Best Comics of the Week – 29th December 2021

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Blood on Sunset #1(W) Mark D’Anna (A) Arjuna Susini

BLOOD ON SUNSET #1, from Source Point Press, imagines an alternate, mid-Century Los Angeles where gangsters rubbed elbows with celebrities and supernatural monsters.  It’s set post World War 2 and given it’s detective hard boiled noir mixed with Supernatural elements, it’s right up my street.All the tropes you know and love are here.  The hard boiled detective with a case from his past that will always haunt him.  The femme fatale.  The dark alleyways and long shadows.  Except here you throw in the supernatural twist and that adds an extra dimension.Said Detective, in this tale known as Braddock, is in a bar drinking his troubles away when he receives a call from an ex-girlfriend who is now Bugsy Siegel’s side squeeze.  The only problem?  Bugsy has been killed, in a bloody and gruesome manner and she’s at the scene, with no clue what to do next.There are lots of moving parts here, from the supernatural elements, to turf wars from crime families getting ready to make their move, to the noir elements, and it all gels brilliantly.Great art as well, with atmosphere dripping off of every page.  Highly recommended.Task Force Z #3(W) Matthew Rosenberg (A) Eddy Barrows

With issue 3 we jump straight into the aftermath of the big reveal from issue 2, Deadshot is back and he is joining the team.  Only problem is, his first impression is shooting Jason Todd in the chest!So we kick things off with Jason being saved and then having to integrate Deadshot into the team, while attempting to hold no grudges.This was another fantastic issue for the series.  The general concept is excellent, and the execution is even better.  There are horror moments, comedic moments, and tons of great character interactions.  We have a decent amount of people in store with this on their pull lists but I can’t help but feel it deserves an even bigger audience.And Rosenberg is becoming skilled at revelations, as we learn who is really behind putting this team together, and to be honest, you’ll never guess who it is if I gave you 100 chances…Stray Dogs: Dog Days #1(W) Tony M. Fleecs (A) Trish Forstner

A follow up to the surprise horror hit of last year arrives, and it’s not actually a sequel, but a prequel, filling in the blanks of how all the characters introduced in the series ended up at their new home.  So strap in, and get ready for some heartbreak, as we all know the endings for each of these individual tales are going to be bittersweet.I use the term bittersweet because of course there is the tension of knowing where all the pups are going to end up, but you also have the joy of seeing them happy with their original owners.Overall there are six short stories in here, all perfectly drawn by Trish Forstner in that they are cute and colourful one minute, but the move into horror and peril is seamlessly executed.  Sometimes all it takes is one panel to completely turn the story on its head.Issue 2 will cover the rest of the characters, and you just know that’s gonna be another emotional rollercoaster of an issue!Devil’s Reign #2(W) Chip Zdarsky (A) Marco Checchetto

Devil’s Reign #2 continues to build off of the great foundation laid by #1.

It can be hard to shake the feeling that this is uncomfortably close to Civil War, but having read that recently, I have to say this is actually gripping me more.

#2 is a series of small moments as there is a huge cast to check in with here. We see Iron Fist being arrested, even though he is not indulging in any vigilante activities. Reed and Sue are in prison and not immune to attacks from other prisoners. Ben Reilly Spider-Man is arrested. And Elektra pays a visit to Fisk where he reveals he knows a secret of hers.

Fisk is in full confident mood and preparing for his end game. Controlling the Purple Man’s powers, he plans to coerce people to vote for him. Doctor Octopus, under Fisk’s employ, is still in the Baxter building and has access to all of Reed’s experiments and is bringing back the Superior Four.

This series is building nicely and I’m all in for it.  It’s a rare Marvel event where I’ve been reading and enjoying the tie-in issues as well, as I’m sure we’ll discuss over the next few weeks.

PICK OF THE WEEK

Swamp Thing: Green Hell #1(W) Jeff Lemire (A) Doug Mahnke

What a first issue.Humanity has reached it’s extinction point.  What’s left of humanity is not confined to small encampments.  It’s even reached the point where the Rot has nothing left to feed upon.  In their wisdom, the elemental Parliaments have decided that this slow death of humanity should be sped up and they are going to create a new Swamp Thing to finish wiping out humanity completely.The humans that remain are determined to continue their existence.  They have built settlements where they can, and are fortified as much as possible to protect themselves.  But of course, all humanity cannot get along, even when faced with the extinction of the species, with barder systems set up between settlements, and bullies running around threatening people if they don’t pay up.It asks the question is humanity worth saving, when even being faced with their own mortality, they still can’t get along.But can they even save the world when it’s reached this point?  What lengths should they go to, and is it worth letting in the devil to save the world as we know it?  There is a reveal late in this issue that just shows the confidence the creators have in this story, and it is a genuine ‘hell yeah’ moment.The art is phenomenal in this issue.  Doug Mahnke is able to balance the quaint and detailed settlements, with heavy horror imagery and full on bloody action sequences.  These are seriously some of the most brutal sequences we’ve seen in recent DC issues, and the title is more than worthy of it’s Black Label status.  The characters here, especially main character Donald, who is always there to reassure his daughter that everything is going to be okay, feel fully formed already, and this powerhouse creative team is clearly at the top of their game.Jeff Lemire spun one of my favourite ever Animal Man runs during the New 52 era, and there are plenty of links to that run here so long time readers are rewarded here as well.Overall, just an absolutely essential title, and a perfect bedfellow for Ram V and Mike Perkin’s excellent run, given the tonal differences and different set of characters at play.  The two titles will never step on each other’s toes, but are of the same quality.

Best Comics of the Week – 22nd December 2021

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Eat the Rich #5(W) Sarah Gailey (A) Pius Bak

So we reach the end of this original Horror title from Boom Studios, and we are treated to a grisly, but wholly satisfying conclusion to the series.

The crux of the story had Joey going to meet her boyfriend Astors family, who all come from privilege, in Crestfall Bluffs.  What she has learned over the course of the story is that wealth and social standing can hide any personal horrors and indulgences from public view.  And also that rich people really get up to some sick and perverted things, and enjoy testing the limits of both the law and basic humanity.The art and writing for this series has been extremely consistent and of a high standard the whole way through.  When this hits trade, make sure to pick it up.  And also keep an eye on what the creators Sarah Gailey and Pius Bak come up with next.

Catwoman #38(W) Ram V (A) Caspar Wijngaard

And so the Ram V era on Catwoman comes to an end.  And boy, does he wrap it up in style!

The final issue here takes on mainly a flashback style narrative, as many loose ends from the series are tied up, motivations and actions are explained and accounted for, and it leaves Selina in an interesting way where new writer Tini Howard can pick up the reins and pretty much go off in any direction they’d like.I’d happily have had Ram stay on Catwoman as he has elevated the title massively, focusing on utilising Selina’s smarts when it comes to planning and executing heists, while making sure she never falls back into a life of crime.  She is portrayed here more as a Robin Hood-esque figure who takes from the Haves and helps the Have Nots.A fitting end to the run, and I would highly recommend picking up the trades.

Batman: One Dark Knight #1(W/A) Jock

It’s a sign of just how strong so many titles were this week, that this Black Label #1 from Jock is not my pick of the week.  This was an absolutely blistering first issue, filled with dynamic action, phenomenal art and a streamlined Batman story that can be summed up as Batman trying to aid the GCPD in transporting a criminal from one side of Gotham to the other.  This is Jock’s debut as a writer on a Batman title, and his writing is every bit as good as his artwork.  The tension drips off of every page.  We have a supervillain, EMP, being transferred, but of course gangs have found out about the transfer route and are determined to attack.  EMP is able to escape, and as I’m sure you can work out from his name, that spells trouble for Gotham as the city is plunged into a complete blackout.It’s no surprise that this title is absolutely gorgeous.  It’s no secret I’m a long time fan of Jock’s work and he knocks it out of the park here.  It’s a title that suits the prestige plus format, as it is very cinematic with lots of double page spreads, high intensity action, hero shots for Batman and glorious city wide vistas.Cannot wait for issue 2.

Nightwing #87(W) Tom Taylor (A) Bruno Redondo

So after a few issues tying into Fear State, we are back to Nightwing’s own narrative and what an issue to return to it.  #87 has been hyped for quite some time and billed as the ‘one long continuous panel’ issue.

It could have been something of a gimmick and an idea that worked better in the planning than the execution.  I should really know not to doubt this creative team over anything at this point….Nightwing #87 is a perfect issue for new readers.  It is a perfect issue for fans of unique ideas.  It is a perfect issue for long time readers.  It’s just a pretty perfect issue.  It’s a self contained one shot issue where some bad people kidnap ‘Haley’, Nightwing’s dog.  And Nightwing sets out to save them, aided along the way by Batgirl.If you ever wanted to hand someone an issue of Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo’s run, to sum up their style of storytelling then this is it.  It’s fun, visually spectacular, with quipped dialogue and fast paced action.Essential.

PICK OF THE WEEK

Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow #6(W) Tom King (A) Bilquis Evely

So from one beautifully drawn DC title written by a Tom to another.  And given this issue was able to keep both One Dark Knight and Nightwing off of the top spot this week, it gives you a clue as to just how good it is, and how great this series has been in general.

We’ve highlighted nearly every issue so far on the podcast (if not every issue) and this is a series that hit the ground running but somehow still managed to raise the bar with every new instalment.Every issue of this title has been its own journey, almost a confined one shot, but it is all part of a brilliant connecting narrative, much akin to Tom King’s brilliant Superman miniseries – Up in the Sky.This issue doesn’t actually push the main story forward much, as a majority of the issue is spent in flashbacks and origin stories. Kara and Ruthye have finally encountered Krem and his cohorts, but the villain is prepared for their arrival. He aims another Mordu globe at Kara, having had previous harrowing success in the issue prior by sending her across the universe. But Kara is also prepared (clearly she’s given Batman a call in between issues), and this time she has her own secret weapon—the super-horse Comet, who can move even faster than even a Kryptonian and might possibly be the only thing in the universe that can outrun magic itself. So we have a ticking clock device, a race against time in one of the best action scenes of the series (in itself no small feat given how great every issue has looked)—but it’s also utilised here for King to reinvent Supergirl’s origin as only he can, in a really cool flashback to the last days of Krypton—and beyond.This is an issue that actually had me cheering while reading it, almost to the point it was an interactive comic.  You can feel yourself willing Comet and Kara on, and hoping they can foil the dastardly plan.  The set up is so deceptively simple but just brilliantly executed by the creative team all round.We’ve said it so many times before but it really can’t be overstated just how beautiful this series is.  Whatever Bilquis Evely moves onto next will be straight onto my pull list.Overall, Supergirl might seem like an odd character for this type of story from King, but in many ways it feels like she’s always been waiting for this story—to let her voice be truly heard much louder than her more famous cousins.

Stray Dogs #1 (of 2)

(W) Tony M. Fleecs (A) Trish Forstner

A follow up to the surprise horror hit of last year arrives, and it’s not actually a sequel, but a prequel, filling in the blanks of how all the characters introduced in the series ended up at their new home.  So strap in, and get ready for some heartbreak, as we all know the endings for each of these individual tales are going to be bittersweet.

I use the term bittersweet because of course there is the tension of knowing where all the pups are going to end up, but you also have the joy of seeing them happy with their original owners.

Overall there are six short stories in here, all perfectly drawn by Trish Forstner in that they are cute and colourful one minute, but the move into horror and peril is seamlessly executed.  Sometimes all it takes is one panel to completely turn the story on its head.

Issue 2 will cover the rest of the characters, and you just know that’s gonna be another emotional rollercoaster of an issue!