How do you follow up an almost flawless first issue of Doomsday Clock, that not only established a new status quo for the world of Watchmen but also seamlessly integrated a mystery involving Superman? Don’t forget with art and writing that feels like Moore and Gibbons never left.
Well, if you’re Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, having Rorschach eat Batman’s breakfast isn’t a bad place to start. But we’ll get to that.
Issue #2 of Doomsday Clock picks up right where we left Ozymandias, Rorschach, Marionette and Mime. Sticking with the classic 9 panel grid for most of this opening, we start in Nite Owl’s abandoned basement and are shown two interweaving stories. Mime and Marionette are carrying out a heist gone wrong some time in the past, and Rorschach and Veidt in the present debating the merits of trusting two hardened criminals to save the world.
The arrival of Dr. Manhattan during the heist is a fun unexpected moment that reveals why Marionette is such an integral part of Ozymandias’ plan. Whether or not he’s fully aware of why Manhattan spared Marionette’s life remains to be seen. It certainly appeared that Manhattan was hesitant to kill a pregnant woman. This contrast nicely echoes the Vietnam sequence of the original Watchmen where The Comedian demonstrates he has no such qualms.
Then it’s off to the DC universe without a moment to spare as the Watchmen’s world is nuked into oblivion. This whole segment felt rushed and convenient compared to the rest of the issue. Perhaps I was hoping for a more intricate system for travelling between dimensions than a throwaway of, “Oh, its ok, I’ve installed a new button in the Owl ship”.
However, this is only a minor gripe as I can understand that Johns is more interested in showing how these characters interact with the DC universe than how they get there. What’s more interesting is where the Watchmen initially land, in an almost exact reproduction of the funfair from The Killing Joke. It’s a nice nod to Alan Moore’s other DC work and potentially an indication of the way Johns intends to characterize Batman and the Joker for the rest of the story.
Here is where our team splits, as Ozymandias and Rorschach attempt to recruit Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor to their cause, whilst Mime and Marionette are restrained aboard the Owlship. At this point, Gary Frank’s art goes from good to great, as we are treated to some brilliant visual storytelling, mixing Watchmen inspired visual cues with Geoff Johns’ humour and wit. The Owlship bursting through the Bat Symbol and Rorschach’s exploration of Wayne Manor are particular highlights. Rorschach being distracted by a free breakfast leading to him notice a tell tale breeze under the grandfather clock is an amusing and appropriate way for that character to unearth Bruce Wayne’s big secret.
Ozymandias on the other hand has less luck convincing Luthor, who has reverted back to his evil business tycoon demeanor that readers have not seen since before Forever Evil. Luthor questioning Ozymandias’ intelligence after having the plot of Watchmen explained to him feels like Johns winking to the reader about the more ridiculous aspects of that series finale.
We are then left with not one, but three, cliffhangers as a seemingly resurrected Comedian attacks Luthor, Mime and Marionette escape into Gotham City, and Rorschach is confronted by a hungry Batman. Hopefully the Comedian’s appearance is not all it seems, as I feel that bringing back this character undermines the importance of his murder in the original Watchmen. Perhaps it’s tied to Ozymandias brain tumor. We can only wait and see.
Overall, this issue continues the high quality established by the first, with John’s doing an admirable job of echoing the writing style of Alan Moore and Gary Frank bringing beautiful and inventive imagery to every page. My only negatives being the protagonists convenient journey to Gotham and the reappearance of the Comedian, though these do not detract from the story overall. I look forward to seeing where this story goes next and how one gruff vigilante will come to terms with another gruff vigilante eating his pancakes.
The comics industry went through a lot of growth in 2017, some of it good and some of it bad. Through shifts in-universe, massive story events such as Marvel’s Generations and Legacy initiatives to DC’s Doomsday Clock, and questionable PR decisions from most of the big publishers, comics as a whole seemed kind of shaky.
Luckily, the year also saw a bevy of new and old voices, many of whom find themselves on our list of top comics of 2017. We left off ongoing series and chose to focus on new stories and creative teams, all of which you can find at your local comic store! In no particular order, here are our top 10 comics of 2017!
Art: Caspar Wijngaard
Story/Art: Daniel Warren Johnson
Extremity is so damn special. Most issues leave me in my feelings, or swearing while holding my head in my hands, but it’s definitely one you MUST pick up. It’s Mad Max Fury Road meets Avatar the Last Airbender. It’s kinetic and brutal. I actually don’t want to say too much about it because it’s that good and I don’t want a single bit spoiled for you. Bonus: it’s only $10 for the first trade!
Story: Melanie Gillman
Art: Katy Farina
Fans of the Cartoon Network show, rejoice! This ongoing series perfectly captures the voices of the characters and it’s episodic, meaning you can pick up any single issue off the shelf and have a complete standalone story. It’s great for little ones who may want to get into comics and hardcore show enthusiasts as well. There’s currently one collected softcover out too, just in case that’s your preference!
Batman: White Knight
Art/Story: Sean Gordon Murphy
Yes, I know a lot of you are tired of rehashed Batman stories featuring the same old formula of Batman beating up the bad guy and saving the city of Gotham. HOWEVER, the Batman: White Knight mini-series turns it all on its head in a refreshing, dark way. The series is about halfway through, but it makes a very big impression every issue. Be sure to pay close attention to those busier panels; Murphy tucks details in every corner. Issue #1 may be a little elusive to track down if you’re intent on a first printing, but it will definitely stay on your mind for a while after reading it.
Story: C.S. Pacat
Art: Johanna the Mad
If you need something to fill the Yuri!!! on Ice shaped hole in your heart, I can’t suggest Fence fast enough. As you may be able to infer, Fence is about a group of young fencers in a private school. There’s definitely going to be some drama, and there’s definitely going to be some romance. Granted, I have some bias as I love stories about tension filled high school slice of life experiences and I have a soft spot for fencing itself, so this was up my alley. Either way, if you enjoy attitude filled boys fighting with swords, check it out!
Story: Simon Spurrier
Art: Jonas Goonface
This was probably my favorite book out of 2017, if I had to choose one from this list. It’s also one of the hardest to try to summarize. In this universe, every person has a god assigned to them, usually bestowing some sort of skill or power. The story centers around Ennay, a queer “shaper” – which is to say, they change the shape of a person’s god. Those without a god are pariahs, like Ennay. It’s a fresh take and beautiful in every way.
Story: Saladin Ahmed
Art: Christian Ward
This is another title where I have some bias, as I am a hardcore Inhumans fan. That aside, holy crow, please pick up a copy just to look at the art by Christian Ward. The man is a master as space psychedelics and his style is a pretty perfect complement to Saladin’s storytelling. Because Black Bolt can decimate everything ever if he so much as whispers, the dialogue can be a little light, but a glance into the inner workings of the Silent King is always pretty bomb.
Dead of Winter
Dead of Winter is a popular survival horror board game where you have to complete scenarios and make tough decisions as randomized characters with different abilities. The comic it is based on takes these characters and runs with them in a free-for-all hilarious look at the end of the world. It’s a 4-issue series of pure fun, but I definitely think you’ll enjoy it more if you’ve played the board game! I almost always draw Sparky, a golden retriever who can withstand zombie bites, and there’s plenty of Sparky in this series, thankfully.
I’ve missed The Runaways and they’re back in a perfect return of my favorite Marvel teenagers. While I wouldn’t start with this series because spoilers for the television show, I would suggest definitely, DEFINITELY, picking up the 2004 Brian K. Vaughan series first and going from there! Expect some angst because it picks up immediately where we last saw everyone. The creative team perfectly captures every single character and all their hang ups. Hmm, as I reach the end of this list, I realized most of these have some personal bias, but YOU KNOW WHAT, I READ A LOT OF COMICS AND I HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS ABOUT THEM AND LIKE, 94 OF THEM ARE ABOUT THE GODDAMNED RUNAWAYS.
HONORABLE MENTION: The Family Trade
This is going to be a slow, delicious burn and I know those aren’t for everyone. That’s the only reason it didn’t make my top 10 list, but if you find yourself with a couple extra bucks, definitely pick up a really neat story about a family of assassins, particularly one clumsy one who finds herself in quite the pickle.
That wraps up my list, and it’s pretty varied if I do say so myself. I hope you find a couple of new favorites among them and feel free to tweet my way to discuss them (except Runaways cause inevitably I will CRY and that’s no fun for anyone!). Be sure to check out our other comics reviews and lists!
Mine! is an upcoming comics collection where the proceeds go to Planned Parenthood. From stories about everyday people to fantastic adventures, Mine! celebrates and defends Planned Parenthood in a book that can live on in our homes, libraries and the halls of Congress.
With states trying to sell women “rape insurance” and inhibiting access to healthcare, something like Mine! is definitely needed to help keep Planned Parenthood funded. There is a Kickstarter campaign going on for the next month to make the project a reality and they have some phenomenal big names and talented indie creators contributing an original story. Pledges range from digital copies to copies for your library to original art. If you have a moment, view their campaign video and the full press release below!
PLANNED PARENTHOOD AND COMICMIX L.L.C. TEAM-UP FOR MINE!,
A COMICS COLLECTION FUNDRAISER
ComicMix Editor-in-Chief Mike Gold today announced the forthcoming publication of a graphic novel of
original short stories to celebrate the important work of Planned Parenthood. The volume, to be edited
by Joe Corallo and Molly Jackson, will be published this fall in celebration of over 100 years of Planned
Mine! will feature the work of Neil Gaiman (American Gods, Sandman), Gail Simone (Wonder Woman),
Yona Harvey (Black Panther), Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance, Umbrella Academy), Gabby
Rivera (America), Amber Benson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Witches of Echo Park), Mara Wilson
(Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame), Mags Visaggio (Kim & Kim),
Andrew Aydin (March), Frank Conniff (Mystery Science Theater 3000), Yuri Lowenthal (Ben 10),
Brittney Williams (Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat!), John Ostrander (Suicide Squad), and Jill Thompson
(Wonder Woman), among many other top comics creators.
Project Co-Editor Molly Jackson said, “Planned Parenthood is a vital resource for women and men from
all walks of life, providing needed health care and support to millions of people all over the world. We
are proud to do whatever we can to bring attention to their amazing work.”
Co-Editor Joe Corallo said, “The comics community is built on freelance labor that relies on the kind of
access to healthcare that Planned Parenthood provides. We’re thrilled to see such a diverse group of
people in the comics community coming together to support this essential cause.”
A Kickstarter campaign to help finance printing and distribution costs is expected to launch August
15th, 2017. Mine! will be available in bookstores, comic book shops, and electronically all over the
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health
care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With
more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients
with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in
schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable
health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we
care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.
ComicMix, LLC publishes a line of graphic novels by some of the best new and established talent in the
industry. ComicMix Pro Services works with creators to produce, publish and market their work in a
highly competitive marketplace. In addition, ComicMix runs one of the Internet’s most popular comics oriented
pop culture opinion and news sites.
Well before the wide release of Spider-Man: Homecoming, early preview reviews started rolling out and proclaiming the film to be fantastic. I was a little worried that much of the hype was overblown; that the reviewers were overlooking the movie’s flaws just because they were happy to have Spider-Man as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Granted, I had no reason to feel this way having not seen the movie, but that’s just the anxiety in me. After seeing Spider-Man: Homecoming, however, I realize just how silly this notion was.
For starters, Homecoming doesn’t get bogged down in an origin story. One of movie-goers’ biggest complaints is that the first film in every super hero series is an origin. Most often, it’s necessary to establish where the character comes from. Sometimes, a movie is directed well enough that the audience doesn’t realize they’re watching an origin. For Spider-Man: Homecoming, there’s a quick scene recapping Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) experiences in Berlin prior to his debut in Captain America: Civil War and how Tony Stark (do I even need to put “Robert Downey Jr.” here?) gave him his suit but that’s it. They make references to the spider that bit him but we never see it happen. Thankfully Marvel and Sony understood that audiences know how Peter became Spider-Man.
As a character, Spider-Man has always been about dichotomy, and Homecoming recognized that. Peter Parker is the timid, nerdy, powerless kid but he’s also the strong super hero who can do amazing things. In the movie, though, we see this power divide almost everywhere. Spider-Man wants t do more and help people on a grander scale but Tony Stark limits his abilities and keeps him grounded. Adrian Toomes, the villainous Vulture played by Michael Keaton, is a hard-working, blue-collar salvage worker whose life is threatened when a powerful government organization comes in and claims authority over his jobsite. We can understand his fear and need to do whatever he has to in order to provide for his family. (This was also a nice way to tie Homecoming into the MCU and the events that transpired in Avengers.)
Spider-Man: Homecoming also places a lot of focus on Spidey’s supporting characters. Peter’s best friend, Ned (played by Jacob Batalon, who looks more like Ganke than Ned Leeds but I digress), gets almost as much screen time as Peter himself. School bully Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori) shows up often and is much more than a one-note trick than previous portrayed in the other movies. Even a character like Michelle has an abundance of screen time, but that’s to be expected when they put someone like Zendaya in that role.
All of this works to make Spider-Man: Homecoming feel like a true Spider-Man movie. Spider-Man has always been about the people around him. Seventy plus years of comics show us that Spider-Man became the hero he is because of his affection for his friends, and even his tormentors. Previous cinematic versions of Spidey never really got that ideal, or at least never expressed it as well as Homecoming did.
One of my biggest complaints about Homecoming is the way it handled Peter Parker. As the quiet, nerdy kid, Peter either gets picked on or ignored. He lives with his elderly Aunt May, who no doubt maintains her household while living on a fixed income. Peter feels that financial crisis and decides to help carry the burden. However, in Homecoming, Peter isn’t like that. Sure, he gets picked on by Flash Thompson, but overall he has a few close friendships. His peers find value in his intelligence and every time they’re disappointed by him it’s through his own actions. Even Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) is younger and prettier than her other incarnations (which the movie doesn’t hesitate to joke about), which allows her to continue to provide for herself and her teenage nephew. Peter’s life in Homecoming isn’t that bad.
Being Spider-Man, however, sure as hell seems like it. Homecoming manages to show audiences just how much it sucks to be Spider-Man. He gets yelled at by the public for making mistakes. His actions cause massive damage to the neighborhood he lives in. He puts his life on the line to take down a threat when no one else will listen to him. Why?
Clearly because “with great power comes great responsibility.” The beauty of Spider-Man: Homecoming is that we have a Spider-Man who understands Uncle Ben’s powerful message without having to beat audiences over the head with the phrase. Not once are those words uttered, but we see how much Peter values them. This all goes back to the lack of an origin story. Spider-Man knows when it’s time to do the right thing; whether it’s from the life lesson he learned off-screen from his Uncle Ben or from being mentored by Iron Man himself is irrelevant. It’s a notion that’s inherent in this version of Spider-Man.
There’s lots of things to enjoy about Spider-Man: Homecoming; all of the excellent performances of the cast, most notably by Holland and Keaton, the return of Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan in a true supporting role, and all of the small throwbacks and references the filmmakers added. Overall, what I liked about Homecoming is that this is the closest a movie version of Spider-Man has ever gotten to its comic book roots. The young Peter Parker/Spider-Man has a lot to learn, not just about being a hero but about life in general. They’re not fast forwarding through his growth but allowing audiences to experience it first-hand, which is the most exciting part of the story.
For a few years back in the early 2010s horror mash up stories were all the rage. Take an innocuous but well known thing and mix it with a fantasy horror trope and a new hit was made. These were most evident through books like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and probably a few others not written by Seth Grahame-Smith. Though that genre has been dormant for a few years, it’s come back quite well with the recent release of Harriet Tubman: Demon Slayer.
Written by David Crownson, Harriet Tubman: Demon Slayer takes place (appropriately) in 1860, deep in the heart of America’s days of Slavery. It opens with a slave family, the Edgefields, as they escape their plantation in search of a life as free folk. When they run afoul of a trio of shady white men, the Edgefields stand their ground only to discover that these men aren’t exactly what they seem to be. Luckily, a mysterious stranger, the eponymous Harriet Tubman, shows up to save them.
One of the things I liked most about the book is the humor. Within the first couple of pages, Crownson makes a joke at the expense of one of his characters and it’s brilliant because it serves a higher purpose than a mere moment of levity. In addition to setting the tone for the book, that initial joke lets the audience know that despite the heady subject matter, they’re allowed to laugh at the story. This is a necessary cue for readers like me, a middle class white man, during the times that the N-word gets bandied around. That word would (rightfully so) make modern audiences uncomfortable but was necessary to tell a story that borrowed heavily from the time of slavery and Harriet Tubman’s real-life struggle. Crownson breaks the ice early to alleviate any possible squeamishness.
The art on the book is superb. Courtland Ellis’ art is smooth, his figures realistic and graceful. There are no overly muscular men rippling through torn shirts. His women aren’t bodaciously disproportioned, and in fact have noticeably different body types. Ellis uses subtle facial expressions on his characters to portray emotions and tip the readers off to what they’re thinking, but he’s then able to go all out during the funny moments. It can be a jarring juxtaposition at times but really ramps up the humor.
The art isn’t perfect, though. Most of the pages are beautiful, however, there’s some panel progression that feels off. Some of the character movement is choppy and stilted, which is detrimental in a book that relies heavily on fight scenes. Thankfully, it’s easy to overlook because there are so many other things to enjoy but hopefully it improves as the series progresses.
Ellis also shines in how he draws backgrounds, notably in the way he uses large brushstrokes to signify foliage. It’s drastically different from mainstream comics and I absolutely love it.
My biggest problem with the book is the dialogue. While most of the characters’ speech is smooth and energetic, the story is sprinkled with one-liners that just seem trite and unnecessary. It tended to be more good than bad, though.
I also wasn’t a fan of the localized dialect. This was probably included to show how different groups speak differently and was effective in establishing the world the story takes place in. I felt like it slowed down the reading experience, forcing me to puzzle out what the characters were saying. I understand that I’m splitting hairs here and maybe sound a little pedantic but this was definitely my take away from the reading experience.
Also, I need to point out the book’s poor punctuation. Normally I don’t even notice the lettering in comic books but the fact that this drew my attention means that it really stood out. Granted, some of the punctuation choices may have been stylistic but there are some instances that are just inconsistent, making the lettering come off as lazy or rushed. Again, I have hope that this will be remedied in future issues.
Despite its flaws, though, one thing that Crownson gets right is the mystery surrounding Harriet Tubman: Demon Slayer. His opening chapter focuses on establishing the characters. He doesn’t dive too far into why the vampires are chasing runaway slaves or even where Harriet comes from. We know nothing of her past, her upbringing, or how she knows how to fight. Crownson reveals just enough to whet my appetite but not too much that I lose interest and don’t return for the second issue.
Having purchased Harriet Tubman: Demon Slayer on a whim during Free Comic Book Day (it was funded through a successful Kickstarter), I have no idea how to get a physical copy of the book. However, you can buy it in digital on Comixology and Peep Game Comix. And I wholly recommend you pick it up. Not only is this book a fun read but it’s also an interesting take on the horror mash-up genre and the life of one of the most prolific American humanitarians.