Comics to Read: Courtesy, Your Friendly Neighborhood Valkyrie

Looking for something new to read, or wondering if the comic lives up to the hype? As a comic shop employee, I’ve got some recommendations.

 

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Beware, Comic Consumers – DC Convergence and Marvel’s Secret Wars (divided into three categories: Last DaysBattleworld, Warzones) are nearly upon us! The multiverse clearing-house events are more than a little overwhelming in their scope, but there are some interesting tales being teased. I’m especially intrigued by a Marvel 1872 universe (which sees Captain America, Iron Man, and the Hulk in the old West), Angela (the Asgardian assassin)’s foray into Neil Gaiman‘s 1602 world, and a Runaways book written by Noelle Stevenson. On the Convergence side, I’m looking forward to Gail Simone‘s Nightwing/Oracle story, and the future adventures of Black Canary. What can I say? I’m a sucker for alternate realities.

To help me keep track of such things, I’ve discovered the League of Comic Geeks – a web site & app that allows you to organize your collection as well as what you’ve read, and keep a ‘pull’ list so you can check upcoming release dates specifically for the titles you follow. Most of the data input has to be done through the website, and for any major enthusiast it can be time-consuming – but also fun.

With help from the app, here are some comics that are new or just new to me:

(Don’t know the lingo? No problem.)

Ongoing Series

  • PRINCESS LEIA (Marvel) – Ever wondered about life on Alderaan? Even in the prequels we didn’t see much of the peaceful planet that raised Princess Leia, so Mark Waid’s flashbacks to her homeworld in this new Marvel series are a real treat. Post-New Hope Leia’s determination to preserve what’s left of her planet’s culture fits nicely with her habit of ignoring orders, and she takes off in an Alliance vessel to rescue refugees with only R2 and a rebel soldier named Evaan for back-up. Not only is Evaan a much-needed female addition to the Star Wars universe, she makes a great foil for Leia, whom she can’t stand but is sworn to protect. Terry and Rachel Dodson have a sleek art style and Jordie Bellaire adds a lovely bright color palette, largely trusting to the inks for the shadowing.
  • EFFIGY (Vertigo) – Former child star Chondra Jackson left Hollywood behind after a calculated sex tape release, intended to shatter her kid-friendly image, backfired horribly. Now she’s trying to be a small town police officer, still in the shadow of her days playing the science officer on the tween space-detective show Star Cops. Then a strange body turns up in an Indian burial ground with the show’s motto tattooed on its back, and Chondra’s forced to return to the temperamental fandom. Though she wants to be taken seriously as an Ordinary Person, Chondra can’t help clinging to her brief fame, especially when it’s the only thing that gets her on the case.
  • FEATHERS (Archaia) – A super cute all-ages book about a boy named Poe who’s covered in feathers. He lives in the Maze and swoops around like a miniature Batman trying to help the street kids known as Mice. To them, Poe’s the Ghost who steals kids, a bigger terror than the guards who want to lock them up. Then Poe meets Bianca, a rich girl who lives behind the wall, and everything changes. Bianca isn’t remotely afraid of Poe, though Poe’s adopted father seems pretty afraid of her influence on his son. It’s a kid-friendly blend of Hunchback of Notre DameBeauty and the Beast, and Oliver Twist with charming art. Hopefully it has a happier ending.
  • SPARKS NEVADA: MARSHAL ON MARS (Image) – Sparks Nevada doesn’t believe in no-win scenarios, and he loves paperwork. Clever word play and a shock of vibrant colors make this adventure comic a fun escape from, you know, life. Also, J. Bone’s depiction of martian Croach the Tracker is pretty adorable. If you’ve listened to the Thrilling Adventure Hour, you will like this comic. If you think space western is an underrated genre, you will like this comic. And you will like this comic if you are…from Earth.

In the Trades:

  • HAWKEYE VS. DEADPOOL (Marvel) – I don’t normally care for Deadpool (don’t hate him, just think he’s overrated), but I enjoyed his brief adventure with Clint Barton, ably assisted by Kate Bishop. Despite the title, they are actually working together to protect SHIELD. Well, sort of. It’s hard to work with Deadpool. This miniseries is fun, uncomplicated, and pretty much detached from the rest of the Marvel universe, though it fits in with Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye run.
  • BIRTHRIGHT VOL. 1 (Image) – I missed this one when the first couple issues came out, and decided to wait for the first graphic novel to check it out. Almost instantly it became one of my favorites, riffing on a premise I myself had played with years ago: what happens if the Chosen One doesn’t actually fulfill the prophecy? In Birthright, Mikey Rhodes goes missing in the park after playing catch with his dad, and winds up in a fantasy world where he’s the designated Savior, despite being a little boy who just wants to go home. You might expect this to be a story about Mikey growing into his role. You’d be wrong. Instead, the story picks up (with flashbacks to Mikey’s adventures) a year after his disappearance on Earth, when a terrifying, battle-scarred monster of a man turns up and claims to be the Rhodes’ long-lost son. His father, who was accused of murdering him, knows it’s Mikey, and will do anything he can to help his son. The rest of the family isn’t so sure, but Mikey coerces his formerly-younger brother into going on the run with him. Whatever Mikey’s planning, it isn’t good, as despite the flashbacks to his time as a burgeoning hero, the Mikey who has returned to Earth has been corrupted by the very force he was fated to defeat. The first volume ends with quite a shocker, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.
  • SILVER SURFER VOL. 1 (Marvel) – Did you know Marvel’s writing Doctor Who? I didn’t, until I picked up the first volume of the most recent Silver Surfer series, A New Dawn. Turns out, Norin Radd is more or less a Time Lord, though possessed of the ‘Power Cosmic’ rather than a TARDIS, and the new series introduces Dawn Greenwood as his human companion. Dawn seems to be better at rescuing herself than most of the Doctor’s companions, which may be why I like her so much.

Single Issue Shout-Outs:

  • SPIDER-GWEN #2 – The Spiders are really kicking ass right now, and Gwen Stacy is probably my favorite. Her costume is awesome, her universe is twisted, and in this issue, after a concussion, she starts hallucinating Spider-Ham, one of the other Peters from the Spider-verse. He acts as her very annoying Jiminy Cricket as she tries to balance her secret identity with the rest of her life – something she’s not very good at yet – as well as her guilt over the death of her universe’s Peter Parker. Meanwhile she’s got Detective Frank Castle on her tail, a not-so-heroic Daredevil attempting to recruit her for the Kingpin, and the Mary Janes want her back in the band.
  • SPIDER-WOMAN #5 – With a new artist and a new look, this is finally a Jessica Drew I can get behind. She’s done being an Avenger, for the moment, and decides to put some work into the private detective agency she never got around to opening when she moved to New York. She’s not so great at helping ordinary folk without a lot of damage, but takes on a case that involves the families of super-villains being used as leverage, since no one else will.
  • MORNING GLORIES #43 – Nobody likes Ike, but when he’s the focus of an issue, you know things are going to get interesting. Morning Glories Academy’s resident asshole takes a trip down memory lane, then jumps to the future to get yelled at by an elderly version of himself who cuts straight through the bullshit and informs Ike that despite the plans everyone has for him, the only person who matters is Jade. Have to say, that was very satisfying. Plus, we get a lot more information on Ms. Dagney, one of the school’s mysterious authority figures.

Gem of the Week:

  • BATGIRL – Maybe, like me, you had some reservations about the new Batgirl. Sure, her new costume is adorable, and a lighter tone makes for a window in the smothering, airless room that is sometimes DC. It’s fantastic how many teenage girls have been inspired by her more contemporary sensibility. But was it too much too fast? Instead of a reboot, or new character, this is supposed to be the same Barbara Gordon who, not that long ago, was fighting some truly nasty supervillains. Now she’s beating up social media blackmailers. The Batgirl of Burnside just seemed like a completely different Babs, something I couldn’t really get my head around. But apparently, I’m not the only one. The reason Batgirl gets gem of the week status is that Cameron Stewart has proven he isn’t oblivious to the radical shift. In the latest issue, several characters call Barbara out on her personality switch, and she’s forced to come face to face with an artificial intelligence that embodies the Barbara of a post-Killing Joke world when she was at her darkest. The result is Babs finally realizing that Batgirl doesn’t have to be a Dark Knight, but nor is she a superficial, selfie-taking celebrity. There’s a middle road, and it looks like she’s going to walk it. Though Convergence leaves everything with a question mark, knowing that Barbara’s more frivolous period was a step along that path, makes me much more excited to see where it leads.

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