November ended up being a month where a KickStarter, a minor operation (All fine) and a book all happened. I still found time to read some really good comics last month though and here’s my look at the first run of them.
Nnedi Okorafor is the perfect choice for this series and the second issue cleverly digs further into not just Wakandan beliefs but the different approaches taken by each generation and gender. Okorafor’s genius comes through in a couple of different ways. The first is how these different viewpoints are presented fairly, leading to a fascinating set of conversations between Shuri, Storm and the mayor of a Mute Zone. A Wakandan princess, a Wakandan leader who embodies the spirit of her country without the enhancement of technology and a weather goddess walk into a comic. None of them agree, all of them are well-rounded and fun characters and every single one of them brings a piece of the solution to the table. Western comics are rife with badly realized fictional countries. Wakanda isn’t one of them and the nuance and depth it’s given here is fascinating.
Then there’s the fact that the book is straight up FUN. Whether it’s Okorafor’s attention to detail (When was the last time someone remembered Storm was claustrophobic?) or her clear, fast plotting there’s nothing here that doesn’t earn its place or do its work. Okorafor makes Wakanda, and the women who run it, feel grounded and real and finds grace notes for every character along the way. Plus Shuri in particular LOVES her work and so does Okorafor and that shines through on every page.
The same is true of Leonardo Romero, who has a remarkable eye for character and expression. His rendition of Storm is especially great as is Shuri’s gloriously cool fold-away car. Romero shifts gear effortlessly from high tech to spiritual to character and back again and is helped immensely by Jordie Bellaire. The colour palette on the book goes a long way towards emphasizing its fundamental optimism and realism. The simple fact that the book has three leads, all women of color, none of whom have the same skin tone is as subtle as it is welcome. Rounded out by excellent letters from VC’s Joe Caramagna and a great Sam Spratt cover, this is another strong entry in one of the most entertaining series around right now.
And speaking of fun, West Coast Avengers wraps up it’s first plot with all sorts of fun. Kate spends pretty much the entire issue as a colossal human/hawk hybrid (That’s fun to write AND say!), America gets a (maybe) girlfriend and the team make their first chat show appearance after saving the very large people BRODOK created and also stopping them. Also there’s kissing. And, brilliantly, one person deciding that being large is AWESOME and persuading them to let her stay that way.
Thompson is an exceptional comedic writer and this team of complex, difficult misfits is perfect ground for her sense of humor to flourish in. Quire and Gwenpool are instinctively funny the moment they’re on the page together, Kate’s long suffering heroism is incredibly endearing and every other team member is just as much fun. This book feels like the best early ‘00s cult TV show that never got made and that’s intended as very high praise indeed. Not just for Thompson too but for Stefano Caselli’s exuberant art, Triona Farrell’s Californian sun-drenched color schemes and VC’s Joe Caramagna’s lettering which helps every joke land. Just a flat out joy, an inherently Californian book and one of the Marvel books that absolutely deserves more attention.
As does Tony Stark, Iron Man. Dan Slott’s on story here with Jeremy Whitley assisting on script and Whitley’s tone is visibly throughout. His work is defined by compassion and humor and both of those come through in waves here. As Tony rolls out the ultimate MMO, it becomes apparent that all the plans bubbling along under the surface of the book are about to come to the fore. The not quite relationship between Andy and Tony’s mom, Bethany’s ongoing suspicion she may be the very double agent she’s looking for and Jocasta’s quiet existential crisis all play roles here. In fact, Jo’s scene is the standout of the book, as Whitley and Slott give us a deeply poignant look at what she uses the MMO for.
‘Stark Realities’ is an ambitious plot and this is all set up but there’s still a lot to be impressed by here. Valerio Schiti’s clean, burly artwork is exactly what the book needs and Edgar Delgado’s colour work gives the book the exact clean, bright futuristic look it requires. VC’s Joe Caramagna is back on deck too and impresses once again with a book that shifts through multiple realities but still keeps each character’s voice strong.
The Immortal Hulk continues to be one of my favorite books and, in fact, both digs in and expands on its premise. What started out as mid-western Twilight Zone gothic has become a dissection (literally) of the Hulk as an idea, a slide into the brutal tomato past of the Banner family, a surprisingly great Alpha Flight story and flat out body horror with a light dusting of tragedy. That’s never been truer than this issue, which cleverly splits the perspective and style between the Hulk and Creel, his regular foe. Martin Simmonds’ work on the Creel pages is strong lined, expressive and honest in a way that syncs perfectly with the character himself. Creel’s transformation from villain to reluctant, and self-aware, tomato can is genuinely touching and the ending here makes you honestly and sincerely worried for him. This isn’t a book about monsters, it’s one about people who think they have to be monsters and Creel, like Sasquatch before him, is painful evidence of the cost of thatg choice. But, as this issue shows, Sasquatch may have been far luckier than he first thought.
The stretched clinical approach Simmonds’ work has is neatly contrasted by Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose and Paul Mounts on the Hulk pages. Bennett’s muscular, distended pencils make this one of the most nightmarish depictions of the character to date while Jose’s inks shoot everything through with the deep blacks and purples of night. All of which leads up to a fight that’s brutal, frantic, untidy and desperate, absent the fog of heroic romance that normally comes with cathartic super violence. Difficult, dark, essential stuff from one of the best teams in the industry right now.
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