Welcome back! After a nice holiday break in which I read far too many comics and didn’t receive nearly enough comics for Christmas it’s back to the grind. The Breakdown is back in business this week with a fairly anemic cornucopia of comic book goodness.
Here’s to hoping the publishers get their act together next week!
The Weekly Pull
Unfollow #3 by Rob Williams, Michael Dowling, Quinton Winter and Clem Robins (Vertigo)
I’m slowly making my way through the Vertigo’s publishing revamp and even if the comics aren’t necessarily knocking it out of the park they are intriguing ideas that have my interest. Unfollow starts off introducing random people around the world as they learn of a new social media contest of sorts: The billionaire behind a Twitter analog is dying and he’s leaving all of his money to 140 people of his choosing. However, those people still have be alive at the time of his eventual death.
You can see the possibilities opened by this idea. The entire world knows who the 140 are, and the money gets split evenly among whoever’s left. There’s room for a sort of Battle Royale storyline, along with the idea of instant celebrity on social media, how each person is connected, and ulterior motives by the wacky dying mogul. So far, Unfollow has touched on all of these themes a little bit and it’s early enough in the series that it’s not bogged down by unanswered questions. I’m happy to keep reading and see how the mysteries develop.
Star Wars #14 by Jason Aaron, Mike Deodato, Frank Martin and Chris Eliopoulos (Marvel)
Marvel is consistently putting out phenomenally entertaining Star Wars comics, and the latest mini-crossover between Star Wars and Vader (which started in the titular Vader Down #1) hasn’t slowed down that momentum one bit. Both of the main Star Wars comics have been taking place in between A New Hope and Empire, with Darth Vader tracking down the X-Wing pilot who destroyed the Death Star. A failed rebel trap finds both Vader and Luke crashed on a planet, which is when the fun begins.
Vader Down has seamlessly tied the two main comic stories into another crazy and fun story that really shows how dangerous Vader can really be as he demolishes one rebel attack after another as everyone tries to eliminate the allegedly weakened Sith Lord. This issue is the fifth out of the six-issue crossover and we’ve already had a chance encounter between R2, Threepio, and their evil doppelgangers as well as some classic Han Solo bumbling which somehow leads to victory.
Marvel’s Star Wars comics continue to walk the tightrope between classic callbacks and new storylines, arguably better than past comic attempts and even better than The Force Awakens. I haven’t been back to see the movie a second time, but I’ll keep reading these comics because I can’t wait to see what happens next in this newly expanding universe.
The Vision #3 by Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Jordie Bellaire, and Clayton Cowles (Marvel)
If you’ve read some of my past columns, I trumpeted the lightheartedness of the All-New, All-Different Marvel reboots. I haven’t been able to read every single new number one that gets released, and Vision was one of those titles that fell through the cracks. I have since remedied that slip, and as a result I can’t say that all of the reboots are sunshine and plucky teenagers learning the ropes of superheroing. Vision couldn’t be any more different, but in the best way possible.
Vision is dark. It tells the story of the titular Avenger as he settles into a new house in Washington, D.C. with a new family of super-powered androids he created to try and live a normal human life. While at once trying to acclimate to their new home, Vision’s wife Virginia and two children, Vin and Viv are simultaneously trying to acclimate to newly existing as a synthesized intelligence among a fearful and ignorant humanity.
The concept of exploring what it means to try and fit into a community that tolerates you at best is a refreshing take on superheroics, but the first issue then twists the story into a thriller on top of everything. The second issue deals with the fallout of this twist while still giving the reader the tragedy of someone struggling so futilely to fit into humanity. Grab issues one and two, catch up, and keep reading. I don’t know if this series is continuing past the first arc, but I desperately hope it does, because it is one of the strongest stories of Marvel’s reboots.
Weirdworld #2 by Sam Humphries, Mike Del Mundo, Marco D’Alfonso and Cory Petit (Marvel)
Weirdworld is much more in line with the other Marvel reboots. It has a plucky teenager trying to figure life out while dealing with the Marvel Universe and everything it contains. The big differences here are the location and the artist. Weirdworld ironically takes place on Weirdworld, a planet/dimension/plane of existence wholly unlike the rest of the Marvel Universe. It kind of has a Medieval vibe to it, with one of the main characters, the barbarian Goleta, wanting nothing more than to kill every wizard in existence. Once Goleta meets our fish-out-of-water Earther Becca, she recruits the girl as her squire. But then the very next scene has them jumping into a souped up convertible to go after those terrible, no good magic users. Weirdworld exists to create wacky fantasy/sci-fi situations without needing to adhere to logic or continuity.
And then there’s Mike Del Mundo. I feel like his art style is perfectly suited for this type of Conan craziness. His drawings are soft and almost pastel styled, with amazingly bright colors. You can see some of the work he did on the Battleworld miniseries of the same name here. I can just imagine Del Mundo spending hours just thinking up random creatures to throw at the protagonists. They’re all unique but feel like they would be at home in a D&D Monsters Manual. This book is amazingly fun to read and I’m sure the creators are having just as much fun writing and drawing it. I don’t think we’re going to get any terribly deep story, and the Quantum Leap narrative of just trying to get home can wear thin if dragged out, but two issues in and so far this comic isn’t even slowing down from the sprint it started with in issue one.
There’s One Born Every Week
The Last Contract #1 (of 4) by Ed Brisson, Lisandra Estherren and Niko Guardia (Boom)
I don’t know what it is, but for some reason the combination of hitman and old man seem to always go together so well. It always starts with an old man just trying to live his life in a small town, where he lives a shitty studio apartment and generally ekes out a meager existence. Or does he? I could probably write the plot myself, but that doesn’t mean that the story isn’t entertaining every time.
Last Contract throws in a nice a little twist into the mix, as the event that brings this particular killer back from retirement is a blackmailer who is leaking a list of all of his previous kills. This conceit adds a nice mix of spy thriller with a blown cover to the usual themes of revenge and underestimation of the elderly. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any other art by Lisandra Estherren but the what I’ve seen from the previews is interesting and reminds me a bit of Jason LaTour’s style on Southern Bastards. It’s a little scratchy and basic but it contributes to the overall feel of the book. Last Contract is wrapping up in four issues so I’m expecting a nice, tight narrative without a lot of filler. Sometimes it’s nice to grab a series and have it tell you its story in about a hundred pages.
Four Eyes Hearts of Fire #1 by Joe Kelly, Max Fiumara and Thomas Mauer (Image)
Even though this is technically a first issue, It’s actually the start of the second story arc of a comic that debuted in 2008, saw its fourth issue in 2010, and nothing else until this month. On second thought, with a gap that large this could definitely be considered a new first issue. Thankfully though, this isn’t a reboot so much as a continuation of the main story. I just hope that the series continues on a more consistent basis from this point on, because the story and art are amazing.
Four Eyes takes place in America during the Depression in New York City. It focuses on Enrico, an immigrant Italian boy as he learns about his father’s job as a dragon trainer and the dangers inherent to searching for eggs and training them to fight. It’s almost like How to Train Your Dragon but much more violent and with a splash of illegal dog fighting thrown in. The first four issues ended with Enrico getting his own dragon, Four Eyes, and starting to train him. I don’t know how far ahead this jumps in time but I’ve been waiting to see how this great concept develops into a full-fledged story beyond four admittedly beautiful issues.
I was blown away by Max Fiumara’s art back in 2008 when I first it in this comic, and I was so sad to see this comic drift off into oblivion two years later. Luckily, Dark Horse snatched him up to start drawing stories in the Hellboy universe so he didn’t disappear from comics completely. As he’s worked on Abe Sapien over the years, he’s only continued to grow as an artist. His art is extremely stylized, but I love the style. I can’t wait to see what he brings to the dragons after drawing some of the crazy monsters in Sapien. I’m basically just really damned excited for this comic to return and stick around until Kelly and Fiumara are finished with their mobster dragon mashup.
Trade Waiting is the Hardest Part
Another slow week for collected comics. I think I’m learning that January is not the busiest of months for comics in general. If this trend continues I may have to dig into older trades that deserve some love. Let’s give the publishers another couple of weeks to get their act together.
Fantastic Comics and Where to Find Them
I hope some of these comics appeal to you. If they do, make sure you go out and buy them, either digitally or in the tactilely unsurpassed form of print. Unless the comics are already big sellers or limited series books, buying the single issues is your best chance to make sure that comic persists. This is particularly true when it comes to Image and other Independent publishers. The creators are paying the publishing costs out of their own pockets and a comic that sells low at first very rarely picks up new readers in the short term.
Digitally, you have a few different options. Comixology has every major publisher and a lot of minor publishers. If you’re a big Image fan, you can go directly through them and cut out the middle man. Another plus to Image’s site is that you actually own the comic, DRM-free. You’re not just paying for the right to look at the comic, you can download a .pdf and do what you will with it.]
Paper comics can be found at your Local Comic Book Shop, and should have discounts if you start a pull list with them, which is basically having them order and reserve comics you like every month.