The last of October (the week of Wednesday the 25th) was a heavy week in BOOM! Town! Thirteen, count’em, thirteen releases. One hardcover, two softcover collections, and eight ongoing issues. Nine of that thirteen are licensed books. Sisters of Sorrow (full review) and Victor Lavelle’s Destroyer (a hurried finish, but emotionally satisfying and packing a full wallop) both finished up their mini-series publication, with four of four and six of six respectively. Two solid trade prospects, IMO.
Starting with what I don’t know: licensed comics for shows I don’t watch, helpfully covered by other staffers:
In Steven Universe #9, Steven wants to improve his draftsmanship so Amethyst arranges with Vidalia, a local painter and pal, to offer him art lessons. Steven brings along Lapis and Peridot, who are at first suspicious that a mere human could teach them anything about art, or as they would say, about meep-morps. The three of them practice technique while Amethyst adorably poses for their life-drawing class and Vidalia offers a lot of practical advice. What for Steven is a pretty linear trajectory of improvement in representational art, becomes, for Lapis and Peridot, also a lesson in taking well-intentioned critique, and learning from each other. While my favorite thing about this issue was definitely Amethyst’s life-drawing poses, it’s also a functional art lesson that makes a good point about studentship.
In this issue of Dark Crystal, we see love triumph over fear, one of the recurring themes of the property. A faction of the gelflings have been chasing a fireling girl and her gelfling totally-not-boyfriend after they stole a shard of the Dark Crystal. Jen, one of the protagonists of the film, has been leading this pursuit, trying to reclaim the shard in order to help his people resist the returned skeksis. By this point, he has learned that the firelings will likely die without the power of the shard, and he makes the difficult decision to stop his people and face the skeksis without the power of the shard. This is a deeply unpopular decision, as his people are rightly terrified of the skeksis. Nonetheless, he chooses to stand against the oppressors rather than punching down against an even more vulnerable group. This is an admirable sentiment we could use more of on Earth.
Hi-Fi Fight Club, issue three of four…still frustrating. Still frustrating. There’s plenty to like, as we’ve gone over in detail, but it feels like the pistachio crust on a rack of no lamb. I talk this over with Nola every month, and we both like HFFC more than we rate it. Sweet queer 90s romantic troubles bubble up— but they’re fixed within the issue. Scene vs scene girl-enemy drama comes to a head— but they make friends within the issue. Clues are discovered re: the alleged core “mystery”— within the first few pages, and only repeated throughout the rest of the issue. I feel like this script was completed, cut up, caught in a gust of wind and reassembled in a rush for art-to-print. There’s a panel where boss Nina describes how to keep your thumb outside your fist during a punch— but her thumb is on the side of the fist that faces away from the reader! The thumb! Is not! Drawn! Perhaps a more demanding editor could have made sure the thrust of the narrative matched the quality of the premise.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #20 and you know, I’m really missing that apostrophe that I apparently spent my childhood imagining was present. Morphin isn’t a thing. Morphing is. “Morphin” should be Morphin’, it only stands to reason.
Anyway this issue is about a team of Power Rangers from 1969, which I know because they’re all first seen watching the moon landing (remember the musical episode of Even Stevens?). It feels sort of moving to read, because “this team is part of a legacy of teams” is a moving concept to view, but it also feels a little off because I can’t not know that the first colour-coded (Super) Sentai show didn’t air until ’75 and that’s the real, actual, genuine team legacy we’re overwriting here. That said, the pink one is a boy and the red leader is a woman so I might actually cry…Is what I was going to say, before I finished reading the issue and Boy Pink kicked the bucket. I’m too old for this shit.
Big Trouble in Little China: Old Man Jack provides some pretty recognisable 2017 adventure; an “old man” version of an 80s macho ideal gets in a huge truck and drives through a bunch of enemies. I guess he’s “in hell” or something. The script (Carpenter himself and Antony Burch) is rather glib, which may or may not be the result of using dialogue better suited to cinema in a comic (I’m leading to not; see above). Jack says “Chinese karate,” so that David Lo Pan can tell him he’s an idiot. It seems a little rushed and the colouring (by Gabriel Cassata) is somewhat murky, but Jorge Corona’s lines have a Guilloryish mania that keeps things going. Why the guy would still be wearing the same shirt as he wore on posters decades ago, I do not know. Change it, sweaty!
The Unsound‘s fifth issue will be covered in due time by new-to-WWAC reviewer Gretchen Felker-Martin, whose piece on #1 can be read here. Discussing this comic seems to break websites—scheduling Gretchen’s review made all posts below it vanish on our back end–which is spooky. So even if you don’t like asylum stories, at least you got something Halloweeny out of this title. WoooOOooo!
WWE #10 will be covered by regular correspondent Ashly. For now, all I’ll say is that the cover image (above) is terrific, but not quite served by placement of the cover copy. Make that a poster IMO.
Mech Cadet Yu‘s (BOOM! Studios) first collection (issues 1-4, as is BOOM!’s way and general practice) is being rushed out for January, as the presumably runaway hit that it is. I don’t know the numbers, so this could be a shell game, but #1 sold out and—as I’ve been telling you in previous BOOM! Bars—it is actually a terrific comic. It’s not just readable and fun, it’s structurally sound and an article of craft. How much of a rush is this? This week’s Adventure Time (KaBOOM!) collection (cover below), which is numbered volume 9, collects issues 40-44, with #40 having been published originally in March 2015. That’s a wait of two years and seven months. The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (BOOM! Studios) collection out this week, volume four, collects issues 13-16 and the first of those was published in March 2017. That’s a wait of seven months. Mech Cadet Yu debuted in August this year–with a January collection release, that’s a wait of only five. And that, by my measure (my measure is called “give it me when can I have it”), is good.
It’s not all good;
“In May 2018, a standard edition of Mech Cadet You vol. 1, featuring a different cover and including additional behind-the-scenes material, will be released to comic shops and bookstores worldwide, with the same MSRP of $14.99.”
But you know, whatev.
Garfield: The Thing in the Fridge is getting a full review in the next week or so; it’s billed as an O(original)G(graphic)N(ovel) but its in fact a collection of three stories by a collection of creative teams. Two written by Scott Nickel, two drawn by Antonio Alfaro, but not both on two together. It’s cheaper than usual, $9.99, so if you’re hungry for lasagna…probably just go buy one. But if you wanna read Garfield, here is some Garfield.
The first week of November—
—was far lighter, with only seven releases. Four of these were licenses (Hellraiser, Steven Universe, Maze Runner, Adventure Time). One of the three remaining titles is Armory Wars, a reprint or reissuing of a series which was first published elsewhere, so that’s sort of a fifth licensed title, right? Just not in the same way as a license to adapt. Then again- Hellraiser Omnibus is also a reprint license, as well as an adaptation. So it’s an exciting mix of flavours on the business end, if you like that kind of thing. Giant Days (issue 32) might even be one to count on that essential front, as it’s a spinoff from Allison’s longrunning webcomic family Scary Go Round. Leaving Lazaretto #3 as the one, the only, the single full original release from BOOM! in the first week of November. Here’s your list of credits for this rarest of ponies:
Writer: Clay McLeod Chapman
Artist: Jey Levang
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Cover Artist: Ignacio Valicenti
Let’s give them all a round of applause.👏👏👏
And now on with the overview.
Giant Days is setting up for the next inworld year; all three of the protagonists are making plans for where they’ll be living in their third and (except for med student Susan) final year at Sheff. Lovers begin to nest, and lone birds miss the obvious fact that maybe it’d be smart if they began to flock together. A beautiful and warming option for your autumn-winter transitional reading.
Lazaretto, at halfway mark, starts killing people. The interpersonal aspects of the writing aren’t reaching quite the heights I’d imagined from issue one, but the core friendship remains strong and this issue we learn that Charles is “…” which I can fairly confidently assume, from context, to mean gay. A couple of panels are spent on this unspoken but clearly shared detail. BOOM!’s queer offerings remain in fair proportion, although there’s not too much joy about it here.
The second week of November, which you might call “last week,” is a week of five issue releases, one colouring book and two softcover collections. The colouring book is a Cursed Pirate Girl supplement; if you like to colour in and you like pirates and girls and curses, go get yourself drunk on possibility. Looks fiddly as heck though. Softcovers are a Planet of the Apes/Green Lantern crossover–I tried to get someone who loves “trash” and “chaos” to review this for us in long form and she refused, for which I can’t say as I blame her. But I mention it as it does rather get the point across–and Adventure Time volume three (collecting issues nine to twelve, originally published in late 2013-early 2013). The Apes/Lantern collection has a Van Sciver cover featuring a very rigid, one might almost say swastikoid version of his “not at all swastika or at all swastika-reminiscent, how dare you” signature. Ugly stuff. here’s a mini review from Nola Pfau:
The Planet of the Apes/Green Lantern crossover is a lot like most intercompany crossovers–it’s too interested in pursuing a sequence of events, too interested in making references, to actually let the story breathe. The story itself is simple–Hal Jordan and Sinestro end up on the Apes’ Earth while fighting over a macguffin, then the other Green Lanterns go in to rescue him. An ape ends up with a ring! Fights ensue. If I seem perfunctory, well, so is the book.
Only two of the five single issues are licensed books: The first in a new Apes mini (BOOM! is really making those hairy dudes work), Kong on the Planet of the Apes, and the fourth of six Regular Show/Adventure Time crossover issues. Creator-owned titles SLAM: The Next Jam, Grass Kings and Eugenic all continue.
Eugenic doesn’t appeal to me any more than it did last month; issue one was obvious and a little tacky and issue two is much the same. Everything is too 101, too pat. I don’t think it means to be, but this issue’s narrative functions as a parable of what is called pretty privilege. Bekk (why a double K? Because someone else is called Grax, and the script is that kind of blunt instrument), previously scouted for her modern-day attractiveness (though it’s not set in the modern day, and there’s no reason why 2017 standards of human attraction should have any relevance in this aesthetically speculative society), agreed to die violently in order to bring attention to the (unexplained) ableism of her, for want of a better word, mutant overlords. This book annoys me a lot. Please, please read Hannah Berry’s Livestock instead.
SLAM! The Next Jam still feels more like a beautiful tourist ad campaign (Visit Derbyville! We’re All So Happy Here~) than a story, but I’m minding it less and less. I don’t know anyone’s name or how they relate to each other or where they are in their lives or…anything, but I know what’s happening on the page and it feels like it is happening. Ambiently, around me. Or around some unseen protagonist of a plot. Every issue feels like a compilation of corridor supporting cast moments from a sitcom or a teen drama show, the just-in-passing stuff keeping up the illusion of a greater world. But it also feels like a true love letter to Derby.
Grass Kings #9 has more than usual happening in it, which is ironic because it’s only been a month but I’ve forgotten everything that’s happened previously. There’s some weird artistic gender essentialism in this issue, which seems almost purposefully unsettling but is still, you know, the same old thing. Still a pretty book, still perplexingly silent on what race means to the people of this town. I mean “Kingdom.” Whatever.
That of Wednesday the fifteenth, is one of nine BOOM! releases. I’ll be honest with you, reader– I’ve been trying to get this PUBWATCH out since week one, and I’m pretty freakin’ tired and cross. If these are getting perfunctory, I apologise, but I also…am doing it anyway. Here y’are: three creator-owned original series single issues (Fence, Mech Cadet Yu, Misfit City)! One debut cartoonist’s graphic novel softcover (Bolivar)! Three licensed single issues (Adventure Time Comics, WWE Survivor Series 2017 Special, Over the Garden Wall), of which two (the two former) are anthology-style! And two softcover collections of creator-owned series (Armoury Wars volume one, issues 1-4 and Goldie Vance volume three, issues 9-12).
Of these, Fence, Misfit City, Survivor Series and Over the Garden Wall are receiving reviews or features at WWAC in the coming weeks, so we can consider them spoken for. (Misfit City still chafes–tres ironique–with its lack of friction, but that’s a personal problem for me to grumble about.)
Mech Cadet Yu is the book we need in this time of shit, because it is full of such cathartic adrenaline and what is “full” is a shell made of BEAUTIFUL LOVE. If you like the mean girls who can’t get out of their own way because they’re too constricted by the need to hide their vulnerability, congratulations, you love Cadet Park now. If you like the go-getter boys who just want to fix everything and be friends with Justice, congratulations, you can read this comic and just sob yourself up a ball of fuck this bullshit in all of the news, compassion is what a life can run on. This is issue four, and probably be careful about reading it in public unless you’re cool with crying at strangers.
(Park escapes the familiar sexual fetishisation—the “Asuka Effect” if you will—of the haughty/needy Girl At War but this issue does edge slightly into tsundere territory (by which I mean it begins, just slightly, to define her by object-type rather than whole personhood), having Yu imply in direct dialogue that she is “broken.”)
Bolivar is an Archaia release that’s a textural pleasure; wonderfully dense but gently smooth, an Anthony Browne-ish lush flatness. It’s a children’s book, but more importantly it’s a book children would be lucky to own, I think. A dinosaur (named Bolivar) moves in next door to a little girl (named Sybil), and she’s the only one to notice. Sean Rubin ‘s drawings care a lit about architecture and space and atmospheric detail–more than once a whole double page spread is given to the delineation of a fabulous mosaic–and the grasp on how to light a scene with colour to create a time of day is fantastic. There are things to notice on every page, and Sybil’s fixation on the fact that Bolivar is a dinosaur is presented as a quest for truth and comprehension rather than for domination. Once the dinosaur is noticed, and adults begin to respond poorly, Sybil only wants to help Bolivar escape (which he does, into diverse New York streets and trains and restaurants). It’s a paean to how observing difference doesn’t have to be about separation, but recognition, which is a perfect message for your baby right now. Children, after all, are the future.