-J. Michael Bestul is a writer for the Addison Recorder. Stephanie Ruehl is an artist who works in a comic book shop. They’re married and have a lot of discussions about comic books and graphic novels. Combine all that into a biweekly feature and you get “J. & Steph Talk About Comics.”
Steph: So many new number ones are out today, you guys. So. Many.
-J.: Let’s get to it, then.
words by Chip Zdarsky, art by Erica Henderson, published by Archie Comics
Synopsis: A new principal has come to Riverdale High, making changes to school policy and — much to the burger-loving Jughead’s dismay — school lunches.
Steph: So after reading, and loving, the re-launch of Archie recently, I figured I’d love Jughead just as much. I was right.
–J.: I was surprised how much I enjoyed the Archie re-launch. It’s not my style of book, but I absolutely loved the art and words. I particularly loved the portrayal of Jughead, and was looking forward to his standalone series. It exceeded my expectations. It was a perfect introduction to a new series.
Steph: Chip Zdarsky is a favorite of mine, both as an artist and a writer, but his pairing with Erica Henderson (artist of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl) is a win for us all.
-J.: Truth. I daresay that I think I like her work here even more than on Squirrel Girl, as sacrilegious as that may be.
The Cavalry #1
words by Jody Houser, art by Luke Ross, color by Rachelle Rosenberg, published by Marvel
Synopsis: Agent Melinda May of S.H.I.E.L.D. is tasked with training some new recruits, when things go a bit unexpectedly.
Steph: The Cavalry is the fifth book released in a celebration of 50 years of S.H.I.E.L.D., and I found it, just like the previous four, a fun read.
-J.: I concur, and I didn’t think I would concur. I never got excited about S.H.I.E.L.D. stories in the comic books, I don’t watch TV much, and outside of Samuel L. Jackson as Fury, I didn’t connect with any of the characters. But Marvel has done a solid job of building the narrative around its flagship government agency, and The Cavalry continues that trend.
Steph: I very much like the MCU, all TV shows included, so the S.H.I.E.L.D. anniversary books have been an excellent extension to the story lines.
-J.: It’s a good read. There isn’t anything groundbreaking in it, but the first issue does a great job of elaborating on the legend and character of Melinda May, introduces the new recruits, and gives us an interesting plot that gives us solid foundation to begin a series.
words by Jeff King, art by Jason Paz and Carlo Pagulayan, published by DC Comics
Synopsis: The villain of DC’s Convergence, Telos, has freed himself of Brainiac’s control and he is pissed.
-J.: Ah, geez, DC. I’m really trying to like some of these new titles, but you’re not making it easy. The first issue is like trying get into Dragonball Z by picking a random episode. There’s a lot of fighting / posturing, powers on a superhuman scale, and by the time the credits roll the plot has barely progressed. I feel like I’m missing some story that would make Telos interesting; I’m not feeling the necessary empathy and trust of Brainiac to make this issue’s central conceit work. Steph, I think you can skip this one.
All New, All Different Marvel Point One
words by a lot of people, art by a lot more, published by Marvel
Synopsis: A game of life and death controlled by the Maestro and the Collector, where heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe are pitted against one another.
-J.: Whenever I start to warm to Marvel, something they do reminds me of “branding” and focus groups. The phrase “All New, All Different Marvel” makes me want to set fire to a whole wall display of limited-edition Funko Pop figures. But I don’t, because those little vinyl figures are so damned cute. … Where was I?
Steph: A bit off topic is where you were. Marvel Point One. “All New, All Different,” but not really, it’s honestly just more of the same Marvel.
-J.: Oh, yeah. Anyway, Marvel Point One is a sampler of upcoming Marvel titles framed by cosmic Mortal Kombat in the remnants of Secret Wars‘ Battleworld. It’s fun, despite the “All New, All Different” branding. It also gets points for playing to the crowd with this quote from Rocket:
“I’ll make you a deal. Give up now and we’ll fly by Chicago on our way off-planet. You can go to prison knowing the glory that is Pequod’s pizza.”
words by a lot of people, art by even more people, published by Marvel
Synopsis: Six shorts of six different Avengers teams in the aftermath of Secret Wars.
-J.: This is another sampler book, but where Marvel Point One kept my interest, this one felt way too jumpy and jumbled. The Deadpool / Uncanny Avengers story drew me in, and Vision’s story as a preview for Avengers had its moments. The rest were very hit or miss.
Steph: I’m going to go ahead and disagree with you. I liked all of these story snippets. The dynamics of each group were fun to read, except the Vision/Scarlet Witch preview, which kind of broke my heart. And America Chavez dancing a world-sized dimensional tear closed for the Ultimates (the Opposite of Kicking) was a light-hearted way to avoid a potential apocalypse. America, yes!
From Under Mountains #1
story by Claire Gibson and Marian Churchland, art and color by Sloane Leong, published by Image
Synopsis: In a desert, mysterious people acquire magic from the mountains to do their bidding.
-J.: This issue is great example of how to hook your reader in the first few pages. The dialogue is sparse, allowing the art to draw you in as it spins a prologue.
Steph: I liked this, though it sort of lost me in the middle, but you are right about being hooked. Despite getting a little wobbly, I’d still like to know what happens.
-J.: Yeah, I got lost near the end. It feels like some character motivations have been left as a mystery to later unfold, but the side effect is that we don’t know why the climactic event happens. We just know it happens, and that someone is in the wrong place at the wrong (right?) time.
Steph: I’m not a huge fan of stories that are built on mistakes, e.g. a passerby watches someone get stabbed, rushes in to help, the killer flees, and the good samaritan is left with the murder weapon and is now suspected of said murder. Not a fan of those types of stories.
-J.: You and me both. Thing is, I’m still confused as to whether the bystander is now a suspect, or is the bystander now the only witness who harbors a terrible secret? The ending is too muddy. That said, I would still give it another couple of issues to see how it develops.
Doctor Strange #1
words by Jason Aaron, pencils and color by Chris Bachalo, inks by Tim Townsend, published by Marvel
Synopsis: Doctor Stephen Strange, Sorcerer Supreme, is sought out by those with… weird problems. Walls bleeding? Demons growing out of your head? Doctor Strange is your guy.
Steph: I’ve always been a Marvel girl, but Doctor Strange is a character I’ve never really taken the time to get to know. This book is so good I look forward to him being one of my new favorite super heroes.
-J.: Holy crap, I loved this. Chris Bachalo’s art is spell-binding, and Jason Aaron tells a story that brilliantly blends the grandeur of a man who’s the Sorcerer Supreme… but also just a guy. It actually makes me a bit sad… I wish I was this excited about the new Doctor Fate series.
Bitch Planet, vol 1: Extraordinary Machine
words by Kelly Sue DeConnick, art by Valentin De Landro, published by Image
Synopsis: In a distopian future women who dare to be non compliant of the laws of the Fathers are shipped to the Auxiliary Compliance Outpost, more commonly known as Bitch Planet.
Steph: Everyone should read this book.
-J.: Yes. Dear gods, yes.
Steph: Big Brother (or Father in this case) meets Margaret Atwood, meets Xena, melded in the writing of Kelly Sue DeConnick makes for a brilliant story. I both loved and, as a proud Non Compliant woman, was terrified by Bitch Planet.
-J.: I think that’s why Bitch Planet is such an effective series. It’s obviously fiction, it’s a genre tale that takes place in another time and on another planet. Despite this, the petrified attitudes and cultural bullshittery seems all too familiar — they are pinpoints of realism in the fictional backdrop, as are the characters. They are very human in a “fictional” world that works to dehumanize them.
Steph: And it’s not just the writing, De Landro is such an excellent artist, especially with backgrounds. Little details, that if you pay attention, make the story that much more enjoyable.
To Sum It All Up…
There are a lot of new #1 issues we didn’t have room to cover here. It’s a great season to try something new, and if you want to jump on, your local comic shop has your back.