September Comic Book Review Round-Up

Want to catch up on my latest comic book reviews and articles? No? Well, too bad.

Image Comics and the Female Experience

There has been a great deal of discussion in the last few years about the role available to women in comic books, their representation and how creative teams address women’s experiences. Mainstream comics has been grappling with such issues, making great strides in some cases and falling flat on their faces in others. But beyond how scripting, artwork, and the corporate culture help to shape how women are presented on the page, there is another critical component to affects these characters: the worlds in which they operate.

Why Midnighter Is So Important For Queer Fans

My relationship with queer superheroes has always been a little complicated.

As a child growing up in the 1990s, I came into my own reading Marvel Comics and watching DC Saturday morning cartoons. Back then openly queer characters were hard to come by. There was the heavy queer implications of Mystique’s relationship with Destiny, the more-than-friends flirtation of Rictor and Shatterstar, and the thinly veiled romantic attachment shared by Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn in Batman: The Animated Series, but nothing concrete. (Both Rictor/Shatterstar and Ivy/Harley have been confirmed as canon, but when I was a kid, no such luck.) Even Northstar, Marvel’s first openly gay character, was tiptoed around, his sexuality rarely mentioned for several years after coming out in 1992. For most of my life as a comics fan, queer representation was most often found in meaningful looks and lingering touches, leaving readers to fill in the details. That left queer fans like me feeling left behind.

Review: Zodiac Starforce #1

Zodiac Starforce #1 from Dark Horse Comics is a nostalgic romp into the Magical Girl genre. Plucking inspiration from Sailor Moon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and 1980s Saturday morning cartoons, writer Kevin Panetta and artist Paulina Ganucheau (with color assists by Savannah Ganucheau) put an interesting spin on the genre by focusing on slightly weightier subject matter. While more upbeat Magical Girl titles like Boom Studios’ Power Up focus on quirky characterizations and endearing, highly stylized designs, Zodiac Starforce is more inclined to use tried-and-true tropes to observe the ramifications of the heroic lifestyle.


August Comic Book Review Round Up

Want to catch up on my latest comic book reviews and articles? No? Well, too bad. Each month I'll be posting a round-up of all my stuff, so watch this space.

Shutter #13 Review

Shutter #13 from Image Comics is a book about a lot of things. Despite its fantastical settings, off-kilter storybook cast, and the distinctive theatricality of Kristopher clan drama, this title’s lofty yet deeply personal themes often fly close to the sun. To the credit of series writer Joe Keatinge and artist Leila del Duca, however, the presentation is deft, thoughtful, and delightfully understated. Seemingly disparate elements such as family, loss, memory, anger, and identity are all tightly interwoven components of Kate Kristopher’s journey, a complex web of ties so tight they often choke rather than bind. Shutter #13 is no exception to this rule. As this quirky adventure series kicks off its second year, Kate Kristopher is back in an issue full of surprises, mystery, and exciting possibilities.

Negative Space #1: The Monster of Mental Illness

Negative Space #1 from writer Ryan K. Lindsay and artist Owen Gieni is a book about monsters. The horror its cover promises is one of subterranean nightmares, where fleshy pink tendril creatures stand at the ready outside lavish stone altars. Hooded figures loom in the shadows like Lovecraftian cultists, serving as caretakers of their otherworldly domain. But Negative Space is so much more than its monsters. It’s a book about depression, isolation, and human connection in a world where emotions are commodities and experiences are quantified. If what makes us human can be bought and sold, who among us are the real monsters?

Wolf #1: The Spirit of Film Noir

Wolf #1 from Image Comics promises a city full of monsters and the pulpy swagger of crime noir. The creative team, consisting of writer Ales Kot, artist Matt Taylor, and colorist Lee Loughridge, deliver on that promise with bravado. Theirs is an otherworldly Los Angeles drenched in myth, magic, and film noir allusions, as rich as its sun-bleached hills and the murky darkness that swallows them at night. Leaning on the familiar tropes of Raymond Chandler’s crime novels, hardboiled paranormal detective Antoine Wolfe has a headful of nightmares and a death wish, moving comfortably from one recognizable tableau to the next. He walks mean city streets populated by conmen and creatures, racists and hired goons as he reluctantly takes on the case of orphaned teenager Anita Christ, who may just prove to be a major player in the impending apocalypse. Just as Antoine burns above the dirty city below, so too will the world in this genre-bending noir mystery.

How Starve Explores America's Relationship with Food

Starve from Image Comics is a sharp character drama that examines America’s increasingly bizarre relationship with food. The creative team, consisting of writer Brian Wood, artist Danijel Zezelj, and colorist Dave Stewart, do so by lampooning the melodrama of competition cooking shows. Taken on face-value, their critique is straightforward. Combining the format of Iron Chef with the demands of Chopped, adding in the high-stakes sensibilities of an international sports tournament, Starve embraces the cultish idolatry surrounding celebrity chefs to wave its finger at contemporary food programming. But Wood, Zezelj, and Stewart’s criticism of American food culture is much more nuanced than that, examining how class affects our relationships with food, and how the media we consume warps it even further.

July Comic Book Review Round-Up

Want to catch up on my latest comic book reviews and articles? No? Well, too bad. Each month I'll be posting a round-up of all my stuff, so watch this space.

Airboy #1: Sex, Drugs, and Comic Books

Image Comics’ Airboy #1 from James Robinson and Greg Hinkle is a sharp, cynical, and uncompromisingly funny look at the comic book industry. In an age of reboots and reimaginings, as nearly-forgotten properties like Marvelman (now published as Miracleman due to legal issues) and Flash Gordon (which is currently on its way to a Hollywood rebranding), it’s an honest criticism of the pressures that perpetuate them. It’s also a comic that needed to be written, and surprisingly, hasn’t yet been put out by a mainstream publisher.

What's Missing from Jem and The Holograms

IDW’s Jem and The Holograms has a great deal going for it, as it rides a wave of 80s nostalgia, positive messages, and critical acclaim.  Over the course of its augural arc Showtime, writer Kelly Thompson, artist Sophie Campbell, and colorist M. Victoria Robado have given Jem a much needed makeover for contemporary comics audiences. It’s fun, it’s quirky, and, more importantly, it provides a safe, body-positive, queer-positive space for its characters to operate in.

Starve #1: A Culinary Battle Royale

Image Comics’ Starve #1 from writer Brian Wood, artist Daniel Zezelj, and colorist David Stewart has a bone to pick with the modern state of cooking shows. In a world of increasingly hyperbolic culinary tournaments, the simple act of teaching others to cook has morphed into a high-stakes game with alienating ingredients and impossible barriers to entry. Wood and Zezelj poke fun at this trend by running this model down to its equally hyperbolic conclusion amid rising global class divisions and sea levels, setting the stage for their unique dystopic vision of Iron Chef-as-Battle Royale.

Empty Zone #1: Death and Cyberpunk

Empty Zone #1 from creator Jason Shawn Alexander and Image Comics trades on a very specific kind of sci-fi nostalgia. Steeped in allusions to notable classics like Tank Girl, Blade Runner, and William Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy, Empty Zone wants to be an amalgamation of your favorite flavors of 80’s and 90’s cyberpunk and dystopia. It was first conceived and published in 1995, and this issue marks its 20th anniversary reboot with a brand new retelling. While certainly inspired, putting out a very 90’s cyberpunk book is a somewhat peculiar chance to take as an American comics creator in 2015.

Why Fight Club 2 Misses the Mark

Fight Club 2 from writer Chuck Palahniuk and artist Cameron Stewart promised to be a return to postmodern brutality, irony, and fun. When Dark Horse Comics announced the title, I was excited. Fight Club has been one of my favorite books and films respectively since my formative years, chewing through the works of writers like Palahniuk and Bret Easton Ellis in that all-too-familiar fit of edgy nonconformity. The comic felt like a nostalgic shot in the arm, a triumphant journey back to Palahniuk’s jaded world of self-destruction and false revolutionaries. Fight Club and its 1999 film adaptation have been described as a coming of age story for people in their twenties and thirties, but it still felt relevant to me as teenager. It belonged to my generation as much as those who first read it in the ‘90s, speaking to dissatisfaction with modern society and the hypocrisy of the status quo.

8House: Arclight #1 - A Softer Kind of Fantasy

Images Comics’ 8House: Arclight #1 by writer Brandon Graham and artist Marian Churchland presents a different kind of fantasy story. In a pop culture landscape currently dominated by the harrowing violence, political intrigue, and hard edges of worlds like G.R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, 8House is a shared universe miniseries with a unique vision.