Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Review of Comics from Wednesday 4/13

Gotham Academy #17
Story (Framing Sequence): Brenden Fletcher
Art (Framing Sequence): Adam Archer & Sandra Hope

The "Yearbook" anthology arc continues in Gotham Academy this issue with three more stories of time's past at Gotham Central, some within the year, and one thirty years ago. The framing sequence sees Oliver and Maps searching for Maps's stolen "yearbook," her homemade scrapbook of events of the past year, that was stolen by Robin last issue for reasons unknown, and while the frame does have a lot of fun interactions between the two, the draw for this issue is the stories by various creators within it. "This One's For You," comes from series writer Brenden Fletcher, but features characters and artists from one of his other books. Annie Wu and Serge LaPointe join Fletcher to tell the story of Black Canary filming a video on the grounds of the Academy. But the story isn't really about the band, but instead their road manager, Heathcliff, who started out as a cast member in Gotham Academy, and his relationship with the girl he left behind, Pomeline, the Academy's resident expert on all things magic. The story address the relationship, which hasn't been mentioned much since Heathcliff went off with the band, and is a sweet story of teen romance. "A Familiar Story," written and illustrated by Michael Dialynas, sees Maps and Olives on another night when they were wandering the hallways of the Academy after hours, and what happens when they run into a giant cat monster, who is, ahem, familiar to readers of DC's magical line, It's a fun story, and I like when these other DCU characters interact with the Academy kids. The final story, "What Became of the Gilkey Warlocks...?" comes from Mouse Guard creator David Petersen, and tells the story of a group of students in 1984 playing Serpents & Spells, an RPG that Maps still plays in the present stories, and the unfortunate thing that happens when they try to play in one of the Academy's hidden rooms. Whether or not it's an urban legend Maps is telling or something that really happened is left up to the reader. As the New York Times published an article today about the D&D scares of the 70s, this has a resonance as those parents worst nightmare. It's also interesting to see Pederson drawing people, as I'm so used to him drawing animals, but the art, no matter the subject, is as gorgeous as ever. Add in a pin-up from the always wonderful Colleen Coover, and you have a great issue for fans old and new from some amazing creators.

Princeless Book 5: Make Yourself #1
Story: Jeremy Whitley
Art: Emily Martin & Brett Grunig

It's always a good week when Princeless comes back for a new series! Before we get started with this issue, there was a zero issue which you really should track down, as it was a beautiful story about our lead, Princess Adrienne accepting herself, but I missed reviewing it the week it came out as I didn't get it for a couple weeks after it came out thanks to a shipping error, but it was one of the most moving comics I can remember reading in years.

Now, as for this issue, we have two distinct plots running in this issue. One deals with Devin, Princess Adrienne's brother, and his werewolf guide, Kira, encountering some characters who have appeared in the Princeless anthology minis, Tempest the elf and Prince Wilcome. The other plot sees the dwarfs of the dwarf mountain homeland preparing for a dragon attack, and we meet the Dragon Slayers, and I think anyone who knows Princeless knows exactly who the dragon is (and who's riding it), and so we get a very different experience than the Dragon Slayers expected. The plot with Devin and his party is interesting, as werewolves and elves are natural enemies, and Kira seems right on the edge of killing Tempest at any moment, even as Devin gets to know and like Tempest more and more. And Wilcome is a scheming little git who's counting on helping find the "missing" queen so he can earn himself a princess; he's everything the sweet and sensitive Devin isn't, and is one of the character types that Princeless so readily and ably lampoons.

Speaking of the kind of thing Princeless lampoons, the opening scene in the dwarf kingdom sees dwarf guards basically equating femininity to weakness, and when the dragon is sighted and the Dragon Slayers are called, who are the Dragon Slayers? All women. And they kick some serious butt. What follows is a sequence involving climbing, ballistas, and flying suits maneuvering through the snow. It's a tour de Force for both penciller Emily Martin and colorist Brett Grunig. Dragons are fantasy's mightiest killers, but you can absolutely see that these dwarfs could take them. I was kind of surprised when I saw this cover and saw two dwarfs who looked like Bedelia, Adrienne's dwarven best friends, since all the characters are usually so distinct, but I should have trusted artist Emily Martin more than that: they look like Bedelia because they're related to Bedelia. And boy howdy, but Bedelia's family are huggers.

Princeless is always a joy to read, and this new series looks to be no exception, with new friends, new enemies, and some badass dwarfs,

Thanos: The Infinity Finale
Story: Jim Starlin
Art: Ron Lim, Andy Smith, & Guru-eFX

Jim Starlin's most recent set of Thanos related stories comes to a satisfying conclusion in the aptly titled Infinity Finale. The second volume ended with the now godlike Adam Warlock imprisoned by Annihilus and Thanos committing suicide while trapped in a dimension between dimensions. The final volume begins with Thanos awakening in the halls of  Death, having been revived by Mistress Death, but unfortunately it took three months, and Annihilus has run roughshod over the galaxy. The few remaining heroes are hidden on Earth's Moon, preparing for a last ditch attack, while Pip the Troll hides in Annihilus's capital, attempting to free Warlock. There's wild action as the heroes fight the bug army, aided by Thanos who has a plan to stop Annihilus from wiping out the universe entirely. It's cool to see that Starlin either had everything planned out from the beginning, or at least went and made sure to pull in eeleemnts from the previous two volumes, plus the Thanos Vs. Hulk mini-series, the Infinity Entity mini-series, and last year's Thanos Annual. Starlin's Thanos is  a much different character than he is under anyone else's pen; more thoughtful, less hand wringingly evil; he's a protagonist you can root for, at least some of the time. Starlin also plays with the idea of "Above-All-Others," what DC calls The Presence and what most religions call God. Interestingly, while Starlin has always stood firmly against organized religion in his work, his God isn't such a negative figure; they are removed from the existence of the universe, but not against it. the god-like Warlock also gets his time to shine, as he must make amends for what Annihilus used him to do. I don't want to give away too much, as there are some very cool twists and turns at the end of the book, but a major gap in the Marvel Universe cosmology left by the run-up to Secret Wars is filled, and Starlin puts the original Adam Warlock back in play for whatever plans Marvel might have for him in the future. While the previous two volumes featured story and art by Jim Starlin, this volume sees the return of Starlin's old collaborator, Ron Lim, who drew half of Infinity Gauntlet, as well as all of Infinity War and Infinity Crusade. While I'm a fan of Starlin's own pencils, Lim is the guy who I associate most heavily with Marvel's cosmic universe, and his Thanos and Warlock (as well as Pip and other Infinity Watch related characters) are my definitive versions. It was cool to see him drawing Thanos and Thor fighting side-by-side, the armies of the dead versus the armies of the bugs, and the ironic punishment of the true mastermind behind all these events. While I can only hope we will see more Marvel cosmic work from him in the future, this is the last story from Jim Starlin, creator of Thanos and definer of Warlock, for the foreseeable future, and while he knows that he can't write a true ending for these characters, this is a fitting resting place for his versions of them.

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