Shortly before beginning this article I received an Alolan Sandshrew in Pokémon Go, courtesy of an egg sent to me by a pal in France; her name is Shrew Barrymore, and I’ve only had her for half an hour but if anything happens to her I will Faint everyone in this gym and then myself. Friend me at 5332-3062-4383 if you’d like to experience her brumal wrath firsthand, by which I mean get lots of presents from me that are mostly postcards from the same three Pokéstops.
Readers, I have only ever been straightforward with you, except when it would be better to lie for your safety, or for my own financial advantage, or because it would be funny. But today I tell you true: I am pretty tired this week, and am not upset that it’s a fairly light comics haul.
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“The third volume in the bestselling and critically acclaimed Batman anthology title is here, collecting the feature stories “Batman & Zatanna: Bound to Our Will” and “Hounded” that originally ran in issues #11-16 of Batman: Urban Legends. Batman & Zatanna: Batman & Zatanna have to contain a curse that they helped release. But in order to reverse its effects, they’re going to have to fix their frayed relationship. From the creative team of Vita Ayala and Nikola Čižmešija, this is a magical epic you won’t want to miss! Hounded: (Bat)man’s best friend Ace the Bat-Hound breaks out of an animal testing facility with his new super-fur-friends Ursa the Russian bear, Eggbert the genius chicken, Merton the turtle, and Li’l Nutz the cunning squirrel, in order to sniff out where Batman’s been kidnapped for auction to his rogues gallery!“
As an anthology series there’s an inherent risk to this title, not necessarily in terms of ‘quality’, nebulous fish that it is, but in whether you’re going to get a story about characters that you know and care about. (For example, Urban Legends, Vol. 2 was a rough start for me because I…don’t know or care about Metamorpho and Katana and Black Lightning? Not that it was a bad story, I just didn’t have any context for the events or its players; you pays your money, your takes your chances.) I am not…heartened by the prospect of spending time with Ace, Krypto and other, presumably just as super, pets, but I am prepared to be wrong, and to be charmed as hell against my will. Similarly I have no investment in Zatanna, but I am very intrigued by the idea of Batman having to achieve cursal reversal through closure and relationship-work. Urban Legends continues to be a great space to explore smaller ideas that don’t necessarily have the legs for longer-form work, and that’s an important space in a larger environment that currently emphasizes not just multi-issue or multi-volume but multi-series long-arc storytelling. The short story is just as valid as the novel, especially given that short-form storytelling was how comics got their start in the first place.
“Nigerian immigrants Toba and his renowned scientist mother have moved to a sleepy Pacific Northwest town called Buckhead. Hidden away in the basement of the school, Toba and his new friends at school discover a strange video game, resulting in mysterious and dangerous events unfolding. As they pursue a vast conspiracy with connections to another world in the fight to save their parents, they soon uncover the ancient terror that’s behind it all. Will they be able to work together before it’s too late?“
Weird video games leading to spooklepations? The Pacific Northwest, where I once made my home and in whose forests and shores my Quiet Self still resides? The chance to support a Nigerian creator who, one presumes, will bring some of that experience and perspective to a story set in one of the most overwhelmingly white and caucasio-normative places in the United States? Bookmonger, I say to you: mong me that book.
Assault, robbery, arson, murder… In the dark neighborhood of Shinjuku, there’s an outlaw security firm that protects the people the law can’t help out. From nightclub security to guarding restaurants and keeping VIPs safe, it provides everything a red-light district needs to survive. And when Ichigo encounters its president Kuromitsu Shishigami, it changes his entire life!
I’m actually pretty cheesed off about this one; you may remember from a few weeks back that I had some trouble with Vol. 2, which cut out halfway through. Well, I contacted Comixology and their agent (who was nothing but helpful and polite) had me try a million goddamn things, but we never did get it to work no matter how many updates I did, how much space I freed up on my devices or how many times I deleted and tried to re-download it, and then they gave up; I was frustrated and disappointed, but couldn’t blame them. So, I actually have no idea how Vol. 2 ended and this will probably be pretty confusing for me! I’m not even sure who that is on the cover! It’s probably not important. I’m sure it’s fine, he lied. Nevertheless, this is an extremely strong series and the accumulating-plot will still be pretty clear even through the problem-of-the-issues that I won’t get at first.
There aren’t many series I’d put up with this for, frankly, and I’m actually happy to have one that I’m this committed to. If that’s piqued your interest but you’re not sure what I’m talking about, check out my full review of Vol.1, it absolutely rules.
“She’s stoned. She’s selfish. She’s all that stands between us and the end of the world.
Where do you go when you die? Kat, a stoner with a flexible moral code, can answer that, and the answer is: not very far. Unfortunately for Kat’s peace of mind, a near-death experience left her with the ability to see and hear ghosts, as well as take them into her “mindscape” so she can bring them to locations of their choosing, essentially playing transporter to the deceased. But when Kat discovers she’s inadvertently played into a demonic plan to screw up the whole world, she is forced to take an active role in the battle between good and evil. And she’s not thrilled about it.
Eisner-nominated Christopher Sebela (Injustice: Ground Zero, Crowded), Kendall Goode (The Doorman), and Gab Contreras (Witchblood) team up for a supernatural, stoner action-comedy that puts the “boo” in booze cruise.”
Listen, as a Garbage Human, I am thrilled with the upswing in Garbage Human representation we’ve been getting in comics and other media lately, and Christopher Sebela’s previous work on Crowded (which I enjoyed immensely) lends me more than enough confidence that he’ll do our people proud on this one. It is just like us to not try, accidentally succeed, and have it turn out that our accidental success is bringing us to the attention of larger, scarier powers than we ever wanted to know we exist; this story is clearly the scaled-up version of writing a company shout-out email for an agent and filling it with goofs and fake lies just for you and the other employees to enjoy, then the CEO notices and loves it, and the someone you were doing for fun becomes something you have to do for your job. My comparison of Gerald going above and beyond to Hercules skipping a flying saucer across Lake Superior and it carving a steak off of Babe the Blue Ox on the other side was not meant for your eyes, Barbara. Go back to opening more clinics that we can’t find enough providers to keep open.
“FINAL SEASON! From across the galaxy, a terrifying alliance of alien warships enters our atmosphere. Inmates of both Kaijumax prisons suit up for the filthy, dangerous work of battling the alien threat out in the world, all in a bid to lessen their thousand-year sentences. Amid the fiery chaos, offspring will be reunited with their parents, antediluvian grudges will be fulfilled, and new, monstrous crimes will be committed. Wade into the fray with Electrogor, Whoofy, Go-Go Space Baby, Dr. Zhang, Ding Wing, Daniel, and all the rest as Kaijumax’s final season reaches its explosive conclusion!”
I…think I might be more emotionally invested in Kaijumax than in any other comic I’ve ever read. There are some close runners-up, of course; The Sandman, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Hellboy before it ended but then didn’t end five times, The Goon, Locke & Key. But none of those map onto real-world stories, that real human beings are living every day, and exposes the cruelty, suffering, and injustice that they’re made to endure in our prison system the way that Kaijumax does; also few of those have giant therapists using telephone poles as pencils during sessions, cryptids with tattoos of deep-cut Forteana, and hip-hopera retellings of the original Godzilla: King Of The Monsters.
I say this sincerely: if you don’t understand why people like Orange Is The New Black, or OZ, or any other prison-related media, read Kaijumax, and/or Bitch Planet. Arguably you shouldn’t need the framing-device of Godzillas and Power Rangers and rabbit-gangsters on the moon and the Mothman launching a cryptid-supremacy race-war between the various gangs in K-Max to be able to understand what’s compelling (and extremely troubling) about the way the inmates of America’s prisons live, how they come to be there and what forces have vested interest in keeping them there; that said, our prison system also relies heavily on cultural programming that says anyone who ends up there belongs there, doesn’t deserve empathy or compassion, and basically isn’t a human with rights and feelings anymore, and it also hopes you won’t ask too many questions about why so much of its population is composed of poor and marginalized groups. It would be great if more people actively saw those problems without needing to have them couched in giant atomic robots and Cthulhus dealing hits of that sweet cosmic insanity on street corners, but that’s what it took for me, so who the hell am I?
My point is that I’m very sad that Kaijumax is ending, because it’s powerfully gripping, heartbreaking, hilarious, and puts those qualities to use in exposing the exploitation of some of the most vulnerable, forsaken souls on the planet, and I’m glad it’s going out swinging instead of resting on its laurels, because out of all of the things I wish to Goj were fictional in this series, the coercive use of prisoners as soldiers in war has a long, horrifying history that, like most things in these stories, we are absolutely not taught about without seeking them out on our own.
I’m gonna miss K-Max, but even if Zander should never publish another page he’ll have done comics and prisoners the world over an enormous service in using his platform to fight, in the way he is able, for those the world has deemed unworthy of defending, and Mecha-Zonn himself would agree that there is no calling higher.
“Humans and Arcanics are at war once again, but battles of the heart and soul are the most dangerous of all. Caught in the calculating grip of the Dusk Court, Maika and Zinn uncover painful secrets of the past while Tuya fights to preserve her future—and young Kippa might be the Known World’s only hope for the present.”
Would you look at this bullshit, fuckin’ Final Fantasy-ass book, I love it so much. I mean that, by the way; I’ve been a Final Fantasy devotee since 1997, and I have never seen a work in any medium–including several official FF comics, movies, etc.–that so accurately captures the bonkers spirit and aesthetic of those games. You got your ghosts of ancient eldritch gods empowering people at the cost of their sanities and souls, you’ve got your traumatized protagonist with a dark magical secret and a bitchin’ timberpunk arm, you’ve got adorable half-animal kids who are part of a dehumanized caste that the aristocrats literally use for food, you’ve got the nobles and royalty constructing an arcane conspiracy that’s taken centuries to come to fruition, and as if you hadn’t guessed yet you’ve got a goddamn huge old fluffy cat with an eyepatch who is a samurai. It just fuckin rules, is what, in addition to being some of the most arrestingly beautiful and horrifying artwork I’ve ever seen in the medium.
All of that said, I will confess: I’m not caught up, and can’t comment on the specifics of the above blurb, but knowing who Kippa is (a super-cute wee foxum-kid who has been through godless nightmares in her tiny life but is still the very spirit of hope and joy), I can safely say it was always going to be her delivering us from darkness and doom.
So that’s me this week! What did you all get? Which is your favorite genre-lens that allows us to look straight at humanity’s cruelty to itself without going blind from horror? Where would you like to see more Garbage Human representation in our culture? Did that cat actually lose the eye under that patch or is he just trying to seem cool? Lemme know in the comments!
Until next time all my buddies, be good to yourselves, be good to each other, wear your goddamn masks, and if you can help it, don’t get stuck walking Krypto; his poops are made of dwarf-star matter and weigh nineteen thousand metric tons.