Howdy! Welcome back to the GeekDad Stack. I hope everyone had an excellent Mother’s Day weekend. We celebrated by having a special Mother’s Day Cosmic Madness night last night with an exciting game or two of Arkham Horror. I think I’ve recovered okay… just a little gibbering here and there.
Every week I’ll suggest some comic books for you and your GeekFamily to enjoy. Now, not all the comics I will recommend are all-ages material. As a parent myself, I understand how important it is to get some of that mature, R-rated reading in after my two young boys hit the hay.
A quick note on scores: It’s the whole shebang: writing, art, editing, the feel, the format, the story ideas, the awesomeness, if you will. Yes, I said “awesomeness.” I have no shame.
Right. I’m itching to get started. Let’s go!
I know, I know, I should have mentioned this last time, as it came out last week, but to be honest I hadn’t gotten around to reading it yet. Don’t let that deter you from picking this up, however! Boom Studios has outdone themselves by publishing one of the greatest comics on their roster– and I risk the horrors of deep ones unleashed on me by the Fall of Cthulhu guys for even merely whispering that. But why whisper? I’ll shout it from the rooftops! I’ll steal a space shuttle, take it into orbit, and launch an array of satellite things in order to relay my rooftop shouting globally! Really, this essentially ties with my pick of the week, Supergirl.
The Muppet Show is the kind of comic you can get for any age 4 & up, and my near 3 year-old loves it too, as long as I explain what’s going on in easy terms. The Muppets are iconic in American culture, and I could never imagine not growing up with them. They had a pizzazz, a cosmic-spanning essence, which transcends all time, space, and even format. Basically, if you have seen The Muppet Show on TV, then you will have a pretty darned good idea how this comic goes. It’s actually the spitting image of the show, capturing its spirit and flat-out goofiness. The short segments flow flawlessly and the wit is as sharp as ever. There’s some jokes little kids won’t get, but that’s ok, as it adds to the all-ages appeal.
Trust me, your little ones will still enjoy it and even if you’re a partying young thing in your 20s sans sprogs, you’ll still love this book. Roger Langridge, who I recall from The Straitjacket Fits in Judge Dredd Megazine, should be given a dumptruck full of awards for his take on the Muppets. His storywork and art have refueled my love for the Muppets and amplified it by 10. Thanks, Roger; thanks for making The Muppets live again. This amazing comic gets a GeekDad Stack in Spaaaaaaace Score of 9.5/10.
Female Force: Michelle Obama
I’m a big fan of educational comics, so it was only a matter of time before I picked up one of these Female Force offerings. I went with Michelle Obama, mainly because I already know quite a bit about the other women featured, like Hilary Clinton, Caroline Kennedy, Sarah Palin and Princess Diana. I have to admit, reading a comic about Condoleezza Rice intrigues the heck outta me, so I’ll probably be buying that one when it’s released.
Anyhow, as far as the Michelle Obama issue goes, I’d say that the creative team went through great lengths to provide an accurate historical and biographical overview of the life of the US’s first African American first lady. I think it’s also safe to say that they provide a positive spin, too, which is refreshing to see in anything politically-related that isn’t outright propaganda. From what I understand, all the bio-comics from Bluewater are pretty unbiased and try hard to stick to the facts. The Michelle Obama comic has been getting a bit of mainstream press as of late, so that naturally leads me to wonder if this comic is a hack job—you know, specifically done by an indie publisher for attention and sales; sort of like a new, non-serial killer non-shock comic spin on the whole thing. I’m pleased to say that this book is outstandingly written. Neal Bailey does a great job of keeping it … well, fair and balanced while actually dropping some of his own feelings in there. Thankfully, these feelings do nothing to mess up his objectivity and even help the overall flow of the book. Who thought bio-comics could be so wonderful?
And what’s even better is that any age child who’s capable of reading and understanding it can read this comic. As for the art, it’s both stylized and serviceable. It won’t win any awards, but it also won’t detract from the story. To parents the world over: if you are looking for well-written, good-looking comics to help educate your children on one of the most important persons living today, you simply cannot go wrong with this comic book—no matter your political affiliation. This rightfully earns a GeekDad Stack Score of 8/10.
If you are unfamiliar with writer Eric Shanower, then you are missing out, my friend. Eric is the mastermind behind Age of Bronze, probably one of the best Trojan War stories ever put to paper. Now he takes on a spectacular entertaining and rather dark journey through he and Skottie Young’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz. And what a journey it is! These are some epic kids comics, folks.
Be advised that I don’t recommend this to very small children or those who are really sensitive to slightly disturbing things and mild violence. Dorothy is out to kill the Wicked Witch, after all. But don’t worry, it’s still the Wizard of Oz, in maybe it’s best comic book adaptation ever. Not that the ones before it were bad or anything. No, in fact Dorothy and the Oz titles from Hungry Tiger Press are absolutely awesome. It’s just nice to see this kind of version, as illustrated by the richly talented likes of Young. It certainly has a Roald Dahl meets Edward Gorey as commissioned by SLG sort of feel to it, at least to me anyway.
And how can anyone say no to creepy Winged Monkeys? If you are an old-school fan of Wizard of Oz and would like a fresh new perspective, or someone looking to introduce your children to a comic book version of Wizard of Oz that is both compelling and rather thought-provoking, this is the book for you. Just, uh, don’t be surprised if your children sleep with the lights on for an evening or two. Regardless, this is the kind of comic I feel all families can get into no matter what their respective age happens to be. It’s almost too bad this is only an 8-issue limited series. So, read it; you won’t regret it. This swoops in and makes off with a GeekDad Stack Score of 8.5/10.
Say what you will about John Byrne as a person, but I am happy as an 8 foot mutant tribble hammered on Romulan ale he’s doing classic Star Trek material for IDW. Byrne, comics legend turned occasional Internet dart board is kicking some serious tale writing and illustrating this new title (can’t help the terrible puns sometimes—sorry). Upon first glance, one might think that the dated and even somewhat simplistic looking art of Star Trek: Crew just proves that Byrne is an old man way past his prime; like, maybe he just doesn’t get it. I mean, the cover says that this comic isn’t for kids under 13 and yet… and yet the art is so “fogy”.
Ah, but to anyone who thinks this I say: that’s the precise way classic Trek SHOULD look. It’s not simplistic, it’s uncomplicated. It’s not dated, it is how that particular universe should present itself in that format. It’s Classic. Know what I’m saying? It fits and fits well. Seriously, I actually felt transported to that universe. Oh, what’s that? The story? It’s set eight years before the original Star Trek pilot episode The Cage and focuses on the “Number One” character. Remember her? She was played by Majel Barrett (later Barrett-Roddenberry) and had no name. In Crew she’s known as “Cadet” or, I assume, whatever rank she holds at the time.
Keep in mind: this story take place pre-Classic Series—pre-Pike even. Crew involves the Enterprise before it is even commissioned (!) going out on its “shakedown cruise” with a minimal skeleton crew captained by a fellow “past his prime” for “a last hurrah”. Naturally, everything goes pear-shaped. This issue is filled from stem to stern with visceral action and good character development. And if you’re a historian like me, you’ll appreciate all the pre-Original Series stuff. This takes an ‘alngegh to any competition with a strong GeekDad Stack score of 8/10.
Alpha Gods #1 and #2
Orang Utan Comics
Looking for something free to read that will make you feel sad you didn’t pay any money for it? Might I recommend Alpha Gods, a superhero tale set in the dark future of 2086 where “Extra Humans” are everywhere, causing all sorts of problems. The comic focuses on a group of Extra Humans who are put together as a team to police all those other Extra Humans running amok. Oh, sure, it’s definitely inspired by X-Men… but to be honest, I enjoy this more than the usual X-Men comic. And that’s not because writer Ian Sharman is one handsome fella.
No, I like Alpha Gods because it has two things I love to see: pathos and grit. But don’t worry; this comic is perfect for teens, too. Alpha Gods has everything one needs for a popcorn flick of a read—superhumans, aliens, fallen angels, supernatural beings and mutants. The pacing is brisk and the dialog sharp. Artwise, it can be rough in spots, but I feel it works for the story well, and my nitpick may just be an aesthetic preference. Seriously, the art is fine. All told, you will get an outstanding story of teamwork, triumph, conflict and loss. For free. Of course, you can always buy the comic from Indy Planet should you desire a nifty hardcopy. Alpha Gods gets an action-packed GeekDad Stack Score of 7.5/10.
Eternal City #1
Since I mentioned one free comic, I’d like to toss another in your general direction This one is brought to us by the fine new company Robot Comics, who provide comics for mobile devices. Eternal City is a fantastic noir Argentine comic designed for reading on said mobile devices, like iPhones and Androids. This is a great thing to read while your teen or noir-minded pre-teen is riding the bus. Heck, even if you have no kids this is worth reading. Another sweet thing about this comic is that it can be read in both English and Spanish, and will be available in more languages soon. The first issue is free, so there’s no real excuse. This scans darkly a GeekDad Stack Score of 7/10.
After Dark Pick
Battlefields: The Tankies #1
When it comes to comic books, Garth Ennis owns the war front. No one—and I mean NO ONE—can write a war comic like Ennis. And link him up with legendary artist Carlos Ezquerra and what we have then is what is called “a force to be reckoned with” in some circles, and “absolutely outstanding” in all the others.
Now, just so you know, this is not a kids comic, a teens comic or a comic for anyone other than mature individuals who enjoy realistic and gritty war stories. In my own estimation, however, I would say that the Battlefields comics are suited for older teens (17+) as they are basically R-Rated (language and violence). I can’t wait until my boys are around that age so we can share comics like these. So far the Battlefields comics have been nothing short of amazing and Tankies seems to set the bar even higher. I didn’t even know that was possible! See, if you’re like me then you know that just about every hellblasted version and take on war in comics has been done it seems… and yet Ennis shows us just why he is comicdom’s War Dept. He and Ezquerra take us to World War II post D-Day landings France in 1944, right on the edge of Bocage, in fact, with some British tankers.
One crew in particular is the focus, but there are plenty of other personalities touched on. The story is solid and charges ahead at a brutally efficient pace while we are introduced to the all the characters bit by bit as they try to keep from being blown to bits. The real accomplishment with Tankies #1 is that Ennis crafts a tale where the characters are the most important part. Not the story, not the war, not the action. While all of those are handled flawlessly, it’s our lads in the tank and in the field who really matter. They’re not interested in winning medals, politics or even giving lengthy and boring exposition. They want to do their job and live through the War.
It’s quite beautiful, really. Look, if you enjoy history and war comics, buy this. If you have an older teen who is keenly interested in military history and you are comfortable with vulgar language and frank war violence, then you should have some great discussion fodder for the dinner table. It would be a crime against humanity to give this anything less than a GeekDad Stack Score of 9/10 and it’s my After Dark Pick of the week.
Top O’ The Stack
Have I mentioned to you yet that I’m not big on the DC Universe? I’m not. But that said, I love this book. It’s cartoony and fun, and Supergirl doesn’t look like a piece of meat from a nightclub or anything of the sort. Also, the creative team makes reality bending, time-travelly, weird parallel universe situations a real hoot—and I can’t tell you how refreshing this is.
For a pre-teen or near pre-teen , Landry Q. Walker forges an excellent script that they can easily get into, as well as understand on a simple level but not feel like they’re having their intelligence insulted. Plus, it’s fun. It’s really, really, REALLY fun. Eric Jones provides some absolutely terrific vividly colored and kinetic art, and he’s not afraid to play around with different styles, either. He normally sticks to a “cartoon” look, but as reality bends—watch out!
Yeah, okay, I think you get the picture here. I can’t believe how much I loved this book, and I’m only sad because my boys are too young to get it. However, these issues are worth holding onto to share with the lads once they are a bit older. Truth be told, while the Johnny DC line of comics is always a surefire way to bring joy to a kid’s face, Supergirl stands out to me. Maybe it’s the storytelling, maybe it’s the art, maybe it’s the lessons taught and learned, or maybe it’s the go-for-broke zaniness. Well, it’s probably a mix of all of those things and more. I’d try to explain the story to you, but I would be giving stuff away; but as the copy says, there are arch-frenemies, an intergalactic orange kitty and a flying horse.
Also, this is the best version of Superman since All-Star Superman and Garth Ennis’ version of him in Hitman. I guess it’s silly to add at this point that I am terribly impressed, eh? Pick this book up and enjoy it verily with your kids, friends and loved ones. Sadly, I think this is the final issue of the series… So, please go forth and buy 1-5! And it’s only $2.50!! Without any hesitation I give this Top O’ The Stack pick a supercharged Geekdad Stack Score of 9.5/10.
Other StackWorthy Books in Brief
War of Kings #3 – Currently this series is a part of a trifecta of books, including Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy. A worthy crossover series. 7/10
Green Lantern #40 – I’m not really into Green Lantern these days, but it’s very well written and has terrific art. Recommended for Green Lantern fans. 7.5/10
The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft #1 – Not for small children, but if you’re looking for a new take on Lovecraft and his Mythos where he’s the main star, this is it. 7/10
The Warlord #2 – So, who do I thank at DC for Mike Grell coming back to write Warlord? So far it’s been pretty fun! 7.2/10
The Trojan War #1 – Marvel brings us the Trojan War. Looks good, reads good, but not as good as Age of Bronze. But that’s just like saying it isn’t splendid perfection. Well worth reading for historically interested older, more mature children and, of course, adults. 7/10
Kull #6 – If you dig Conan and Robert E. Howard, then you should be reading Kull, who predates Conan. So far, this has been an exciting, and briskly paced strong pulpy title and it’s a wicked end to a great first series. 8/10
Voltron: A Legend Forged #5 – It’s Voltron and it’s okay enough to read and get a kick out of. Totally worth the time spent on it! 6.7/10
Marvel Apes: The Amazing Spider Monkey – This one-shot is finally what won me over with Marvel Apes. Crazy AND hilariously fun. Have I dropped mention that it has Charles Darwin? Please read it. 7.5/10
Webcomic Pick: OPSEC over at Zuda Comics as done by Jimmy Bott (also the illustrator on the excellent Half Dead and ilustrator of upcoming The Phantom: Unmasked) is rather attention grabbing, as well as being quite good. Give it a looksee and if you like it, please vote for it. This comic will mainly appeal to Dads and some teens out there who love military and special ops action. 7.5/10
This week was a tough call for my favorite between The Muppet Show and Supergirl. The best solution is to cut your losses and purchase both of them. Why love just one, anyway? It wouldn’t be fair or ethical, you know.
As always, I am quite receptive to suggestions, either drop me a line (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave me a quick note in the comments. I can also be found on Twitter as @stevengsaunders if you feel like shouting out to me through there.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you lot next week for another GeekDad Stack!