(W) Mark Russell (A/CA) Stephen Byrne In Shops: Feb 19, 2020 SRP: $3.99
The world is saved again! But now Zan and Jayna must answer to the Justice League for the choices they made in order to save it. Meanwhile, the League of Annoyance is back in action, and Cell Phone Sylvia will do whatever it takes to get her revenge on the twins-but they might get a little help from an unexpected ally! The critically acclaimed series ends here-don’t miss it!
writer: Mark Russell artist: Bob Q covers: Jae Lee (A), Joseph Michael Linsner (B), Bob Q (C), Marc Laming (D), Katy DeCobray Cosplay Variant (E), Sanya Anwar “Valentine” Variant (F) Pepoy “Seduction” Cover (RI), Jae Lee (RI-B/W), Joseph Michael Linsner (RI-B/W), Bob Q (RI-Virgin), Pepoy “Seduction” Cover (RI-B/W) FC | 32 pages | Sword and Sorcery | $3.99 | Teen+
Year Two of MARK RUSSELL’s epic tale kicks off here, joined by artist BOB Q (Captain America, Fantastic Four). And, because it’s February, we’re celebrating Valentine’s Day with a special variant by artist Sanya Anwar! In this issue: Sonja The Red has won. Now comes the impossible part…
(W) Mark Russell (A/CA) Stephen Byrne
In Shops: Jan 22, 2020
WONDER COMICS Colonel 86-the malfunctioning supercomputer that still thinks it’s 1986-has taken over the world! As its obsolete memory creates one disaster after another, the Wonder Twins must team up with Filo and Polly Math to stop it!
Second Coming #6 channels The Last Temptation of Christ and Superfriends and is a solid season finale despite the occasional whiplash in tone from funny and satirical to earnest to maybe serious. Mark Russell, RichardPace, Leonard Kirk, and Andy Troy spin the story of Sunstar’s wedding and Jesus’ final showdown with Satan that may have some people of faith have similar reactions as some Superman fans did to the ending of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel.
The best part of this comic and probably of the whole miniseries is how Russell and Pace riff on how Jesus, God the Father, and Satan are portrayed in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. (My favorite one is Jesus’ reaction to the writings of St. Paul.) With callbacks to changing water to wine, the Last Supper, and even Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, the interrogate the nature of faith as well as the temptations of money and power that Jesus rejected according to the New Testament narrative. Pace’s scratchy inks and sepia color palette versus the cleaner lines, bright colors, and classical proportions of Kirk and Troy’s art in the Sunstar scenes create tension and doubt in these flashbacks.
Russell sometimes undercuts this by going for the easy, obvious joke (i.e. his description of circumcision), but from his work on the page and in the letters column, he seems to have a desire to grapple with the relationship between faith and religion, Instead of going the route of Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard and seeing Abraham as a “knight of faith”, Russell and Pace point out the absurdity of his actions and especially the naivete of Isaac, who despite being a teenager, lets his father kill because God “said so”.
However, there is a positive side to this dig as Jesus shares with his new “followers” that they need to think carefully about what they choose to trust and believe and not just blindly do something or follow someone because they think a higher power told them to. Pace is great at showing the quick reactions to these ideas from Jesus’ new followers, who have a knee jerk reaction instead of listening and asking questions. Then, Leonard Kirk and Andy Troy jump back in when Sunstar comes to save the day to show the futility of the outwardly heroic, yet inwardly flawed superhero to bail him out. Jesus has to make a sacrifice, and in Second Coming, he makes an ideological one that raised the stakes higher than any crucifixion/resurrection redux or superhero slugfest.
Speaking of superheroes, these elements are the weakest in Second Coming, and the conspiracy theorist in me thinks that they were inserted to make the pitch more initially palatable to DC Comics/Vertigo. The superhero genre is so well-trodden, and Russell, Pace, Kirk, and Troy don’t really break new ground with Sunstar’s struggle to balance relationships with crime fighting. However, earlier issues created a nice contrast between Jesus’ pacifism and Sunstar’s violence. Russell and Pace unfortunately don’t have Jesus and Sunstar after Jesus gives into violence in the conclusion of Second Coming and just have him and Sheila be Jesus and God’s bowling partners. It’s a fun joke, but shows that the superhero part of Second Coming was just kind of there and didn’t really enhance the narrative except for the aforementioned visual contrast or a joke or two.
The final sequence of Second Coming #6 is both profound and banal. There are a few more fun jokes like God sucking at bowling and the “+” of the pregnancy looking like a cross. Russell and Pace are also trying to create some kind of meaning out of Jesus choosing to be a killer and not a martyr and land on “You messed up. There will be a fresh start next day/bowling frame.” There is a dark layer of irony to these statements because they’re delivered by God, who basically took this approach to the Earth and its inhabitants during Noah’s flood and was about to destroy the world again if Jesus was killed by modern humans. There’s a whole “I’m all powerful. I don’t give a shit.” attitude air to the gestures and body language that Richard Pace gives whereas Jesus is much more tense, angsty, and heavily inked. Life goes on, and there are no consequences. Oh, and look, here’s a miracle baby for the “faithful” Sheila and Sunstar because that’s something I’ve done in the past.
Second Coming #6 is a comic that is both entertaining and attempts at wrestling with the big questions in life, and Mark Russell, Richard Pace, Leonard Kirk, and Andy Troy succeed at the first part more than the second one. However, there’s also a level of humility to not trying to wrap up a tale of gods and humans, faith and doubt in an easily packaged takeaway. Just like God’s bowling game and metaphor, humans are flawed and messed up, but we have our moments and can find friendship and community like Jesus did with his superhero roommate in Second Coming.
Story: Mark Russell Art: Richard Pace with Leonard Kirk Colors: Andy Troy Letters: Rob Steen Story: 7.0 Art: 8.5 Overall: 7.3 Recommendation: Read
Ahoy Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
writer: Mark Russell artist: Mirko Colak covers: Amanda Conner (A), Joseph Michael Linsner (B), Khoi Pham (C), Mirko Colak (D), Casabella Cosplay (E), Andrew Pepoy “Seduction” Cover (RI), Amanda Conner (RI-B/W), Joseph Michael Linsner (RI-B/W), Khoi Pham (RI-Virgin), Pepoy “Seduction” Cover (RI-B/W) FC | 32 pages | Sword and Sorcery | $3.99 | Teen+
Know then, O Prince, that after two months of chasing Sonja The Red through the Hyrkanian steppes, Dragan and Sonja at last met in pitched battle. They fought, not for a bridge, as the great histories say, but for the future of the Hyborian Age. For what is a bridge, O Prince, but the choice of one realm over another? By MARK RUSSELL (Year of The Villain: Sinestro) and MIRKO COLAK (Conan).
(W) Mark Russell (A) Sami Basri (CA) Guillem March In Shops: Jan 01, 2020 SRP: $3.99
Harley Quinn is great at kicking jerks in the face. Paying her taxes? Not so much. Things turn from bad to worse when Harley’s new accountant, an ex-con called the Hambezzler, runs into trouble with his old crew and they come to Coney Island with one thing on their minds: payback!
2019 was an interesting year for me comics-wise as I did not get to read as widely or deeply as I liked because of a variety of factors, including my final two semesters of graduate school, working two library jobs (Where ordering and promoting comics were part of my duties.), and an impending move. Also, I decided to catch up on some “classic” comics like Miracleman, Ghost in the Shell, Junji Ito‘sTomie, and most of Brian Michael Bendis‘ and Michael Oeming‘s Powers, and Gail Simone‘s run on Secret Six.
However, I did have the opportunity to read some fantastic comics in 2019 as two of my favorite series of all time reached their conclusion. I also branched out a little bit, and this is the first time my year-end list has featured books from Ahoy and Harper Collins as well as a self-published comic.
10. Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion (Dark Horse)
Gerard Way, Gabriel Bá, and Nick Filardi‘s Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion is as wild and anarchic as the Netflix show was tame and Muggle-friendly. Hotel Oblivion is a love letter to Silver Age supervillains while actually taking time to deal with the relationships between the Hargreaves siblings. Bá and Filardi’s visuals are a chaos magic-shaped bullet to the head and especially sings in the world and city-rending set pieces towards the end of the miniseries that I read in trade paperback format.
Beth Barnett‘s self-published graphic memoir-meets-historical biography Dreamers of the Day is one of the most unique comics I’ve read in recent years. It chronicles the author’s trip to England as she conducts research on a graphic biography about T.E. Lawrence aka Lawrence of Arabia and is educational while being emotionally compelling. If there’s one word to describe this comic, it is “enthusiastic” as Barnett’s passion for making art, studying history, and making it relevant to contemporary readers shines through in her iconic, Herge-esque art style and accessible prose.
8. Winter Soldier#2-5(Marvel)
Kyle Higgins and Rod Reis create a redemptive narrative for the sidekick-turned assassin-turned superhero and occasional black ops agent, Bucky Barnes in their Winter Soldier miniseries. The comic’s beating heart is the flawed relationship between Bucky and RJ, a child assassin, that Bucky sees a lot of himself in. There is both humor and tragedy in their interactions. Reis’ lush pencils to color art style works for both the emotional breakdowns and action beatdowns.
7. Steeple #1-4 (Dark Horse)
The fantastic John Allison (Giant Days) both writes and draws this miniseries about an Anglican priest in training named Billie, who is assigned to a parish in the kooky village of Tredregyn, Cornwall. Steeple has an “anything but the kitchen sink” tone as its plots include fights against sea monsters, a charismatic Christian cult connected to windmills, and an ongoing conflict against the Church of Satan. (Billie also strikes up an unlikely friendship with the Satanic priestess, Maggie.) Allison mines a lot of humor out of the idiosyncrasies of different religions and small town life as well as the melodrama of good versus evil, and his art is expressive as always with the help of colorist Sarah Stern.
6. Second Coming #1-5 (Ahoy)
Speaking of religious satire, Mark Russell, Richard Pace, Leonard Kirk, and Andy Troy do an excellent job of showing how the historical figure Jesus would be received in the modern world with the twist of having an “edgy” superhero named Sunstar as a roommate. Beginning with a retelling of the creation of the world, Russell and Pace walk a tightrope between reverence and irreverence touching on a variety of issues, including megachurches, homophobia, and Pauline theology. Another enjoyable part of Second Coming is Leonard Kirk’s inking when the story decides to be a traditional superhero comic for a second, or there’s a flashback to Satan tempting Jesus as he plays a complex role in the narrative.
I knew Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora, and Tamra Bonvillain‘s Once and Future would be my cup of tea when it featured Arthurian legends and the town of Bath where I studied abroad in summer 2014 as plot points as well as having a complicated relationship between a grandmother and grandson at its core. Once and Future is action-packed read steeped in Arthurian lore with dynamic art from Mora and a mystical color palette from Bonvillain. It’s a straightforward adventure/dysfunctional family/romance comic that also plays with the symbols (Excalibur, Holy Grail etc.) and tropes of these kinds of stories, and I’m glad that it’s an ongoing and not just a mini.
4. Giant Days #46-54, As Time Goes By (BOOM! Studios)
Esther, Daisy, and Susan finally go their separate ways in the final issues of John Allison, Max Sarin, and Whitney Cogar‘s Giant Days plus a reunion one-shot where Daisy and Susan tag-team and rescue Esther from the clutches of Type A London publishing types. The final year of Giant Days had a lot of pathos to go with its usual comedy with several issues focusing on the strained relationship between Susan’s boyfriend McGraw and his father and his reaction to his sudden death. There is also all the usual college shenanigans with moments of reflection to show that these women have come a long way from randomly sharing a room back in far off 2015.
3. House of X #1-6, Powers of X #1-6 (Marvel)
In their ambitious twelve-issue House of X/Powers of X “event”, Jonathan Hickman, R.B. Silva, and Pepe Larraz made the X-Men relevant again thanks to a heavy dose of speculative fiction, geopolitics, and good old fashioned superhero soap opera. Hickman gave B-list characters like Goldballs, Doug Ramsey, and of course, Moira MacTaggert and the sentient island of Krakoa pivotal roles in his story of a rise of a mutant nation as well as the usual suspects like Magneto, Professor X, the Summers family, Jean Grey, and Emma Frost. He created a fantastic sandbox for these fan-favorite characters to play in as well as leaving some intrigue open for the spinoff stories. (The whole Moira X thing, Kitty Pryde being unable to enter Krakoa, Apocalypse and Sinister’s intentions.) I haven’t been this excited to read the X-Books as a line since Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen were writing Wolverine and the X-Men and Uncanny X-Men respectively. Plus the Hickman designed diagrams add great depth to the story and area visual treat.
2. New Kid (HarperCollins)
New Kid is a middle-grade graphic novel by cartoonist Jerry Craft that was recommended to me by my supervisor at the public library I worked at. Itis about an African-American teenager named Jordan, who transfers from a diverse public middle school to a less diverse private one. Over the course of the book, Craft fleshes out Jordan and his relationships with his old friends from his neighborhood to his new ones at the private school as he navigates playing soccer, racial microaggressions, crushes, and bonding over art and video games. The comic deftly navigates race and class issues while being an enjoyable slice of life story with Craft adding some fun visual flourishes like making the title page of each chapter a pop culture homage. New Kid‘s clear storytelling and a relatable storyline about not fitting in at a new school make it a book that I would recommend to kids and adults, comics and non-comics readers.
1. The Wicked + the Divine #41-45 (Image)
Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson really stuck the landing in the final arc of The Wicked + the Divine, which was titled “Okay” and followed the surviving Pantheon members as they gave up divinity and lived normal lives. Basically, they grew up, and so did I. The last issues of WicDiv are peppered with powerful moments as Gillen and McKelvie connect flashbacks of the millennia past to the Pantheon’s reality and let Ananke/Minerva be a manipulator, Luci be wicked, Baal be a protector, and Laura be human one last time. The final issue is an epilogue set in the future and filled with love and emotion with McKelvie and Wilson nailing the look of the elderly, former Pantheon members. It’s sad to see WicDiv go, but it had a beautiful ending and was my favorite comic, both of 2019 and of the decade as a whole.
(W) Mark Russell (A/CA) Stephen Byrne In Shops: Dec 11, 2019 SRP: $3.99
Zan and Jayna and their friend Polly Math plan the heist of a lifetime-from going undercover to stealing Lex Luthor’s personal rocket, all in the name of saving Polly’s father, Filo Math, from eternal imprisonment in the Phantom Zone. But even if they manage to pull it off, are the Wonder Twins prepared to face the terrors of deep space? Meanwhile, Filo’s old sentient computer program reawakens and connects to the internet for the first time…what havoc will it wreak when it’s unleashed on the modern world?
(W) Mark Russell (A) Mike Norton (CA) Amanda Conner In Shops: Dec 11, 2019 SRP: $4.99
Harley Quinn hosts “Villainy’s Biggest Night” as the DCU’s most dastardly gather at the Hall of Doom to do what they do best-congratulate themselves! But one villain has a secret plan, fueled by years of being overlooked by his peers, and the burning desire to receive the praise he so rightly deserves… Don’t miss out on a one-of-a-kind comic book experience, with the winners decided by you, the fans! Who will be crowned DC’s Villain of the Year? Go to dcvillainoftheyear.com for more information!
writer: Mark Russell artist: Mirko Colak covers: Amanda Conner (A), Joseph Michael Linsner (B), Khoi Pham (C), Mirko Colak (D), Cosplay Variant (E) Andrew Pepoy “Seduction” Cover (RI), Amanda Conner (RI-B/W), Joseph Michael Linsner (RI-B/W), Khoi Pham (RI-Virgin), Pepoy “Seduction” Cover (RI-B/W) FC | 32 pages | Sword and Sorcery | $3.99 | Teen+
The penultimate chapter in Mark Russell’s first year of Red Sonja. Dragan The Magnificent’s complete victory is assured, save for one She-Devil, incapable of dying, unwilling to cede control of a bridge…