New Comics Week 3/1/17: In Which Superheroes Shmooperheroes

Extremity #1 from Daniel Warren Johnson is a melting pot of influences that manages to become more than pastiche and looks danged good doing it. The solicit text references Studio Ghibli and Mad Max as touchstones but I’d also throw in Akira, The Last Airbender, Heavy Metal, and the Borderlands games as well. The story takes place in The Rising Plains, a series of mountains and islands floating in the sky, occupied by various clans and factions. The setting lends itself well to a mashing up of cyberpunk and fantasy tropes as floating castles are stormed by marauders on flying motorcycles and cybernetic limbs crash against plate armor in brutally gory battle scenes. It’s all very enticing to anyone with a deep love of genre fiction, but it would still be kind of empty without a solid story foundation. Fortunately, Extremity has that as well, with its focus on Thea and Rollo, the children of their clan’s leader. After their home was attacked (and their mother killed), the clan seemingly became a nomadic band of warriors seeking revenge for the attack. The time spent with Thea and Rollo is enjoyable and does enough character work to give the story the kind of stakes it needs. Still, the main draw here is the beautiful and singular world that Johnson has created. It’s an absolute treat for the eyes that will jump to the top of my read pile every week it’s out.

Speaking of pastiches, this week also sees Animal Noir #1 which is basically True Detective meets Fritz the Cat and it works like gangbusters. Not only is it chock full of the delightful human-world-adapted-for-animals jokes and incidental puns you see in things like Bojack Horseman or Zootopia, but the world-building is extensive in a way that Hickman would probably appreciate. It’s a standard noir setup- P.I. gets caught up in a seedy case that’s more than it appears to be- which is perfect when there’s so much else to absorb. I mentioned the world-building earlier and man, is it dense. How dense? Try a three-page newspaper interview/story on one of the figures central to the case and a scandal at a school he set up for hunters and prey to attend together. And yet, like a good mystery, it really draws you in. By taking the world at face value, creators Izar Lunacek and Nejc Juren can have their cake and eat it too. The inherent silliness of a giraffe P.I. kind of fades away the further into the book you get, making for a perfectly surreal feel to the book.

After reading Jeff Lemire’s Royal City #1, I’m almost shocked that it’s a comic book and not an HBO Sunday-night drama or a novel released at the beginning of summer that gets tons of coverage on NPR. This thing just oozes Americana and ennui (Americannui?) in a way that’s both satisfying and a bit unnerving. The story follows the various members of the Pike family as they are haunted (whether figuratively or literally, it’s unclear) by images of the family’s dead youngest son Tommy, who they all see Tommy at different stages in his life (based on how they remember him, I assume). The town of Royal City is a bit of a ghost itself, with a failing factory possibly giving way to the terrifying poltergeist known as ‘mixed-use development’ and a golf course. Overall this is a thoroughly satisfying read that I can’t wait to dig into as the series progresses.

About every three months, DC likes to remind us that the Vertigo imprint still exists by dropping a new book. This time, it’s Savage Things #1 from Justin Jordan and Ibrahim Moustafa and while it fits pretty squarely into the current Vertigo mindset of ‘could we do this easily on TV without a huge special effects budget?’ it’s still a fast-paced and fun read with a good hook. The book opens with a horrific terrorist attack that could only have been committed by members of a government program where children identified as sociopaths were taken from their homes to have those instincts nurtured in service of the government. It’s appropriately grim (familiar territory for Jordan) and Moustafa’s art is perfectly suited to it.

Yay a comic book set in SexyMurderArchie world! The Riverdale One-Shot is a prequel to the show that follows Archie, Betty, Veronica, & Jughead individually during the summer before Jason Blossom’s murder. The Archie and Veronica stories are pretty trite and have already been covered pretty well by the show. The Betty and Jughead stories however, provide some new information and solid context to the show’s two most interesting characters with Betty’s messed up family (seriously, what’s up with Polly, right?) and Jughead’s depressing home(less) life.


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