Weekend Shorts: Gods and Avengers

The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 3: “Commercial Suicide”, by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 3After the insane ending of the second volume of this series, I was eager to get my hands on this one. So imagine my surprise when I jumped in and found out that this arc has very little to do with those very important events. Shoot!

Well, all right, the first issue (#12) covers a bit of the aftermath, but the story is mostly an excuse for some god-fighting, which is pretty cool on its own, so, okay. The subsequent issues delve a little more into the stories of the individual gods, mostly the ones who haven’t been front and center so far. There’s an issue for Tara that is secretly about the price of fame and the awfulness of the internet, one for Woden that clarifies a few things that happened earlier, one for Amaterasu that talks about identity and appropriation, a… very odd one for The Morrigan and Baphomet, and one for Sakhmet that reminds everyone that cats are adorable and dangerous.

Then, finally, in the last pages, the so-titled “Inevitable Cliffhanger”. These guys are killing me, I swear.

Speaking of these guys, this volume was a little strange as most of the issues weren’t actually drawn by McKelvie, who was gallivanting about somewhere and was replaced by various artists on each issue. Some of the artists stayed close to McKelvie’s art, which made things a bit uncanny valley as I strived to remember who this particular chick with short black hair was supposed to be, and some of the artists (especially Brandon Graham in the Sakhmet issue) went in a completely different direction, which was even more distracting. I don’t know how people who read superhero comics put up with fill-in artists on a regular basis; so much of what I love about my favorite comics is the art and it is so strange to see anything else.

Hawkeye, Vol. 4: “Rio Bravo”, by Matt Fraction and David Aja
Hawkeye, Vol. 4Although, to be fair, guests artists can’t be any stranger than this whole Hawkeye run, especially these last two volumes. Reading them in the collected volumes is the way to go, definitely, since the two storylines trade off in the issues but are kept separate here.

Unfortunately, they gave me the better storyline first, with Kate Bishop off in LA. This half of the story is… way more confusing. We get that terrible jumping-around-in-time thing again, leaving me baffled as to what order anything happens in, and it turns out that Clint has a brother who seems like he might be a bad guy, maybe, but maybe not?, and it also turns out that the tracksuit mafia guys are just trying to maintain a real estate deal, which, what, and also Clint goes deaf and resorts to sign language which makes for some really interesting page layouts but is SO CONFUSING.

I can see why this run didn’t make it any farther, is what I’m saying, but I’m also glad that I read it because Hawkeye is way cooler than Jeremy Renner and Kate Bishop is way cooler than Clint Barton and now I know these things and that makes me smart. And since the next volume of this series (Volume 5, collecting issues #1-5, I hate comics numbering) is written by Jeff Lemire, it is very likely that I will be checking that out in the near future.

Weekend Shorts: Weird-Pants Comics

Let’s embrace the weird this weekend, from teenage superheroes to zombie gravediggers. What are you reading?

Hawkeye, Vol. 3: “L.A. Woman”, by Matt Fraction and Annie Wu
Hawkeye Vol. 3After the super weirdness that was Volume 2, I was a little bit worried about this one. Luckily, this is a far more straightforward set of stories! We pick up with the human version of the Pizza Dog story, wherein Kate Bishop yells at Clint Barton and then packs up her stuff (some of which has been adopted by Clint) and Pizza Dog and heads out to Los Angeles to get a fresh start. However, it’s not quite the fresh start she might have liked, as she quickly gets herself cut off from Daddy’s money and, possibly worse, runs into Madame Masque, who is really not thrilled about being bested by a teenager. Kate manages to escape the bad guys but not her lack of money, so she sets herself up as a private investigator to earn a few bucks to feed a picky cat (is there any other kind?). Except she’s actually pretty terrible at investigating, and of course her investigations just lead her back into the world of Madame Masque and her evil evil plans.

I like this volume quite a bit because Fraction does great things with Kate Bishop and her moody teenager-ness. I love the way she tries to set herself up as an Avenger, but quickly backs down to Young Avenger and then to Person Who Is Pretty Decent at Archery. I also like one bit in which Kate make a really terrible decision and you can see her inner, smarter voice arguing and then being slowly worn down to acquiescence. She knows she’s being an idiot, but she literally cannot help herself. I didn’t really get the bad-guy storyline, which is rather convoluted and only just barely maybe makes sense in the end, but that was okay because I was happy to sit back and enjoy the fun art and the fun characters. I am curious to see if, when I get my hands on the next volume, some of this will make more sense, as I know that these issues are not collected in chronological order. I guess I’ll find out in August?

iZombie, Vol. 1: “Dead to the World”, by Chris Roberson and Mike Allred
iZombie Vol. 1So, true story, I am madly in love with the iZombie television show. It was one of the few shows I watched this season that I loved beginning to end, and I cannot wait to see where it will go next season. So, of course, I had to check out the source material during the summer break.

I was very happy that I knew going in that the show is completely different from the comic, but somehow I didn’t expect “completely different” to be… so different. Literally the only thing that is the same between the two is that there is a girl who is a zombie and when she eats brains she temporarily gets the memories of the person whose brains she ate. That’s it. The setting is different, the background story is different, the friends are different, the bad guy is different, the style is different, the everything else is different.

And it’s great! Our hero is Gwen Dylan, a zombie gravedigger who uses her job to get sustainably sourced brains rather than, like, eating random people. She is friends with a ghost and a werewolf — sorry, were-terrier — and they just kind of… hang out. In the first issue, we are introduced to a strange fellow who is doing creepy things to some poor guy, who ends up being the brains that Gwen eats later, and as she tries to figure out what was up with dead guy’s life she ends up drawn toward his killer. Meanwhile, there is a gang of vampires doing the usual vampire bad stuff to lonely singles in the area, and a team of monster-hunters comes to town to put a stop to them and any other shouldn’t-be-undead person around. This is bad news for Gwen & Co., especially after Gwen gets all flirty with one of the hunters. Then Gwen finally meets that weird guy from the beginning, and things get even stranger.

There is a lot of worldbuilding in this first volume and not a lot of actual plot, but I kind of liked that because it helped me to absolutely differentiate this from the story I thought I might be getting. I like Gwen just as much as I like Liv, so that’s helpful, and I am super intrigued to see what’s going to happen with her with regards to hot monster hunter and also creepy monster dude, who insinuates that Gwen is way more than she thinks she is. I will definitely be hunting down the next volume of this series soon!

Weekend Shorts: ODY-C and The Bunker

Before we dive in to this week’s comics, I want to remind everyone that tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day! I have like a million things I am doing this weekend but one of the most important to me (like, seriously, I took off work for this) is stopping into my local comic shop and grabbing my allotted free comics as well as whatever they have that I want to pay for. If you have a comic shop within driving distance of you (which you can check at that link above), you have no excuse not to stop in and grab 100 percent absolutely free comics!

Okay, back to the writeups!

ODY-C, #1, by Matt Fraction and Christian Ward
ODY-C #1I bought this issue the day it came out, knowing nothing about it other than that Matt Fraction wrote it and that Matt Fraction is awesome. I then read it shortly thereafter, and only realized that I hadn’t talked about it here as I was packing it up to donate to my library.

Why did I forget to talk about it for five months? Well, I had really bought it for my husband, and almost entirely because the first couple of “pages” are this huge, 8-page fold-out with a giant illustration on one side and a four-page timeline and four-page map on the other. Timelines? Maps? They are squarely in Scott’s wheelhouse. But still I wanted to read it first, to save Scott the trouble of reading it if it was bad and because MATT FRACTION come on.

So I did. And it was… weird. See, ODY-C is a complete rewrite of Greek mythology, specifically The Odyssey (see what they did there?), wherein all the characters are either ladies or an intersex… sex… created for the purposes of procreation. That timeline thing explains it all, I think, if it doesn’t break your brain, which it totally did mine.

As a person with limited knowledge of Greek mythology, I found myself knowing just enough to know that things were oddly different, not enough to know why, and too much to be able to just read the book as a new story and let it do its own thing. I also really couldn’t get past the voice of the story, in which people say things like, “There should come thunderous punishment from we Olympians for their insolence and hubris.” No. My brain is broken already, I cannot read formal language.

But it’s a super pretty book, with wild technicolor illustrations and amazing, intricate detail. If you’re the kind of person who wants to read space-based, gender-swapped version of The Odyssey, I can’t imagine you’ll do anything but love this.

The Bunker, Vol. 1, by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari
The Bunker, Vol. 1This, on the other hand, this book was solidly in my wheelhouse. Five college kids go off into the woods to bury a time capsule, because nerds, but when they find the perfect spot it turns out it’s already taken, by a giant bunker. Even weirder, this bunker has their names on it. Even even weirder, this bunker contains letters to themselves, from their future selves. AWESOME.

It seems that most of the letter writers are doing this as a way to stop the terrible horrible things that are going to happen from happening, but the letter we read first wants none of that. This letter wants its reader to make sure everything happens just as it’s supposed to, which may be a little hard with all of his friends working against him.

As we go through the story we get bits and pieces of the letters, with flashes forward to the horrors of the future world and some flashes back that show how all these guys became friends in the first place and how that’s all about to fall apart. The bunker also has a surprise guest who is going to make things very intriguing in the future.

I love the art in this book as well, which is this interesting sketchy pencilly style that fits with the book’s themes of despair and also the malleability of this timeline. I am super excited to see where this comic goes!

Weekend Shorts: Saga and Hawkeye

Saga, Vol. 4, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Saga, Vol. 4This comic, guys. It’s sooooo good. If you’re not reading it, you’re missing out. In this volume, it seems we’ve skipped a bit forward in time — Hazel is a toddler, ex-slave Sophie is a hipster tween, and Prince Robot’s baby is born in a graphic and very human way on the very first page. Good morning! We get to see our favorite fugitive family having a bit of downtime on a planet called Gardenia, where Marko plays stay-at-home dad while Alana plays a… um… I don’t even know. While Alana makes money acting on a very telenovela-ish broadcast thing while wearing awkwardly sexy outfits. As you do? Anyway, this leads to some marital tensions that almost turn really really terrible, but instead only turn pretty darn terrible at the end.

Meanwhile, there is a single commoner staging an uprising on the Robot Kingdom, stealing a royal baby and running off to Gardenia for broadcasting purposes; Prince Robot coming out of his stupor to hunt down his kidnapped baby; Gwendolyn, Sophie, and Lying Cat on a heist; and a brief but delightful cameo from my favorite tabloid reporter couple. Such excitement!

Hawkeye, Vol. 2: “Little Hits”, by Matt Fraction and David Aja
Hawkeye, Vol. 2Hey, remember when I read the last volume and I was totally baffled the entire time? Yeah, that doesn’t change. I was prepared this time, but this is definitely still a thinky book (which is probably why they’re ending it soon) that requires a lot of concentration.

The first issue (#7) is pretty straightforward — Hawkeye (Clint) helps one of his tenants/neighbors take care of his dad out in Far Rockaway during the storm of the century while Hawkeye (Kate) goes to an expectedly disastrous engagement party in Atlantic City during same said storm. But then things go back to confusing normal in the second issue (#6, just for funsies), in which we see six days in the life of Hawkeye, shuffled up and requiring the use of clocks to help you figure out the timeline. Oh, good. The next issue (#8, and back to a normal order) details how gingers are terrible for Clint’s well-being, from Clint’s point of view, and the one after that details how gingers are terrible for Clint’s well-being from the points of view of the dangerous women in his life. Then there’s a Kate issue introducing a bad guy who is also apparently a clown, and then to cap it off there is the absolute best issue ever, starring Pizza Dog!

Like, no, seriously, this thing is amazing. Pizza Dog is the dog Hawkeye rescued from some bad guys, and this whole issue is from his point of view, so there’s not much dialogue except for what the dog presumably understands. Mostly it’s just page after page of Pizza Dog wandering around, recognizing people by how they smell and noting what things are related to them, and then also stumbling upon a murder scene, flirting with a neighbor dog, attacking bad guys, escaping bad guys, and leaving one Hawkeye to adventure with another. This is probably my second-favorite single issue after the choose-your-own adventure in The Unwritten. I am intrigued to see what Fraction and Aja can do to top this.

Weekend Shorts: Hawkeye, Vol. 1

Hawkeye: My Life As a WeaponIt has been a strange couple of reading weeks ’round these here parts, due to my book club deciding to read The Stand and therefore all of my dedicated reading time being already spoken for by that giant doorstop. Luckily, my un-dedicated reading time — couch time with my video-game-playing husband, can’t-fall-asleep time, that sort of stuff — has been filled with some superfun superhero antics (is Hawkeye a superhero? I mean, if Batman’s a superhero, I guess he must be?). Waaaaaay better than plague fiction, especially these days…

Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life As a Weapon
I had heard lots of good things about this comic series, though I couldn’t tell you any specific thing, just that people I know and mostly trust read and enjoyed either the single-issue comics or this first collected volume. All I really knew about it was that it’s about Hawkeye (genius, I am) and that it’s about Hawkeye when he’s not an Avenger, which I thought could be pretty interesting. And… it is? I think?

I’m not sure because none of the issues in this collection are easy to read, which I appreciate in theory but which breaks my brain in practice. The story-telling is in no way linear — the first issue has three distinct timelines (dog, eviction, Hawkeye badassery) that are each told in vignettes that are chronological for their story but which trade off with the other timelines in a non-chronological fashion, if that makes any sense, which it probably doesn’t. Another issue has Hawkeye listing his nine most terrible ideas of the day in order from least to most horrible, which are of course also not in chronological order. I like it. It’s cool. I’m still not entirely sure what happened.

But what little I understand of the various stories is pretty cool, so there’s that. That first story shows Hawkeye as Clint Barton, awesome sharpshooter with a little notoriety but no pressing superhero engagements when the Avengers are out of session, which leaves him free to fight the evictions of his friends in his apartment building. The second brings in Kate Bishop, alternate Hawkeye, to raid a circus run by bad guys, as you do. The third is… I don’t know, there’s a car and a chick and some trick arrows? And then the fourth and fifth are a two-parter in which Hawkeye has to go win an extremely incriminating for himself and SHIELD tape (no, really, a videotape, omg) at what is apparently an auction for villain types, including a really go-getter Hydra member who makes me giggle. There’s also a bonus issue, Young Avengers #6, which explains a little bit of the Clint/Kate relationship. No big overarching story that I can see, just some fun times with Hawkeye and sometimes alternate Hawkeye. I’ll definitely be checking out the next volume, but with probably more brain power on reserve next time!