Monday, September 29, 2014

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 9/24

Harley Quinn: Futures End
Story: Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti
Art: Chad Hardin

A year into it's publication, I realized I haven't talked about the new series starring Harley Quinn. From her first appearance in the New 52, I had a lot of problems with the new Harley, from her awful costume to her completely violently psychotic attitude. But with this ongoing being written by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, I gave it a shot. And it is, far and away, the most fun comic coming out from DC. It's DC's answer to Deadpool: wacky, over the top cartoony violence, quirky protagonist. The series began by moving Harley to Brooklyn, giving her a new supporting cast, and removed it pretty much from the mainstream of the New 52, and it works beautifully. The Futures End issue is similarly removed from the downright dark and brooding event, and its a story of Harley flying on vacation to Barbados only to crash on an island that her Mr. J, The Joker, is using to hide out, and where he is worshiped as a god king by the natives. It's a great introduction to Conner and Palmiotti's take on Harley, since she spends a lot of time on her own, thinking (and talking to Bernie, the taxidermy beaver that is sort of Jiminey Cricket for her throughout the series). There are plenty of sight gags, especially once you realize what the Joker has been doing to the natives. And the writers get the way Joker and Harley are supposed to interact, with Harley growing a spine around him, only to have him say one thing that gets her to melt, and him simply having fun manipulating her (I feel the way Joker deals with his subjects is just how he feels about Harley written large, and the end would be what we wish Harley could do to the Joker. Read the issue and you'll see what I mean). The issue is drawn by regular series artist Chad Hardin, so you get the full Harley Quinn experience, and he draws the issue with the same manic verve that he does every issue. If you're looking for a comic that has that Itchy & Scratchy vibe, while still capturing the voice of both Joker and Harley, this is the comic for you to try.

Lumberjanes #6
Story: Grace Ellis & Noelle Stevenson
Artist: Brooke Allen

Ah, capture the flag. Nothing says camp like capture the flag (I think. I never went to to camp, but it's one of those things that I see every time there's story about camp, so I feel like that). Of course, since this is Lumberjanes, things have a slightly more supernatural bent. This issue we get a bit more with Diane, the somewhat standoffish camper who has been around a couple issues, and we see most of what her deal is, a lot of which has to do with Jo, the most grounded Lumberjane. After the bear woman made reference to Jo being supernatural, the other girls aren't sure what to make of it, but this issue we get answers to that and exactly what Diane is and is up to. Frankly, Diane's identity makes perfect sense, and it makes me want to go back and reread her previous appearances to see if there were clues there that I missed. But while there is mystery and the supernatural, the thing that still gives Lumberjanes it's charm and it's warmth is the relationships between the leads. Before you know exactly what's going on , the first two pages make it seem like there's dire trouble at hand, and the way the girls stick together, the way they care for the wounded Molly, the way they depend on Jo's planning, is all wonderful. I also get a kick out of a scene later, when Mal is coming up with her crazy plan to save the captured Jo and Ripley, only for them to have escaped and see Mal's disappointment that she yet again didn't get to enact one of her plans. It all reminds us that, as much as the series is about the Supernatural, it's more about these five characters, their friendship, and what a unique group of characters they are. A couple of final notes, I like how the events of earlier issues are staring to pay off in these issues. While Lumberjanes is now an ongoing, it was originally planned for an eight issue run, so I'm curious to see if everything gets answered at issue eight with a new set of mysteries appearing after that or if the creators had enough advance notice of the extension to build subplots forward. I also love the continued development of Jen, the councilor. She could have been the strict authoritarian character who was the girls' nemesis in camp, but she has grown, wondering what she brings to a camp that battle monsters and trying to help keep her girls safe by going off on their adventures. I connect a lot with Jen's mindset, being a rule follower and the kind of person who doesn't chase monsters, so I like seeing that growth in her.

Saga #23
Story: Brian K. Vaughan
Art: Fiona Staples

The end of last issue of Saga was heartbreaking, and this issue is the fallout from Alana and Marko's confrontation (SPOILERS if you're reading the series in trades). With our lead couple now on the outs, Alana goes into the treehouse while Marko makes what might be the dumbest move ever and goes to Ginny's. We see exactly what each of them are feeling, and frankly a month later I'm still torn up about whose side to take. Marko's throwing something in a fit of rage at Alana is unforgivable, but I will say that Alana being under the influence while being with Hazel is something that is utterly wrong as well. Vaughan has done a great job of fashioning a situation where everyone is as right as they are wrong. Still, as we see the two of them deal with where they are now, Alana has the breakdown that has been coming since the beginning of this arc, and Marko does something that affirms his commitment to his family. Izabel, the ghost girl babysitter, also gets some more character development. Vaughan uses her to speak about the pointlessness of war in a way that is far more effective to me than our leads usual wistful discussions of love being stronger than war, more in line with Oswald Heist's story of his son and less with the stories he wrote in flowery prose. And I absolutely love Klara, Marko's mom, once again proving she is far and away the toughest member of the cast; this is a grandma you don't want to mess with. It does seem that Alana's time with the Open Circuit is over, and the events have me unsure of how I feel about Yuma. I mean, I don't think there's been much redeeming the drug dealing costumer to begin with, and seeing her interactions with Dengo makes her seem even more despicable. But she seems to have a moment of realization, even if it seems to be one of those deathbed conversions that will only mean anything if she does survive. Vaughan ends the issue with his trademark cliffhanger, with the meeting of two characters who haven't crossed paths yet who have been in each other's orbit since the series began. There's one more issue in this arc before the next hiatus, and as ever, I don't know where this is going, but I'm along for the ride.

The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror #20
Art: Various
Story: Various

In previous years, the annual Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror comic has brought in creators from all around comic to tell various comedy/horror themed stories set in Springfield. This year, the stories are from Bongo Comics stable of regular creators, but are all themed towards today's leading horror trend: zombies. The lead is a mashup of two of the biggest pop culture events with "Zombinado." Yes, it's a tornado full of zombies, and only Homer Simpson's capacious gullet can save Springfield. "The Walking Ned" casts Homer as the Governor-esque leader of a post-apocalyptic Springfield and Ned Flanders as the man who must stop him from getting everyone killed . And the special ends with a parody of zombie classic "Dawn of the Dead" and Bart and Homer unleashing nuclear zombies during a bring-your-kids-to-work day. These are all entertaining stories, perfect if you're looking for a little Halloween laugh.

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