Monday, June 16, 2014

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 6/11

Archer & Armstrong #21
Story: Fred Van Lente
Art: Pere Perez

Every time I think Archer & Armstrong can't get any more clever and weird, Fred Van Lente finds a new way to make it even weirder, and that's what makes the book an absolute joy. After last issue's story, where it tuns our Jim Morrison is still alive, has a cult, and is keeping Archer's mother prisoner, I thought we had reached the apotheosis of bizarre. But this issue spends some time with our heroes, drunken immortal Armstrong and young naive-assassin-turned-naiver-cult-leader Archer in a room with every dead celebrity ever. We get a a better idea of what the Wheel of Aten does, as well as a flashback of sorts to Archer's foster-sister Mary Maria traveling in time to find the Wheel and see exactly what it has wrought. There's a wonderful scene where Armstrong nearly collapses in gales of laughter after figuring out exactly what is happening and how he is inadvertently responsible for it. Armstrong has been alive since the dawn of civilization, a devout atheist, and the revelation about faith and celebrity is clever on the writer's part, and a perfect fit to the world. There are also fights with the Lees (Bruce and Brandon), and meeting with a certain first lady in a pink suit, and the potential for a meeting with the King. It's the final page, though, that left me with my jaw on the floor, as Archer meets his biological mother. If you do the math, you also can figure out who his father would be too, and... well, I definitely didn't see that coming. I expect a completely new dynamic starting next issue, and boy howdy is it going to be awkward in the best possible way.

Lumberjanes #3
Story: Noelle Stevenson & Grace Ellis
Art: Brooke Allen

Lumberjanes is quickly becoming the best all ages comic on the rack. It has everything that a comic should have: engaging characters, fun plots, action, friendship, and the occasional monster or animated statue. This issue finds out heroes, the Lumberjanes, a groupe of girls away for the summer at Lumberjane camp, having fallen down a hole and having to wander their way out of a series of crazy traps and pitfalls. If you have ever played Dungeons and Dragons or any other similar roleplaying game, you've probably been through a dungeon crawl like this, but instead of attempting to outdo everyone else there (and let's be fair, that's pretty much what happens in these situations 99% of the time) the Lumberjanes work together. And what the creators do is use each trap to show a strength of one of the characters. Between Mal throwing Ripley in a Fastball Special at a moving statue with a magic gem on its chest, April arm wrestling another walking statue, Jo using her smarts and the Fibonacci sequence to beat an Indiana Jones-esque step trap, or Molly using wordplay to beat the final trap, each character gets a spotlight. But it's the camaraderie that gives this wonderful book its charm. It also fills my heart with joy to read a comic that isn't part of some all encompassing universe or based on a movie or tv show; I know Image does a ton of that, but you're not getting all ages work out of Image. An all ages comic that can encourage kids to create their own characters and stories is something that just makes me happy. Oh, and there's the Holy Kitten. Anything with the Holy Kitten gets a thumbs up for me. I'm reading this book in singles, and I can't wait to get my soon-to-be ten year old niece the first trade (her six year old sister has a bad habit of wrecking anything and everything, so floppies are asking for a torn up comic and tears. Otherwise I'd be buying multiple copies and mailing them away. it's THAT good, people). It's recently been announced that Lumberjanes has transformer form and eight issue mini into an ongoing series, and that fills me with glee.

Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland #7
Story: Joe Hill
Art: Charles Paul Wilson III

The final issue of Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland is a very different comic; it might not even qualify as a comic in the classic sense. It's actually a short story, with multiple illustrations each page. Hill is an accomplished short story writer, with a collection of great stories called 20th Century Ghosts, and this issue is an excellent short story with all the hallmarks of the best kind: in twenty pages you meet a character, get to know him and his world, and everything is wrapped up perfectly. The issue calls back to the first issue of the series, the issue that told the origin of the series main character and villain, Charles Talent Manx, but you don't find out the exact connection until about half way through the story. What you get is a story told in the the second person, which is uncommon, about a young man who grows up with his grifter uncle, becoming a con man himself, meeting a girl, and the two of them starting a life. But his life as a grifter leads to tragedies of different kinds. The story starts at the turn of the 20th century, and we see our protagonist working all sorts of classic cons. It seems that Manx, and the con that connects the two, might be a footnote until the life of our grifter begins to unravel, and in the end, he is another victim of Manx and his Wraith. It's a sad story, and you see and can sympathize with someone raised hard on the road, and what he might do to make a life for himself and his family. And despite being the lesser evil in the story, there is a visceral, EC Comics-esque reaction to seeing him get his comeuppance in the end. It's an excellent issue, and the perfect coda to Joe Hill's most recent comic book series.

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