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 Grimm Fairy Tales: 2017 Armed Forces Edition, Dark Knights: Metal #1, Back Issue #99, The Hard Place #1, Hi-Fi Fight Club #1, Grrl Scouts: Magic Socks #4, Shirtless Bear-Fighter #3, and more… be warned, there may be spoilers…
With all the flash and dazzle of a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue comes Zenescope’s Grimm Fairy Tales: Armed Forces Edition. After a brief framing device with some earnest words about war and our fighting forces, we get a parade of pin-up pages of the Zenescope heroines doing cheesecake with a military theme, dedicated to the women and men who protect our freedom. Yes, it’s a little sexist, and a little off-putting, but should I trash it because it’s not my thing? It’s a slippery slope, but in a world of mature content warnings, which I would hope comics shop owners might add one to this and put it out of reach of children because of the oversexualization, I might be wrong.
Quite honestly, some time ago, before I knew the quality that this company was capable of, this was the kind of stuff I expected. That’s not a bad thing, some folks are into it, it’s not my slice of cheesecake, but there you go. However, knowing the coolness that Zenescope is capable of – some terrific superheroics (like here and here) that even the Big Two are having trouble giving us – I can let this go as what it is, just fun, for some adult readers. Let me be clear, there’s no nudity here, but I wouldn’t want to see my niece wearing the outfits here.
Speaking of the Big Two, last week DC Comics gave us the latest chapter in their big crossover epic (why does everything have to be a big crossover?), Metal. And haven’t we all outgrown stunt covers? Beyond all that what we have inside is a Justice League adventure to an extent, as the League battles Mongul on his new War World. It’s actually kind of fun, despite the variations of the costumes, although it’s easy for me to just assume this is all a parallel Earth since The New 52/Rebirth – that makes the pain in my head subside. I actually liked it a lot, and then it falls into the event pit.
When a mountain just magically appears in Gotham City the League meet Kendra Saunders, the last Hawkgirl for their first time, although she knows them, and is calling herself Lady Blackhawk. DC is trying desperately to tie all of its continuity to the Nth metal somehow, and indirectly to Hawkman, as his entire mythos is based on the substance. As she explains, or tries to, I’m enjoying the cameos of great old DC characters of the past, and then she pulls out Grant Morrison’s Multiverse map, and flips it over to reveal a ‘dark multiverse.’ Yep, for old school fans, minds blown. Then it gets crazy. Apparent a dragon from the dawn of time is after Batman. Way to ruin a perfectly good Justice League multiverse story, and if finishing the story requires twenty more comics and a map of the dark multiverse, I’m out. If you like this kind of stuff, go for it, but I like my epics more self-contained, and less confusing.
Just give us our comics about Hawkman, Blackhawk, Doctor Fate, the Red Tornado, and the Challengers of the Unknown, and I’ll be happy, promise, you don’t have to give us a headache and a giant crossover to do it, really.
And speaking of Batman, Back Issue #99 features a retrospective Batman: The Animated Series on its 25th anniversary. Included is an oral history by the creators of the show, an episode guide, a look at the comics of the DC Animated Universe, a history of Harley Quinn, and a memorial piece on the late great artist Mike Parobeck. This issue is one not to miss, especially if you’re a Batman or an animation fan. Recommended.
Pulp seems to on the comeback in comic books these days, more crime noir than The Shadow or Doc Savage, and perhaps owing more to Quentin Tarantino than anything else, we have seen it quite often of late, notably in Crosswind, Sisters of Sorrow, Plastic, and even WWE. We get much the same vibe in this tale of a nearly freed ex-con in The Hard Place. This book, along with the others I mentioned are the kind of comics to hand to a non-comics reader to prove that this is an art form, not a funny book – just like we used to do with Neil Gaiman’s Sandman back in the day. Yeah, it’s that good. See what can be done.
When was the last time you grinned the whole time reading a comic? That you had so much fun reading a comic, you not only couldn’t wait for the next issue, but you couldn’t wait to read the one in your hands again? Yeah, Hi-Fi Fight Club is that comic book. I loved this book. It was fun, it was funny, it had heart, it had great characters, it had music, and it has secrets! Writer/creator (and French fry connoisseur, so you know she rocks) Carly Usdin and artist Nina Vakueva have something amazing here, something worthwhile and exciting that just made my day reading it. In 1998, teenaged Chris works at a record store that has a secret, and I loved it. This is a cool comic that I wish there were more of. Must buy, must read.
Okay, seriously, I have no idea what this is. It starts with Hunter S. Thompson in what I can only assume is some sort of surreal Hell with one of our protagonists. When the conversation of Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol and The Invisibles starts to get interesting, it turns into a pep rally for a teen idol and her obscenity-laced music. I’m not offended, just confused. It’s a visually fun (sort of like Sergio Aragones meets Schoolhouse Rock) and vibrant, but confusing read. I liked it, but really, I don’t know if I can recommend it. I wish I knew what it was about.
And then there’s this. Shirtless Bear-Fighter is perhaps one of the most demented comics I have ever read, and I’ve read a lot of them, but as weird as this was, it was also a hoot. Just as crazed and insane as Grrl Scouts, but I understood what was going on, there was a solid story here, even if it was a man raised like a bear who now fights bears and is powerless with a shirt on. Yeah, take that in. Still, it’s soooo cool. I’m going to find the first and second issues of this, that’s how good it is. Recommended.
Other comics on shelves today worth looking for include Mike Wolfer’s crossover of two of Edgar Rice Burroughs coolest creations – Land That Time Forget Terror from Earth’s Core #1, blending Casbak and Pellucidar from America Mythology, and Amy Chu’s Red Sonja #8 from Dynamite. There are also several trade collections released including The Beauty, Clueless: Senior Year, Tim Seeley’s Action Figure Collection, Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Giants, and the stunningly designed and rendered Snowfall. Check them out.