Unlike last week, the comics god smiled on me this week with a heavy pile of good comics! With lots of choices, this week’s picks are truly the cream of the crop, including a very good candidate for Best Comic that’s currently running, and it’s not your normal superhero fare.
This is one of the most original science fiction epics in any medium in years. It has a basic Romeo/Juliet premise, with the story focusing on two soldiers from planets that have been at war for as long as anyone can remember falling in love. But put any thoughts that this is a rehash of anything out of your head.
Comics are a visual artform, and provide the imaginative creators an extremely flexible toolbox to create and engage. Brian K. Vaughn has been making great comics for years, but nothing like this. The aliens are weird, sometimes wonderful, more often horrible. Cultures are rich and strange. It pulls you in. A warning, though, it’s decidedly R rated material at times, and absolutely not for kids.
This issue is primarily a flashback, where we see for the first time our two leads falling for each other and making a break for it. Romance in an action science fiction setting can be hit or miss, but this is on the hit side. Marko and Alana have actual chemistry, and what they’re doing almost makes sense in all the right definitions of almost.
And there’s also a portion that takes place in the present of the story, as bounty hunters close in, things go wrong, and things go from worse to much worse.
Hunt down all of this remarkable series. It’s going to be one of the gems of the genre people are reading for decades.
There’s a lot of things I love about the Batwoman series, and it definitely starts with the art. Check out that beauty of a cover! And the inside is a match. J.H. Williams III is one of my favorite comic artists – remember that name, because he’s going to be doing the art for the next Gaiman Sandman project. It’s not just that it’s fabulously drawn, which it is, but he has an excellent sense of how to do really unusual and creative things with paneling that don’t break the reading flow, and that’s hard to do.
And the other thing I love is the main character. Kate Kane is a tough, military woman, drummed out during the don’t ask/don’t tell era, who uses her west point training to do what good she can in Gotham City as the Batwoman. She’s every bit as physical, if not more so, than Batman. And she’s working for a shadowy government organization, not entirely of her own free will, that supplies the Wayne-esque resources one needs to be a good Bat-hero. And yes, she’s a lesbian, who has a girlfriend, and they show every bit as much as DC does their heterosexual relationships.
This issue finishes up a three-part story where she teams up with Wonder Woman to fight greek monsters in Gotham. It’s probably best to go back to the start of the storyline, and you’ll be well rewarded with great art, great narrative, and one of my favorite takes on Wonder Woman I’ve read. Kate’s definitely out of her element, surrounded by myths and monsters, but she does what she does, and it’s a great read.
All of the myriad of X-Men books have gone through a massive creative shift lately, with new creative teams, character shuffling, new directions, and often outright cancellation and new series. With one exception – X-Factor. For over a decade, Peter David’s been writing consistently very good stories every month in this little corner of the Mutant universe that’s just a little off of the beaten path.
The heart of X-Factor is Jamie Madrox, aka Multiple Man. He has the very useful ability to copy himself, as many times as he wants. Him and his team run X-Factor investigations, a mutant private investigations firm. It frequently veers into Noir territory, with a little higher powered punching. And nobody has mastered how to do humor in a superhero genre comic like Peter David. The way he weaves in one liners without throwing the reader out of the flow is downright Whedonesque.
In this issue, this is basically part two of the “Hell on Earth” storyline. Not too long ago, Rahne the werewolf (whom some of you might remember from the classic New Mutants days) had a magical son, and there was a lot of unexplained demon drama around the birth. Last issue, it was explained, and it basically sums up to a wager between the various Marvel Lords of Hell – there are a lot of them that have shown up over the years – about whomever kills the 7 billionth person on the planet, whenever that happens, gets to take charge. And as luck would have it, that person is Rahne’s son, whom X-Factor is not willing to hand over without a fight. And in this issue, a fight is had.
It’s well told superhero stuff, but if X-Factor has taught us anything over the years, there’s a twist coming. This series has some of the best surprises in comics, frequently causing genuine WTF? reactions. There’s consistently payoff.
And a note on the writer, Peter David. I’ve been following his work since I started reading comics, from The Incredible Hulk, Aquaman, Young Justice (he created the original), Captain Marvel, She-Hulk, Spider-Man 2099, and many more. He’s also done work on Babylon 5, has many Star Trek novels published, and original novels too. In January, he suffered a stroke. He seems to be recovering very well, but best wishes to this comics legend, and much love. There’s no indication that he’s going to stop writing X-Factor, though if there’s a fill-in arc after this one, I’m sure we’ll all forgive him.
That’s all for this week. Anyone else have any comic finds they want to share?