Happy Friday the 13th, all! I hope everyone is avoiding bad luck so far today. If you have, you’re luckier than me, because the most unfortunate thing happened when I sat down to read the graphic novel trilogy The Good Neighbors: I discovered a Holly Black series that I simply did not like.
There’s an oft-problematic sub-genre of superhero comics I’ve always had a particular affection for nonetheless. It’s a genre I have a difficult time even coming up with a name for; one where the nigh-incomprehensibly complex nature of a sci-fi/superhero setting and the gritty humanity inherent in “real life of superheroes” type content collide. Series like Transmetropolitan, Astro City, and Powers fall into that category, and those are some of the greatest comic series of all time. But there is one that I tend to forget about and, as a result, don’t often go back to: Alan Moore’s Top 10.
As a police drama set in a city where literally every resident is some sort of superhero, robot, mutant, monster, goddess, or alien, Top 10 hits a lot of zany-but-dark notes. But unlike the (truly brilliant) series Powers by Brian Michael Bendis, Top 10 is much more lighthearted in its take on “how do you do policework when suspects are superpowered beings,” and tends more towards “comics continuity gone wild”-type jokes and narratives.
Top 10 features a dazzlingly diverse cast in an almost unimaginably complex multiverse, but the stories that it tells are surprisingly relatable, due in no small part to the character-focused writing by Alan Moore. The art by Gene Ha crams nearly every page with enough Easter eggs and references that they sometimes come off as being from a Where’s Waldo book. But the comic also, like many of Alan Moore’s greatest works, tackles some very controversial issues in ways that can be (sometimes subversively) heavy-handed and trope-y. Though much of the more problematic content in these books does offer a nuanced and honest look at things like racism, sexism, homophobia, and police corruption, it also sometimes comes off as playing for pure shock value.
Note that this article is about the original 2000-2001 run of Top 10 (and to a lesser extent its prequel The Forty Niners) rather than the 2008-2009 run by Kevin and Zander Cannon (who also worked on the original).
After reading comics for well on five years now, there are certain creators whose work I’ve come to trust implicitly. Whether or not the basic pitch feels like something I’d be into, I’m willing to give it a try on principle.
Gail Simone is one of those writers, so when I heard she’d be writing a new high-stakes thriller series about an assassin and a housewife who get body-switched, I knew I was going to buy the first issue no matter what. But now that I’m halfway into the series, I’m finding myself wondering how she is going to wrap it up in a satisfying way.
Spoilers after the jump!
I wish I could say the themes and messages of Brian Wood’s DMZ are less relevant than they were a decade ago, but that is not the case. If anything, this story has become more relevant as the years go by. But even though the central concept of an irreconcilable ideological divide leading to a second American Civil War seems to become more depressingly realistic with each passing day, the stories about humanity and human nature during wartime that DMZ tells remain compelling.
Looking back on DMZ, it is tempting to think of it as prescient. But set against the backdrop of the war on terror and the reality of a post-9/11 world becoming firmly established in the American zeitgeist, it was also very much a product of its time. Yet by focusing on the reality of war for the people stuck in one, the result is essentially timeless.
TW: Discussion of 9/11 and life in a war zone. Violent imagery.
I’ll be honest: I’ve been away from the webcomic scene for a while. I’ll see an update of one of the series I used to read often floating around online and hum to myself, “Oh, so that’s what those wacky kids have been up to.” It’s nice, but also leaves me somewhat nostalgic for the time where I had several series I kept up with. While today’s web crush may not get me back on the webcomic routine (by no one’s fault but that of my own inattentiveness), it did achieve the one thing that many other series in the past years have tried and failed at: it drew me in enough to actually read through the archive.
Also, it’s cute as hell, so how could it not?
(Note: a free review copy of the Hyper Force Neo graphic novel was provided by the distributor)
Around a year or so ago, I picked up the first issue of Hyper Force Neo by Jarrett Williams at a convention. Its striking art style and premise caught my eye, and as predicted, it was right up my alley. I more or less enjoyed it with a few minor gripes here and there, but overall had a good time with it. Since then, the series run was cancelled in favor of a single graphic novel release. Luckily for me, this is my preferred method for reading comics! So now that the full narrative is out there, what did I think? Well, arguably, both its positives and negatives from the first issue have remained the same! So I definitely still liked it, but I’d argue that it is more polarizing.
Spoilers after the jump!
It was really only a matter of time before I picked up Jonesy. It’s got an eye-catching art style, it’s received lots of love, and if that wasn’t enough, artist Caitlin Rose Boyle is a resident of my hometown of Pittsburgh. That said, before getting the first trade, I didn’t actually know what the story was about. It was actually fun, though, to be able to go into a book basically cold and be surprised by what took place. In this case, what took place was an inclusive and diverse magical realist take on a typical high-school slice-of-life story.
Spoilers after the jump!
A few months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Tee Franklin when we both attended a Gail Simone comics signing. I had no idea who she was at the time, but when Gail greeted her with an excited exclamation, I figured they might know each other through the comics business. (As it turns out, they did both work on the Love is Love anthology, which raised money to support victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting.) After learning who she was, I also found out that Tee was definitely doing some important work for comics: she is the author of the delightful-sounding graphic novella Bingo Love.
I took home a postcard advertising the story and looked it up right away when I got home — and immediately decided this was something I needed to get my hands on. To let Tee describe it:
Bingo Love is an 80 page graphic novella that revolves around Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray, two thirteen year old Black girls who, in no time, become the best of friends. As their relationship grows, they discover their deep love for one another, but the timing couldn’t be worse. Two girls in love are bound to be star-crossed in 1963, and their families forbid them from seeing each other again.
Not only do the young women have to endure the pain of separation, but they’re also both married off to men they don’t love. They seem destined to live apart, permanently cut off from one another, but fate — and bingo — have another plan for them. Nearly fifty years later, Hazel and Mari once again see each other across a bingo hall, and all their feelings come flooding back.(x)
So you can see why I might be hooked.
The new Black Panther trailer has been released and I’m beyond hyped. February can’t get here soon enough! Coming off the heels of Wonder Woman’s success and a wave of support for inclusion of marginalized voices, Marvel finally released a trailer with a non-white male lead. I got to see the intersection of Black Twitter and Nerd Twitter come out in full force, so with all this excitement, I should probably explain why it looks so great.
If you haven’t yet seen the new Wonder Woman movie… seriously, why haven’t you? It’s fabulous. After we gushed about its awesomeness while coming out of the theater, I mentioned to my group that Diana Prince seems like an awesome unconventional Christ figure. They were a little confused, because (spoiler alert) Wonder Woman isn’t crucified, and she’s certainly not a man. I couldn’t really explain it well then, but I can now.
Wonder Woman might be the most famous female superhero. While her story makes references to Greek myths, it doesn’t seem like her creators were Greek, and her writers didn’t really bother for accuracy when it comes to those myths. On the other hand, Christianity is so influential to Western culture and its history that Christ figures show up all over the place in our stories. We’ve already talked about how Disney’s Hercules draws from Greek myths but still turns Hercules into a Christ figure. Nearly all fictional Christ figures are male. So while making Wonder Woman into a Christ figure doesn’t do much for Greek mythology, it breaks new ground in the way we can understand what a Christ figure can be.
Significant spoilers for Wonder Woman below.