Hm. Forgot how I start my posts.
Well, that’s probably as good a way as any; find below a CURATED SELECTION of the finest graphical novelties on the market, hot from the Comixology mi–y’know what no, I’m 100% sure that if I made that joke I’d get a news alert moments afterward revealing that Amazon did, in fact, own mines from which they extract the ghosts that give every Alexa a voice. Yes, the legends you’ve heard but daredn’t believe are true: I get news alerts.
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It was the sort of mission Batman had run a thousand times. From high above the sweltering summer streets of Gotham, Batman would escort the GCPD as the dangerous metahuman supervillain known as E.M.P. was transferred from a temporary holding cell to his permanent home at Blackgate Prison in Gotham Harbor. E.M.P.’s electrical powers posed a dangerous threat, but the situation was well in hand. Until it wasn’t. Now every light in Gotham is out, the police have been knocked into disarray, and a broken, bleeding Batman must fight his way to Blackgate, block by block, dragging E.M.P. behind him. But it’s not just the gangs who want to make life difficult for him. The dark corners of Gotham contain many surprises…and E.M.P. has many more shocks to deliver before the night is through! One of the most iconic Batman artists of the 21st century, the incomparable Jock (The Batman Who Laughs, Batman: The Black Mirror), has focused all his storytelling powers on the tale of one very, very dark night in Gotham City. It’s always darkest before the dawn-if it ever comes… Collects Batman: One Dark Knight #1-3.
This has all the hallmarks of a great one-off Batman story, which we seem to be getting a lot of lately, and I for one am here to wallow in the exposed seam like an iron-clawed burrowing chinchilla in need of a dust-bath. The parallels to Xenophon’s Anabasis or, if you’re of a more classical taste, The Warriors are clear, and Batman as a determined traveler fighting upstream toward a singular goal instead of chasing bad guys or roaming around or whatever sounds, as the blurb says, focused, and I’m excited to see what Persion soldiers and Baseball Furies throw themselves in front of his excellent punches. Furthermore, the Batman is known to always save bad-guy lives, but usually does so and then avaunts, leaving them gift-wrapped for the Proper Authorities, and I’m actually extremely curious to see how he handles being written into the worst fucking part of any video game: the escort mission.
Just based on the blurb, unless I miss my guess EMP seems like a character invented because “guy Batman has to keep alive” and “villain who set the plot into motion” don’t really need to be two separate characters, and I say that with no disrespect; we have the Law of Conservation of Detail for a good reason, and its jurisdiction absolutely extends to casts of characters; also, EMP’s power is clearly absolutely broken and wouldn’t function on any larger, running-story scale, so this is the absolute perfect environment for him.
Dinosaurs are alive! In 1946, a remote island was discovered where dinosaurs never went extinct. Through breeding and genetic manipulation, dinosaur populations increased and dino-mania reached a fever pitch worldwide… until a certain terrible incident occurred. Afterward, dinosaur reserves like Enoshima Dinoland fell on hard times. Enter Suma Suzume, a kindhearted rookie dino-keeper! Can she be the one to save Dinoland from extinction?
Honestly my instinct on this was to just go ‘THUNDER LIZARDS, MORE LIKE FUNDER LIZARDS!’ and return to my tub of peppermint puffs and episode of In The Heat Of The Night, my day’s labors complete. But I’ve learned in recent weeks to scan blurbs more carefully, after speculating wildly and incorrectly about plot points that were, in fact, addressed directly above where I was typing, and I must say I’m powerfully intrigued by this “certain terrible incident”; I presume it’s the same asteroid from the first mass extinction, or possibly its child, come seeking revenge and to finish the job its big ol’ papa-rock started.
“An exceptionally beautiful book about loneliness, labor, and survival.“—Carmen Maria Machado
Before there was Kate Beaton, New York Times bestselling cartoonist of Hark! A Vagrant, there was Katie Beaton of the Cape Breton Beatons, specifically Mabou, a tight-knit seaside community where the lobster is as abundant as beaches, fiddles, and Gaelic folk songs. With the singular goal of paying off her student loans, Katie heads out west to take advantage of Alberta’s oil rush—part of the long tradition of East Coasters who seek gainful employment elsewhere when they can’t find it in the homeland they love so much. Katie encounters the harsh reality of life in the oil sands, where trauma is an everyday occurrence yet is never discussed.
Beaton’s natural cartooning prowess is on full display as she draws colossal machinery and mammoth vehicles set against a sublime Albertan backdrop of wildlife, northern lights, and boreal forest. Her first full length graphic narrative, Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands is an untold story of Canada: a country that prides itself on its egalitarian ethos and natural beauty while simultaneously exploiting both the riches of its land and the humanity of its people.
The mid-late 2000’s were a hell of a weird time; our cup ranneth over with SoBe in a rainbow of flavors (several of which were good), a white 12-year-old from Poughkeepsie, NY invented teabagging in a friendly-fire capture-the-flag Halo 2 map, and the internet was swollen to bursting with quality Canadian webcomics. VG Cats, Looking For Group, Dinosaur Comics, A Softer World, and more; diverse in style and subject matter but alike in their sheer intelligence, their gentle, wholesome strangeness, and their ability to teach a young Californian Chrisian-school graduate how to swear in a non-vulgar way. One of the crown jewels of the scene was, and remains, Hark! A Vagrant!, which is filled with Catholicism, erotic Batmen, Napoleon, and computer science goofs; it’s an all-time classic of the medium and of that extremely specific and weird era, and I am absolutely fucking stoked to see her turn her considerable powers onto a target truly deserving of them: herself. Jkjk, obviously I can’t wait to see one of our finest working cartoonists eviscerate the capitalist machines–both literal and metaphorical–which many of us have no choice but to serve, and I’m specifically looking forward to what she has to say about the treatment of Canada’s indigenous people, which (to my understanding) is absolutely comparable to that which American Indians endured at white hands here in the States, but it gets conveniently forgotten when we talk about Canada.
The thing people always forget about funny people is that being actually funny, instead of just a capering provocateur like so many Rickys Gervais, is fucking hard and requires that one be smart, generally speaking; this is part of the reason that comedic actors have an easier time transitioning to drama than the other way around. And in my experience, when smart, funny people stop smiling and pull out the knives, things are about to change.
To be clear I’m not expecting Kate to condemn Canada wholesale or anything; this is a reminiscence of her youth, which is a difficult time to recollect objectively, and obviously I am expecting this book to be very funny, but mostly I’m just excited to see a creator whose work I’ve loved for a long time tackle something, if not more ‘serious’, then certainly of much larger scope, scale and meaning than most of what she’s been able to express before.
It may be a Coincidental Confederacy of Canucks™️*, but this bears a striking resemblance chromatically, geographically, and thematically to Guy Delisle’s Factory Summers from a few weeks back, and I wonder what’s going on in the collective comics mindspace of les Canadiennes that led to that, and what else we might see that tastes similar.
*(I am under the impression that ‘canuck’ is a neutral-to-good-natured-ribbing term for our poutine-packed pals; if I should be mistaken in this I will gladly correct myself)
You can call The Joker a lot of things-psychopathic, murderous, disturbed, obsessed, anarchic, maybe even genuinely funny. But one thing no one would call him, regardless of what side of the law they might fall on, is dependable. The Joker will double-cross his own partners on a whim, let alone anyone trying to stop him. Yet when it comes to solving one of the strangest, most perplexing mysteries to ever hit Gotham, the Joker’s word is about all that the GCPD has. A mystery with the most unreliable narrator in the DC Universe, this seven-issue miniseries finds Commissioner Gordon and the rest of the GCPD with a headline-grabbing crime on their hands, a suspect list that includes just about every villain in Gotham, and only the Clown Prince of Crime’s testimony as a lead. But how much of what The Joker says can you believe? Was he behind the crime, or just a witness? Is that red stain on his shirt just a little strawberry jelly like he claims? And most importantly, who killed the Riddler? On top of all the puzzles and mysteries and the crazy cast of characters, this collection showcases some of the finest talent working in comics today. Collects The Joker Presents: A Puzzlebox #1-7.
Somewhat in defeat of my own purpose, I have intentionally avoided learning almost anything about this miniseries because its release schedule and pattern was extremely confusing and interesting; every issue, from what I can tell, also had a Director’s Cut edition that included extra puzzles and similar sprinkled all throughout it??? I doubt this collection will include those, but given that it’s 250 pages (and therefore commensurate with its frankly pretty hefty pricetag) I certainly can’t rule it out. Matthew Rosenberg has done some fantastic Batmanning before, including James Tynion’s Joker title and the Urban Legends anthology series, and his non-caped offerings like What’s The Furthest Place From Here? and 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank give me more than enough confidence in his ability to absolutely fuck us up with everyone’s favorite non-Prince androgynous purple weirdo when given full rein. WAIT WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT ABOUT THE RIDDLER???
On leave from the Suicide Squad, King Shark and unfortunate tagalong the Defacer get swept into a mystical tournament for totemic animal spirits at the behest of King Shark’s father, the god of sharks! Now King Shark must battle brutal warriors like Queen Tiger, King Roach, Prince Nematode, Princess Peregrine, and the terrifying Man King to finally attain his destiny and make his dour dad proud! Collects Suicide Squad: King Shark #1-6.
Look, we all saw the new/good Suicide Squad movie, we all love our big dumb murderous homo carcharias homie, we all loved Revival enough to fan-cast the main characters in our heads (RENE AUBERJONOIS FOR LESTER MAJAK OR WE RIOT), and we’re all looking forward to the trade of Spider-Gwen: Gwenverse that he’s been writing in November; I don’t have to justify this to you people, I just wanna watch our big toothy boi chomp his way through every problem he encounters as his cartilaginous gods intended, get onboard or get eaten.
Living & Dying in America includes many lovingly drawn portraits of those who died in the pandemic and of those who displayed extraordinary strength, decency, courage, and endurance. But Brodner does not ignore those who perpetuated the pandemic in word or deed: he also etches in acid caricature those public servants and private entrepreneurs who preyed upon the public, spread lies, and aided the virus’ spread through their ignorance, incompetence, and malfeasance. Released via social media, the drawings range from quick, expertly realized sketches to elaborate paintings to carefully rendered mixed media, depending on how much time and stamina and inspiration he had left at the end of the day. Each spontaneously drawn or painted image is accompanied by a brief biography of those who died, or a short summary of the person’s conduct or the event depicted. Taken as a whole, Living & Dying in America is a chronicle of those who died and those who honorably served the living — as well as an indictment of those institutions and political figures who betrayed the public trust. It is a searing and essential moral document, written and drawn on a daily basis with feverish intensity by one of the great forces of American cartooning.
Uh-oh, time for shit to accidentally get real, hahaha, WHOOPS.
In my non-swearing-and-lies-and-puns life I’m a healthcare worker; have been since before the beginning of the pandemic, will probably continue to be if and when we ever reach anything like a new kind of equilibrium. Like almost everyone, I’ve spent the past nearly-three-years fucking terrified and doing everything I can to protect myself, those for whom I care, and those around us; the last thing I saw at the pictures was The Rise of Fucking Skywalker, guys, that’s how seriously my immune-compromised ass takes this. (Obviously that specific statement is tragic for a number of reasons.) Unlike most of us, however, I’ve also spent these years dealing every day with the literal, practical fallout of our country’s absolutely catastrophic, reprehensible failure to protect its most vulnerable during the greatest public health nightmare since the HIV/AIDS crisis: I have had to tell callers that every clinic in Arizona was out of Covid tests, I have had to hear an elderly man sobbingly ask me how to help his severely ill wife and have nothing to tell him, I have had to tell people that their results were going to take up to fourteen days to come back, I have seen days where my two-dozen person office received twenty thousand calls a day and be able to answer maybe 500 of them, I have gone to bed wondering who I spoke to that week was going to fucking die. I have seen shit you people wouldn’t believe, and I am endlessly grateful that you didn’t have to.
I say this not in hope of accruing any kind of clout, or endearing myself to you, or guilting you for going to Disneyland or to Hawaii or to see Poopaw in Wichita for the first time in twenty years when you goddamn well knew you shouldn’t have; people gotta live their lives, especially when all signs point to them being short and ending suddenly in pain and terror. I still had–and have–it much better than the nurses and providers who put their actual human lives on the table and told the man to toss the ball onto the wheel while they tried to help terrified patients.
I say all of this for the same reasons that Steve Brodner made this comic: because I am heartbroken, and horrified, and sick to my very soul, and absolutely furious that more than a million of my fellow Americans–the saints and idiots and assholes and quietly good sorts and the countless number who just wanted to live their small, anonymous lives in peace–are gone suddenly and forever, with no collective grief or mourning, no ritual acknowledgement or formal validation of the loss, and no one held motherfucking accountable. I’m stopping now, because if I don’t, I won’t; maybe that’s a longer piece one day.
My point is, Steve Brodner doesn’t think this is going to settle the books on the past three years, any more than I think this article will, but what both of us think is that we have the responsibility to acknowledge and memorialize the innocent and guilty alike who fell under a blade that those in power made no attempt to deflect or blunt until it was far, far too late. There aren’t a million comics in here, and synechdoche is an imperfect technique even when it isn’t being applied to megadeaths, but this is what Steve was able to do, and reading it is what we’re able to do. I consider it an honor, and I thank him for persevering for what this must’ve felt like passing through him.
At the outlaw-infested city of Daniemi, Ryu meets Carlo, a former member of the trade metropolis’s now-corrupt cops. Carlo’s beloved Capo was murdered by a foul and craven lot, and Ryu agrees to help Carlo avenge him — only to get wrapped up in the conspiracy of the bigwigs who rule the town!
YR continues to be one of the most under-advertised series I’ve ever read, and I don’t mean like I don’t see adverts for it, I mean even the blurbs are deliberately misleading to an extent that I have to believe is tongue-in-cheek: in Vol. 2, the blurb said ‘a minion of the dark lord appears, and worse, law enforcement!’ which is a good goof when your protagonist is a senior-citizen yakuza, but what it doesn’t tell you is that the minion IS THE GIANT, LIVING SEVERED FINGER OF A PITCH-BLACK GOD WHOSE ESSENCE HAS INFECTED THE ENTIRE TOWN’S WATER SUPPLY AND IS BEING SOLD AS A DRUG BY A LOCAL CARTEL. I consider myself a connoisseur fake lies, harmless untruths, and effective misdirection, and this makes me SO proud.
All of that to say I don’t doubt that the above is technically “what” “”happens”” in this volume, I don’t believe for a fucking second that yonder blurb is telling us the entire truth, and I’m so excited to find out exactly how it’s lying to us.
HONORABLE NON-COMICS MENTION:
Listen, the Locked Tomb books are extremely difficult to summarize, or refer clearly to, or describe; ‘swordfighting lesbian space necromancers’ is mechanically accurate but doesn’t convey how deeply strange and hilarious and super gay and sincerely terrifying they are; you can read my review of Gideon The Ninth here and do the same for Harrow The Ninth here, but let’s get real, you rascals: if you read this far and put up with this much of my bullshit, these books are for you. I’ll see you groovy little bone-freaks in the–and I am not making this up–chapter-long coffee-shop AU digression.
So that’s me this week! What did you all get? What traumas are you intentionally revisiting for your stupid website? What’s your favorite thing King Shark did in that movie, and why was it when he did the little sneaky-uppy dance behind that guy before biting him in half? Is there an Alexa-phantom, or Primegeist, behind me right now? Also again WHAT the fuck was that about the Riddler???
Until next time all my buddies, be good to yourselves, be good to each other, wear your goddamned masks, and if you see four lights, say four lights.