Superhero comics don’t deal with the day-to-day mundanity of real life very well. It’s just not in their nature. If you had great power and the great responsibility to go with it, how concerned would you be with doing laundry? But that’s what makes the story of Jessica Drew, from writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Robbi Rodriguez, so great; Jessica is a new mom and still a superhero.
That makes the book sound like a cheap, vaguely condescending meme you’d find on Facebook (PARENTS ARE THE REAL SUPERHEROES!!!), but part of the reason Spider-Woman (Marvel) works so well is that it rejects the idea that once a woman becomes a mother, that’s all she is, or all she should aspire to be. At root, Hopeless’ scripts are very much a story about balancing what you find personally fulfilling and the outside responsibilities you’ve taken on. She’s a superhero because it’s fun, and she chose to become a parent because it fulfills her in other ways, and she has to balance the two.
Rodriguez, meanwhile, best known lately for his work on Spider-Gwen is having a blast. He’s always been a kinetic, creative artist, and Spider-Woman has seen everything from tightly structured action scenes to elaborate Escher-esque splash page gags. Here he juggles domestic scenes with a lengthy, and often very funny, brawls, overlaying calls from the babysitter with Tiger Shark getting punched in the face.and fills the book with a wry sense of humor and quite a bit of heart. At one point, Jessica pops some Advil, drinks some 16-hour-old coffee, and looks in the mirror; she looks like hell, and she couldn’t be happier.
Unfollow #8 (Vertigo)
Rob Williams and Mike Dowling’s social-media themed metaphysical thriller turns a new corner in this issue, picking up on the main plot after two issues exploring some of the 140 people splitting a tech genius’ vast fortune. Williams never met a thriller twist he can’t subvert, and this comic can turn threatening characters surprisingly funny and seemingly oddball characters suddenly dangerous without it feeling forced.
Dowling, in turn, keeps a sense of realism to his art, but cleverly subverts it just enough, in places, to emphasize this book has a cast of unreliable narrators and leave many disturbing questions open. Over eight issues, neither Williams nor Dowling have tipped their hand about whether or not roughly half the cast is insane or if something mystical is at work, and Dowling gives the book a subtle sense of unease whenever something that might be more than just human darkness may be in play. Issue by issue, Unfollow has proven itself to be a genuinely unique thriller and a gem from Vertigo.
The Goddamned #4 (Image)
Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera deliver a Bible story in the Old Testament mold. You know, one with profanity, gore, excessive violence, gangs of children cruelly taunting a crucified man with food he can’t have, things like that. Did we mention Cain is in it? Yes, that Cain. And he’s the closest thing this book has to a hero?
Aaron’s story plays up the darker aspects of the Old Testament, as you might have guessed, retelling the story of Noah while asking just what it would take to build a giant boat and save all the animals in a world so degraded flooding the whole planet seems like a sensible option. And Guera brings his elaborate, shadowy style to a mix of a prehistoric and Biblical styles, and Guera in particular emphasizes the sheer grittiness of everything. It feels like everything is smeared with dirt, if you’re lucky. It’s an intense, and sometimes nasty book, but at the same time, it’s a take on an old, old story that’s uniquely fresh, in its own way. It’s safe to say you’ve never read a Biblical story quite like this.
Green Lanterns: Rebirth (DC)
A while back, Geoff Johns tried to shake things up with the Green Lanterns by bringing in Simon Baz, an Arab-American car thief who gets a ring that he doesn’t trust and struggles with a country that doesn’t trust him, and who packs heat. It was a great idea that unfortunately quickly got spiked in favor of Hal Jordan flying around the universe. So Johns, with Sam Humphries, is bringing him back, and giving him a partner in the newly introduced, anxiety-ridden Jessica Cruz, the unwilling host of a supervillain who showed great courage, but had no idea where the heck it came from.
What’s most appealing about this book is, honestly, that it’s on Earth and it doesn’t star any of the Lanterns we know. DC is often at its best when it does something different with its heroes, and this book ends promising a buddy-cop movie with superpowers. Baz and Cruz are both sharply defined characters, and they’re not hemmed in by decades of continuity and fan expectations. There’s a lot of promise here, and we can’t wait to see how it’s paid off.
Control #1 (Dynamite)
Andy Diggle and Angela Cruickshank fire up a political thriller about privacy, in its own way. In truth, the first issue asks a lot of questions, but it doesn’t answer many of them at first. Still, it’s a compelling setup issue, not least because the final splash panel is a classic gag that cleverly echoes a seemingly minor bit of dialogue in the opening that hints at more to what’s going on.
On the art side, Andrea Mutti’s spidery lines don’t quite fit the tone at first, but he knows noir, and the book slowly takes shape as we learn more about the plot.
Civil War II #1 (Marvel): Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez fire up Marvel’s big summer crossover event, which is built around a fascinating moral question with no easy answer.
Nowhere Men #10 (Image): Eric Stephenson and Dave Taylor update the superscience, and superheroics of Fantastic Four comics to the modern age with a consistently smart, consistently thrilling story.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Pink #1 (BOOM! Studios): Brendan Fletcher, Kelly Thompson and Daniele Di Nicuolo deliver a brisk, fun take on the goofy show, splitting the Pink Ranger off from the team.
Baltimore: Empty Graves #3 (Dark Horse): Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden, and Peter Bergting deliver a nice bit of dark pulp for adventure fans.
Interceptor #5: Donny Cates and Dylan Burdett know that a comic book about soldiers in power armor fighting vampires doesn’t need any justification other than being awesome, and a highly entertaining space opera is the result.
This Week’s Collections:
Art Ops, Vol. 1, DC Comics ($15, softcover): Shaun Simon and Michael Allred turn art theory and debate into a fast-paced action story in one of DC’s wildest, strangest comics.
I Hate Fairyland Coloring Book, Image Comics ($13, Softcover): The adult coloring book trend is all about being soothing. So Skottie Young’s hilariously gory comic is getting one, because there’s nothing like subverting a trend.
Back to the Future Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines, IDW Publishing ($20, Softcover): Bob Gale, the screenwriter for the classic movie, returns to his franchise with comics, and the spirit of the movie is all over this book as a result.