Year end lists are upon us again, my friends, and this year’s list of comics I liked is, too. There is interesting superhero business, body-switching, jellysfish, a mysterious curse, evil real estate developers and at least one werewolf. Because it’s not a year end list without a werewolf. So get a hot drink, pull another blanket over yourself and read some comics.
Robin the Boy-Wonder–and the world’s greatest teen detective–is invited to join the Legion of Superheroes. Meanwhile, a villain from the year 2966 threatens Gotham and a threat from 1966 plagues the future. Obviously, a team-up is in order. It’s a two-issue arc, but all the fun you can handle and all the fun three, count ’em three, Allreds can provide in a snappy two-issue arc!
Black Hammer, vol. 1: Secret Origins (Dark Horse, 2017). Jeff Lemire, writing; Dean Ormston, art; Dave Stewart, colors; Todd Klein, letters.
I started reading Black Hammer kind of backwards. Sure, I’d look at the covers at the store because the art is totally my speed, but there are only so many comics I want to buy every month. But I couldn’t resist the spin-off, Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil. ‘Cause, holy cats, look at that name! And that led me back to Black Hammer, vol. 1. After defending Spiral City and the world from the interdimensional threat, Anti-God. The Black Hammer, Abraham Slam, Golden Gail, Barbalien, Madame Dragonfly, Colonel Randall Weird and his robot companion Talky-Walky disappear. They they find themselves on a farm in a small town that they cannot leave. Well, all except for the Black Hammer, who disappears completely. In Spiral City, Black Hammer’s daughter keeps looking for him. (We see a lot of her search in Sherlock Frankenstein, as she interviews her father’s nemeses hoping for a clue to what happened to the heroes). Black Hammer is a bit like Kurt Busiek’s Astro City, which also looks at classic superheroes from a different angle. But really, the art and tone remind me of Hellboy, B.P.R.D. and even some of the new Archie Horror books. Plus, it has Jeff Lemire’s thing for small towns.
Black Panther & The Crew: We Are The Streets (Marvel, 2017). Ta-Nehisi Coates & Yona Harvey, writers; Butch Guice, art.
Misty Knight is asked to investigate the death of activist Ezra Keith. Keith was arrested at a demonstration and then found dead in his cell. Concerned there will be riots, the city bring in a robot police force, the Americops, basically Sentinels for non-mutants, to enforce a curfew in Harlem. Knight teams up with Storm, Black Panther and Manifold and it works so well. Black Panther & The Crew has some of the feel of Gotham Central, mixing crime, municipal politics and superheroes. It’s sad that the comic was canceled just as it was getting started. After only two issues were published, Marvel announced that they were canceling Black Panther & The Crew, but We Are The Streets collects the full run.
Crosswind (Image, 2017-ongoing). Gail Simone, writing; Cat Staggs, art.
Crosswind kind of reminds me of Gotham Central or more recent Brubaker/Phillips/Breitweiser comics like Fatale and Kill Or Be Killed or Jöelle Jones’ Ladykiller books. It’s a crime comic with a twist: Juniper, a homemaker with an abusive husband, and Cason, a hired, killer switch bodies, lives and cities. What could possibly go wrong? What will our protagonists learn about themselves? Why did this happen? And just how good at being a contract killer will Juniper get? I can’t wait to find out!
Doctor Aphra (Marvel, 2016-ongoing). Kieron Gillen, writing; Kev, Walker, art.
So, yeah, I wrote about Doctor Aphra before, but I really like it. If you like space opera, rogue archaeologists and scoundrels, Doctor Aphra is probably for you. Doctor Aphra got her own comic after becoming the universe’s sweetheart in Kieron Gillen’s run on Darth Vader.
Jughead: The Hunger (Archie, 2017) Frank Tieri, writing; Michael Walsh, art.
Archie Comics continue to try out new things and I continue to really like their horror comics. This time, hamburger lover and confirmed bachelor Jughead Jones discovers to his horror that he comes from a long line of werewolves–and that his good friend Betty Cooper comes from a long line of werewolf hunters. He also discovers these facts after he probably brutally murdered several people in Riverdale.
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 8: Mecca (Marvel, 2017). G. Willow Wilson, writing; Marco Failla, Diego Olortegui and Adrian Alphona, art; Ian Herring, colors; Joe Caramagna and Travis Lanham, letters.
There are some people who are tired of superhereoes, mutants and Inhumans and they are looking to make Jersey City great again. They call themselves K.I.N.D. and hassle anyone they think is an unregistered metahuman. They especially don’t like Ms. Marvel and want her and her kind to “go back to New York City” and stop causing trouble just by existing. Wilson’s allegory could be heavy-handed, but it isn’t. Wilson’s writing is lovely and Ms. Marvel is still a fun superhero book. There’s fun superhero art, too, with nice clean lines. And Ms. Marvel’s bendiness is rendered somehow less disturbing than Mr. Fantastic, or, god help us, Plastic Man. And there’s a hero being heroic and brave when it is hard or scary, which is kind of the point.
Princess Jellyfish (Kodansha, 2017). Akiko Higashimura
I spent a lot of my summer reading Princess Jellyfish in big, thick collections almost as quickly as they were published. Kodansha has published eight volumes collecting most of Princess Jellyfish’s 2008-17 run in Japan. And they published all that in about a year. The final volume will be published in 2018. Tsukimi is a geeky woman who loves jellyfish and lives with her fellow Amars, (aka, “nuns,” aka, geeky women), in a gorgeous Meiiji Era house in Tokyo. They focus on their favorite subjects–jellyfish, trains, kimonos, traditional Japanese dolls, and the Three Kingdoms in China. Their leader is a female manga creator who specializes in yaoi* stories and never leaves her room. Together, they swear to live a life without men. Until, of course, Tsukimi is helped one day as she tries to rescue a pet shop jellyfish from certain death. (Shockingly, the pet shop clerk is less than learned in the care of jellyfish). The person who helps her is a stylish woman who turns out to be a man who likes to dress in women’s clothing and wants to start a fashion house. And his father is a member of the Diet, who is embarrassed by his son’s cross-dressing. Will there be hijinx? Of course! Are there evil developers who want to bulldoze the historic Amars house? Oh, yes. Will everyone be changed into normal respectable citizens like it’s a goddamn John Hughes movie? No.
The collection also includes tales from Higashimura’s life as a geeky woman.
The Girl from the Other Side: Siúil A Run, Vol. 2 (Seven Seas, 2017). Nagabe
The Girl from the Other Side is elegant, seemingly effortless and so, so lovely. Sweet, sad fairytale about a girl and her cursed teacher. Shiva lives in a house in the forest with Teacher. Shiva is a human girl and Teacher is one of the Others. Teacher takes care of Shiva, but they can never touch because if he touches her, she will be cursed and unable to return to the human world.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #26: Special Zine Issue (Marvel, 2017 Ryan North and Erica Henderson, writers; so many people, art.
This was my favorite single issue of an ongoing comic all year. Ryan North and Erica Henderson did a zine issue. and that gets me right in my cut’n’paste heart. Zines are rad and it feels so appropriate. The only time I met Ryan North was when he was selling handmade print copies of “Dinosaur Comics” at a table outside the Beguiling comic shop in Toronto. So, yeah. Zines. Comics. Squirrel Girl has put together a zine to raise money to rebuild a public library destroyed during superhero battling. She gets her friends like Tippy-Toe, Nancy Whitehead, Howard the Duck, Kraven the Hunter, Spider-Man, Loki, and even Galactus to draw some comics for her. And North and Henderson got artists like Carla Speed McNeil, Chip Zdarsky, Madeline McGrane, Tom Fowler, Rico Renzi Michael Cho, Rahzzah, Anders Nilsen, Travis Lanham, Soren Iverson and even Garfield creator, Jim Davis! It’s worth it for Jim Davis’ contribution alone.
*stories about love between male characters.
By day, Carol Borden writes about comics. By night, she reveals her true self, a werewolf sworn to defeat evil developers by any means necessary–even by putting on a show or making a zine.
This post was originally published by the Cultural Gutter on Dec. 28, 2017.