Monday, February 22, 2016

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 2/17

Archie #5
Story: Mark Waid
Art: Veronica Fish & Andre Szymanowicz with Jen Vaughn

The new issue of Archie could actually have the classic Archie's Pals 'n' Gals title, since Archie himself barely appears in the issue, having been clocked in the head by a softball and given a concussion on page three. Much of this issue takes place on the metaphorical right side of the tracks, focusing on Veronica and Reggie, and Reggie's attempts to get in good with Veronica's father, business magnate and legendary comic book hardass Hiram Lodge. Last issue really introduced Reggie, but showed him mostly in context of being the weasel next to Jughead and Betty. Here, with Veronica, her father, and their butler, Smithers, Reggie gets to be a real jerk. He sells out his own dad to Ledge, clearly wants to be with Veronica for no other reason than it puts him closer to money, and in the end sells out Archie just to get in good with Lodge. In the essay with last issue, Waid said he liked to just present Reggie as a heel, because there are people like that in the world, and he does a great job of showing Reggie just like that this issue. Meanwhile, Waid continues to give Veronica depth. Her reaction when she finds out Archie has been hurt and is in the hospital is priceless; she remains an entitled princess, but has a good heart underneath all that spoiled exterior. Meanwhile, Betty meets a new guy named Sayid (a new character I believe, but I'd be happy to be corrected by the more Archie initiated) , but there awkward first moments of flirting are cut short when Betty finds out about the softball that knocked Archie out (take a guess who hit it?). Again, it's been years since I read Archie with any regularity, so I don't remember if these are traits that were part of the classic continuity, but as we meet both Smither the butler and Pop Tate, owner of the Malt Shop, I like that they're getting personality quirks, Smithers as a busybody and Pop as the guy who knows everything in Riverdale. And a highlight from the things I do remember from Archie comics from when I would read them waiting for my orthodontist appointments in middle school, we get to see Mr. Lodge blow his stack up close for the first time; new artist Veronica Fish draws a phenomenal panel of Lodge's realization of who exactly his daughter is dating. Archie's in for some big trouble next issue when hee finally has to meet Mr. Lodge, I have no doubt.

Invincible Vol.22: Reboot?
Story: Robert Kirkman
Art: Ryan Ottley, Cliff Rathburn, & Jean-Francois Beaulieu

While Walking Dead is Robert Kirkman's most famous book, no doubt, my favorite thing he writes is still Invincible, his super hero saga about Mark Grayson, the hero known as Invincible. After the events of the last volume, where one of Invincible's friends took over Earth for its own good, or so he says, and Invincible, his fiancee Atom Eve, and their daughter Terra left Earth for the alien world of Talescria where the intergalactic government is headquartered. Invincible has spent time in space before, but changing the core location of the book to an alien world is a major shift in the status quo. The first half of this trade deals with that fallout, both on Earth and in space. Chapter One is on Earth and sees the remaining heroes escaping prison and setting up a resistance against Robot, their former friend and now secret ruler of the world. Only... the world seems like a better place. Crime is down, unemployment is down, happiness is up. So the divide amongst the rebels starts to form with the question of: if no one is getting hurt and things are better now, do the ends justify the means, the means in this case being Robot having ruthlessly seized control and killed many of their friends.

The next two chapters deal with Mark and Eve adjusting to Talescria. Kirkman does a string job of making so much of the planet seem alien. Sure, it's a city, but the local fauna is really weird. And while they have friends there, it's still a whole world of new people. And the threat of Thragg, the warlord of Invincible's people who has gone rogue, looms, and Mark has to take a leave from his family to go and confront Thragg, but not before spending a day of daddy-daughter time with his baby daughter. And that's important for what happens next, because while searching for Thragg, Mark is grabbed by a strange creature and awakens...

... In his own past and in his own body. The last three chapters play out the events of the first dozen or so issues of Invincible, but with a Mark who knows everything that's coming I've always been fascinated by how much of Invincible is about maturity and morality, and so Mark has to make a lot of tough choices, especially dealing with his father, who he knows is a good man underneath but is about to do some really terrible things. And when he makes those choices, he sees the world change for the better, maybe, somewhat, but his own life is worse for it. But Mark's a good guy, and willing to live a worse life for a better world. Until the other shoe really drops. As readers of genre fiction, we're often presented with the classic quandry of, "If you could kill Hitler before he was HITLER, would you?" But what if the question isn't about killing someone for the potential evil they will do, but "Would you sacrifice the person you love the most in the world, and by sacrifice I mean they will never be born and you will never know them, to make a better world?" And that is the question that Mark has to deal with at the end of the trade, and it's a heartbreaker. And even when he makes the choice, and I won't say which way he goes on here, but as ever with a Kirkman book, there's a price to be paid. Twenty-two trades (That's 126  issue folks) in, Invincible still finds way to stay fresh and interesting, and keep the reader guessing about where it's going next.

And hey, look, Dan Grote is back to reviewing, this month with a most Excellent comic (cue air guitar)...

Bill & Ted Go to Hell
Story by Brian Joines
Art by Bachan and Jeremy Lawson

I recently showed my 4-year-old son – you guys remember Logan, right?Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure for the first time. He’s already seen Back to the Future a bunch of times, and I wanted to show him there are cinematic time travelers way cooler than Marty McFly. At least Bill and Ted use the phone booth to go to more places than their own town.

Apparently, more than 25 years later, strange things remain afoot at the Circle K, as Wyld Stallyns’ co-founders are still kicking, at least in comics form.

Last year, BOOM Studios brought the pair back in Bill & Ted’s Most Triumphant Return, and this year they return again, most triumphantly, in Bill & Ted Go to Hell, the plot for which is as advertised. Someone has kidnapped B&T’s pal Death, which our heroes realize because he doesn’t show up at band practice Wednesday evening. To rescue Death, they round up their old friends Rufus, Joan of Arc, Abraham Lincoln and Billy the Kid (Billy’s best friend, Socrates, isn’t invited) and mount a mission to hell, where they discover that the beast normally in charge of the place has been usurped. I won’t give away the final splash-page reveal, but suffice it to say the story’s big bad is another familiar yet most heinous face.

Bachan’s art captures the absurdity of the franchise, which went off the rails from time travel to the afterlife in the second film. In some ways it resembles a (slightly) toned-down version of the cartoon style Rob Guillory deploys on Image’s Chew. How else to draw a book that features a monstrous Easter bunny, good-robot versions of Bill & Ted and a giant, naked Satan?

The first issue alone features much of the movies’ supporting cast, including B&T’s princess wives, their infant sons, the aforementioned robots, their time-traveling companions, their dads, their ex-stepmom Missy, Death, Bogus Journey villain-turned-friend Chuck de Nomolos, military-school recruiter Col. Oats, et al. Brian Joines also nails Bill and Ted’s vocal ticks – that mix of stoner cadence and dime-store words like “egregious” and “odious.” (Seriously, are B&T smart or dumb? They nearly failed history in the first movie, but somehow they were able to figure out time travel enough to orchestrate a jailbreak.)

If you’re a fan of the movies and their minutiae, and you have the disposable income for a silly yet most epic adventure, the book’s a lot of fun. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to rewatch Bogus Journey, because it occurs to me I remember next to nothing about that film.

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