I know it seems impossible, but The Pull List has grown even bigger this week for the third week in a row! That’s because I finished catching up to present on a number of DC and Marvel books, plus I picked up five smaller press books.
- DC Comics
- Batman #41
- Batman & the Signal #2
- The Brave and The Bold #1
- Damage #2
- Deathbed #1 (Vertigo)
- Justice League #39
- Milk Wars – DC Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye / Swamp Thing Special
- Super Sons #13
- Superman #41
- Trinity #18
- Image Comics
- The Further Adventures of Nick Wilson #2
- Ice Cream Man #2
- Maestros #5
- Redlands #6
- Twisted Romance #3
- Marvel Comics
- Astonishing X-Men #8
- Avengers #681
- Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan #5
- Doctor Strange – Damnation #1
- Generation X #87
- Infinity Countdown Prime
- Mighty Thor #704
- Tales of Suspense #102
- The Incredible Hulk #713
- Venom #162
- X-Men Gold #22
- Smaller Publishers: Dark Horse, Dynamite, IDW, Vault Comics, Zenescope
- Belle Beast Hunter #2, Zenescope
- Heathen #6, Vault Comics
- James Bond: The Body #1, Dynamite Comics
- Mata Hari #1, Dark Horse / Berger Books
- Musketeers #1, Zenescope
- Punks Not Dead #1, IDW Publishing / Black Crown
Pick of the Pull
Big Two (Marvel/DC) Issue of the Week:
Mighty Thor (2016) #704
A bloody, thrilling, heart-rending comic. Aaron has somehow amped up the drama in each of the last three issues as we hasten towards a potential Ragnarok at the hands of the Mangog and Jane Foster’s death at her own hands if she takes up the mantle of Thor just one more time.
Yet, beyond those looming disasters there is still Makelith’s war on the Ten Realms. Mangog is just one facet of that. Even in the dimness and tragedy, Aaron finds shining moments – Jane with her friend in the cancer ward, a father and son joined in battle, and a mother casting aside a snake that has wounded her before.
All the while, Dauterman and Wilson are turning in a quality of artwork never seen before at Marvel comics – truly, one of the pinnacles of art at Marvel in over 75 years of publishing.
This story has officially become the best Thor story in my eyes, and it just might be Marvel’s best longform story of all time. I’d place it alongside Mark Gruenwald Captain America and Chris Claremont X-Men at this point.
Best Small-Pub Issue of the Week:
Punks Not Dead (2018) #1, IDW Publishing / Black Crown
An utterly madcap introduction to Punks Not Dead (and, for me, to Black Crown comics, which are edited by Shelly Bond distributed by IDW). This book is part Injection, part Sid and Nancy, and a little dash of the more lighthearted issues of Sandman.
It follows a teenage boy and his scam artist mom as the kid picks up some kind of supernatural echo of the deceased Sid Vicious in a dingy airport bathroom. Meanwhile, the beleaguered Department for Extra-Usual Affairs is busy putting minor demons out of the closet at 10 Downing Street with a staff of one.
This book is funny, unique, and looks freaking brilliant. Artist Martin Simmonds is simply incredible, drawing a real-seeming Britain with amped up color and clever use of cut-and-pasted patterns to ground it in real, textured reality. I am in love with this book, and will not only be keeping up with it, but also checking out other titles from Black Crown.
Batman (2016) #41
This issue is one of Tom King’s go-to tricks – a strictly dictated structure that divorces the narration from the action in the issue. He just did something similar in Mister Miracle #6, which I viscerally hated. Here it’s a bit more palatable, but still annoyingly precious and tricksy where a more straight-forward version of the same plot might be more interesting.
Mike Janin’s art is beyond great here – every panel is perfect every figure pops off of it. A montage wrapped in vines and a tight full-page reveal on Ivy’s face are two of the best moments
In this anti-narrative, an unseen Poison Ivy narrates over Bruce Wayne’s disconnected and puzzling actions – including clocking Alfred and injecting Selina with a mysterious substance. While the action clears up as the issue presses on, there is no room for a reader to pause or stretch out. King keeps us stuck in a chute the entire time. We have to buy his concept wholesale and not question the why of it, or hope to hear what Batman is thinking. We get what we get – a single perspective.
My negative reaction to a specific structural device might simply be an indicator that I’ve consumed too much Tom King in the past year, to which I say: heavy lies the crown. Like Brian Bendis, Warren Ellis, and Brian K. Vaughan, King has become hot enough in a short enough time that he winds up a victim of his own success. When all eyes are on you, you can’t reuse tropes the way you can on less-read titles.
Batman & the Signal (2018) #2
The Signal is an okay book. It might have actually been better branded as part of DC’s “New Age of Heroes” rather than as a Batman tie-in and Metal spinoff, even if Duke Thomas’s transformation from regular kid to superhero The Signal has its roots in Metal.
It turns out, there’s a whole generation of sudden mutants popping up in Gotham, and the activation of many of their powers are killing them. Somehow, Signal as our window into this feels a little too miniaturized and convenient.
He encounters an assailant in the middle of the street who also turns out to be known member of a gang of three super-powered prisoners in a juvenile detention center a day later. Duke horns into on a police investigation, gets handed a tissue sample (that he could have taken from himself, right?), and then storms in to accuse Bruce of being the one to activate his powers only to have some mysterious benefactor hack into the Batcave at that very moment.
Maybe this small world effect will be explained in the next issue, but something about this story makes it feel like Scott Snyder originally intended it to play out as minor scenes in the background of a longer plot and then it got pushed into its own mini-series (perhaps because All-Star Batman is moving to an OGN model, so he’ll no longer have the monthly space to do such a thing).
I did not enjoy the art here. There is a continuing uneven quality to the figures and faces that I just don’t associate with a Batman book, but I don’t think the script or colors of this one take it to that “indie comics lite” place of a book like Marvel’s Hawkeye where this art might get a pass.
One aspect of this book I am enjoying is Gotham by daylight. Signal’s powers are about light and the echo it leaves, which means this story plays out against a brighter version of Gotham than we’re used to seeing. It makes sense to see him fighting by daylight, for the detective to remark on skylights in the last issue, and for Duke to remark on how skyscrapers are built by both day and light in the opening scenes here.
The Brave and The Bold (2018) #1
Liam Sharp’s figure work here, scripting and inking himself, is beautiful. The art is full of inky blacks. It looks bolder and more muscular than Sharp did on Rucka’s Wonder Woman, maybe owing to a colorist change here to Romulo Fajardo Jr.
I also really loved the lettering here from Troy Peteri – a primary font full of big, wide strokes that made reading easy, and a fantasy font that wasn’t overly fussy.
Sharp’s Bruce Wayne is massive and haggard, though his Wonder Woman might be too young and waif-like by comparison, with a small, delicate face and a tiny waist. This depiction of her is paired with her as a sex object and courtesan to a representative of the fairy world. As a result, Diana comes off as slight and almost obsequious, all while, Bruce gets to be a powerful detective.
That left a sour taste in my mouth both from a script and art standpoint (so: all on Sharp). Without an awesome version of Diana to pull me into this story, the scenes in the fairy world were boring (though beautiful). Wonder Woman has been having a hard time getting a fair turn in DC books, and to see Sharp come from working on her with Rucka to this depiction is ultimately disappointing. Hopefully as the mystery deepens, the quality of Diana’s character will grow.
Damage (2018) #2
This issue had a little more meat to it than the destruction porn of the first one. Granted, it still involved a lot of violence, but this time it was against the recognizable characters of DC’s Suicide Squad.
It seems like the entire concept of Damage is to play up his struggle to maintain his humanity, which makes it ironic that this book is having such a hard time making me feel a thing for the character. While the story continues to convey Elvis Ethan’s reticence to return to the army as their walking Hulk-like weapon, it still hasn’t characterized how he got there in the first place or why he wants out. His inner life was mostly portrayed in the first issue by him telling his Damage persona “she turned me into a weapon” and here in calling his mother and sitting silently on the phone.
It feels like this comic exists purely to be an artistic romp for Tony Daniel, and the non-battle scenes did not add much. A scene about pants and lying about his name isn’t as charming as it wants to be, nor is a scene about him having coins thrown at him on the street funny at all.
Deathbed (2018) #1 – Vertigo
Deathbed presents a massive scope of world from the very first page and art that is packed with details and references. A dying former monster-slaying rich man has hired a ghostwriter to join him at the side of his death bed to record his world-altering story, except the writer cannot find a single whisper of this seemingly famous adventurer anywhere.
As it turns out, he might be telling the truth about changing the world, but he’s definitely lying about a lot of other things (if maybe just by omission).
I loved two aspects of this narrative in particular. One was the knowing, smirkingly omniscient narration. It worked so well in instilling a sense of playful dread this chapter would not have had if it was carried only by dialog.
The second is that this world is casually filled with low fantasy. Birds delivering gold bricks, ninja mummies, giant snake monsters – they’re all dropped in as minor details that don’t warrant a remark from the characters. (In that way, this reminded me a lot of Shutter.)
The coloring is WILD – mostly flat colors without gradients, but also little scraps of digital Ben Day Dots for shading. Also, truly terrific lettering – great choices in font faces and great readability.
Justice League (2016) #39
Ian Churchill has always been a strong artist, but I am fascinated by his adaptability here.
He draws a more angular, savage scene with Aquaman confront the JL’s deadly fan in the desert, but a more traditionally rendered scene of Cyborg appearing in front of Congress, and then shiny, high-gloss action figure superheroism for Wonder Woman and Superman.
Priest turns this super hero tale inside out, showing us a weak Aquaman who cares more for the precedent he’s set for fish than the way he treats people, Cyborg as the JL’s most effective member to testify before an enraged congress, and people on the streets annoyed that the League is responding to a disaster by saving the next neighborhood over, with lower population density and more money.
Priest does all of this while still making the League big-time heroes, again writing a terrific super-science sequence for Flash. He has a magic touch to balance the more pedestrian, deconstructionist elements of this story against the heroic moments.
Milk Wars, Part 4: Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye / Swamp Thing Special
This was a fun, funny, and weird edition of the Milk Wars – maybe the best one yet. It places the cast of Cave Carson on the inside of the RetConn Corporation that’s behind this artificial lactose-filled reality.
Carson and his cast are working as office drones who consume nothing but a steady supply of milk. When Cave Carson gets an inkling that something is wrong, he chows down on a ton of lettuce to spawn a Swamp Thing team-up straight from his own gullet.
I think this issue comes off as the strongest Milk Wars installment so far because it comments so much on the first three and exists in the setting that explains them. Also, given that Swamp Thing is currently only a guest star and here is not transformed by Milk, it doesn’t feel as though there’s as much as a burden of trying to decipher why or how he’s been corrupted as their has been with the three prior heroes.
The artwork is a perfect match for this outlandish story, looking like an updated Hanna-Barbera 60s cartoon that gets progressively crisper and more vibrant as Carson and company break out of the control of the milk.
It’s a fun outing that helps make a lot of sense out of the other Milk Wars books – in fact, I think it might make sense to read prior to Part 3!
Super Sons (2017) #13
This feels like a larger-in-scope story for these super kids, with Robin having to contend with his assasin past (and Jon learning to accept it). Seeing Robin be rightfully bored with his normal kids school is a delight, as much as it is to see him repudiate his mother’s advances. We’ve spent years earning these sorts of moments with him. Jon’s naivite in both situations is equally charming. With a big story arc and terrific art, this book remains one of DC’s best
Superman (2016) #41
A satisfying and philosophically complex end to this James Robinson / Ed Benes two-parter. Superman has found a perfect analog to his own father on a dying world, and he has to learn the hard way he cannot save everything.
While this issue centers on a lack of absolute morality across cultures, it is never explicit in driving home the point of how a Superman analog would have failed on Krypton with this same mission. II think leaving it unspoken makes it more powerful than stating it. To see him realizing this silently while standing in front of Jon, his own son who he would do anything to protect, makes it even more powerful.
A really fine pair of issues to show us how complex the world of Superman has become now that he is a father himself.
Trinity (2016) #18
This issue of the Trinity trapped in an alternate fantastic dimension suffers a bit from a montage syndrome, where the entire middle portion is consumed with presenting fantastical shots of passing battles – empty comic book calories that are pleasing in the moment but don’t yield anything memorable in hindsight (except for maybe Batman riding a unicorn).
It’s a shame this issue is dropping in the midst of a LOT of alternate-dimension stories for Batman at DC (he was just in one with Wonder Woman in his title, and they’re both headed to another in Brave and the Bold), because this might be the most satisfying one out of them all. Robison is writing Wonder Woman here tremendously better than he is in her own title – emphasizing her warrior prowess and her boundless empathy.
Also, we don’t too often get takes on a completely powerless Superman, so that’s also fun – honestly, I could stand to see slightly more of a focus on him and less on Diana in this story (something you’ll rarely hear me say).
We end on a cliffhanger in multiple respects, and I am definitely in for more of this arc and of this title, which is really turning into an All-Star take on DC’s iconic trio of heroes.
The Further Adventures of Nick Wilson (2018) #2
This is a little bit less “Sadsack Former Hero” and a little bit more “old foes get into a business deal,” but it still has a terrific joke-packed script and art that really plays up Wilson’s schlubby middle-aged version of superhero handsomeness. I loved the back matter by Eddie Gorodetsky talking about the music that inspired the comic, including our mutual love of Jenny Lewis!
Ice Cream Man (2018) #2
The delicious weirdness of Ice Cream Man dims a bit in this second issue, which is a very conventional story of a pair of addicts nearing the brink of overdose and how they got there. Save for a brief Ice Cream Man appearance towards the end, there’s none of the supernatural or the mystery elements here that the prior issue had.
Will this just be a long-term anthology of people making bad choices with Ice Cream Man subtly egging them on and Detective 5V always two steps too slow? Even if it eases into an ongoing plot, it’s a little hard to imagine how this issue might fit in to a longer term plan.
Maestros (2017) #5
Another mind-bendingly incredibly issue of Maestros, which is quickly shaping up to be one of the best Image titles. This issue a bit slower than the last, but more tied to both the ongoing plot and the Maestro’s connection with his father’s powers. That yields a tense confrontation in the pit of hell, but also a scene with a lot of laughs in a big box store in Orlando. Both scenes lead to a singularly shocking finale.
Steve Skroce continues to contribute not only a ridiculously scathing script, but some of the best and most grotesque illustrations in comics. This is a must-read.
Redlands (2017) #6
There’s nothing magical about this dishwater issue, both literally and figuratively. This comic pivoted hard from an interesting story about witches ruling a small town to a dull and brutal story about human trafficking that’s verging on torture porn.
All of the parts of the plot we wanted to know about the most have disappeared. Yes, there is a tickler that connects this prostitution thread back to the witches and their down, but that feels like it’s a long way from here. It’s a pity to see such a great concept squandered by a talented creative team, but I’m not sure this comic is good enough for me to want to return to it when it comes back for its second arc.
Twisted Romance (2018) #3
A slightly lumpy sci-fi story with a dash of world-building and a dash of unrequited gay romance. There’s a lot less character development in this one compared to the prior two, but the art might be the best so far – seeing this delicate pencil work with no inks or color will make you wonder why most comics even both.
Astonishing X-Men (2017) #8
When Astonishing X-Men got started last summer I made the mistake of thinking its 12-issue length, Charles Soule pedigree, and rotating cast of superstar artists meant it was a prestige book – something that was meant to have the meteoric impact of Tom King’s Vision or Doomsday Clock.
I think my early dissatisfaction with the book stemmed from that. I wanted Eisner-quality X-Men, and I was getting repetitive fights on the Astral Plane.
Now that we’re two issues into the second arc, I think I finally get this book. It’s not prestige X-Men. It’s throwback X-Men. 90s-style X-Men. A comic book that’s all about having the coolest characters with the thorniest relationships having flashy battles that don’t always make a ton of sense.
Soule definitely takes me to that place in this issue, which feels like something we could have easily gotten from the franchise in 1994. He leverages both existing relationships (Old Man Logan and Mystique) and new showdowns (Bishop versus Proteus) to make this fun for both casual and longtime readers. The actual plot of the book might be a little lost at this point, as some of the retcons on Proteus are a bit confusing, but it’s big, fun X-Men comics – and that counts for a lot.
Avengers (2017) #681
This is the issue where the Avengers catch up with our knowledge that they’re playing a cosmic game on Earth. We get the reaction twice – one for each team – and both times it’s incredibly satisfying to watch our heroes get dealt in to the story as much as we are.
Kim Jacinto with David Curiel on color again makes this book a page-turner, with clear action that hits just as hard as the quieter character moments with Rogue and Voyager. Tony Perkins is a strong late-game alternate – though he’s not quite a match for Kim Jacinto’s artwork, Curiel keeps all but one page in close style to Jacinto’s work.
(Why they had Jacinto labor through several pages of flashbacks when they presented the perfect chance to sub in Perkins seamlessly we’ll never know.)
Ultimately, not too much really happens here, save for a double-surprise at the end with a certain Avenger saving the day and another one seemingly back to life. Both reveals feel big – one euphoric and the other foreboding. Maybe half of this issue wasn’t strictly necessary, but I love that rather than decompression this weekly series has given us more moments. It’s not that anything takes longer, but that we get to watch our characters actually react to things.
It’s not a gift we frequently receive with the pace at which most comics are released, and I’m going to relish it.
Deadpool vs. Old Man Logan (2017) #5
This series limps to a conclusion that really isn’t all that much of a climax. It’s been good-looking all along thanks to art from Mike Henderson and Lee Loughridge, but scripter Declan Shalvey never really nailed Deadpool’s voice and it really shows here at the conclusion. The best thing Shalvey contributes here is giving us a complex new mutant who has little interest in the X-Men’s way of doing things – hopefully another writer picks her up in the future.
Doctor Strange – Damnation (2018) #1
I’m coming to this cold, having read virtually none of Doctor Strange in the post-Secret Wars world. So, how is this #1 for a totally cold reader? Pretty strong, considering it relies mostly on Secret Empire (which I have read) and not so much on Strange.
Rod Reis’s artwork is the real magic here. It looks like a cross between Daniel Acuna and Phil Noto, and that is terrific company to be in. His photo-referenced Vegas landscapes are beautiful, but it’s his searing Hotel Inferno casino floor that is really marvelous (and includes shades of Sienkiewicz as the issue presses on). A suited Mephisto comes off like a devilish Joker, less horrific and more fast-talking.
This takes a grim chapter of recent Marvel history and somehow spins it in a fun direction, one about making bets with your mortal soul that a few heroes can stop bickering long enough to be good people – which is a pretty cynical statement about Marvel’s general storytelling state of affairs that even the characters manage to make light of.
This has Nick Spencer’s wry fingerprints all over it, and it’s really great to see him back in Ant-Man mode after his stultifying Captain America work.
Generation X (2017) #87
It’s sad to see this delightful series come to an end, but this final issue does some explaining of why it never caught fire with a wide group of X-fans. Ironically, it’s this book’s unfailing focus on relationships over powers and a cast of newbies that made it both a perfect tribute to classic X-Men books and unpalatable to modern fans.
We have half the cast of the original Generation X reunited against their signature villain, but the big confrontation is confusing and full of a montage of memories. And that barely takes up half the issue, while the remaining half teases out the major romantic themes of the book.
Let’s be clear: I have nary a problem with this pace, and I’ve loved the oddball art from Amilcar Pinna all along. Yet, even I felt a little cheated by how little of Jubilee we got in this final confrontation. Perhaps Strain was originally to have another issue or two to wrap things up.
Infinity Countdown (2018) Prime
A terrific and terrifically huge introduction to Gerry Duggan’s massive Infinity Stone blowout. Aside from the thrill of seeing Logan back in action and confronting Loki, we get a terrific brief scene with Duggan’s Guardians (currently not an ongoing book while he drives this event) as well as an introduction of Pym Ultron onto the scene.
This was not only a satisfying tickler for the future, but it made me want to read some of the runs that have lead to the discovery of the current stones (even though I know one of them, the Captain Marvel run, sucks). Plus, an amazing concise summary of the history of the stones as a backup!
Tales of Suspense (2018) #102
Hey, it’s the game of Russian Roulette where we kill plenty of unnamed male characters but when it comes to women we knock off C-list characters with their own distinct histories.
The art from Travel Forman (swoon) continues to be great, but this has devolved past “Clint Barton is kind of a screw-up” to just be a constant stream of goofy jokes with Bucky as the straight-man, which would be a little more endearing if it wasn’t also being used to kill a pair of strong female spy characters who are underused.
I know a lot of fans are loving Matthew Rosenberg, but I’m not so certain Marvel is the right toybox for him. He’s turned in more bad issues than good ones for me, at this pont.
The Incredible Hulk (2017) #713
Greg Pak set up this return to Planet Hulk as if he was building to something big – both a physical reckoning in the arena as well as a psychic one between Cho and his Hulk persona. Yet, this entire arc mostly stayed at the same level it began.
Granted, that’s a high-key level! But, there was no sense of escalation between the rounds of the gauntlet, nor here in the final encounter. We finally see Cho confront his inner Hulk, and the result is really just a handful of panels and then a cut into the future. It doesn’t really make sense – not only as an end to the rising action of this arc, but for Cho – who willingly exiled himself to space to deal with his deep anger. It’s like we’ve completely forgotten that plot point over the course of five issues.
The addition of Odinson here does nothing – he’s written off-voice, and doesn’t contribute in a meaningful, in-character way. I’m so sad to see this arc fizzle, as it started so huge and with a terrific synergy between Pak and artist Greg Land.
Venom (2017) #162
The most surprising thing about this third chapter in the X-Men and Venom space saga is that it looks phenomenal. Primary artist Edgar Salazar and colorist Dono Sánchez-Almara turn in stunning work here that is packed with action and dense with detail.
Of course, at this point I’m sure there are relatively few people reading this crossover for the stunning artwork. It’s probably out of sheer, stubborn dedication to one of this pair of oddly matched books, since the story didn’t seem to promise too much in the way of big developments for either.
The team gets slightly closer to tracking down the Starjammers while resisting Venom’s urge to get violent with their quarry on the backwater alien planet where they crashed their Danger-augmented Blackbird.
(Actually, in a surprising turn, the final frames of this bring a big development for Venom, which will be less surprising if you noticed that Cullen Bunn is writing this issue instead of typical scripter Mike Costa.)
X-Men Gold (2017) #22
This comic book has strong artwork and groan-worthy script. Writer Marc Guggenheim has no feel for the X-Men.
The team acts as a sort of anonymized Greek chorus, a slurry of out-of-character voices, save for Kitty playing the over-confident role of Cyclops as team leader. Some moments of Storm and Nightcrawler were particularly jarring for how off-voice they were. An introductory scene trying to explain Lydia Nance’s lifetime of bigotry is comedically bad. A game of psychic oneupmanship between Rachel and Mesmero has lost sight of the rules and stakes, rendering it meaningless.
I’ve seen fans say “at least this book is moving the story forward,” but where’s the fun in that when the story is bad and none of the characters you love are acting like themselves? It seems like we’re headed for the return of the threads from the most-boring arc of this book so far, which dooms us to another few months of one of the worst runs on an X-Men flagship in the history of the franchise.
Dark Horse, Dynamite, IDW, Vault Comics, & Zenescope
Belle Beast Hunter (2018) #2, Zenescope
This is a much looser issue than the first. A lot of that is down to the loss of Belle’s banter with her mentor Candlestick, which help set the pace in the first issue and gave her something to respond to in her narration. Without it, a fight goes by much quicker and Belle’s inner monologue comes of as a little lamer. Also, the line work is just not quite as tight in this issue as in the first.
After a big fight with occasionally hard-to-follow choreography, some of rest of the issue turns out to be a dream, and the sequence just wore on a little too long for the convention. Still a very enjoyable series and a world I want to know more about, but this particular installment was average.
Heathen (2017) #6, Vault Comics
With this issue it feels like Heathen has lost the strange and utterly compelling magic that made it the must-read book of 2017. While I dug the cleaner art style Natasha Alterici adopted for this issue, the focus on the pirate story feels really far afield from the Norse-mythology-inspired quest that gave this book its purpose and charm.
Charm is exactly what this issue is missing! There’s hardly any fun in it at all, especially compared to the hilarious and heartwarming prior issue. This one just feels tired, even if transforming the pirate narrative to be about combating slave trade adds a bit of dimension to this sideline story.
James Bond: The Body (2018) #2, Dynamite Entertainment
Ales Kot can write the hell out of a two-person black box scene. I think of similar recent scenes from Bendis and Spencer that were absolutely leaden, but this one really pops, and has the feeling of two operators trying to out-play each other.
Unfortunately, it’s really just that – a talk. There’s some semblance of a terrorist plot Bond is trying to avoid, but unlike the issue we’re not getting any flashbacks to that to show it – or him – in action. As a result, while this is an enjoyable scene study, it doesn’t feel BOND JAMES BOND in the slightest.
Also, a peak at the B&W art in the digital version shows just how strong the colors by Valentina Pinto really were in giving this Antonio Fuso art extra dimenion – it’s quite flat without them.
Mata Hari (2018) #1, Dark Horse / Berger Books
A third entry into the new line of Berger Books, this is also the third to delve into historical fiction – or, in this case, semi-fictional biography. Mata Hari was a real WW1-era historical figure, a powerful woman who was an entertainer, a sex worker, and a spy.
Author Emma Beeby makes her tale sound downright intoxicating in her afterward, but her script suffers from trying to do too much all in this first issue. We get Hari on the day of her execution, Hari at trial, Hari with clients, Hari in her childhood, Hari the day of her capture, and Hari dancing and beseeching Shiva for her aid. While we gleaned a lot of useful information, the scenes were too many and too scattered for the issue to have much impact.
Between that an a character who is (in Beeby’s words) “infuriating,” it was really hard to find a center to hold onto in this book. Artist Ariela Kristantina’s work occasionally evoked Barry Windsor Smith, but insistent colors from Pat Masioni sometimes pushed sketchy figures too far to try to make them look realistic. Backgrounds faired much better – from ornate sitting rooms to the exterior of buildings by day, there was a surprising amount of detail packed into most panels.
Hopefully this creative team gels in future issues, as they certainly have the collective talent to bring this fascinating and only semi-fictionalized story to light.
Musketeers (2018) #1, Zenescope
This book had a lot going on in it that seemed to be referencing some past story (but, maybe not, who knows!), yet it also had a lot of charm in depicting the Three Musketeers are three Philly-based start-up employees about as interested in adventuring as pleasing their investors. I mean, that’s as close to a comic book about me as we can get, right? The art in this was strong, and there are at least three layers of double-crossing deception already built in here at the first issue. A really fun debut.