-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.”
It’s been a while since we did a recap of recent #1 releases, in part because of the re-booting brought on by Secret Wars and Convergence. The summer has brought us a plethora of new and re-launched stories, and we start with a classic comic that looks very, very new.
words by Mark Waid, art by Fiona Staples, published by Archie Comics
Synopsis: The reboot of Archie finds the titular character giving the reader a tour of his high school, introducing his friends, and now ex girlfriend Betty.
Steph: I loved this. The Waid/Staples combo is just so fun to read.
-J.: I… did not expect to like that as much as I did. The high school romance yarn is not a story I have a lot of interest reading. But Waid told a fun tale, and I actually gave a darn about the characters. So much so, I was happy to see that Jughead was getting his own book. And I really had no connection to the old characters.
Steph: I never really read the original Archie comics. The idea of two seemingly intelligent and classy ladies fighting over one man, and him NEVER being able to choose between them was, in my opinion, the dumbest premise. Now in this reboot I can see where they’re going with it. #thelipstickincident.
-J.: Okay, that was my one nit to pick with this issue. I enjoy the device of the main character breaking the fourth wall, a la the Marx Brothers or Shakespeare (or Deadpool). But when Archie gives you his email and a hashtag, it soured the ending for me a bit. Completely took me out of it. But Staples’ art softens the frustration a bit — besides it being aesthetically pleasing, her expressions are fantastic.
Star Wars: Lando #1
words by Charles Soule, art by Alex Maleev, colors by Paul Mounts, published by Marvel
Synopsis: In the time between A New Hope and the Empire Strikes Back we find out what Lando has been up to and what put him on the Empires radar.
Steph: So far I’m enjoying all the looks into the time between Star Wars episodes IV and V.
-J.: Me, too. The first few series were… not disappointing, but I wasn’t blown away by them. But as new series have been introduced, I’ve liked them more and more. Lando continues that trend.
Steph: I found him to be very much like Han. I can see why no one trusted him.
-J.: I think I also like this issue because it’s from a time before we met Lando in the movies. The original trilogy always gave us the feeling of a long and interesting backstory for Lando, and this series delivers on a wall part of that feeling. Plus, it’s illustrated by Alex Maleev, whose art excels at conveying mood.
The Spire #1
words by Simon Spurrier, art by Jeff Stokely, color by Andre May, published by Boom!
Synopsis: The Spire Baron has passed and in the lower Tiers three people are murdered. The presumptive new Baroness demands Captain of the guard, Shå, solve them before her coronation.
-J.: I saw Jeff Stokely’s name on the cover, and I had high hopes. Not only were they met, but I now want to start a petition: Hey, Dark Horse, can we get an issue of BPRD for Stokely to illustrate? Anyway, yeah, I really liked the first issue of The Spire.
Steph: I did too. The pure fantasy, the world and the characters are full and rich. The murder mystery as well as the mysterious past of Captain Shå has me curious for more.
-J.: I enjoy books that combine rich world-building with a trust in their audience to buy into it. Spurrier, Stokely, and May create a case study for the old storytelling adage of “show, don’t tell.” We witness the world of and around the Spire. We see the actions and expressions of Captain Shå. And we stumble upon many a mystery that, as you said, leaves us curious for more.
Steph: We want more!
-J.: I also want to point out the lettering by Steve Wands. The appearance of his words lend so much characterization to the story and its inhabitants. I think this may be my favorite issue of the bunch.
words by Kieron Gillen, art by Filipe Andrade, color by Rachelle Rosenburg, James Stokoe, Jorge Coehlo, published by Marvel
Synopsis: Abigail Brand has spent her life wanting nothing more than to be sent to the Shield to protect Battleworld from the monsters that threaten to break through daily. She knows they can’t ever win, but they must never fail.
Steph: In the previous Secret Wars titles everyone has only hinted at what was at the Shield. The place where law breakers were sent, a place that seemed to be the worst place one can be sent. It was kind of refreshing to actually have a story take place at the Shield. To me, it kind of gave everything a unifying feeling.
-J.: Okay, fine, one Secret Wars title. It’s written by Gillen, who’s work I’ve really enjoyed of late. This title didn’t leave me shrugging in utter disinterest, which is a nice change of pace. There are plenty of in-jokes to keep me amused: the “Endless Summers” brothers, a certain Pym and his Ant-Men, and Abigail Brand taking over leadership of S.H.I.E.L.D. — sorry, I mean, the Shield — from Nick Fury.
Steph: Siege seems to finally, maybe, point to an end of this crossover. I’ve enjoyed many of the Secret Wars titles, but it needs to get where its going.
-J.: Boy howdy.
…a lot of DC #1 issues
words by various, art by various, published by DC
Synopsis: Everything’s all new! And different!
-J.: There have been a lot of new DC #1 issues since our last recap. A lot of new issues, a lot of new directions, and a lot of mixed results. I say this with both sincerity and snark behind it: the new DC series are a whole lot different from their predecessors.
Steph: A lot of the art and the writing makes me think of Indy books. They’re a bit grittier, less clean than most of the New 52.
-J.: I can see that, especially with series like Constantine: the Hellblazer, Midnighter, and Black Canary. But they also seem a little patchwork to me. That Black Canary title has potential, but it also reminds me of not-Kieron Gillen re-imagining Canary through the lens of Josie & the Pussycats, but in the vein of a Brubaker/Cooke reboot. … Actually, that sounds really exciting. Can DC somehow swipe Gillen from Marvel?
Steph: I was a little put off at first at the idea of Dinah not being the badass superhero she is, but Black Canary’s new premise could be fun? Maybe?
-J.: I mean, there’s potential. Martian Manhunter was the right amount of weird, although I couldn’t help comparing it to Grant Morrison’s relaunch of the JLA back in the late ‘90s. I think I liked Midnighter, but it’s really jarring to have the hyper-violent former Authority member as part of the DCU. We Are Robin has a cool premise, and I think it could have some really interesting tie-ins with the other Bat-titles. The potential is there with the new DC.
Steph: There is, though I think they’re pretty hit and miss right now. I’ve heard more than one person despairing at what DC has been putting out.
-J.: And then there are the other titles. Earth-2 is still nowhere near the level of the JSA series of the ‘00s. I’m not sure what the hell I read by the time I finished Harley Quinn / Power Girl. So many other titles could only inspire a tepid, “meh.” And I didn’t even give Doctor Fate a chance. Sorry. Paul Levitz’s capstone on the JSA run was one of the most disheartening things I’ve ever read; I can’t bring myself to read his newest take on a JSA stalwart like Fate.
Mercury Heat #1
words by Keiron Gillen, art by Omar Francia, published by Avatar
Synopsis: On Mercury, there is a thin habitable line between the frozen half of the planet and the scorched half. When Luiza Bora transfers to the sun’s closest satellite, she stumbles upon an investigation that is far more than it appears on the surface.
-J.: We haven’t mentioned Gillen’s name enough yet, so I thought we ought to give a quick look at his newest title, Mercury Heat. I dug it. He made reference to setting an environment-focused procedural like Whiteout in space, and that may be why I dig it. Francia’s art is a perfect fit for the slick but mechanical sci-fi aesthetic.
Steph: I was a bit “meh” about this one. I really like Gillen’s writing, but I am not a fan of Avatar Press in general. Too much violence and gore for my taste.
To Sum It All Up…
There have been a lot of good series starting out lately with a lot of great artists. Marvel is still in the midst of Secret Wars, DC is trying to learn new tricks, but our favorite new titles were the relaunch of a classic (Archie) and something wholly new and mesmerizing (The Spire).