Comic Book Corner: Batman, Curse Words, and Doctor Who

In this month’s Comic Book Corner, Shiri catches up with the latest from a whole heap of superheroes including Batman, Sam Wilson, and Black Panther, and checks in on Lucifer to boot. Beth surrounds herself with badass women in the first issues of Vorpal and Ladycastle, Sophie finishes up The X-Files: Origins mini-series, and new contributor Mark spends some time with the Eighth Doctor. Read on to see what we’re enjoying this month.

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Batman #15, Image: DC Comics
Batman #15, Image: DC Comics

Title: Batman #15
Publisher: DC Comics
Author: Tom King
Artists: Mitch Gerads

Tom King is slaying the Rebirth Batbook just as he slayed The Vision for Marvel, and Sheriff of Babylon for Image, last year. While the Bat has certainly been dark before, this time it isn’t just the atmosphere or the quips that are all shadows and “I am the night.” King is taking readers on a deep dive into Bruce Wayne’s psyche, the one place Bruce has kept locked away.

The vehicle for this journey is both a surprise and not, expected and unanticipated and the outcome… Shiri doesn’t want to spoil it for anyone but she will say it is intense and real in a way the Bat often avoids. King once more brings the man, the human, to the fore and, while he doesn’t neglect the hero, there is so much more to this book than the cape and cowl.

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World of Wakanda #3, Image: Marvel
World of Wakanda #3, Image: Marvel

Title: World Of Wakanda #3
Publisher: Marvel
Writer: Roxanne Gay
Artists: Alitha E. Martinez, Roberto Poggi, and Rachelle Rosenberg

World of Wakanda is everything. A powerful group of women standing up for what’s right despite what others, what anyone, may think of them. Two women loving one another despite convention and rules and outmoded oaths. A real relationship with real issues and honest discussions, with anger and reconciliation. Women who aren’t afraid to crack arms when threatened, who stand up for one another without fear.

This book is a love letter and a fight song to women everywhere. And, in case you missed it, author Roxanne Gay is fighting the good fight in other ways as well, including pulling her newest book from Simon and Schuster after they made a contract to publish an alt-right author. Stand with her and get a great book in the bargain.

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Curse Words #1, Image: Image Comics
Curse Words #1, Image: Image Comics

Title: Curse Words #1
Publisher: Image Comics
Author: Charles Soule
Artist: Ryan Browne, Jordan Boyd, Michael Parkinson

Shiri is a fan of Soule’s work in general, including the current runs of Daredevil and Poe Dameron. Curse Words is something else entirely from him and it is absolutely fantastic. Bright and loud where Daredevil is muted and quiet, all action where Poe Dameron is a slow burn, sarcastic and hilarious, and holy crap, there’s a talking koala.

Wizord is a rock star magician for hire with a very dark past and a penchant for flash being hunted by… well, there aren’t many details yet, but there’s definitely a centaur with a giant hammer so… Shiri is 100% in.

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Captain America Sam Wilson #18, Image: Marvel
Captain America Sam Wilson #18, Image: Marvel

Title: Captain America: Sam Wilson #18
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Daniel Acuña

Shiri has heard a lot of complaints about the Sam Cap book lately.

She feels the naysayers should consider looking at the world around them and all that’s happened in the last few weeks before they complain about Spencer sacrificing the occasional plot element or action sequence (of which there are still plenty) in favor of a very human hero trying to do the right thing in a world which hates him for the color of his skin. It hates him despite his risking his life, time and again, to save that same world.

In #18, Sam has proof of a horrific injustice, proof that will split the city and may bring it to the verge of war. Sam has to decide if he’s going to be the hero the people want, a path of less resistance upon which he’ll still be able to do good, or the hero they need, a man who is willing to go to war to ensure justice for all, but who will be reviled and hunted for doing so.

Shiri urges you, once more, to read Sam Cap. This book is important.

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Lucifer #14, Image: Vertigo
Lucifer #14, Image: Vertigo

Title: Lucifer #14
Publisher: Vertigo
Writer: Richard Kadrey
Artists: Lee Barbett and Antonio Fabela

Some of you may be familiar with Richard Kadrey via his Sandman Slim novels. If you are, then you know he and Lucifer are a match made in a beautiful, perfect Hell.

Shiri enjoyed the previous run of the book but feels that, even in this first, full-length foray (Kadrey had a shorter story in the last, multi-author issue) Kadrey has illuminated something very fundamental to the titular character’s essence which was muted in the last several issues: Lucifer’s sense of utter joy and abandon in being exactly who, and what, Lucifer Morningstar is. In his ability to create every sort of havoc, from dropped Pad Thai to the death of… whatever it is God has become and revel in it. A gleeful devil is so much more engaging than a lugubrious one and makes the wrath that much more compelling when it inevitably comes. Hail, Kadrey. Long may he reign.

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Power Man and Iron Fist #12, Image: Marvel
Power Man and Iron Fist #12, Image: Marvel

Title: Power Man and Iron Fist #12
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Author: David F. Walker
Artists: Sanford Greene and Lee Loughridge

It’s all fun and games until someone punches a dragon. Though, in this issue of Power Man and Iron Fist, the dragon is metaphorical and leads Luke and Danny into the unenviable position of having to decide between the lesser of two evils. As always, the Heroes for Hire do everything they can, the best they can. It isn’t enough. Because, it turns, out, there’s good and there’s bad and there’s no such thing as a lesser of two evils.

What this will mean for the boys going forward, what it will mean for Luke and Jessica, is hard to say. But defending Harlem just got a whole lot more complicated.

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Ladycastle #1, Image: Boom! Studios
Ladycastle #1, Image: Boom! Studios

Title: Ladycastle #1
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Delilah S. Dawson
Artists: Ashley A. Woods, Elsa Charretier

Princess Aeve has been cooped up in her castle tower a long time, all because she won’t marry a Prince. Any Prince, really. King Mancastle and the rest of the men in the village spend most of their time searching out suitable mates for Aeve while the women take up the men’s chores. That all changes when a solitary, older knight staggers back to report that the King and his men have been wiped out by an evil wizard, and now there’s a curse on the village. What to do? Make the blacksmith’s wife the new King, of course, and give women the opportunity to do as they like to protect the kingdom.

This title from BOOM! Studios is a sheer delight, from Princess Aeve’s very un-Disney opening song (where she goes slightly mad) to the women’s eagerness for new roles and new looks, since their work and appearance is no longer regulated by the men. Even the Lady of the Lake shows up to pass on the King’s power from a feminine disembodied hand to the strong, capable hand of Merinor, so the power once owned by men is transferred from woman to woman in a stellar game of keep away. There’s plenty of humor in the writing and art, too, and Beth loved the Well Hag much more than little knight wannabe Princess Gwyneff. Perhaps that’s because the Well Hag is weird, and she owns it. She’s also the key to keeping the kingdom from going up in flames when the first monsters from the wizard’s curse appear. And Princess Aeve? She’s the kingdom’s first female knight, strong from years of hauling up books via bucket to her tower window. There may still be a bit of crazy behind those eyes, so evil wizards should watch their step. Also, Beth is kinda hoping the wizard’s name is Tim.

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Vorpal #1, Image: Headshrinker's Press
Vorpal #1, Image: Headshrinker’s Press

Title: Vorpal #1: Shoot Between Heartbeats
Publisher: Headshrinker’s Press
Creators/Artists: Jason Tudor, Keith Houin

Beth jumped from the universe of her usual feel-good warm fuzzies into the world of snipers with Vorpal #1 from Headshrinker’s Press. Vorpal is a female assassin, part of a secret monastic sect that maintains the balance of government powers through lethal means. Although it’s a futuristic world, Vorpal uses old-school projectiles in her rifle for extra impact and panic, just like her bosses requested. After a hit goes sideways and she narrowly escapes, she experiences strange visions that could be from her past, her future or from one too many knocks to the head. Her visions are about to endanger her life on all sides, and the only things she can trust are her own skills and a snarky robot sidekick.

The art in Vorpal is reminiscent of vintage Heavy Metal comics: dark, bold, and retro. While the reader sees a lot of Vorpal’s curves (are there no sweatpants in the future?), it’s a compelling design, and it matches the cinematic storyline. Beth could easily imagine this as an action movie in the style of Paul Verhoeven. Another nice touch is the page at the back introducing the creators; these “about us” pages always make indie comics more interesting. Tudor and Houin are both military veterans, so the storyline’s hard edge and futuristic sniper equipment have an authentic feel to them. Hopefully, there will be a second issue in the series soon.

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Doctor Who: A Matter of Life & Death, Image: Titan Comics
Doctor Who: A Matter of Life & Death, Image: Titan Comics

Title: Doctor Who: A Matter of Life and Death
Writer: George Mann
Artists: Emma Vieceli, Hi Fi
Publisher: Titan Comics

Being one of the few Whovians to have grown up loving McGann’s Eighth Doctor, Mark found it compelling to read the 2016 Titan Comics collection A Matter of Life and Death. In this collection, Mann masterfully reproduces the sound and feel of McGann’s doctor with a thoroughly 21st-century feel. This isn’t the 8th Doctor from the TV movie or even the adventurer from the Big Finish Audios. Captured on these pages is a Doctor during what must be the heart of the time war, avoiding the battles but showing his frustration at a universe seemingly intent on tearing itself apart.

In this collection, he meets a new companion who, aside from not being what she seems, compels the reader by looking at the universe through an artist’s eye. This balances nicely off of a Doctor who clearly wants to live as if nothing is happening but is surrounded by reminders that there’s a war he’s avoiding. Overall, even for someone who may not be as familiar with the 8th Doctor’s story, this collection is a fun romp with a Doctor-companion combo that Mark hopes we see more of in the future.

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The X-Files Origins #4, Image: IDW Comics
The X-Files Origins #4, Image: IDW Comics

Title: The X-Files: Origins #4
Publisher: IDW Comics
Writer: Matthew Dow Smith & Jody Houser
Artists: Corin Howell, Monica Kubina, & Chris Fenoglio

Sophie loved this mini-series, which is why she had to admit that this concluding issue felt like something of a letdown. Although she has come to expect no real answers from The X-Files in general, Mulder’s story petered out with no real conclusion and both tales left far too many threads loose to be considered entirely satisfying. Who was Mercy and the other blonde-haired girl Mulder encountered? Why was Mr. Wilson killed? Who is Major Devore, and why did he see Dana as a demon and Mercy as an angel?

In particular, Sophie had hoped to see more of the events which led Eric’s father to go from the successful family man we see in Mulder’s story, to the washout in Scully’s three years later, something that for now is left to our own imaginations. The ending we did get, in which we saw young Fox discover strength he never knew he had and the determination to keep digging, was enjoyable but felt lacking. Sophie truly hopes that the “The End…?” does indeed signal that we can expect more from this story line in the future.

As for Scully’s story, Sophie also had her worries. One of the things she particularly enjoys about The X-Files is the different backgrounds Mulder and Scully come from, and how that impacts their investigations. Mulder’s past is a sordid mixture of conspiracy, betrayal, and shattered family, Scully’s a more wholesome upbringing shielded from the machinations of the government conspiracy she would one day help to unravel. By introducing Admiral Scully to the Smoking Man back in the 1970s, Scully’s history begins to shift in ways Sophie hopes won’t come to destroy this dynamic. Although given what she read in The X-Files: Devil’s Advocate earlier this year, that hope is increasingly becoming a pipe dream.

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Torchwood #1, Image: Titan Comics
Torchwood #1, Image: Titan Comics

Title: Torchwood #1-4: World Without End
Publisher: Titan Comics
Authors: John Barrowman, Carole Barrowman
Artists: Antonio Fuso, Pasquale Qualano

Sophie also picked up the first four issues of Titan’s recent Torchwood arc, co-written by Captain Jack himself, John Barrowman and his sister Carole. If she were being honest, Sophie would describe herself as more of a Torchwood fan than a Doctor Who fan, often preferring the slightly darker, more morally ambiguous nature of Who’s less popular sibling to the wacky antics of the Doctor and his friends—although she’s long since accepted that she’s never getting over Children of Earth.

Continuing with a theme of honesty, she wasn’t overly impressed by the comics so far. There were many good parts to be found. The new Torchwood hub—a modified fishing trawler fitted with a ton of alien tech—is a lot of fun and perfectly suited to the Torchwood mission, and Sophie was happy to see a range of genders, races, and sexualities depicted within this new Torchwood team and presented without prejudice. She was also pleased to note the return of Captain John Hart, because what’s Torchwood without a lovable rogue causing chaos?

It was just the nature of the chaos that put Sophie off this initial run, the sudden appearance of ninjas on flying water skis attacking out of a UFO for no obvious reason being key to her annoyance. It just seemed to be in there for the sake of being as crazy as possible, rather than for any thematic reason. For someone who always enjoyed the understated nature of Torchwood, scenes like this are a turn-off and Sophie hopes the book can dial down the crazy as it heads into its second arc and get back to the strange mix of horror, tragedy, and buddy-comedy the show used to be.

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GeekMom received some titles for review purposes.