-J. Michael Bestul is a writer for the Addison Recorder. Stephanie Ruehl 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.”
Every month, loads of new series, mini-series, or one-offs are released to the public. We take a look at some of the #1 issues of the past few weeks that grabbed our attention, in ways both good and bad. We start with Marvel’s god of thunder, who is now the goddess of thunder:
Words by Jason Aaron, art by Russell Dauterman, color by Matthew Wilson, published by Marvel
Synopsis: The new run of Thor starts with none of the Asgardians being able to wield Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer. This causes a problem when Thor tries to stop Malekith without the hammer’s aid. In the end, an unidentified woman picks up Mjolnir, claiming that there must always be a Thor.
Steph: I’ve never considered that the name “Thor” could be passed down. It’s his birth name, not a superhero mantle. The thing to be inherited would be Mjolnir, but maybe it’s simpler to call the new bearer “Thor” instead of “Wielder of Mjolnir!” Maybe? It just seems a bit strange that someone will be going around with Thor’s name, even though the guy named “Thor” is still there.
-J.: That seemed weird to me, too. This isn’t the first time someone else has wielded Mjolnir. Beta Ray Bill was an alien who was dressed like Thor, wielded Mjolnir, but didn’t take the name of “Thor.”
Steph: Right. But the new “Thor” doesn’t show up until the last page, and even then her identity is hidden. I do love the idea of a woman wielding Mjolnir, though. Also this happens:
-J.: That does happen, and I love that art. Dauterman & Wilson’s work is really easy on the eyes, and Aaron does a good job of focusing on character development without losing the plot. I want to know what Nick Fury whispered to Thor that made him unable (or unworthy) to bear Mjolnir. I want to know who the new hammer-bearer is. I want to know how this all shakes out.
Words by Cullen Bunn, pencils by Reilly Brown, ink by Nelson Decastro, color by Pete Pantazis, published by DC
Synopsis: Two aliens claim the name of “Lobo,” the infamous bounty hunter & mercenary. One of them is the old motorcycle-riding caricature of hyper-masculinity and violence with a recognizable ugly mug. The other is a new, prettier model who claims to be the real deal. The new, hunky Lobo kills the old one, gets thrown in jail, and is released in exchange for taking a contract that he may come to regret.
Steph: I remember when I heard DC was giving the new “Pretty Lobo” his own book. I was a little miffed. Why change his appearance? Why not just create a new character? The “Old Ugly Lobo” was an interesting caricature, all distorted muscles and sneering face, with crazy black hair and red eyes. He was a bounty hunter, he killed his entire race for kicks, and he’s basically heavy metal incarnate.
-J.: I… I have no idea what the point of this book is. The new Lobo has a lot of the hallmarks of the old Lobo — superficially — but he’s got smoldering good looks and is plagued with nightmares. So, what, we’ve gone from the old heavy metal Lobo to the new emo Lobo?
Steph: I kind of stopped paying attention after the initial argument between the two Lobos. I found myself re-reading the same speech bubbles over and over. The rest of the book was just not sticking.
-J.: Yeah, the new Lobo talks about his nightmares, paints stuff, is charming yet bloody, and takes a contract where he may end up saving Earth (he hates Earth). Or something. I can’t get past the idea that this is the new Lobo.
Steph: There was really just no reason to make him “pretty” except, I suspect, when they put him in a romantic situation it’ll be… more believable? More visually appealing to readers? Honestly, I got nothing. I really don’t care what happens next.
Butterfly #1 (of 4)
Story by Arash Amel, words by Marguerite Bennett, art by Antonio Fuso, published by Archaia
Synopsis: Rebecca Faulkner is a CIA agent (nicknamed “Butterfly”) who just got burned, and burned bad. On the run for her life, the distant memories of her ‘late’ father collide with her last hope for survival.
-J.: I didn’t know much about this book going in. It only took me a few pages to get excited: the story reminded me of Queen & Country, and the art had the feel of Michael Lark or Ryan Sook on Gotham Central or BPRD. Since those are some of my favorite books, I was hooked immediately.
Steph: And the cover’s by Phil Noto, who’s one of my favorites! Spy stories aren’t usually my cup of tea, but this one hits right away and is engaging to the end.
-J.: It’s a great issue. The storytelling is taught, the protagonist is interesting, the art is the right fit, and the creators really pay attention to the comic book medium. Most of the story is told from Butterfly’s point of view, and while it is, the story is laid out in a standard 6-panel page. Near the end, the point of view switches, and the ordered arrangement of panels (and style of art) changes with it. It’s a solid opening act to this 4-part mini-series. Issue #2 came out today, and we’re definitely reading it. I think y’all should do the same.
Words by Joshua Williamson, art by Andrei Bressan, color by Adriano Lucas, published by Image
Synopsis: A young boy goes missing in a forest while playing catch with his dad. His disappearance goes unsolved, tearing apart his family. Then a year later, the police interview a strange man who may be connected to the disappearance…
Steph: I found this to be a curious read. First issues can be tricky, since the creators have to handle exposition and introducing new characters. I found myself feeling for this family, especially the father. It’s a slight twist on the “child finds way to a magical world and returns with crazy stories” (um, story). I am interested to know what happens next.
-J.: I’m tentatively interested in this series, as well. It reminded me (very briefly) of The Reason for Dragons, but the similarities and timbre quickly moved in a very different direction. It’s a darker story, and thanks to empathetic characters, I kind of want to see where it goes. I’m not sure I’m on board with the double-twist that happens, but I’m giving Birthright the benefit of the doubt for now.
Deadpool: Art of War #1 (of 4)
Words by Peter David, art by Scott Koblish, published by Marvel
Synopsis: Deadpool is here to write the definitive edition of The Art of War and sell millions of copies. The only problem is that the world isn’t at war, so nobody will buy it. Challenge accepted.
Steph: Click on the image to the left. If it doesn’t make you want to read this book… then I can’t help you.
-J.: Abbott & Costello ain’t got nothing on Loki & Deadpool. Plus, it’s Peter David writing Deadpool. And it’s Sun Tzu’s classic with a heavy dose of meta-fiction. I do enjoy me some sweet, sweet meta-fiction, even more than I enjoy history and military science.
Gotham Academy #1
Words by Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher, art by Karl Kerschl, color by Geyser with Dave McCaig, published by DC
Synopsis: We open on a boarding school in the heart of Gotham where a seemingly-introverted Olive is tasked with chaperoning “Maps,” a new student (and the little sister of her ex-boyfriend). These two find themselves trying — and failing — to avoid trouble.
Steph: This story is all about the characters. To me, these girls are genuine and endearing. I’ll be honest — I have not been keeping up with all of the New 52, so I may be missing some background to this book. So far I have no idea whats going on, but I can’t wait to find out!
-J.: Agreed. I feel like there’s something I’m missing. The characters shine, the plot is simplistic but fun, and there are tantalizing glimpses of connections to ghosts, tragedy, and Batman. I want to pick up issue #2 just to try and get some answers.
Guardians 3000 #1
Words by Dan Abnett, art by Gerardo Sandoval, color by Edgar Delgado, published by Marvel
Synopsis: The original Guardians of the Galaxy race to protect the one woman who could save them from the time loop they — and the galaxy — seem to be caught in.
Steph: This book starts at a frantic pace, with our heroes running from the bad guys, trying to survive, fighting, decapitating… all eye-catching things, sure. But for me it didn’t really get good until the very end when I went “oh! neat!”
-J.: I really like a lot of Abnett’s work on the Black Library’s Horus Heresy series of books. I really like Sandoval’s art in this issue. In the end, I liked what this issue was throwing down. It just felt like I had to fight through the first dozen pages to get there.
Steph: Well, I liked it. Most of it.
To Sum It All Up…
Of the #1 issues that we read last month, -J. digs Butterfly the most, and Steph is really intrigued by the new Thor. Both agree — you can leave Lobo on the shelf for now. You’re not missing much.