Sorry the pull review is late this week. Without further delay:
Beasts of Burden One-Shot: Hunters and Gatherers
Dark Horse Comics
Evan Dorkin, Jill Thompson
For those of you who have never read Beasts of Burden before: WHY? Seriously, this series about dogs and cats defending the town of Burden Hill from supernatural threats is amazing. Great characters, wonderful art, a dog lycanthrope, it’s got it all. I think it passes the Bechdel test, but I’m not entirely sure that it is particularly useful here, since you’ve got to guess the gender of the various animals from context clues/familiarity with the series, and there is no way to tell for some of the minor characters and extras. (I still have to finish the series proper myself, but I’m working on it). I think I’m just going to start commenting on whether a comic passes the Bechdel test, the test is non-applicable, or it is a serious failure. Otherwise, just assume it failed, which is sadly pretty normal in comics.
The Royals: Masters of War #2 (of 6)
Rob Williams, Simon Coleby
This series is… interesting. The art is good, and there’s a particularly awesome two-page spread near the end. The writing isn’t bad, and the concept is great. It’s set during WW2, but members of royal families have superpowers. The strength of their royal powers are dependent upon their breeding, and how much or little common blood they have. The Royals are banned from interfering in wars by treaty, but Prince Henry violated the treaties to drive off the Nazi bombers in the Battle of Britain, and now all the royal families are getting in the game. Unfortunately, this series also has only one real female character with any screentime, and that’s Princess Rose, who has a weird incest-vibe with her brother Henry. Also, despite the twist they use on normal superhero costumes (Henry wears a WW2 pilot outfit, the Japanese royals wear traditional samurai outfits, etc. There’s a fun moment when they see some of the part-royals the Americans have drummed up wearing more traditional super-hero costumes), they still do the whole gender-specific power thing. Rose has telepathy and telekinesis, Henry has flight and superstrength… Switching it up would be nice. Or use more unusual superpowers. (Props the recent novel The Violent Century, by Lavie Tidhar on this one. There are some more stereotypical powers in there, but some of the others are really, really cool).
East of West #10
Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta, Frank Martin
East of West is one of the weirdest series I’m reading. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s an alternate history sci-fi western set in a world where America completely collapsed after the Civil War, starring Death, who is trying to stop the other three horsemen and their mortal pawns (The Chosen) from igniting the Apocalypse. It’s got hefty doses of Native American and other mythologies, as well as some awesome scifi stuff. (Huge, towering arcologies; hover pyramids over the Gulf of Mexico; Crow and Wolf serving as Death’s left and right hands, (Also, shapeshifting into a wolfpack/ murder of crows? Way cooler than shifting into a wolf or a crow). The story is damned tricky to explain simply, but this issue features an awesome battle with Wolf, Crow, and Death on one side and Wolf’s shape-shifting father on the other. Death’s son (who is possibly the Beast of the Apocalypse) actually starts getting some character development. It also has the other three horsemen being creepy as fuck, as usual. (They were reborn into the bodies of children after Death betrayed them. Very, very creepy children.) My one real complaint about the series? You have Death, War, Famine… and Conquest. Seriously? I’m sick of this. What the hell is wrong with just having the classic four horsemen? Nope, you always have to replace Pestilence, Famine, or both with some watered-down version of War.
Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan, Mike Hawthorne, Jordie Bellaire
This issue wraps up the “Deadpool vs. Shield” storyline, as well as tying up a bunch of threads from the “Dead Presidents” storyline. The semi-cathartic fight between Crossbones and Deadpool is pretty fun, if a bit long, and the bit with the garbage truck was great. Most of the laughs I had in this issue were towards the back, especially Deadpool dealing with the TSA on his way to his vacation. (Naked Deadpool twirling his leopard-print man-thong at the horrified TSA agents? Priceless.)
Federal Bureau of Physics #8
Simon Oliver, Robbi Rodriguez
This series is a bit of a slow burner, though it’s starting to pick up a bit. This issue doesn’t rely on a weird physics anomaly to drive things forward, but actually has some good character development for a change. (It still has fun with the anomalies, though). The art is still its consistently weird self. This issue/storyline has a pretty well developed, believable transgendered character, which is still a pretty new thing in comics. Otherwise, the only other transgendered character I can think of is Batgirl’s roommate. (Which, if you haven’t read anything by Gail Simone, DO.) The twist in this issue caught me by surprise, which is nice. I’ve gotten pretty good at spotting that sort of thing.
Manifest Destiny #5
Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts, Owen Gieni
I love Manifest Destiny. This madcap fantasy take on Lewis and Clark is a hell of a lot of fun to read. They’re finally taking the fight back to the plant zombies, which are as creepy as ever. The drama between the members of the expedition takes a backseat this issue to the main action, though it will definitely be back soon enough. Lewis’ journal entries remain a great way to narrate, and Clark is as badass as ever. My only real complaints are that Sacagawea is still not getting played up to her full potential, especially after all the build-up we’ve had in that direction, and that York is getting almost no screentime. York was Clark’s manservant (slave) in real life, and ended up being one of the most important members of the expedition. He was especially useful in negotiations with various tribes, since they trusted him more than the white men in the expedition. I think he showed up in two panels this issue? With any luck, we’ll see more of both characters later. At least Seaman (Seriously, that was his name) the Newfoundland dog is getting plenty of appearances, if mainly in the background.
Matt Fraction, Chris Eliopoulos, David Aja, Jordie Bellaire
So… this is a holiday special. Published in March. Set during the events of Hawkeye #6. Which came out about a year ago. Don’t get me wrong, this is by far my favorite Marvel series right now, but it’s been doing some weird scheduling stuff lately. Also, only two pages of this issue actually feature Clint Barton or any other Hawkeye characters. The rest of the comic is an episode of a children’s cartoon (Winter Friends) Clint is watching with his neighbor’s (adorable) kids. It’s about a group of superheroes who defend winter holidays from evil. (Yaldog, Rama-In-Pajamas, Santalope, Samantha Hain, Kwanzaagator, and Menorable (Seriously, it’s a kitten with a menorah crown.) And then, two pages into the cartoon, they’re taken captive, leaving it up to their completely powerless dog Steve to save the day. The art in this section reminds me of a cross between Archie and Peanuts, but it goes surprisingly well with David Aja’s art. Trust me, it just gets weirder from there. What makes this issue especially (Weird? Frustrating? Infuriating? Awesome?) is that last issue ended with Clint and his brother lying on the ground shot and bleeding. Hmm. Well, now I’m just hoping for a Mystery Science Fiction Theater treatment of the in-comic show Dog Cops featuring Hawkeye, Spiderman, and Wolverine.
Edit: I guess I should just say that the art is pretty similar to Calvin and Hobbes.
Also, Vertigo: Everyone else features nice cover images of their comics on their sites, I have to go hunting for your covers, and half the time I end up having to use textless or small versions anyhow. WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ME AND MY THREE OR FOUR READERS? WHY?