This weekend, I had the joy to attend SPX, the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland. I’m pleased to report that the world of alternative and indy comics is thriving! There was a lot more I wanted to pick up than I really could, but I got some books that looked interesting, and between that and Baltimore Comic Con last weekend, I’ve got a bunch of smaller titles that I’m going to try and filter in over the coming weeks. Some of the best work doesn’t come from Marvel or DC or Image, and it’s challenging to find out about them!
In addition, this was an unusually strong week for my regular subscription list. It was more difficult than usual to pick what to write about, so I’m erring towards ones I haven’t been talking about as much. Plus an issue of the best superhero comic ever that is too great to ignore.
Astro City is hard to keep out of this column, and if they can keep finding fresh stories like this, that’ll continue for a long time.
In a world where, for various reasons, some people have super powers, there are two choices. Two obvious choices. Are you a hero, or are you a villain? But for some, there’s more to life than this.
We meet Matty “Sully” Sullivan. She’s got telekinetic powers. Through flashbacks, we see her brief attempt at becoming a hero, but she just doesn’t have the adrenaline junkie nature to live that life. And we see her briefer attempt at being a villain, but she really doesn’t have the character flaws for that. So what’s a woman to do with an uncanny ability to move matter with her mind?
Why, special effects, of course! And it makes perfect sense. It’s totally legal, good money, and she can do things much more cheaply than any other method. It’s creative, satisfying work. If I had these powers, yeah, that’s totally the kind of thing I’d do. And we meet a bunch of other similar cases, known as “Sideliners”, each with their own story.
And naturally, some folks just can’t let them be, which sets up the actual story. This is a done-in-one story, and explores an obvious-in-retrospect corner of a superhero universe. I say that as highest praise – the best ideas are ones that are completely obvious except you’ve never seen them before. If you’re curious about why everyone raves about Astro City, this would be a fine issue to sample!
Adventure Time: Candy Capers #3
This miniseries is spotlighting a lot of the secondary characters in the crazy Adventure Time universe, while Jake and Finn are elsewhere. This is a good thing – in many ways, Jake and Finn are the least interesting part of the series.
The first story has Peppermint Butler and Cinnamon Bun going to the land of the dead, to see if Jake and Finn are, in fact, dead. In it, they go through a series of crazy quests that reminded me a little of a World of Warcraft quest chain. Well, a quest chain written by someone who is truly deranged. This channels the weirder episodes of the show, and has an unforgettable sequence involving Cinnamon Bun’s buns that I can’t even comprehend.
I actually preferred the second story. In this, we see the team-up of Lemongrab and Lumpy Space Princess. Anyone who has seen the show knows that, if they can get the voices of these two right, these are some of the more entertaining denizens of the land of Oo. And I’m very pleased to say that, they got it right.
They go questing, in their weird, narcissistic, screamy ways, and encounter the Why-Wolves. (Which are kind of like Were-wolves, but obsessed with scientific inquiry instead.) And ultimately, all the various kinds of werewolfish tribes we’ve seen in the series, which turns out to be a lot more than one would think.
Anyway, if you want more of the absolutely bizarre menagerie of Oo, this is the comic for you!
My Little Pony: Micro Series – Celestia #8
We see in this issue the magical school that Celestia runs, which presumably produced Twilight Sparkle. The entire place is an extended Harry Potter With Ponies pastiche, including a panel with pony Harry, Ron and Hermione. So if you find that kind of thing entertaining, and I do, that’s reason enough to check this out.
They advertise this issue as being about Celestia, but it’s really about old professor Inkwell. She’s kooky and crazy and the students think she’s weird. She’s basically their Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. And some of the parents who are full of themselves try and push Celestia into putting Inkwell out to pasture.
And through flashbacks, we then learn that Inkwell was a heroic defender of Equestria in her day, very much in a Twilight Sparkle role. I really like the sense of history. Equestria may be a peaceful paradise, but just like the characters in the series regularly have to defend it against darkness, this was true in earlier generations as well. It makes the universe feel more expansive.
And then Celestia does her thing, and it’s a rather beautiful learning moment for all. She really is qualified to teach about the magic of friendship! This kind of thing really should be cheesy and cliché, but it’s absolutely not.
Top notch pony story, here.
Indy Spotlight: Amelia Cole
The first title I picked up at Baltimore Comic Con that I want to spotlight is the delightful Amelia Cole. This started as an all-digital title, but they printed up a graphic novel of the first storyline, which is what I read.
This is a really fun title with a strong female lead. Amelia is a powerful young mage who moves freely between the magical world and the mundane world. Right at the start, there’s a sense that this is a character that’s already had adventures and knows what she’s doing, which is great.
Something has gone wrong with the barrier between worlds, with magical menaces threatening the mundane world. Amelia and her aunt immediately get invaded by the police in the magical world, and Amelia ends up fleeing to a third world (whose existence is very much a surprise to her), where there’s a magical upper-class and most people are non-magical. Wherein she immediately runs afoul of the local authorities.
Amelia is a really likeable protagonist, and just wants to do what’s right, but isn’t willing to be pushed around either. It’s a delight to root for her. This is a title that works for younger and older readers alike, also a nice thing to discover. She’s getting nicely caught up into some sort of web of intrigue in the unknown world, and there’s still a wealth of mysteries just hinted at about her true origins, and just what’s going on with their multiverse.
I’m excited to catch up on the rest of this series, and recommend it easily!