Heroes and Villains – Reviewing Recent Comics 11-8-2017


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 Captain America #695, Kong on the Planet of the Apes #1, Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1, Coyotes #1, Port of Earth #1, and more… be warned, there may be spoilers…

Captain America

I have been quoted on The GAR! Podcast as saying that not even Mark Waid can save Captain America after Secret Empire, and while I do believe this, I do hope that I’m wrong. I want to like Captain America again, I don’t want to get angry when I hear that name, I want to love and root for the hero who was once a hero among heroes and one of the greatest Avengers… before Nick Spencer turned him into the foulest of Nazi super-villains in the wretched Secret Empire storyline. And last week, we got Captain America #695 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee. From the ashes of the Frank Miller days, which I did not like (at least Miller didn’t turn DD into a Nazi), these two creators gave me back a Daredevil that I liked, now they were going to give Cap a shot. I had to at least give it a chance.


The new storyline, “Home of the Brave,” begins with the overly simplistic intro that an evil Captain America brought the planet to the brink of destruction, and the real hero arrived in time to stop him. Can our hero find a place in a world that has been made to fear Captain America? Well, that really does burn it down to the bare bones, like boiling Gone with the Wind down to ‘persevere,’ but I’ll roll with it for the sake of Waid and Samnee, who have, in my opinion, been given an impossible task to return a hero from darkest oblivion.

There’s no denying it, Waid and Samnee tell a damned good story, and one of the best Captain America stories in years, maybe decades. A town in Nebraska that Cap saved from terrorists ten years back (oh, how I hate the sliding scale of Marvel time) when he first came out of the ice has now renamed itself Captain America and celebrates his victory every year with a Captain America Day. Steve Rogers himself visits on that day and stops the same terrorists, white supremists called Rampart, from pulling the same stunt. Had this been two years ago, pre-Secret Empire, I would have cheered Cap, and maybe even gotten a little choked up, but it isn’t and I didn’t.

No matter how good this story is, no matter how perfectly it encapsulates what Captain America used to mean to me, it still cannot wash the blood and shit from the shield of the hero put there by Nick Spencer’s Secret Empire ‘event.’ Samnee’s style is perfect for the Golden Age hero in the present day, and Waid understands true superheroics. I loved Waid’s clever conceit that there are folks who don’t believe Cap is the real deal from WWII who came out of the ice. Some think he’s some guy hired by the Avengers to give them street cred as real superheroes. This ‘fake news’ conceit plucked from our present day political nightmare lends credence to the idea that it was an evil imposter of Cap who did all the horrible things in Secret Empire, and the real McCoy showed up at the last minute and saved the day.


That’s all well and good for a citizen of Earth-616, but I’m not from the Marvel Universe, I’m from the real world, and I read Captain America and Secret Empire for the last two years. I was there, I know who did those things. I saw and heard Marvel editor Tom Brevoort tell me on various media that Captain America is and has always been Hydra, an organization that may as well be the fourth freaking reich. I was there, and I cannot erase what I read. Waid and Samnee can produce the best Captain America stories ever, and there will still be a part of me that remembers, that doubts, and that can never believe in that hero again.

So for the people who have kept asking me this past week what I thought of Captain America #695, I’ll tell you. It is among the best Cap stories ever, and a wonderful start to a new era, I highly recommend it, but as far as Captain America goes, I have checked out, for good.

Kong/Planet of the Apes

As mad as such a crossover of these two franchises may be, I have to say, just pages into Kong on the Planet of the Apes #1, I was hooked. Seemingly taking place moments after the original PotA film, Dr. Zaius, Cornelius, and Zira uncover something just beyond the shocking and iconic wreckage of the Statue of Liberty… the corpse of Kong, and we roll from there. Is the discovery of a giant ape evidence of god? The familiar characters of PotA journey across the sea, and we get a rare look at the African ape civilization, before the voyage goes further to the Skull Island of Joe DeVito‘s Skull Island. This is awesome stuff, folks, and highly recommended, I cannot wait for the next issue.


Black Lightning

I was so happy to see this comic, both a celebration and a promotion, and it does both equally well. First I am so happy to see Tony Isabella back behind his favorite creation. I loved his Black Lightning back in the day when that original first issue first went on sale, and I love him today, with a CW television series waiting in the wings for 2018. This Black Lightning is older and wiser and more powerful, having left Metropolis and Brick City for Cleveland, he’s still fighting the good fight. Isabella’s words, combined with the slick cool visuals by Clayton Henry, have me in the palms of their hands from page one. I love this.

It’s Cleveland because it’s where Jefferson Pierce grew up, and also because he is burying his father. Coincidentally it’s also where the new Tobias Whale has his operation. Some things never change, but again, I like it, this is a Great White Whale for a new generation. His henchmen are called the Weathermen and they’re sporting high tech weapons, and once Black Lightning has been identified as the monkey wrench in their plans, they want a showdown. It’s not a showdown though, it’s a trap.


I really liked this comic, read it a couple times. I loved the inner dialogue acknowledging a long career in the superhero game (really, BL is being trained by an old Red Bee foe?), the nods to folks who worked on the character previously, the smart and devious villain who means business, and most of all a hero who is genuinely heroic. This is a great new start for one of my favorite heroes. Get it and read it now!


This modern myth by Sean Lewis and Caitlin Yarsky is not what it at first appears. My first reaction was boredom, as this is yet another in a long line of sociopath foulmouthed female protagonists in an ultra-violent world, and while that description could still be rationalized, there’s much more going on here. Coyotes hits hard on several levels and pays off on all. Women are disappearing, wolves are stalking the border, and a group of survivors are fighting back, what does it all mean? Not for the squeamish, this is well worth reading, check it out.

Port of Earth

I dug this one as well, a slice of science fiction with some hard reality slipped in for good measure. Aliens come to Earth, not for war, or for peace, but for business. They want to set up a port in the ocean near San Francisco where ships can land, refuel, relax. Commerce has come for Earth, and for a while, it’s a good thing, but all good things come to an end. An incident with aliens that wander into San Fran causes thousands of deaths, and Earth is charged with providing security for the port. That’s the set-up, which is wild enough, and takes up most of the first issue, but the real sizzle starts when remote cameras are allowed into the security facility and we follow two officers on their day-to-day. This is sooo good, worldbuilding and a scifi procedural, recommended.


…and more…

Among the comics coming out this week include the second issue of Slots, a fairly horrific issue of Harrow County, and a great roller derby comic from BOOM! Studios called Slam! The Next Jam, but the big news this week is that Brian Michael Bendis, the writer who revolutionized Marvel Comics in the last decade and a half (whether you love him or hate him), has made the move from Marvel to DC Comics. So far there’s no word on what projects he will be taking on at DC, but what do you folks want to see him do there? Batman? Superman? Wonder Woman? Justice League? The Legion of Super-Heroes? Let us know what you think, what you want, or don’t want. What’s the title(s) that Bendis should take on?

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