After Wednesday

Good day, Crusaders! It is time again for After Wednesday, a weekly opinion wrap up of my favorite reads in the medium of comics. This week has been crazy, with a slew of titles that range from classic Las Vegas to the Middle East to imaginative alternate dimensions.  Enough gabbing—let’s get to the comics:

The Shadow Annual 2013 (w) Ande Parks (a) Bilquis Evely (c) Daniela Miwa (l) Rob Steen, Dynamite, $4.99
The Shadow Annual 2013 (w) Ande Parks (a) Bilquis Evely (c) Daniela Miwa (l) Rob Steen, Dynamite Entertainment, $4.99

This is my first toe-dip into the most recent re-launch of The Shadow series by Dynamite, and I have to say this is a solid one-shot story about a trip to Las Vegas for the gun-toting violent avenger. Most surprising in this annual is some very nice artwork from Bilquis Evely, who has a little touch of Chaykin and Kaluta in the line work, which makes the story that much more appealing.

Super Mutant Magic Academy (w/a) Jillian Tamaki. Available at http://mutantmagic.com/
Super Mutant Magic Academy (w/a) Jillian Tamaki. Available at http://mutantmagic.com/

Fresh off a win at the 2013 Ignatz awards for best web comic, I am glad that I was introduced to Jillian Tamaki’s humor, insight, and cartooning skill. Having worked with teenagers as an educator, I can say Tamaki nails the hopes and fears of the adolescent set. My favorite strips, however, deal with the strange and exploratory “everlasting boy” moments, where it seems to me Tamaki is working without reservation. It was announced that there will be a collection from Drawn and Quarterly [Montréal-based publisher] in 2015, but you can subscribe for free on tumblr and check out the strips at http://mutantmagic.com.

Six-Gun Gorilla #4 (w) Si Spurrier (1) Jeff Stokely (c) Andre May (l) Steve Wands, Boom Studios, $3.99
“Six-Gun Gorilla #4” (w) Si Spurrier (a) Jeff Stokely (c) Andre May (l) Steve Wands, Boom Studios, $3.99

The multi-layered fantasy adventure as critique of modern-day problems and obsessions with entertainment and our ability to ignore social problems continues, and it is as entertaining and imaginative a comic as you can get monthly. Spurrier plays with language and Stokely compliments Spurrier’s ideas with some great design work. You have to be patient with Six-Gun Gorilla, but your patience will be rewarded.

Kiss Me, Satan #1 (w) Victor Gischler (a) Juan Ferreyra (c) Eduardo Ferreyra (l) Nate Piekos, Dark Horse Comics, $3.99
“Kiss Me, Satan #1” (w) Victor Gischler (a) Juan Ferreyra (c) Eduardo Ferreyra (l) Nate Piekos, Dark Horse Comics, $3.99

“When hell sends a retrieval team they aren’t always…subtle”. Best line of the week! This supernatural mash-up taking on the gangster narrative has it all—vampires, werewolves, fallen angels,  prostitutes, car chases, and New Orleans. Big time escapism with eye-catching visuals by Juan Ferreyra.

(w/p/c) John Higgins, Titan Comics, $19.99
(w/p/c) John Higgins, Titan Comics, $19.99

Note: This is what I would consider as a Mature (M+) collection. Long time and well-respected industry multi-tasker John Higgins tells a story (and two shorts) of inter-dimensional fantasy horror that is not for the fainthearted. As I read this I most liked when Higgins intercuts multiple story beats on the same page, minus the mainstream omniscient narration (i.e., hearing the inner monologue of a character), a choice that allows the reader to put the pieces together. There are a few narrative hiccups but not enough to distract from a graphic story that will appeal to fans of classic Vertigo titles and the vision of Clive Barker’s prose works.

Zero #1 (w) Ales Kot (a) Michael Walsh (c) Jordie Bellaire, Image Comics $2.99
“Zero #1” (w) Ales Kot (a) Michael Walsh (c) Jordie Bellaire, Image Comics $2.99

While apparently I was one of the only people who did not like Kot’s Wild Children, “Zero #1” makes the list this week for two reasons. First, I am a sucker for a decent spy/black ops book, which this turned out to be. Second, Ales Kot and company have presented a story geographically right out of the world news (the middle east), and I appreciate the  more immediate context I can create from that even from something that is fiction. Michael Walsh, who is also doing work on IDW’s X-Files comic, has some good moments depicting action and has an overall style that is reminiscent to me of Chris Samnee and Paul Grist, which I like.

Buzzkill #1 (w)
“Buzzkill #1” (w) Donny Cates & Mark Reznicek (a) Geoff Shaw (c) Lauren Affe, Dark Horse Comics, $3.99

The latest entry in the super-hero deconstructed genre, “Buzzkill #1” has something to say by posing the following—if the one thing that can let you help people is actually harmful to yourself, should you keep doing it for the greater good?. This is an interesting problem that addresses ideas about super-hero utilitarian ethics and possibly the idea of hero as a martyr. Blended with a good bit of humor and struggle, this issue will most likely be a conversation starter in some comic forums in the next few weeks. Also, if you dig the style of Sean Murphy, you will enjoy what artist Geoff Shaw has to offer. But if the darker, deconstructed take is a bit much for you this week, maybe you should check out the following…

Captain Ultimate #2 (w) Benjamin Bailey & Joey Esposito (a) Boy Akkerman (c) Ed Ryzowski (l) Adam Pruett, Monkeybrain Comics, $0.99
“Captain Ultimate #2” (w) Benjamin Bailey & Joey Esposito (a) Boy Akkerman (c) Ed Ryzowski (l) Adam Pruett, Monkeybrain Comics, $0.99

Captain Ultimate, two issues in, is attempting to tell stories that are accessible, fun, and laudatory about being a hero over the dominant discourse in other hero books of stories that are dark, brooding and, well, mature (i.e., disturbing violent images, sexual situations, provocative art, language, etc.). Captain Ultimate represents the kind of comics the industry needs to promote to attract young or new readership, and provide a breath of fresh air for older, long-time hero readers needing a break from the adult problems that everyone always writes/draws about. Monkeybrain has it tagged as an all-ages book, and I for once can happily agree. It is a digital-only comic right now; you can check it out here http://cmxl.gy/1eHPsge.

So that is it for this week. Please feel free to post your own comments about what you are reading this week or comment on my picks below in the comments section, over on our Facebook page, or mention us on twitter ( @capelesscrusade) with #afterwednesday. Thanks, folks, and happy reading!