Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Reviews of Comics from Wednesday 5/25

DC Universe: Rebirth #1
Story: Geoff Johns
Art: Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, Phil Jiminez, Brad Anderson and Jason Wright, Joe Prado, Hi-Fi Colors, Gabe Eltaeb, & Matt Santorelli

Last week, the internet broke in half twice, and I'm here to tell you about the time that filled me with joy and hope. DC Universe: Rebirth begins a new phase in the history of DC Comics, linking the old with the new, and done through one of my favorite characters of all time, Wally West, the pre-Flashpoint version. I'm not even going to try to avoid spoilers here, since everything was spoiled on the internet days before the comic came out. The book is framed around Wally trying to make his way out of the Speed Force, where he has been trapped since the events of Flashpoint. Through Wally's tour of the DC Universe as it stands, we see hints of the existence of the Justice Society and the Legion of Super-Heroes, we see the return of the idea of legacy, as Ted Kord and Jaime Reyes meet, Ryan Choi has to take up a size changing belt to aid Ray Palmer, and Wally himself sees his cousin, the Wally West of the New 52, and feels his own legacy is in good hands. We get a heart breaking scene as Wally reaches out to Linda Park, his true love and anchor, who can not remember him, and a moment of triumph as Barry Allen does. What Wally talks about, as he tries to break through, is that there is a secret threat, one that has not only stolen a decade from the lives of the DC Universe, but has also stolen love and hope. This is some intense meta-commentary about the state of DC Comics, some that has come through more and more of late (the pre-Flashpoint Superman, who has been living in secret for years and who appears here as well, has commented repeatedly in his recent mini-series how much more cynical this new world is then his own), but coming from Johns himself, it's more palpable, as he is the man who wrote Flashpoint, who wrote the flagship title of the New 52, Justice League, and who has been a driving creative force behind DC Comics for over a decade now. And the use of the characters from Watchmen, while something that will/has polarized fans, is to me a very smart move, as it is the real life story that brought that sense of cynicism to comics, for good or ill. I loved this comic more than any event comic I've read in many many years. The idea of hope and legacy coming back to DC Comics is something I've been hoping for, and this is a huge step in that direction. It's got beautiful art, and engaging story, and the return of a character I love. I could not be more excited to see where DC takes their universe next.

Munchkin #17
Story: Sam Sikes & John Kovalic
Art: Mike Lucas and Meg Casey & John Kovalic

I've talked about my love of games before, and while I have enjoyed playing Munchkin, the game where you rob tombs, kill monsters, and stab your buddies in the back, it's not a game that I play a lot. However, the comic that the game has spawned is a delight, It's a simple, fun comic that is funny and each issue features a couple of bizarre and quirky stories. I've always meant to review it, because it's fun, but never got around to it. Until today. As always, this issue features two different stories. The first one, "My Faire Munchkin" has one of the series two major Munchkins at a faire in his medieval world, attempting to win the PRINCESS (not the capitalization) in the tournament. For those of you who don't know the term, in this case munchkin means a player who plays a non-competitive game aggressively, usually to the detriment of those around him or her. Spyke initially gets trounced, and then spends the rest of the story, well, cheating. Munchkin isn't a series that rewards good behavior, but it doesn't reward bad behavior either; Spyke is a lousy little jerk, and when he wins by cheating, well, the princess he meets is not the PRINCESS he anticipated. The story that made me decide to review the issue, though, was the second, "Munchkin Fu Mikado." Written and drawn by Dork Tower creator, and original Munchkin artist, John Kovalic, this story features Spyke meeting up with a monster and fighting him, before they're both tricked out of their swag by Flower, the series other principle Munchkin. Again, pretty simple story, but what made me love this was most of the dialogue is set to the tune of songs from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado. There are notes to what song you can YouTube or Spotify to read along with, but I know most of that music, and it totally works. It is singularly ridiculous, and that just completely sells me on this issue. If you want to read a comic that just gives you a laugh, this is a perfect issue.

Secret Six #14
Story: Gail Simone
Art: Tom Derenick & Jason Wright and Rex Lokus

And once again, we reach the end. The second volume of Secret Six reaches its end as the team raids the League of Assassins stronghold to rescue their lost comrade, Strix, from Lady Shiva. As they face down the guards of the League, we get a bit of narrative from each of them. We see the theme that has been central to not just this volume of Secret Six, but the original as well, that of family. It's a violent, bloody, and bizarre family, but a family nonetheless. It's a big, crazy, issue, with all the blood and guts, and all the humor, that is the trademark of Secret Six, but each of these  people, Black Alice, Elongated Man, Catman, Strix, and Porcelain, as well as the Female Furies, as Knockout calls herself and Scandal, Jeanette, Ragdoll, are a mess, and together they have made something akin to a family. Despite them all being killers, and most of them completely mad, you feel not just sympathy, but genuine affection for these characters because they are all so clearly trying to make something better of themselves. I don't use that in the respect of, "They're trying to go straight and become productive members of society." No. They're trying to become something fuller than what they are by becoming something greater together. And it's heartwarming. But there's a character I didn't mention above, and that is the Ventriloquist, and her dummy Ferdie. And that's because not everyone is wired to be like this Secret Six. Having the Ventriloquist be treacherous and selfish not only makes perfect sense for her character, and also fits well with the history of the Six, as they've had their share of traitors, but because family doesn't save everyone. Some people are just too broken. Although you have to wonder, since the part of her that was Ferdie did really and truly want to help the others, if maybe there's some kernel of light in her dark soul. The final pages are just a smile inducing scene of the team enjoying the backyard of Ralph and Sue Dibny (and they're together and happy! Thanks, Gail!), and Strix, who has been lonely and lost since she first escaped the Court of Owls some time ago, now living in a big treehouse in Ralph's back yard, ends the series with this, "I am Strix. I have a weird family. And that is enough," And I think if that was enough for everyone, we'd be in a better place. So that ends the new volume of Secret Six. As far as I know, there are no plans for a return to these characters any time soon, but I can only hope that we'll meet again.

Star Wars #19
Story: Jason Aaron
Art: Lenil Franic Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, & Sunny Gho and Java Tartaglia

"Rebel Jail," the current arc on the Star Wars ongoing, wrapped up this past week, and it ends on a strong note. Leia, Dr. Aphra, and Sana have arrived at the hanger bay, only to find Luke and Han having just arrived and been captured by the armored mystery man who attacked the titular rebel jail, Sunspot Prison. And he's going to blow them up if Leia doesn't kill Aphra, to show to him that she's willing to make what he views as the hard choices. It's a war of ideals, and when the man takes off his helmet, it becomes all the harder. The man in the armor has been Eneb Ray,the Rebel spy from Star Wars Annual #1, so broken by the failure of the assassination of the Emperor that he has become this cold killer. And while things are dicey, Leia is clever enough to find a way to stop him. I love that it's the Princess who saves the men who rescued her at the Death Star this time, but not without Sana and Aphra getting their licks in. Sana and Aphra are the best human characters that have been introduced in the new Star Wars series (I say human because Triple-Zero and BeeTee-One, the evil Threepio and Artoo, are my favorites period), and adding a complicated backstory between them is a nice touch, giving them depth and not depending on their relationship to movie characters to define them. And while Leia walks out of the story with her idealism intact, offering hope and a hand to both Aphra and Ray, the parties hunting the rebels are all the closer, and this seems to be far from the last we've seen of Eneb Ray. I hope to see more of all these characters, and maybe it's time to have a spotlight mini-series for some of these new characters; we've seen plenty for movie characters, but the spotlight on new characters has always been something I've loved in Star Wars fiction. Star Wars often works best when the good guys are on the run and surviving by wits and the skin of their teeth, which is why the period between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back is such a fertile ground for stories, and it looks like the classic characters are in for it as tis series continues.

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