As ghosts and ghoulies give way to endless complaints about how early Christmas starts for retail stores, we have a week with a lot of great comics. There’s a lot of good choices, and I’ve chosen what’s a great choice for best currently published book, the return of a reasonable choice for greatest comic of all time, and something much lighter but tons of fun!
This is what passes for a downtime issue in this series, which doesn’t mean a lot isn’t happening. In the main storyline, our lovers (dramatically drawn in romance-cover fashion for our cover) start coming to terms with the idea that, now that they’re not actively running for their lives every second, their options for supporting themselves are rather limited. The payoff of this is teased and will largely come later, but there’s a brilliant scene where Marko wants to talk, and Alana tries to distract him with sex. And Marko doesn’t take the bait. It’s remarkable, one because it’s actually a pretty realistic and believable avoidance tactic that people use in the real world, and makes sense in their relationship. And two, it shows a man who is not utterly driven by base instinct, which is rare in pop culture. So that was nice.
There’s also action in the secondary character plots. Suffice it to say, things look very grim for The Will. And to the credit of the creators, someone who could easily be the main antagonist in the series gets in serious danger, and as a reader I actually care enough about him that I hope he doesn’t meet his end in the cliffhanger ending.
There’s a reason this book picks up virtually every award comic books are eligible for outside of the all ages categories. It’s a triumph. Try it!
The Sandman: Overture #1
People talk about Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns for launching the modern age of excellent comics, but in my mind, it was Neil Gaiman’s Sandman that really showed the world what comics could be. Busting out of Superheroes, and even beyond familiar genres like sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, The Sandman was something new and rarely seen, a pure original Mythology. When it ended, it left a gaping hole in the Vertigo line and our subscription lists that nobody has ever really filled. So it’s with great anticipation that I pick up the first issue of a new Sandman story written by Gaiman, and capably illustrated by J.H. Williams III, who has done such groundbreaking work on Batwoman.
Truth be told, it’s a bit of a weird issue. While Gaiman’s mythology spans across cultures, belief systems, and even spreads to the animal kingdom (see the nearly-perfect Dream of a Thousand Cats story), this is the first time he’s ventured off of planet Earth in such a serious way. A large portion of the story is a weird journey to a truly alien world.
Some more conventional storytelling bits include a conversation with the Corinthian where Dream almost cleans up a lot of trouble before it happens, but alas, timing. Ultimately this is a prequel story to the series, setting up Dream’s capture in issue #1, but it’s not going about it in any sort of predictable way. I’m not sure what is going on by the end, but it’s interesting, and Gaiman hasn’t written very many Sandman stories that didn’t work well, so I’m in.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #12
This is part 2, so I’m really going to talk about #11-12 here. This story is essentially how Twilight Sparkle’s big brother, Shining Armor, got together with Princess Cadence while in high school. And it gives us an entirely new, and delightful, twist on Shining Armor.
The entire two issues are a love letter to the 80s, and in particular John Hughes movies. I mean, it’s titled “Neigh Anything”. And it’s not just obvious references – for instance, there’s a song that’s clearly a take on Oingo Boingo in #11. Just finding all the references in the background was tons of fun. This is how you do a homage!
And Shining Armor? We learn that he’s a giant nerd. Him and his friends play the Equestria equivalent to Dungeons & Dragons, Oubliettes and Ogres. (And also Hocus Pocus: The Get-together.) It’s not outright stated, but one could infer that his cutie mark is more a reference to him playing his Paladin than the previously assumed martial prowess. Personally, I love this idea.
Because it’s a homage story, it hits familiar beats. The nerdy but sweet Shining Armor falls for the out-of-his-league Cadence, who secretly likes him back. But the rich and arrogant jock gets in the way. There’s a moderately botched attempt to get her to notice him, overly-elaborate planning, and ultimately confrontation and resolution at prom. This is not a complaint – following the familiar path gives them lots of room to have fun, and every page is dripping with genuinely delightful jokes, references, and sight gags. Plus it’s full of Twilight Sparkle as a young filly, who is absolutely adorable.