Ever since Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s Vision series ended, Marvel has been sorely in need of a comic that manages to meld the inherent zaniness of the 616 with some deep pathos and haunting visuals. Luckily, Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward seem to be well on their way there with this week’s Black Bolt #4. If you haven’t been following the series so far, a.) shame on you and b.) that’s okay, it’s easy to catch up- Black Bolt has awoken in a mysterious (and rather trippy) prison with his powers neutralized and finds himself allied with Crusher Creel/Absorbing Man and a few other prisoners as they attempt to escape. Now that you know everything you need to know, stop what you’re doing and go order issue 4. Right now. Come on, do it. Did you? Okay, that’s fine. I can talk about it some more. Black Bolt and Creel find themselves facing a slow death and choose to spend their remaining time just talking to each other. Ahmed nails the dynamic between the two with Creel’s history as a fighter and ne’er do well contrasting with Black Bolt’s royal background nicely (though they do get to bond over their love of strong redheads that kick butt). It’s some of the best character work that comics has to offer, though a lot of the work is done by Ward’s art. While still experimental and about as far away from the words ‘house style’ as one could get, it’s immediately more palatable than his work on ODY-C. Ward’s ability to jump from psychedelic space prison to wrong-side-of-the-tracks urban areas for Creel’s flashbacks is impressive and really sells the story.
The War of Jokes and Riddles that’s currently going on in the main Batman series was seemingly advertised as a mini-epic along the lines of Contagion or Night of the Monster Men. The story, which sees the Riddler and the Joker turning Gotham into a war zone, forcing all of the villains that inhabit the city to pick a side. What I didn’t expect was that Tom King would choose to frame the story as a bedroom confession from Bruce to Selina, meaning that it’s often told with narration over non-sequential splash pages, interspersed with some absolutely chilling character moments for both the Riddler and the Joker. Also there was a Kite Man-focused issue. What’s interesting about this approach is how it kind of upends the traditional ‘epic story’ format to play to King’s strengths as a writer. The specifics of the story (why X-character sided with Joker, how X-character evaded Batman, etc.) don’t matter because we can fill in those blanks for ourselves. Sure, it might not immediately make sense that Freeze would side with the Joker and King could spend 8 pages telling us why he did in a way that we’d buy because King is a good writer, OR we could get 8 haunting pages of the Joker not being able to find anything funny. Even this week’s issue #28 which boasts a Deathstroke/Deadshot showdown takes the montage approach rather a straightforward fight between the two assassins which, in addition to giving Mikel Janin more room to show off, further heightens the tension leading to the point of the story- the confession that Bruce is making to Selina before their impending nuptials. It’s a brilliant choice that separates this from the myriad of other Gotham epics.
Jay Faerber has been around for a while, writing for just about every major publisher and doing some phenomenal creator-owned work like Noble Causes and Copperhead. So I was of course excited for Elsewhere #1, a fantasy-adventure series that sees Amelia Earhart thrust into a world full of strange creatures and an evil overlord. It’s just a pure, fun, good time comic that manages to walk the tight rope of being all-ages without boring adults or scaring kids.
I don’t know about you folks, but I’m kind of tired of zombies. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always up to pop in any of Romero’s films or any of the Return of the Living Dead flicks, and of course there are still gems like Train to Busan (it’s on Netflix, go watch it!) but thanks mostly to the influence of Walking Dead and its endless dreary shambling towards nihilism, the luster of reanimated corpses feasting on living flesh has lost a bit of its appeal for me. So thank heaven for Kyle Starks and his new zombie book Dead of Winter which makes the very important choice to add a golden retriever in a red cape who HATES zombies to the proceedings. Along with artist Gabo, Starks has melded the necessary grittiness of a post-apocalypse crawling with the undead with irreverent and often joyous humor elements that almost singlehandedly revitalize the genre. Okay, maybe I’m overstating it a little bit, but man this comic was a joy to read that I can’t recommend highly enough to all fans of either zombies or adorable puppos.