This time on Heroes and Villains, we’ll be looking at a variety of comics out this week and last, from a variety of genres and companies. Meet me after the jump for my thoughts on Mage: The Hero Denied #1, Boy in a Well and its accompanying album by The Yawpers, Back Issue #97, Action Comics #985, Grimm Fairy Tales: Tarot #1, Grimm Tales of Terror #8, Captain America #25, Secret Empire #8, Spy Seal #1, and more… be warned, there may be spoilers…
We open this much-anticipated comic sequel with Kevin Matchstick singing “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love, and Understanding?” which in itself indeed sets the tone for what may be coming. It’s a walk in the park for Kevin and his son as it turns dark and he senses danger, sending the boy away we get a glimpse of fine superhero action. The bad guys know where the hero is, after years of suburban bliss, it’s back on. As I mentioned in my review of issue #0, I had fallen away from the Mage saga, but here I am reaffirmed. This is damned good stuff. The magic is back, the legend is still ready for the fight, and this comic is recommended, great starting point for new readers as well, even if you have no past with Mage, check it out.
Boy in a Well
The sophomore effort by Denver alternative blues rock trio The Yawpers is Boy in a Well. Recorded in Chicago, a city they barely knew to get out of their comfort zone, this album of crazed left field rockabilly is accompanied by a comic book of the same name. Rock and comics are nothing new, from KISS to Parliament to Alice Cooper to Slayer to the Archies, they go together like, well, rock and comics. Boy in a Well falls more into the category of old school rock opera, telling the tale of a World War I era mother who abandons her son in a well, and he grows up alone and troubled, to say the least.
The music is some of the best rockabilly I’ve heard in a while, with a bit of punk sensibility, and just a touch of Radiohead, and the album, song by song, follows the tale, just as the comic does page by page. The story is pulled from the psyche of lead singer Nate Cook, while the comic images are by musician (of The Legendary Shack Shakers) and visual artist J.D. Wilkes. Together, along with a soundtrack that feels like it was pulled from both the past and the present sonically, they create a stunning, if horrific and graphic, vision. This is a project well worth checking out, and will be released on Friday.
With DC Comics’ current big event Metal seemingly revolving around the Nth metal that powers both Hawkman and his whole mythology, the latest Back Issue from TwoMorrows is aptly timed, with its spotlight on the winged wonder and other bird-themed heroes. Now I loved Hawkman, and I long for the days when his history was simple and his continuity untangled, so this was a treat for me. Here we get articles on the Bronze Age Hawkman, the post-Crisis Hawkworld, Hawkgirl, and other folk like the Hawk and the Dove, the Penguin, Nightwing, Condorman, and even the Blue Falcon. Good stuff. And if you’re as big a Hawkman fan as I am, you might want to check out the Hawkworld Facebook Group, also good stuff.
This comic actually made me very happy. One of the alternate covers features the real Superman, old costume, old belt, red trunks, yeah, I was thrilled enough to pick it up and read it, something I have not done in quite some time. It did take a bit of adjustment to the new continuity, but it fell into place soon enough. Lois and Superman married, with a young son, and a Lex Luthor now on the side of good, having seen him recently as a Justice League member in solicits. It’s not a dynamic I would have liked, but I can let it pass when I read the story by Rob Williams. This guy gets Superman, and in an age where not many people do, and that alone made this a delight to read.
The story concerns the threat of the Machinist, a foe a bit too close to Marvel’s Machinesmith for my tastes, but he manages to exploit one of Superman’s weaknesses. Supes can’t be everywhere at once, so the villain is everywhere at once. Machinist’s use of LexCorp technology brings Lex Luthor into the mix, forcing a team-up between the former enemies. The back and forth between Superman and Luthor is priceless, and believe it or not, they’re a pretty good team. And we also get a cliffhanger that is sure to bring me back next issue. Is the real Superman back at last? I sure hope so, check this issue out for yourselves and decide.
Zenescope continues to build their universe with this tale of Talisman, escaping his destiny to become the King of Pentacles, he comes to Earth, only to be pursued by perennial Grimm bad guys, the Order of the Tarot. Slowly an alliance builds on Earth to oppose Tarot. Like with the Chapterverse of Chapterhouse Comics, I have enjoyed seeing the subtle coming together of the Zenescope universe. Subtlety is key, not a big crowd fighting a cosmic menace like we usually see with the Big Two, but a simple nod that these characters exist in the same place and time. That’s how Stan and Jack did it originally with the Marvel Universe. It’s a great blueprint, one that I wish was used more often. Grimm Fairy Tales: Tarot #1 is a great place to start for newcomers to this universe, hop on board, it’s worth it.
Also from Zenescope this week is Grimm Tales of Terror #8 featuring a one-in-done story of demonic possession partially told in Tweets. In an age where mad American Presidents can effectively declare war and threaten nuclear retaliation via Twitter, this is both frightening and timely. This is a brilliant and surprising piece of work from the storytellers, and another example of how Zenescope is doing things right, unlike the bigger competitors out there.
Speak of the devil, there’s Secret Empire #8 and Captain America #25 from last week. There are a lot of folks out there, some good friends included, who think that I would like these books because the tide is finally turning against the evil Steve Rogers. Sorry, but a happy ending will not save Captain America. It’s far too late for that, as I’ve written before, the character has been destroyed, ruined for future generations, and especially for me. This past week while America itself was being torn apart by present-day Nazis, many folks posted that famous cover of Captain America #1 of the hero punching Hitler in the face on their Facebook pages as a form of solidarity and patriotism. I couldn’t bring myself to do it, as I could only imagine Cap helping Adolf up afterward and apologizing for smacking him so hard.
Captain America #25 represents a turn in the tide of this painful drama, yes, as Sam Wilson retakes the mantle of Captain America and leads the reinvigorated Avengers against Hydra in a successful raid, as well as the return of Winter Soldier, but it also includes a Hitlerian rant by Steve Rogers as he declares war on Wakanda and the mutant state of Tian. And then there’s Barf, and his convenient and disgusting deus ex machina manifestation of the Cosmic Cube. So with the good, there is always bad. Secret Empire #8 is a bit brighter, with the shield over Earth being broken finally, and New York City freed of the darkforce, but it was marred by uneven art and of course the overwhelming shadow of evil Steve Rogers. I just want this over.
Image Comics brings the perfect palate cleanser for Secret Empire with Rich Tommaso’s Spy Seal. The first issue of this series begins the story of “The Corten-Steel Phoenix,” as we enter into not only an anthropomorphic animal world, but also a world of slick espionage to match James Bond at his best. Spy Seal feels very sixties and very British, and looks like The Adventures of Tin-Tin, and I loved it. Far more sophisticated than it at first looks, this is well-written, with fleshed out characters, and I was drawn in immediately. I can’t wait to read more of this. This is the treasured find of the week, definitely a must-buy.
From BOOM! Studios this week are two terrific trades, Namesake and the first volume of the Planet of the Apes archives, the latter reprinting the excellent Marvel black and white PotA comics of the 1970s. DC Comics has Space Ghost and the Herculoids teaming up in the new Future Quest Showcase #1, and also the Sandman Special which JP Fallavollita will be looking at in this afternoon’s The Wednesday Run. And if you didn’t pick up the final issue of The Unstoppable Wasp last week, you missed out on one of the best comics in quite a while, sad to see this one go, it’s proof positive, that despite Secret Empire, Marvel can make good, fun comics that folks want to read over and over again.