Whosoever holds this keyboard, if they be worthy, shall possess the power of the Critic. But here at GateCrashers, everyone and anyone is worthy of this power in our weekly Fun-Size roundtable! Every week, you can join us here as our Warriors Five (to Seven, numbers may vary) ponder pensively about one of the many books hitting store shelves. This week’s comic is Beta Ray Bill #2, written and illustrated by Daniel Warren Johnson, colored by Mike Spicer, and lettered by Joe Sabino. Now let’s hear what our roundtable of critics have to say about it:
I was first introduced to Beta Ray Bill through Walt Simonson’s iconic run on Thor and there’s something about Daniel Warren Johnson and Mike Spicer’s Beta Ray Bill that has the Simonson coolness that keeps me engaged. The artwork here feels like an evolution of Simonson’s pencils. There’s design-porn abounds and there’s colour to every character and every moment.
There is a consistent sense of motion, whether that be the fight scenes, like Skurge defending Bill and calling him his wingman in a heartwarming moment of comedy, or something quieter like Odin and Bill having a conversation about the latter’s desire to restore his original form. The motion in this comic is always present, no matter the scene. Nothing is static. While the story is interesting, regardless of whether the premise of Beta Ray Bill wanting to “fix” his looks has been told before, it doesn’t matter to me. This is a comic that exudes cool. For me, the plot doesn’t matter. I only care about that addictive sense of motion that helps the story “pop”.
Folks, I DESPISE this comic. How, after so many years and so many stories of Bill accepting and loving himself, do we reset the character and base an entire mini on the old, tired “I’m a horse faced monster and I hate myself” trope? You could say Daniel Warren Johnson is “beating a dead horse” with this, as the only thing he seems capable of doing as a writer is rehashing this ancient, already-resolved plot point while making CONSTANT horse jokes about Bill. How all these alien races know what an Earth animal like the horse is, I couldn’t tell you. No respect or proper characterization is given to anyone.
If all this isn’t bad enough, the plot takes a turn into Bill taking dangerous and possibly sinister methods to acquire power, which is a plot done before and better in the Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter miniseries. Then we have the last page: Skuttlebutt, Bill’s longtime sentient battleship, acquiring a sexy female body, because of course she does. Please stop taking every female AI and giving it a robot body with banging tits and ass. This really sums up the entire book at this point: it’s embarrassing, it’s tired, it’s rote, it’s all been done before and overall, it makes an entirely TERRIBLE comic. The one positive in this book? Mike Spicer’s colors. Hardly anyone is doing it better than him right now in the coloring game, and his work is phenomenal throughout.
My engagement with Asgard/Thor books is often touch and go — I’m nowhere near as in touch with the history as I am with, let’s say, X-Men. As such, I’ve gone into Daniel Warren Johnson’s and Mike Spicer’s Beta Ray Bill run with far less context than your average Thor die-hard.
I have surprisingly loved this series so far!
Issue #2 of Beta Ray Bill has a wicked sense of momentum to it — the issue weaves through various settings, emotions, and action scenes virtually effortlessly. Spicer’s colors add a certain dimensionality to Johnson’s art, furthered by Joe Sabino’s dynamic lettering. If the creative team keeps this level of quality going for the rest of the series, Beta Ray Bill may emerge as one of the best books of 2021.
Back in December when they first solicited a Beta Ray Bill book spinning out of the then-ongoing King in Black event, I was both worried yet excited. It seemed like a boring event, but the solicited tie-in series all seemed like a lot of fun. Then came March and Beta Ray Bill #1. I immediately took to Twitter to complain about the gross mischaracterization of Bill and how immediately exhausted I was by the book. Now we sit here, a month later with issue #2 out, and I find myself even more upset with whatever this book is trying to be.
I have been trying to parse what this book is attempting to say — Is it trying to carry a message about self-love and acceptance? Or is it trying to be a whimsical action book with a main character trying to find himself after a major traumatic event? Either way, nothing about it is landing. I find myself wondering if Johnson initially wanted to write another character but was denied and instead “Replace All”‘d whatever character he had his heart set on. That being said, Johnson’s art, Mike Spicer’s coloring, and Joe Sabino’s lettering all look incredible here, and are the standout pieces of the issue. Between that and the bar fight scene, I largely liked this issue more than the first. Sadly though, that’s not enough to save whatever car crash is going on here.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about Beta Ray Bill but have always liked him as a character, because he’s just Peak Weird Superhero in a way that I absolutely love. Going into this, I genuinely didn’t even know he was a cyborg, or that he isn’t just like… always a horse?
Anyway, I liked this issue a lot more than the first, but I have a lot of questions. Mostly, buddy, are you okay? I feel that between the whole emasculation vibe I get from Bill’s insistence that he needs to become humanoid again to fuck Lady Sif (you won’t bang him? Seriously? You’re probably grimy as hell and your cooch undoubtedly smells like old bear skin and musty beer) and the very horny Odin and even more horny Skuttlebutt android at the end, this guy is really trying to work some shit out that should probably be done through a therapist?
Skurge is absolutely delightful, and the bar fight scene is definitely a highlight. Overall, I love the line art, coloring, and lettering; the visuals for this book are incredible! I just, uh, have a lot of trepidation on how this Fellowship-heads-to-Mt. Doom adventure mixed with the clunky “finding myself/accepting my inner beauty” thing is going to play out.