As their characters perform their roles, Gillen and McKelvie, you’ve got to read The Wicked + The Divine #2 as you would any gossip rag or TMZ-like website. This is about celebrity, the people who have it and the people that want it. Godliness and worshippers are just another type of fame in Gillen and McKelvie’s world; it’s a fame that has all of the highs and lows of any fame that someone on the top of the charts right now has.
Gødland is the perfect Marvel legacy comic. More than just Tom Scioli’s clearly Kirbyesque artwork, Joe Casey and Scioli tap into the energy and excitement of those early Stan Lee/Jack Kirby comics. Gødland Volume 1: Hello Cosmic is the type of comic that so many creators in the 1970s tried to reverse engineer out of old Fantastic Four comics. Casey and Scioli focus squarely in on the spectacle of those comics but never lose sight of the inner humanity of their characters. Personal discord runs hot and heavy through these comics, recalling everything from the family dynamics of the FF to the youthful uncertainty of Peter Parker. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, we talked about how all of the mainstream artists were trying to be Jack Kirby but we never talked about how all of the mainstream writers wanted to be an updated Stan Lee. Look at the Wolfman/Perez The New Teen Titans; for as much as it was counter programming to the Claremont/Byrne The Uncanny X-Men, it’s written as a Stan Lee Marvel comic book, trying to overwrite the DC DNA with the Marvel formula.
It only stands to reason that if there are sex criminals that there have to be sex cops but sex bus drivers? O.k., that last one sounds all kinds of wrong but then Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky are all kinds of wrong. Dom-Rom comedies? Inflatable Humpkin? There are panels in this comic that you just shouldn’t try to zoom in on your iPad because you’ll just get lost in all of the fun, dirty jokes that they hide in the details of the panels.
With Sex: The Summer of Hard, Joe Casey may be writing the best Before Watchmen comic that DC Comics wouldn’t produce themselves. I always enjoy Casey’s comics because I can tell that back in the 1980s, he read a lot of the same stuff as I did. Actually, I can tell that a lot of current comic creators read the same stuff but most of them are trying to recreate what they liked. When I look at DC’s Before Watchmen projects, that’s exactly what I see; a bunch of writers and artists making a buck off of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s story. I don’t have a problem with them making a buck but with the limited number of Before Watchmen stuff I’ve read (the Darwyn Cooke-penned miniseries,) it all falls into the category of writers and artists getting to play with their favorite childhood toys without doing anything new or exciting. Casey isn’t playing with the toys like everyone else is though. He’s making them do strange things, naughty things, uncomfortable things for us to read about. He’s taking the toys of his own youth and trying to figure out what they have to say about us today rather than just recycling the stories that he’s finding inspiration in.
In Umbral #2, Mitten continues to set the tone for Johnston’s story but it’s an entirely different tone. Mitten’s brittle, cracked lines in Wasteland give way to rich, luscious and cool artwork, made that much more royal by John Rauch’s purplish pallette. Mitten’s easily at home creating the high fantasy setting of Umbral. The city he creates is highly reminiscent of any city from any fantasy novel or story (see almost every setting in the new Hobbit film) but Mitten draws a very organic city as the buildings rise up out of the ground around Rascal and her new ally Dalone. The architecture that he creates of a city that’s built without machines or plans but rather as needed, full of shadows, is somewhere between complete and crumbling. That’s the age he naturally gives to this city. Its best years may be behind it but it’s not so old that it’s decrepit.
Brubaker and Epting take the Ms. Moneypenny role from the Bond stories and question who she is and why she is where she is. Brubaker twists the Bond story from being one strictly about espionage into a murder mystery. He and Epting introduce any number of shadowy figures that could be the murderer. Unlike Bond films where everyone, often including the femme fatales, are who we think they are, Brubaker and Epting don’t easily lay out the good guys and the bad guys in Velvet #1. We don’t even know who the secretary in this story really is.
“It should be simple,” Jack Farrell says on the first page of Elephantmen #51. He’s referring to the grisly murder scene he’s standing over (“A Guy. A Girl. A Gun. Blood.”) but he could just as easily be talking about Richard Starkings’ Elephantmen series. What started out as a mascot for his lettering studio has turned into a grand tapestry of all different kinds of stories, all centered around Hip Flask, a genetically engineered human/hippopotamus hybrid, bred for war now earning a living pounding the streets as part of the police agency for creatures like himself. A gumshoe, if you will. Animals as detectives and policemen and businessmen. It sounds funny but Starkings isn’t writing stories but animals.
Lazarus #4 is the work of two cool and calculating creators; Greg Rucka and Michael Lark. Ambushed at the edge of her family’s land, Forever fights back from near-death to discover just how treacherous the Carlyle family can really be. Lark is such a matter-of-fact artist. He simply puts down the drawing for a panel, capturing the right image that moves the story along with the greatest efficiency.
In their first volume of Saga, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples showed us the couple we would end up unable to imagine apart, Alana and Marko. Lovers from opposite sides of an intergalactic war, we witnessed the birth of their daughter Hazel and everything they went through to try and escape the civilizations that wanted to tear them apart because they were born on different planets. All of the struggle in that first book is about keeping this new family together. The book read like the race against time it was as Vaughan and Staples introduced us to these men and women, soldiers and pacifists, killers and parents, lovers and ghosts that we had never seen before. That first book demonstrated just how much these two crazy kids should be together so, defying expectations, Vaughan and Staples do everything they can in the second volume to keep Marko and Alana apart.
East of West #3 lies somewhere between a spaghetti western and a new retelling of St. John’s Book of Revelation. A lanky, pale Death, dressed like an old time gambler, rides into New Shanghai on a metal horse. That can’t be good for anyone. Specifically, it can’t be good for the family that has been holding his wife prisoner for the last ten years. “Who is the woman who conquered Death?” we’re asked on the very first page. This issue doesn’t really answer much of that, even if we do meet his wife Xiaolian. Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta only give us the briefest measure of her as they build up the consequences of her marriage to one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and subsequent imprisonment at the hand of her sister and father. Death rides into town and the powers that be try to put on a good face even while trembling in their boots.