this comic. We Can Never Go Home was that comic for me this month. I’ve been describing it as Heathers meets Paul Smith-era X-Men, but I think that sells the book a bit short. This comic crawled under my skin and has taken up residence in the back of my brain. I mean that in a good way, but also in a creepy, kind of uncomfortable kind of way. And it’s great when a comic can make you feel something that deeply. On top of that, this is a well-executed first issue; it elegantly sets up the characters and premise while ending on an emotionally suspenseful cliff-hanger. The whole tone of the comic reverberates the awkwardness, earnestness, fear and feels of it’s teenage protagonists. It’s a damn good comic book.
Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton (Gina Nicoll)
I wanted to be mad at myself for taking so long to read such a widely loved book, but how can I follow through when I start laughing any time I think of it? Jules Verne writing fan mail to Edgar Allan Poe? Sexy Tudors? Canadians being too stereotypically polite? Dude watching with the Brontes? YES, PLEASE. You don’t even have to be familiar with all of the literary characters or historical figures to get it. With her knack for drawing facial expressions and her clever writing, Kate Beaton can make anything funny.
Way Out Here by Ross Jackson (Kris Saldaña)
Super indie comic by an incredible artist, Way Out Here is the perfect example of a perfect indie comic; brave, full of humor and unapologetic. You should be keeping an eye on Ross Jackson.
Batman, Vol. 2: The City of Owls (New 52) by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Rafael Albuquerque, Jonathan Glapion, James Tynion IV, and Jason Fabok (Swapna Krishna)
I haven’t really read much Batman, so I figured the New 52 was as good of a place to start as any. I was immediately sucked in by Volume 1, but it was Volume 2 that solidified this run as something I really and truly love. The art is incredible, and the overarching mystery is captivating. While the first volume was very dark (I mean, it’s Batman), the second introduces just enough playfulness into the story to make for a genuinely fun experience. If you aren’t sure where to start with Batman, look no further: Snyder and Capullo have put together an incredible story that is very accessible (and entertaining!) for newcomers.
Invisible Republic #1 by Corinna Sara Bechko, Gabriel Hardman, and Jordan Boyd (Dave Accampo)
Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir by Ellen Forney (Peter Damien)
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