Monday, June 22, 2015

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 6/17

Black Canary #1
Story: Brenden Fletcher
Art: Annie Wu

Brenden Fletcher flies solo this week with the debut of his new Black Canary series (yes, I went there with that pun). Black Canary has left Gotham and her regular super-heroing behind to tour with the band called, well Black Canary. Now know as the lead singer, DD (that's Dinah Drake), is doing her best to get her life back together, but her penchant for heroism and kicking butt is getting in the way; when you keep wrecking the club you're playing, you're not making a ton of money. We get to meet each of the members of the band: Lord Byron on drums, who seems the member working hardest to keep the band together; Paloma Terrific, who maintains an animosity to Dinah that isn't even veiled; and the mysteriously silent Ditto on guitar, a child prodigy who never speaks. After another disastrous outing, Dinah promises to not start a brawl, but when black oily demon things attack, that goes out the window. But the hook is this: they're not after Dinah, but another member of the band. It's a great set-up, and one issue in I already like the band, and there are interesting mysteries to solve. I also love connectivity in my superhero universes without it feeling like you need to read every book, and this book does a great job of tying in with Fletcher's other two books. Obviously, Black Canary and her band spin out of the first arc of the new Batgirl title, but I was pleasantly to see that the band's manager is Heathcliff from Gotham Academy. I've been impressed with how well Fletcher matches his books with the artists he's working with, and it feels like Annie Wu was made to draw this book. Her kinetic style works well with Dinah's martial arts and fighting, and the whole style feels like it fits with CD and poster art from the kind of band that plays the clubs that we're seeing. It's a great package and another win for DC in trying to do books that don't feel like they're all the same. Black Canary is vibrant, different, and exciting, with a good blend of super heroes and the life of a band on the road.

Ghostbusters: Get Real #1
Story: Erik Burnham
Art: Dan Schoening

Dan Grote wrote a piece a couple weeks ago about accepting change in our favorite properties. And I think outside comics, one of the examples or this is the upcoming female led reboot of Ghostbusters. Let's give it a shot, people! But before any of that starts up, we still have IDW releasing comics featuring the original Ghostbusters, and this time they're teaming up with the other greatest team of ghost fighters ever: The Real Ghostbusters! Yes, it's like a classic JLA/JSA crossover, where the Flashes and Green Lanterns of two worlds must meet, only better because it's the Egons of two worlds! The Greek god Proteus has decided he wants to get rid of the Real Ghostbusters before they can trap him (no comment on how the arrogant god isn't even on their radar; he's just that full of himself), but the help of a friendly witch's spell interacts with Proteus's and sends the Real team into the regular Ghostbusters world. And after interacting with the Slimer of that world, they realize something is very wrong just as the Ghostbusters show up. Firmly established as in the same continuity as the previous series and TMNT/Ghostbusters team-up mini, the Ghostbusters are familiar with alternate dimensions, and so it looks like things will work out fine, but a job comes up and Proteus is still out there, so I'm sure the boys have much more to deal with on the horizon. I've written plenty about the creative team of Erik Burnham and Dan Schoening, who have been the principle creators on two Ghostbusters ongoing, plus various minis and it goes without saying they know these characters inside and out. It's Schoening who blew me away this issue, with his ability to not only ape the style of the classic Real Ghostbusters cartoon, but to blend it seamlessly with his own style; it gives me flashbacks to Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, with two worlds that shouldn't interact working perfectly side by side. Oh, and kudos to Burnham for the callback of Janine mistaking Real Egon for her ex-boyfriend Roger, who's hair and looks were based on Real Egon; it's a little nod that rewards people who have been reading all this. Real Ghostbusters is one of the best cartoons of the 80s when it comes to plot and story, and so it makes sense it would work this well when interacting in a modern setting, and teaming these versions of the characters up with their movie versions works like a charm.

Lumberjanes #15
Story: Noelle Stevenson & Shannon Watters
Art: Brooke Allen

There's a lot going on in this issue of Lumberjanes, with wolf monsters, traps, and teases of mysterious secrets and the past of camp director Rosie.  But for me, the star of the issue is Jen, the cabin councilor for our usual cast. I want to talk about our Lumberjanes and their adventures before I deep dive into what's happening with Jen. The ladies of Roanoke Cabin are loyally travelling through the woods with Barnes, their friend from the boy's camp, searching for Jen, despite encountering the mysterious blizzard and the woods' usual array of monsters. Again, I can't stress enough how important the theme of friendship is in Lumberjanes, and how these girls would sacrifice anything for each other, and that includes the often flustered and frustrated Jen. But Jo is getting jealous of Barnes and how he's getting in the middle of her friendship with April. This isn't uncommon when a new person comes into a group dynamic, but Jo is freezing out Barnes as best she can. More than that, she is beginning to wonder exactly what is going on in Lumberjanes camp, that they are neither learning survival skills nor what is going on in the woods. But while Jo is a little bothered by this, it's the crux of what's going on with Jen at the cabin of the mysterious Abigail. I might be one of few people who would say this, but Jen is probably my favorite character in the book. She's responsible, she's flustered by all the weirdness, she does her best to keep to the rules; so basically how I would act in these situations. But she's also loyal to her campers and willing to do what it takes to protect them, which makes her all the more impressive. But after being told she was abandoned, and seeing the comforts, of and the library in, Abigail's cabin, it would be easy for her to decide to not go back. But she's still loyal. They're still "her girls" and she still needs to do what she feels she needs to. And I love that. More, though, when Rosie arrives and we see the confrontation between her and Abigail, we see exactly what has been going on with Jen. She's fed up with the secrets, with Rosie not telling the Lumberjanes what is really going in. The scene where Jen and Rosie are in Abigail's trap and Jen lets loose all these feelings is one of the best character scenes in any issue of Lumberjanes. But with Lumberjanes, there's not just the personal stakes but the supernatural stakes, and it looks like whatever Abigail is up to is going to lead to some major action next issue, and as ever the book finds its balance perfectly.

Secret Six #3
Story: Gail Simone
Art: Dale Eaglesham

Oh, what a difference an artist can make. The first couple issues of the new Secret Six, as enjoyable as the story was, were marred by multiple artists that muddied the waters. But this issue sees new regular artist, and artist on the mini-series Villains United that introduced Gail Simone's original version of the six, Dale Eaglesham, and it lets me feel like I know the characters. He already has a great feel for each of these oddballs. I've been a fan of Eaglesham since he worked on chapters of "No Man's Land" back in 1999, and his art still grabs me to this day. This issue juxtaposes the complete cast of lunatics with the suburban normalcy of Big Shot's house and neighborhood, and it's a thing of beauty. These characters are all severely broken, and they just stick out like sore thumbs. I like that Catman still has this sense of honor, as shown by defending a dog, something he hates, from a human who beats it, something he hates more. It's also nice to see him being kind to Strix, showing he isn't quite the sociopath as, say, Ventriloquist, who remains this volume's Ragdoll, the character you never know what they'll say. But the moments that really got me this issue were the ones with Big Shot and Black Alice. We see a tenderness that Big Shot has for the girl, something that made me perplexed how he wound up grouped with the rest of the lunatics that comprise the Six. And as we see more of Alice's background in the new world, she grows in sympathy too. I was happy to see this, and the fact that the group binds as a team for the balance of the issue. But it's the last page that knocked me over. Because we find out Big Shot's real name, and it's a name I've been waiting for since the advent of the New 52. What he says to Black Alice earlier about the wife he lost, makes so much sense now, and tears my heart a little. But I wonder if she's gone, or if her not being there has something to do with Mockingbird, whose identity is also revealed. It's another shocking reveal, but one that makes a lot of sense, especially in relation to that characters current disposition in the DCU. I don't want to spoil the twists, but they're satisfying and going to keep me guessing until next issue.

Stumptown #6
Story: Greg Rucka
Art: Justin Greenwood

Stumptown's back! The best dang P.I. comic I've ever read returns with a new case, and a different one than we're used to seeing Dex Parios involved in. Instead of searching for missing girls or guitars, or investigating who beat her friend, this time Dex has a simple job: pick up three pounds of coffee. The fact that it's designer Kopi Lawak coffee, unique in the world, designed by a brewmaster named Patrick Weekes, and worth twenty-five large, well that's icing on the cake. Almost immediately, things take a turn for the Hammett & Chandler when Mr. Dove, a creepy guy in white, shows up with a cell phone and ten gold coins, and his boos tells Dex over the phone that he will pay her twenty thousand dollars for a sample of the coffee, half of it in these coins now, and the other half when she delivers. And even more guys trail her when she picks it up! This is some desirable coffee, and Dex still has it by issue's end. But in Stumptown, the mystery is only half the story, as Dex is a character with a rich life outside of her casework.  Still on the outs with Grey, her neighbor, Dex picks up her brother Ansel from work only to find her seemingly wayward, and previously unknown, sister, Fuji, waiting at her apartment, let in by Grey. It's clear that the two sisters have certain problems, as Fuji seems more free-spirited, and Dex is annoyed by her popping up unannounced. Greg Rucka has done an excellent job fleshing out the world around Dex, letting you understand the personal stakes as well as the professional ones, and so each new character adds another layer. While I liked Justin Greenwood's art on the last arc, this issue seems even stronger, looking really clean and crisp, with some great character work on Dex as she's confronted with these new mysteries and hurdles. I'm sure things won't go as smoothly for Dex next issue as they did in this one because things never stay quiet for her for long, and it wouldn't be interesting if they did.

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