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I’ve actually been taking a wee break from comics to focus on finishing Oathbringer, and if I’m being honest, Tears of the Kingdom, Jedi Survivor, and the upcoming Final Fantasy XVI (whose demo dropped yesterday) are probably factors. In fairness though, for me ‘taking a break’ means ‘only reading them for forty five minutes at bedtime after She Who Is My Wife falls asleep while I read her A Confederacy Of Dunces‘, so I’m still grinding a few Englishman’s bones to make my bread, and I’ve got the some hot, fluffy french loaves for you to enjoy. COULD THEY ALSO BE GARLIC BREAD??? There’s only one way to find out: take yourself a big ol’ bite, tchotchke.
by Jonathan Hickman (Author, Artist, Contributor), Adam Kubert (Illustrator, Artist),
Steve Epting (Illustrator, Artist), Nick Pitarra (Illustrator, Artist), Dustin Weaver (Cover Art), Jerome Opeña (Artist)
Getting into a mainline title like this is always tricky; where does one start with the X-Men, or the Bat-Man, or the Jug-Head? It’s daunting! Mine is now a daunted house! (Fortunately, our pal Trevor over at How To Love Comics has us covered!)
For my part, I find it much easier to kind of take the opposite tack: I know that I love Jonathan Hickman’s work pretty much wherever I find it, but had so far mostly only read his stuff for Image, your East of West, your Manhattan Projects, and–pardon me while I genuflect–your Black Monday Murders, but I had never dipped into his considerable body of work in the Marvel corpus and SIBLING, IT WAS TIME TO CHANGE THAT.
What’s interesting–and powerfully confusing if you aren’t prepared–about Hickman’s run is that he wasn’t just writing Avengers, he was also writing its bizarro half-sibling New Avengers, and the two have a weird relationship: they’re technically separate stories, and can be read completely independently, but wind around each other and sometimes touch; it isn’t just for the sake of publishing elegance that both titles are included in this Complete Collection (and also in the omnibus editions, the second of which just came out). ABJH generally features more straightforward superhero-level issues, like a big golden weirdo trying to claim Mars as his personal greenhouse and needing to be punched a lot about it:
Meanwhile, New Avengers is all about everyone’s favorite boogeyman: The Illuminati, here a secretive group comprised of Iron Man, Captain America, Reed Richards, Black Bolt, Namor The Asshole, Doctor Strange, and Charles Xavier; they’re dedicated to the Greater Good by any means necessary and are about to face a threat that, even by comic book standards, is overwhelming and horrific. And when I say ‘by any means necessary’, I mean any means:
There’s a problem, though. Well, a problem besides the dimension-piercing deathwave sweeping through the ultrastructure of reality: a white man born in 1918 who thinks he knows what’s best for everyone.
JKJK, Cap is right as always, what they’re considering is nothing short of monstrous, and it is not a great sign the the group’s solidarity is cracking before they even put their plan into action.
As the gentle reader may notice, I am way more into New Avengers than ABJH; the latter is still great and full of all the Marvel nonsense one comes to expect, but New Avengers gives me that good good moral and ethical torture I’ve been missing since I finished rewatching The Good Place.
by Marcus Parks (Author), Ben Kissel (Author), Henry Zebrowski (Author),
Mike Spicer (Cover Art, Colorist), John McCrea (Cover Art, Artist, Inker), PJ Holden (Artist, Inker)
Gang this one is gross and it is so much fun. You may recall that the last time I described a comic as both fun and gross, it was The Scumbag, but this is different; The Scumbag is gross in a sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll way, Soul Plumber is gross in what I can only call an Invader Zim way, which is to say that it takes place in a crapsack world where absolutely everything leaks all over everything else.
But one man–Edgar, a defrocked priest working at a gas station–still believes this world can be filled with beauty and peace, and that people don’t need to be perfect to be good; this works out, because when he cobbles a spirit-plunger together from stolen, half-understood blueprints and pulls an adorable pink ultraterrestrial whatchamacallit named Blorp out of a guy, Edgar is prepared to receive it in a spirit of love and compassion. Blorp, in turn, is thrilled to meet Edgar and innocently tears several people apart to make a human suit that would fool even the finest-nosed of Blade Runners:
What’s not so fortunate is that the schematics Edgar kiiiiinda stole belong to a corrupt church that’s planning to pull an army of Blorps through from the other side and conquer the world in the name of their dark, pointy savior. Naturally, they end up having to have a kaiju fight about it, with Edgar’s spiritual champion taking the form of his childhood hero, the kick-ass kung-fu priest from his favorite show:
I’m a religious man myself–I just don’t know which one I belong to, is all–but I’m not actually very woo-woo, and this series does an excellent job of explaining that mmmmost(?) of what’s happening is higher-dimensional but non-supernatural while simultaneously being very kind to Edgar and his faith, if not necessarily the things he has faith in. It’s kinda like how The Book Of Mormon absolutely eviscerates the LDS Church as an organized religion but is never unkind to actual Mormons themselves.
Overall, Soul Plumber is a book it would be very easy to be embarrassed of reading, but as gross as it is, at the heart of it are flawed people who care about each other, a dedication to destroying the lies that hurt and control people, and a kind of incredibly profane optimism and vulgar gentleness:
by Kelly Thompson (Author, Contributor), Leonardo Romero (Illustrator, Cover Art, Artist)
Listen, Kate Bishop is just a rascal; she, her hijinx, and her loose interpretation of “the law” regarding things like “private investigator licenses” and “whether that dude had it coming” are just what America needs right now; if only she could preemptively inform people that she’s not that Hawkguy.
It’s not all fun and games and puncturing frat-boys who don’t know what ‘no’ means, though: Kate’s first client is a young lady being intensely harassed by someone who knows enough about computers that “just block him” isn’t an option. Naturally this is the best kind of problem: one that can be solved with punching, but the thing about this jerk is that he isn’t just a lone troll; he might be connected to something larger, more sinister, and further-reaching, something that seems to be causing people to succumb to mindless aggression and hatred in the name of Taking Back Control, and she can’t ignore its implications if this is the kind of thing their members get up to.
Hawkeye (2016-2018) kicks ass in purple and under a shining sun; if you liked Fraction & Aja’s run on Other Hawkeye (which I recomend in the most strenuous terms if you haven’t read it) you’ll find many of the same ingredients here, but in a recipe with many additions and substitutions that make this completely its own thing and Kate her own character.
by Makoto Ojiro
Gang you know I love me some nice cozy slice-of-life manga, and since I finished Cross Game the jones for wholesome, low-pressure stories has been upon me with a vengeance. And so naturally I have turned to the most relaxed demographic: sleep-deprived children.
Nakami and Magari have two things in common: they are bad at school, and it is because they are bad at sleeping. Fortunately they’ve found one more thing they share: the ability to help each other catch some friggin’ shuteye in the school’s old, disused telescopium. In fairness Magari actually already knew that and Nakami accidentally waking her cranky ass up is how they met, but still: they snooze better together.
I just started it but it seems pretty chill and goofy so far, and as a man in his mid-30’s I am being drawn against my will further and further into nap culture anyway, so everything’s lining up so far.
by Tom King (Author), Mitch Gerads (Cover Art, Artist, Inker, Colorist),
Evan Shaner (Artist, Inker, Colorist)
Listen, Adam Strange did some things in the war he isn’t proud of, but everyone worth asking agrees that he’s a hero, and that without his intervention the ugly, savage, lizardy Pykktmen would’ve completely exterminated the peaceful Ranni, who by complete coincidence look exactly like humans and are super smoochable. In fact he married one–a princess even!–and brought her back to earth! This dynamic is fine! It’s fine, and anyone who suggests asking any deeper questions is a communist.
Now the war is over, Adam and his alien war-bride are home and enjoying his book-tour and media appearances, and everything is great until a dude shows up, talks some mad shit accusing Adam of intergalactic war crimes, then ends up super murdered with a weapon whose wounds bear a striking resemblance to those left by Adam’s zapper. Now he has to prove his innocence–of this specific thing, anyway–and there’s only one way to do it: outsource the investigation to mayyyybe the busiest guy alive?
Unfortunately, the thing about investigations is that there’s really no way to make sure the only people doing one are the people you asked to, and there are other people out there who are just as dedicated to the truth as Batman is, but cannot be presumed to be on Strange’s side if uncomfortable facts come to light:
And because it’s Tom King, you know there’s a Dame, you know she’s armed with both a gun and complex motives, and you know she’ll take the opportunity to strike a pose if one should come along:
Also, as if you hadn’t noticed yet, this book is fucking gorgeous:
Article over! Urithiru calls! Bye!