Review Special – Scottober in July

Comic Books
Barnstormers #1 cover, via DC Comics.

Barnstormers #1 – Scott Snyder, Writer; Tula Lotay, Artist; Dee Cunniffe, Colorist

Ray – 9.5/10

Ray: As “Scottober in July” kicks off, I had four books to dig into. I went by alphabetical order and release date, and that left this genre-hopping 1920s thriller in first place. I chose well, because this electric high-skies adventure grabs you right from the start and never lets go. Set in the age of Barnstorming—when airplane flight, especially for civilians, was new and exciting—it focuses on a show pilot named Hawk E. Baron—or so he tells you—as he attempts to find fame and fortune by showing off tricks in his post-WWI plane. Instead, he usually finds a small group of vaguely interested townspeople and barely makes any money—which he uses to try to bribe a skeptical telephone operator into setting up a larger crowd for him. The narration hints that he’s about to become a major player in one of the largest crime sprees the world has ever seen, but it’s hard to see how or why—because this is not a straight-forward narrative.

There are a number of plots going on here, and the comparison to Bonnie and Clyde gives it away that Hawk will likely be getting a partner in crime soon. But who is she? We find out by the end of the first issue, but first we see him get into a hilariously bizarre air disaster that leaves his life in danger—not from a crash, but from a scorned man. We see the Pinkertons transporting a Faberge egg cross country—on a trip that will likely bring him into contact with Hawk. And we see a woman make a decision to upend her life that took me by surprise. The final line of the issue explains a little more about the narrative, and who’s story we’re following. Just like the age it takes place in, there is a lot of uncertainty here—and that makes it all the more exciting to follow. Tula Lotay’s art feels painted and haunting, and an ongoing sci-fi subplot doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the story yet but only drives home how unpredictable this book is. Brilliant start.

Canary #1 cover, via DC Comics.

Canary #1 – Scott Snyder, Writer; Dan Panosian, Artist

Ray – 8.5/10

Ray: Another title that makes great use of its setting is Snyder and Dan Panosian’s Canary, which is set in pre-statehood Utah in the 1880s. A young teacher is giving an impassioned presentation in favor of statehood when a young boy—best known for being the most gentle and kind of his rough-and-tumble family—gets up and slashes her throat in front of the entire class. The horrible crime draws the attention of Marshall Holt, a hard-nosed law enforcer famous from dime novels fictionalizing his exploits, and he rides off to take the boy into custody. Met with resistance from the ruthless family, it becomes clear that this isn’t an ordinary crime—it’s a wave of crimes committed by people with no history of violence.

Dan Panosian’s western art is top-notch—incredibly detailed and giving off the perfect vibe of a cowboy noir. Holt is a compelling lead character, but doesn’t have the defining traits of other leads yet. Flashbacks to his encounter with a notorious criminal that seems to have left emotional scars on him are terrifying, but otherwise this first issue doesn’t quite have a strong hook yet. We’re headed into some uncertain, horror-driven territory as it seems this brutal streak of crimes may all be coming from a single location—and flowing through the water. This book is keeping its secrets very close to its chest so far, and so it’s hard to pass judgment on it fully, but western horror is an underrated genre I’m excited to see more of.

Dudley Datson and the Forever Machine #1 cover, via DC Comics.

Dudley Datson and the Forever Machine #1 – Scott Snyder, Writer; Jamal Igle, Penciller; Juan Castro, Inker; Chris Sotomayor, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Ray: I was not expecting how many times narration would play into the story in the Scottober in July Comixology books, but somehow it’s different every time. Of the three books debuting this month, this is the only one that doesn’t fit into the horror genre. Rather, it’s an original sci-fi/superhero pastiche that would feel perfectly at home in the world of Astro City or the works of Jack Kirby. Featuring the return of the acclaimed superhero artist Jamal Igle to full-length interiors, it focuses on the teenage inventor Dudley Datson who has brilliant ideas—and iffy execution. Attending a program for young inventors, he’s frequently distracted by his single father’s health problems. The character has some good Peter Parker energy, which is always a strong foundation for a young hero.

Dudley’s current invention is smart clothes, which use nanotech to shift into whatever the weather wants. They’re highly effective—and also highly subject to going “clear” and leaving the user naked. This first issue has a more leisurely pace than the others that debut this will, letting us get to know Dudley, his father, his mentor, and his best friend, and only introducing the villain and his henchmen in brief segments. It also debuts what might be the most interesting new animal sidekick to enter the world of comics in a long time. The story has a fun, light, and very human tone that makes it instantly engaging. By the end of the first issue, Dudley is in a completely different place than where he started, and the journey ahead looks to be one I’m very excited to follow.

Dark Spaces: Wildfire #1 cover, via DC Comics.

Dark Spaces: Wildfire #1 – Scott Snyder, Writer; Hayden Sherman, Artist

Ray – 9/10

Ray: Coming out one day later than the other three, in print from Comixology, this is the only one of the four to take place entirely in our world—time, place, and no supernatural elements. Set amid the climate-charged wildfires in California, it focuses on an all-female unit of prison firefighters—four women, three long-time inmates and their newest member, an infamous financial criminal who may or may not have been set up by her powerful bosses. They’re supervised by their mentor, a woman reluctantly nicknamed “Ma” by the inmates under her charge, as they risk their lives for two dollars a day. But “Ma” has her own secrets, including a ticking clock in a different way, and soon all five of them are pulled into temptation.

As they fight the latest fire, they come across a mansion belonging to one of the financial masterminds behind their newest member’s downfall—and she knows exactly what’s lurking inside it. Like all classic heist thrillers, a sense of temptation and danger fills every scene. We know this isn’t going to end well—we can basically guarantee it, given the narration—but we can’t help but root for these underdogs. Hayden Sherman, who usually works with Sean Lewis over at Image, gives the events a very distinct feel. The character faces can be a little hard to differentiate at times—which might be why they’re all essentially color-coded—but the art of the fires and the environment they’re devastating are brilliant. The most grounded of the four launches, but no less compelling than the rest.

GeekDad received these comics for review purposes.

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