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Comics

The Belle Reve Files – Suicide Squad #10

Welcome back convicts. Today we’re discussing a landmark issue of John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad, #10. You might’ve encountered this cover before. It’s incredibly iconic and might be the single most recognisable image associated with this run. Obviously, that’s because of a certain vigilante taking up much of the page. Batman sells books and bumps those numbers up.

But outside of Batman, it’s an incredible cover. It’s a powerful statement and in my mind, the greatest image of Amanda Waller ever drawn. Here we see Batman with his back to the wall, a much shorter and obviously less physically powerful character barking at him. It boldly throws Waller into the wider universe and having freaking BATMAN as the one she’s backing into a corner sends a powerful message. It’s one of those covers that says a lot with a little and leaps off the stands. So what about the story behind the cover? Well let’s dive in, shall we? 

The issue starts with the introduction of Father Craemer, a priest who is setting up shop in Belle Reve. Craemer is one of my favourite supporting characters in this run, it’s clear that Ostrander loves him since he’s used later in his Spectre run. Craemer has decided to move here to help these criminals and minister to them. The good word and all that jazz. He’s a great character that has a really unique and interesting relationship with the Squad. We have psychologists to get into their heads, but Craemer gets to their hearts. He’s someone who actively tries to empathise with the Squad and that’s something Ostrander uses to great effect later.

Craemer is introduced alongside another member of the Bell Reve staff, Murph. Murph is a prison guard, who helps to fill out the Bell Reve supporting cast. I particularly like his conversation with Craemer in this opening scene. We get to understand why he’s working here and that he doesn’t like it all that much. It helps to ground the series and shows that these are real people, not background extras. This conversation is only on the third page and we already know everything we need to know about these characters. We understand who they are, what their role is, and what their perspective is on working here. 

The two of them then encounter Duchess, who we met in the last issue. She seems to have linked up with Belle Reve between issues after hauling in Slipknot. We get this really great panel of her with this massive sci-fi gun like something out of Aliens. It’s apt since Duchess is basically a female version of Dutch from Predator. A muscle-bound commando with a bandana firing massive machine guns from the hip. Ostrander, McDonnell, and the team then move from her introduction into a scene with Flo, Waller, and John Economos.

I love the way that the scene changes here as Waller sees the Duchess on a TV screen from the last panel. There are a lot of characters in this series and it could feel all over the place shifting between them all. Thankfully Ostrander manages to tie it all together seamlessly. When you read these issues you’ll notice that he only shifts perspective through action and reaction. We start with Cramer and Murph but switch to an introduction of Duchess when Murph gets a call about her. That then moves us to Waller as she watches her on a screen. It’s just really damn good writing and it feels totally seamless. Everything just flows really well and the momentum is never slowed for a second.

Now comics are often spoken of as condensed storytelling. Comics are a medium that has to do a lot in a small number of pages, especially back in the day when long-running stories weren’t as common. I want to point to this specific page as an example of Ostrander doing this condensed storytelling perfectly. It’s a conversation between Flo, Waller, and Economos and it tells you vital information about the characters while setting up plot points for future stories. In a single page, we learn that Flo has a crush on Bronze Tiger and that Waller knows about it. We know that Waller feels she’s saddled with Flag and believes he’s inevitably going to crack and we understand that Flo yearns to be in the field but that Waller cares too much about her.

That’s a lot for a single page but it never feels exhausting or forced. Flo never outright says she has a crush on Tiger but Waller joking about it tells us all we need to. Waller telling Flo that she’s not expendable tells us all we need to know about their relationship. Nothing is explicitly said but the implication is enough for us to immediately understand. It’s all done so efficiently and smoothly. If someone is wanting to make comics they should look at this page and study why and how it works. 

Following this, we get a brief but important scene with Rick Flag and Mark Shaw. Shaw announces that he’s leaving to do his own thing as Manhunter and invites Flag to come with him. Flag just ignores him, locked in his grief for Karin. It’s a brief moment that mostly acts to set up Manhunter’s own series which was also written by Ostrander and his wife Kim Yale. But it also helps to establish just how grief-stricken and disillusioned Flag is. It also goes back to my point about transitions. Waller spoke about Flag going off the deep end and in the next scene, he barely talks. 

Shaw heads out and the issue cuts to midnight. A lone figure sits in their cell, shrouded by shadow. The figure blocks the security camera and escapes his cell. The guards note that the man is Matches Malone, thrown in Belle Reve as a favour from Commissioner Gordon. We get these great pages by McDonell with lots of small panels showing glimpses of this figure breaking out and heading to storage revealing a package from Gordon. Inside of course is Batman’s costume, revealing that this figure is our very own Caped Crusader. Batman breaks into the office of John Economos and does some snooping around as Batman tends to do. He is eventually found out by Waller and she calls in Flag, Duchess, and Deadshot. Only Waller is interrupted by something on the monitor, Batman.

Here we finally get the reveal. This whole breakout sequence is so incredibly well done. See what needs to be understood is that here, Batman’s a horror movie monster. He’s like Jaws or the Xenomorph. He’s revealed in brief glimpses only to come out in this amazing big panel, as a dark vengeful creature of the night. It makes perfect sense as well given that this is a Squad book, not a Batman book, so we get to see him in a new light and from a different perspective. I’m also just always gonna love anytime Matches Malone is used, such a fun part of the Batman mythos. 

Of course, the Squad aren’t just gonna let Batman collect his things and leave. We get to see Duchess in action first, McDonnell draws her as a massive imposing figure that towers over Batman. It’s here where we get a lot of our understanding of the character. She’s someone who revels in a good fight and yearns for a worthy opponent. Introducing a character by essentially having her hold her own against Batman is a smart way for the creative team to set up how powerful she is. Of course, being Batman, Duchess is taken out as he moves on to Deadshot. There’s a great little page of Batman ducking under Lawton’s line of sight and knocking him out.

Batman seems to be home free before Flag comes in and tackles him. We get a great action sequence of these two stern heroes coming to blows. It’s depicted in another one of those full-action pages that McDonnell does a lot in this run. We don’t really get to see who wins though as Waller interrupts with the entire staff of Belle Reve. 

Here we get just some of the coolest stuff ever in a comic as Batman negotiates with Waller. Millennium as an event wasn’t amazing but it’s important for how it thrust the Suicide Squad into the wider universe. The Squad is supposed to be a secret so what happens when they take part in a line-wide crossover event? This is the fallout of that event as Batman notes that he had heard rumours of the Squad and became curious during the crossover.

This issue really functions as a way for Ostrander to address how the Squad can even function in a world of superheroes. So Ostrander throws in a character to effectively tackle this head-on, and what better character for it than the world’s greatest detective. Only Batman doesn’t get out with the evidence, Waller threatens to find out who he is and blow his cover if Batman blows theirs.

The whole issue effectively ends in a stalemate which is hardly the most dramatic end for a crossover comic book. But it’s important to remember just who these characters were at this point. Batman had just broken into and out of a prison and torn through the Squad with little effort. He went through all of this and in the end, was only stopped by Waller. It’s the defining moment for this character. She’s tough as nails, will do anything to get what she wants, and won’t let anyone jeopardize the Squad, no matter who it is. Not many characters can say that they blackmailed Batman. It’s such an important moment because it solidifies her place within the wider DC Universe. She’s not just someone who commands a Squad of criminals, she’s someone who made Batman think twice. 

Also as a side note, we get one single panel of Deadshot talking to Batman that just reveals so much about Lawton. Deadshot remarks how he’d take out Batman just for fun. Only Batman points out that if Deadshot could’ve he would’ve, instead, he was holding back. It completely shatters everything we know about the two characters’ rivalry. It’s not explained or elaborated on and it doesn’t need to be. The implication is interesting enough and forces us to think more deeply about the characters.

This whole issue is just damn good writing with a killer premise and fun action but it’s all in service of character. Like how Batman’s presence causes Flag to yell at the Squad and complain that he deserves better than to be working with this scum. It’s here where Waller reinstates Flag as leader since he’s just proven himself. Despite the story ending in a stalemate so much happens in this issue. New characters are introduced, old characters are given new motivations and interesting new elements of characters are revealed. This was all done in a brief 22 pages. 

It’s also just a stellar Batman story. Ostrander is one of my favourite writers to work on the character despite not having a proper long run with him. He just gets Batman and the unique presence he brings to a story. This entire issue is an absolute masterclass of comic book storytelling, it might just be the greatest single issue of the entire story. Just really highlights how good this medium can be when everyone is working at the top of their game. 

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Comics

Maw #1 – Review

“What does your anger look like”- Maw #1

The world isn’t fair. Justice is more like a fairy tale than anything resembling reality, and with an unfair world comes rage, a lot of it. We tend to see rage as this horrible feeling, which, to be honest, isn’t the case. Which doesn’t mean it’s a beautiful thing or something like that. It just means that anger and rage are a lot more complex and more transformative than we might think. These are some of the things we can see in Maw.

Maw is a new horror mini-series written by Jude Ellison S. Doyle, art by A. L. Keplan, Colors by Fabian Mascolo and Federica Mascolo, and letters by Cardinal Rae. It tells the story of Marion, who is dragged into a female retreat by her sister Mandy, trying to give her a new perspective and some empowerment, things she seemingly can only get from a drink. But after Marion is the victim of a horrible assault, things take a turn and awakening something in Marion that starts a violent transformation.

Maw #1 (Written by Jude Ellison S. Doyle, illustrated by A.L. Kaplan, colored by Fabiana Mascolo with coloring assistance by Federica Mascolo, and lettered by Cardinal Rae) / Source: Boom! Studios

The first thing that caught my eye in this comic was the way it’s colored. Fabian Mascolo (with the assistance of Federica Mascolo) uses colors in a way that really enhances the story. One example of this is how Mandy’s redshirt really contrasts with the rest of the color palette, while Marion’s black outfit makes her less noticeable, even with a bright background. This is such a great way to make the reader familiar with the characters without tons of boring exposition. There are a lot more moments where colors are used to strengthen the atmosphere and tone of a scene. I will always appreciate this in a comic.

The art itself is also pretty amazing. Kaplan’s use of shadows, facial expressions, and body language does a really great job of telling the story, making the readers feel the emotions permeating the scene. There is a flashback that is extremely charged with emotion. But due to the nature of the scene, feeling them without being there could be a challenge if it wasn’t for Kaplan’s fantastic job.

Maw #1 (Written by Jude Ellison S. Doyle, illustrated by A.L. Kaplan, colored by Fabiana Mascolo with coloring assistance by Federica Mascolo, and lettered by Cardinal Rae) / Source: Boom! Studios

All that being said, if I had to choose a favorite thing about this comic, it would be the way it explores the themes of injustice, violence, and rage. This comic doesn’t hold any punches, it’s pretty raw and will make you feel extremely mad at the world, and I think that’s good. We should be mad at the world when looking at the right reasons. Thinking that there isn’t any more violence against women anymore is either naivety or voluntary denial of the facts. The way the system continues to run over the many women that have been victims of violence is just terrifying. Maw takes these problems and puts them right in your face, making you really think about it. There are some moments where Doyle’s dialogue will make your blood boil. I’m thankful for that.

Maw #1 is an outstanding introduction to what looks to be a shocking and important story. The creative team uses everything the medium of comics can give you and uses it to create a comic that will make you see through the effects of rage and the ways of power. I truly believe this is the start of one of the most important series in comics right now.

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Comics

GC616 News for Marvel Comics Released 09/08/2021

The GC616 logo flashes across the screen before fading to reveal Reagan sitting at the desk like always.

Reagan: Good evening and welcome to GC616. The Bullseye lockdown continues, now in its tenth day, no updates have been issued by the authorities who are requesting that citizens continue to stay inside their homes and away from any uncovered windows. As usual, we will update you on the details as they become available.

In the meantime, here’s Justin with some news about the comic series Conan.

Justin Partridge III sits behind his usual taped together TV trays, but he looks concerningly happy this time, dressed head to toe in a Pilgrim outfit. A grim black one, complete with tall, wide brimmed hat, riding cloak, and sword belt, which houses a rapier. An odd staff-like object adored with the head of a wolf leans against the main anchor table. Draped across the front of the trays is a poorly hung streamer-paper banner that reads “HAPPY 300 ISSUES, CONAN!” and to the side of the trays a low sitting lawn chair stands.

Justin gestures wildly with his hands as he speaks.

JPIII: Hello again, Citizen Fleshies! MAN, do I have a treat for you today. Here in the studio today, all the way from Aquilonia and The Hyborian Age! The man celebrating a whopping THREE HUNDRED ISSUES! The one, the only, CONAN, THE CIMMERIAN!

Justin takes his phone from the cloak and starts to play a random Basil Poledouris track as Conan The Barbarian steps cautiously into the studio. He is wearing one of his borrowed Hellfire Club frocks but holds a wicked looking double-headed axe. He sits but lays the axe on his lap, eying the off-screen crew menacingly.

JPIII: Conan! Thank y-

Conan: My wine.

JPIII: OH! Yeah, of course!

Justin reaches behind the trays and lifts up a comically huge clay jug of wine. He hands it, with some effort, to Conan, who seems able to lift and drink from it with one hand.

JPIII: So, Conan. 300 issues! That’s a big deal! Did you have any idea when you first met the Frost Giant Daughter that you would end up here? 300 issues later?

Conan seems to have finished the wine. He eyes Justin closer.

Conan: Why are you dressed as a priest?

JPIII: It’s not…I’m Solomon Kane. 

Conan: KANE!? THAT BRIGAND!?

JPIII: NO, WAIT IT’S A COSTUME!

But his axe is already up and the battle is joined! Justin barely gets his sword and staff drawn before Conan hits him with a mighty glancing blow, launching him through his section of the backdrop. Sparks fly! But Conan seems satisfied with the single blow and he leaves the studio, taking a huge handful of deli meat from the crew table before he does. 

Justin’s head emerges from the hole. Except…it isn’t his face. The synthetic flesh once showing Justin’s face has ripped away…to reveal the face of MACHINE MAN! Or at least A Machine Man. Now dressed in a ruined Justin suit and Solomon Kane cosplay.

X-52: B-*ack-ack-ack*ZZYT! T-T-TO you, <Lead Anchor Designate>.

He falls backward in a clatter of gears. The feed cuts back to Reagan, who has a surprised look on her face.

Reagan: Umm. I’m sure Justin is fine. Now let’s catch up with Taneli and the Defenders.

The report switches from the high quality 4k resolution that the studio cameras are capable of to a much granier security camera feed. Taneli floats in his prison cell behind the refined Atlantean bars. His cloak floats in the water behind him with no noticeable breathing apparatuses for someone who from the looks of it is a regular human. A blue skinned atlantean swims by as they make their prison rounds to ensure no one has escaped from King Namor’s bondage. He floats towards the bars and looks up at the camera, his eyes perking up behind his half mask with a large smile on his face.  

Taneli: Hello again viewers. It’s been sometime since we last met. I’ve been without any form of communication since I splashed down into the oceans. I did find Atlantis or more like they found me. King Namor had me locked up here as a trespasser as I was peeking through their armory for the item which I seek. I am still new to this world of magic so bear with me as I stumble my way to find what I need. So I have been a prisoner for some time. 

He held up his wrists that were bound together with a coral cover set of chains. As the viewers watched, Taneli’s fingers and hands moved as if they were dancing as the water itself heated up. The metal grew hotter as it expanded enough for Taneli to slip his hands out.

Taneli: Perfect, finally got that right. I would have had to wait another week if that didn’t work. You’re here to hear about the Defenders, aren’t you? They’re stuck in a time before time. A world before our, well, your world. Carlo Zota is a rogue scientist spiraling through that time and the Defenders are there to stop him at the request of the Masked Raider. Now they’re in the Sixth Cosmos on Taa. Turns out that’s where Galactus was born. A destroyer from the world before.

As Taneli speaks, his hands wave again as the bars shift in opposite directions so he can swim through. The camera feed changes to the next camera as he makes his way through the city, each capturing his report, controlled by his magic.

Taneli: The Silver Surfer is on this team… the Herald of Galactus. The mothman of planetary devouring if you will. Imagine being faced with the being that is at the root of so much of your own suffering and the suffering of billions? What choice would you make? I doubt the Silver Surfer would kill a child but hope to set him on a path to a better future. Taaia, Galactus’s mother, helps the team face the devourer of the world before. Who just so happens to have made Raider’s friend Zota his herald. One moment…

As Tanelli swims into a clearing, a group of Atlantean guards turn their sights onto him. If he wasn’t quick with his hands, he would have been killed. But before they could strike, a portal was opened that they were all sucked into as the guards and the water were teleported far across the galaxy to the planet of Frost Giants. A true chiller of a realization for them.

Taneli: The Defenders uses a weapon of pure emotion to handle Omnimax, their version of Galactus, before being sucked even further back in time and reality. Sticky situation but it’s good for me. Good that I need not worry about Stephen Strange meddling into my affairs. I am off to somewhere a lot dryer than this. Actually, a place almost out of time. Until then, stay safe. 

Taneli enters one of the Atlantean’s ship’s as he commandeers it for his own needs. The camera lingers as the vehicle leaves the docking bay.

Reagan: Thanks Taneli! Now let’s go to Chad who is not coming to you via text this time.

Chad’s typical fanfare plays with heavy electronic beats with his sizzle reel opening his report. The highlight of this week’s reel starts with a still frame of a beautifully stenciled glass door that reads “Alias Investigations”. The stillness is broken as a woman in a leather jacket throws Chad through the glass and towards the camera. The reel ends and Chad is sitting on his couch in a C.M. Punk “Clobberin’ Time” shirt and a pair of boxers with Spider-Man logos printed across them.

Chad: What up my Chadlians! I just got back from Krakoa. Absolutely wild Labor Day Week. Did you know they grow everything there? Also they’ve got the magnets guy on trial. Not so mag neato. Also I was just watching that last report and only caught that Galactus’s mom is a total MILF. Sucks I’m not a celestial but it’s not the size that counts.

Chad turns off his TV so he can start his report.

Chad: Sorry my boy C.M. Punk is back in the ring. Anyway, Spider-Man! Finally something happened. You ever see those gaslight, gatekeep, girl boss memes? No? I’ll tweet some for you. Anyway, The Human Centipede turns out to be the bone-zone consequences of Norman Osborn and Gwen Stacy. But it’s not. Turns out Harry Osborn gatekept, gaslight, girl bossed his dad into clapping some robot cheeks. Basically he worked with some bad dudes to make robots and make these fake offspring. Listen, Norman ain’t a good guy but what kind of shitty parenting leads to your kid building a robot that you take on a one way trip to pound town? Sick stuff. That’s all I got this week. If anyone knows Galactuse’s hot momma, give her my number. Oh wait, I got something else!

Chad leans forward on his couch and opens his laptop, VERY quickly closing some tabs before anyone can see. 

Chad: Check it. I found a super cool webcam to watch. You know how sometimes Zoo’s have 24 video feeds of penguins or hippos or something? I love watching those. They’re like my ASMR but now I found this super weird one.

Chad: I think it’s actually like a Go Pro or something strapped to a bird’s face. Super weird angle but I have been seeing some really cool stuff. There is this dude Ka-Zar and he died and came back. ARE I PEE to KA-ZAR but he got better. So he’s a smokeshow, his wife, Shanna, is a smokeshow, and they have a cool ass kid with like a flower launcher. Basically the coolest family on Earth.

Chad: So they fought a T-Rex, OH WAIT IS THIS THE SAVAGE LAND? At the party on Krakoa, Wolverine said if I gave him a good game ass slap again that he was gonna send me there. Dude was a great pong partner. Anyway, the T-Rex was on some Resident Evil business with some worm monster in it but Ka-Zar tossed it out like the trash after moping around for a minute. 

Chad: Shanna said something at their dinner though. Wait actually maybe this stream isn’t legal? Maybe I shouldn’t watch this family eating dinner… anyway she said that they can’t eat the animals that they protect. It made me think about those little penguins at the zoo… I would be heartbroken if someone ate them. I really gotta think about this whole vegan thing a little bit more. Beer is vegan right? Anyway, back to you Reagitoni.

Reagan: Thanks Chad! Now we’ve got Kevin with some news about X-Force.

The camera cuts to Central Park. Kevin stands in his fedora and trenchcoat, looking extremely uncomfortable in the bright September sun. Beside him stands the blue furry form of Hank McCoy, frowning at Kevin.

Kevin: [Breathless] Reagan, I am here on an incredibly rare field operation outside my basem – uh, my operations center, for a coveted interview with one of the shadiest and hard to reach individuals on the entire planet.

Beast: You are here because I wished to let you know in person that I would like you to please stop trying to contact me, or indeed the other mutants you have been deluging with attempted communications.

Kevin: [Ignoring him] Now, Beast, if that is your real name

Beast: I can assure you it is not.

Kevin: You’ve been hiding out from the world for a very long time. Some people think you exist only as a legend, a rumor, a shadow in the night –

Beast: What on Earth are you talking about? I was an Avenger for several years. In fact, you see that bar on the corner? Simon and I once –  but no. That was… another me. [Murmuring, as if to himself] In fact, perhaps it’s better that you do think of me this way.

Kevin: And what way is that? As a secret mastermind behind a global conspiracy against mankind itself??? 

Beast: [Nods to himself and then looks up, as if resolved] Yes.  Why not. Yes, I do what I must to protect my people, and I do it well. And it is good for you – for humans – to be aware of what that entails. Especially after your recent appalling behavior.

Kevin: [Growing more excited] And that creature on the coast – those recent murders – you admit that you were-?

Beast: [Looking into the camera] What I admit is this: some of you humans attacked me- attacked Krakoa very recently, with your miniaturized assassins. Ingenious technology, but – thanks to my good friend Black Tom Cassidy –  it has not worked. I am still here. And you, my Russian friends, will not be able to say the same for long.

Kevin: Is that – Russian – so –

Beast: I know who you are. I know what you’re doing. I know everything that transpires on this world now, and rest assured, I – we – will stop it. And on that note, I must bid you adieu. And you, strange little man – do not try to contact me again. I have known fine reporters in my day, and you are not among them.

He turns and strides off camera. Kevin barely notices, bouncing with excitement

Kevin: I knew it!! I knew it!! Oh they called me crazy, well who’s crazy now??? ‘Russian’ – He practically admitted he’s in bed with Putin – probably got kompromat on the whole nation!!!  Man I’ve got to make sure they see this on Reddit

Kevin races out of frame. The camera hangs on the empty park for a moment, then cuts back to studio.

Reagan: We really need to vet our contributors better so we don’t keep bringing on conspiracy theorists. Anyways, thank you one again for tuning in to GC616, we’ll see you next time!

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Uncategorized

The Last Book You’ll Ever Read #2: Inevitabilities and Causes

At the risk of sounding even more like GateCrashers’ resident Pop-Pop, I need to mention the Vault Undressed variant covers for this issue, which are scandalous and definitely worthy of that black bag they put them in. One is done by main artist Leila Leiz and colorist Vlad Popov and the other is done by Richard Pace. I’m not sure which I like more, but I will say that for the Leiz/Popov cover, it took me a while before I noticed the heads of the two dead guys.

Credit: Cullen Bunn/Leila Leiz/Giada Marchisio/Vlad Popov/Jim Campbell (Vault Comics)

Getting in to the issue itself, we find Olivia Kade on her book tour and she’s met with angry protests. Connor Wilson, who is hired to protect her, still hasn’t read the book per Kade’s instruction to him, but he wonders if her treatise on the downfall of society and humanity’s descent into cruelty isn’t accurate. At the signing, Olivia again reads from Satyr and if the theme of the passage from the first issue was about binary of the predator or the prey, this time it is civilized or wild, with everything going swimmingly well for two pages until a couple is caught having loud and aggresive sex. The question remains as to whether Olivia’s book is merely documenting society’s decline or is perhaps causing it.

Bunn has created a fascinating character with Olivia Kade and the script shines in the scenes between Olivia and Wilson as the latter tries to dig deeper to figure her out. The dynamic between the two feels like something out of an old Hollywood movie and that sensibility is mixed in with the modern issues of violence, depravity, and sex. It is interesting to see everything play out.

Leiz’s artwork works incredibly well in telling this story. There are several times when a close-up of a character’s face and eyes are shown outside of a panel. Or they are overlapping with a couple of panels and the pages of dialogue pass in the looks. The aggression of the crowds and Olivia’s fear are captured so well. The last few pages, which switch between a full page fight scene and a full page sex scene, show the ability to be dynamic and sensual. And that last page is sexy as hell.

Credit: Cullen Bunn/Leila Leiz/Giada Marchisio/Vlad Popov/Jim Campbell (Vault Comics)

Both Giada Marchisio and Vlad Popov are listed as colorists and because of them, I appreciate how bright and alive this book looks. With a story like this, I think there could have been a tendency to make the book look dark, but I don’t believe that would work. Jim Campbell is the letterer and as always, his lettering never gets in the way and is absolutely crucial to this story, especially with certain panels being heavy on dialogue. The lettering during the fight scene was particularly well done.

There’s definitely more to the story Satyr as Olivia is once again assailed by a protestor who mentions “The Wilding.” And after two issues, I’m not concerned that I don’t know more about where the story is going. I am surprised that the relationship between Olivia and Wilson predictably played out in this issue, but I’m still invested in seeing where things go from here.

Categories
Comics

Is Ka-Zar: Lord of the Savage Lands #1 New Reader Friendly? 

To the outside viewer, like myself, Ka-Zar might look like he’s just Marvel’s version of Tarzan, and to be fair, he has been used that way throughout his publication history. That being said, if Zac Thompson and Germán García’s new limited series proves anything, it is that under the right hands Ka-Zar and the Savage Lands can be a lot more than just another savage hero and a mysterious jungle. 

I think the last time I read a comic with Ka-Zar on it was five or six years ago, in one of those Mini-Marvels comic strips they used to do back in the day, which means I was super thankful that this new series starts with a flashback in the form of a nightmare that serves to remind everyone of Kevin’s backstory. This scene is also amazing because it not only introduces the basics of who Ka-Zar is, but who he is at the moment. 

Art from Ka-Zar: Lord of the Savage Lands #1 by Zac Thompsom and Germán Garcia

Starting a series with a character that just recently has come back from the dead can be tricky especially when trying to appeal to new readers, luckily for you and me the creative team of this series handles this the best way possible. We are given the important details of the past and concentrate on the now. The book is saying “Yes, Ka-Zar died and came back from the dead and has new abilities, but this book isn’t about that, it’s about what happens next, about what happens NOW”.

There is also this fight scene that does a great job of introducing each member of the Plunder family with actions and dialogue, and not boring exposition. We also get to see some of their family dynamics, which get expanded upon in the diner scene. These were the two scenes that got me hooked. They showed that the Plunders are a lot more complex and interesting than what I gave them credit for. 

There is also a lot of credit that goes to Germán García and Matheus Lopes for pulling the reader into the comic. The art and colors in this comic are beyond amazing, going from the beautiful to the disgusting in the span of panels. The contrast between the colors had a special effect on me, making me want to explore each panel with a careful gaze. 

Art from Ka-Zar: Lord of the Savage Lands #1 by Zac Thompsom and Germán Garcia

Within this character and their environment, there are some really interesting themes to be explored and Thompson knows this, touching upon things like bio-tech, imperialism, change, our connection with nature and the world, and even veganism. This series manages to take an antiquated concept and give it a contemporary take that doesn’t feel forced or dishonest. 

While I was pushed to read this comic because of my love for the writer’s previous work, I came out of the experience pleasantly surprised. In just one issue, the creative team made me interested in a character I barely knew existed prior to this. If you are looking for a different experience inside the Marvel universe, here is your chance. I’m pretty sure I will check this series in its entirety as it comes out. 

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Comics

The Road To Knowhere

I’m a big fan of comic books, and have been for a good while now. They’re pretty cool. Fun stories with fun characters in a unique medium. Good stuff. But you know what’s the best stuff? Marvel Cosmic; to me, the cosmic corner of Marvel represents the very best of what comic books have to offer. So I wanted to celebrate that with a new column. 

For those not in the know, Marvel Cosmic refers to Marvel comics that take place in an outer space setting. These are stories set in the far corners of the galaxy with strange alien races and crazy new planets, stories that follow characters like Quasar or Moondragon. Marvel Cosmic initially blossomed out of the wonderful mind of Jack Kirby; in the Silver Age, he and Stan Lee established a lot of the foundations of that world. Together they were responsible for so many imaginative ideas that future creators could play with; we got Galactus, the Skrulls, the Negative Zone, Silver Surfer, Ego the Living Planet, and the Kree. All of these are essentially the building blocks of Marvel’s Cosmic universe and, at the time, all of them were fresh and exciting ideas with fresh and interesting characters from across the stars, and all of them were just waiting to be explored further.

From there writers and artists continued to build on those foundations. Writers like Steve Englehart and Roy Thomas added to the mythology in books like The Avengers. We got stories with the Avengers and the Fantastic Four like the Kree-Skrull War and the Celestial Madonna storyline. For a time, the cosmic universe was more in the background, a backdrop for Marvel’s earthbound characters to visit occasionally. But when Jim Starlin came along these space characters really took off; Starlin created Thanos, Gamora, and Drax, and made Adam Warlock into what he is today. If Kirby laid the foundations, Starlin built the walls, creating a whole new world on the fringes of the Marvel universe. 

However, it wasn’t until the 2000s that Marvel cosmic became solidified with Keith Giffen’s Annihilation, a cosmic event that united all of the characters and concepts of Marvel cosmic into one massive story. From there, passed the torch to Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning who would create the modern Guardians of the Galaxy, spearheading a series of interlocking books all under one cosmic umbrella. This was the final step in making Marvel cosmic a cohesive entity, this is where the roof came over the heads of the cosmic characters. They had a place to stay, a house all of their own where creators could tell stories with them in the spotlight. Marvel cosmic has largely built off of that work and now with writers like Al Ewing, it is expanding once again. 

So why do I love Marvel cosmic so much? Well, it’s because I think it’s representative of everything I love about comic books; comics are silly and bizarre with hundreds of completely insane characters, worlds, and concepts. A lot of superhero comics tend to suppress that wackiness, to try to push it down. Marvel cosmic is the opposite of that approach, it’s all about embracing the craziness. Characters like Pip the Troll and Rocket Raccoon have been around for a while. They’re goofy characters in design and in concept, yet they work because they’re fully fleshed out characters who can, thanks to the time and care taken in writing them, coexist alongside grandiose philosophical gods like Silver Surfer and Adam Warlock. That’s why I adore Marvel cosmic. It’s a whole universe. A rich tapestry of stories and ideas. It can be a more grounded space opera in a book like Guardians of the Galaxy. It can also be an operatic epic like the Eternals. It’s a universe that feels like it can do anything and go anywhere, but more than that it fits together and it feels cohesive.  

The nature of these stories as well means it brings out the very best in its creators. Largely separate from Marvel’s earthbound characters, writers can weave whatever tale they want. There’s not much of a need to explain that Iron Man is evil now or a need to tie into the latest massive event. They can stand on their own because really we don’t even need to bother with boring old Earth. This Gives the stories an element of unpredictability. We know Captain America ain’t gonna be dead long but what if Mantis bites it? Cosmic stories give writers the room to do what they want and push the boundaries more. That boundary-pushing is especially true of the artists. Cosmic stories often take you to such visually stunning places and introduce us to spectacular creatures and beings of extraordinary power. It gives artists the ability to totally cut loose and let their imagination run wild. It’s a space where the likes of Jack Kirby, Ron Lim, and Mike Allred can experiment and put out some of their best work. 

That’s ultimately why I love Marvel cosmic. It’s a playground full of anything and everything but it’s also oddly cohesive with effective world-building and its own mythology, it’s a universe that lives on with or without us reading it. So that’s why I’m doing this series, to share my love of this side of Marvel comics with you. In each article, I’ll discuss a different cosmic story. Some you might have read and some you probably haven’t. It’s going to be a long journey, I mean we have a whole universe to explore. So let’s waste no time and get started. Join me on my adventure throughout the cosmos as we travel on The Road to Knowhere.  

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Episodes

Deep Diving Into Black Manta With Chuck Brown

Ringo and Eisner Award-winning writer Chuck Brown joins us for an in-depth look on the character of Black Manta. We discuss how David sees himself, the idea of legacy, who the character was and who he can be. Make sure to check out Black Manta #1 available now from DC Comics.

Subscribe now or listen below!

Interview with Todd McFarlane GateCrashers

The man who needs no introduction joins us today. Todd McFarlane himself. Creator of Spawn, one of the founders of Image comics, and so much more joins Dan for an interview. Todd talks all about Spawn Universe, Gunslinger, and so much more!
  1. Interview with Todd McFarlane
  2. Deep Diving into Aquaman with Brandon Thomas
  3. Interview with Bill Moseley
  4. Deep Diving Into Black Manta With Chuck Brown
  5. Interview with Meghan Fitzmartin
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Comics

MAX Crashers – Thor: Vikings is Suprisingly Enjoyable

Believe it or not, there was a time that Marvel printed adult-oriented comics centered around well-established characters like Shang-Chi, the Eternals, and War Machine. These titles were published under MAX Comics, an imprint that launched in 2001. MAX Comics was Marvel’s second attempt at an adult lineup after Epic Comics in the 1980s which focused almost entirely on creator-owned work (with notable exceptions such as Stan Lee and Moebius’ Silver Surfer: Parable). Meanwhile, MAX made use of Marvel’s existing characters and oftentimes took place in the established Marvel universe. As a result, the line was inherently controversial. More so than today, the idea of comic book characters “corrupting” young readers was a hot topic, with one major example being the queer overtones and (perhaps unintentional) homophobia present in Rawhide Kid, a relaunch of a series that first debuted in 1955, when Marvel was still known as Atlas. After it’s launch in 2018, DC’s Black Label would go through similar growing pains. Albeit this time it was because of Batman’s penis appearing in a comic, not homophobes being upset about a homophobic comic. 

Which brings us to the purpose of this article; this is the first in a series chronicling the titles released by MAX Comics. I hope to create a better understanding of what the imprint truly had to offer beyond its controversial reputation. Unlike MAX Comics, Black Label is still going strong, releasing books such as Garth Ennis and Liam Sharp’s Batman: Reptilian. However, true to form, Reptilian wasn’t Garth Ennis’ first time working on a mature rated series for one of the Big Two.

Historically, I have not been a fan of Garth Ennis.

It isn’t for lack of effort on my part – I’ve read Punisher MAX. I’ve read more of The Boys than I wanted to. I even tried Preacher, the one Ennis book that seems to be universally praised. I cannot say these are bad comics. It’s possible Ennis’ sensibilities, gratuitously mean-spirited and cynical as they are, just aren’t for me. Those sensibilities however mean that he was a perfect fit for the Marvel MAX line. Ultra-violence and liberal cursing (and usage of racial and homophobic slurs, as befit the early-2000s ethos of “mature comics”) were the imprint’s bread and butter. Unfortunately, the bread was usually moldy and the butter closer to congealed milk.

All of this is to say I’m utterly shocked that I enjoyed Thor: Vikings, Ennis’ 2003 take on the God of Thunder with artist Glenn Fabry. It isn’t without its faults, but Vikings’ major boon is that Ennis shows a remarkable amount of restraint. Yes, there is gore a-plenty, and both sexual assault and child murder are alluded to. But it’s in the use of allusion, not in-your-face crudeness that these aspects show Ennis is holding back. Were it not for a single f-bomb in the final issue and the almost cartoonish violence, this perhaps could have acted as a mainline Thor miniseries. 

The story begins in the year 1003 A.D., on the coast of Norway. Lord Harald Jaekelsson and his band of ruthless Vikings pillage and massacre a village before setting sail for the New World. Unfortunately for them, the village’s wise man survives and places a blood curse on the Lord and his crew – dooming them to sail for a thousand years before reaching the land they seek to find. 

Jaekelsson responds, of course, with an arrow to the chest.

Cut to one thousand years later, the very current year of 2003. The Vikings arrive on the shores of New York ready to conquer, and thanks to the increased strength and durability the “curse” has granted them, manage to defeat the military, Thor, and even the entirety of the Avengers, bringing the city under their control with ease. Thor ends up crawling out of the bay broken and defeated. 

“Strange…” Thor says, looking up and off-panel.

“Downright bizarre, I’d say,” replies Doctor Strange, as I bite my lip to stop grinning at how simple-yet-clever that line was.

The plot is simple. Thor is defeated, Strange helps him recover and gather allies to defeat the Vikings, and then they do so. It’s in the little pieces of writing like the line I highlighted above that Thor: Vikings really shines. And even beyond that, Vikings avoids one of the most well-documented things about Ennis – the man hates superheroes. Thor and Doctor Strange are treated shockingly well here by Ennis, whose depiction could reasonably be seen in any other Marvel book (though Strange may be a bit too comical). 

The strangest (no pun intended) part of the plot, really, is that one of the allies Thor and Strange recruit is a literal Nazi fighter pilot, Erik Lonnroth. The book goes out of its way to justify this decision by having Lonnroth explain that actually, he hates Hitler and the Nazis and simply wants to help end the war to prevent further civilian deaths. In theory, Ennis could be trying to highlight the hypocrisy of the character. Another warrior recruited for the fight is a crusader, Sir Magnus, who comically shouts about “the love of our lord and savior Jesus Christ” while brutally smashing a man’s head with a flail. It isn’t subtle. Lonnroth is, unfortunately, not cut from the same cloth. It’s a decision that muddies what should be a fairly mindless but fun story. 

Glenn Fabry’s art, meanwhile, is perfect for depicting the carnage on display. It isn’t my favorite, but it’s hard to deny that it works here. Fabry reminds me of Steve Dillon, another frequent Ennis collaborator, though his linework isn’t quite as clean as Dillon. There’s an especially gruesomely good-looking double page spread at the beginning of issue 4, depicting the heads of Marines on spikes. 

It’s not hard to go into these Marvel MAX titles expecting them to be terrible; after all, many of them are. However, Thor: Vikings convinced me that I should have a more open mind. Despite its pitfalls, Garth Ennis and Glenn Fabry put in solid work, and I recommend giving it a shot – maybe it’ll work it’s blood magic on you.

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Comics

GC616 News for Marvel Comics Released 09/01/2021

The GC616 logo flashes across the screen and fades to reveal Reagan seated at the desk, looking at her phone as a notification comes in. She looks at it and laughs a little, shaking her head as she does so, exasperated at the antics of whoever has sent the text. 

Reagan: [Under her breath] Fucking Chad.

What had begun as animosity born out of the frustration that came with being forced to give Chad a position with the team as an attempt to absorb the audience that he would bring with him in the hopes of boosting GC616’s ratings from the get-go has, over the months since GC616’s first broadcast after the Hellfire Gala, evolved into the very early stages of a friendship between colleagues. A friendship that had required Reagan to set aside some of her preconceived notions and to ignore for brief moments the indignation she often felt at the state of broadcast news and how, decades ago, it had sacrificed ethics and meritocracy in favour of high ratings at whatever cost.

To put it briefly, Chad had grown from a nuisance to be dismissed as soon as possible to, at the very least, alright in Reagan’s books.

Someone clears their throat off-camera, alerting Reagan to the fact that they were live and that she had, albeit quietly, said “fuck” on air. As quickly as she can she straightens up and plasters a grin on her face, entering anchor mode.

Reagan: Good evening and welcome to GC616, our top story tonight comes from our correspondent on The Peak, Journo. Journo?

The camera cuts to drone footage of an information hub. Monitors cover the walls. Warning lights flash from five specific screens, each labeled with the name of a planet. An alarm klaxon can be heard in the distance outside the hub. Sat looking at two monitors is Journo, Agent of S.W.O.R.D. On the screens he’s looking at are images of the mutant Cable and the leaders of the Kree/Skrull Alliance; King Hulkling and his husband, Royal Wizard Wiccan. Journo turns to the camera, unlike his last broadcast, he looks like he’s had a good 5 hours of sleep at some point in the last 2 days.

Journo: Hey folks, got an update for you on this Dormammu situation. We’re holding our own, for now. There are various strike forces holding the flow of the tide across the galaxy. One of them was led by Cable to Battleworld of all places to… procure some weapons for S.W.O.R.D. The old man called the team the X-Terminators, because of course he did. Y’know, the kid who was going around recently, that young Cable? He was good people, but I have missed the old man’s way of doing things.

And seeing him fighting side-by-side with Cannonball and Boom-Boom again? What a treat. Anyway, with some additional assistance from S.W.O.R.D’s best agents, and the only strategic mind to rival Director Brand’s, Ranger Rocket, the forces of Battleworld were no match for our team. We’ve now got a pretty big bullet to help in the fight.

Journo looks to one of the monitors, taking in the information scrolling across the screen at lightning speeds. A smile crosses across his face and he turns back to the drone.

Journo: Ha, they did it! Not to sound too victorious because we’ve still got a long way to go yet before the celebrations can begin, but we’ve just had a couple wins on Skrullios and Throneworld II thanks to the leaders of the Empyre.

It seems that on Throneworld the remnants of the Supreme Intelligence were still lurking around and enacted a plan to destroy the planet. While on Skrullios, Dormammu, or some echo of him showed up to take what he thinks is his. While Hulkling was unequipped to deal with the threat of the Intelligence, and the same with Wiccan and Dormammu, they could deal with eachother’s. So what did they do? Believed in the power of love.

I’m not joking, their wedding rings are formed from the remains of Mar-Vell’s Nega-Bands so they translocated to the other’s location, and boom, threats neutralized. Now I’m gonna have to go, there are reports coming in about something Wakandan going down, and Brand will be wanting a report on that immediately. I’ll update you as soon as I can. Journo out.

As Journo turns back to his monitors, the camera feed cuts out before returning to Reagan in the studio.

Reagan: So it seems that Chad does not have a live report this week so instead, he texted me and requested I show it to you on air.

Reagan: Thank you Chad for that. Interesting new way to present the news. 

A brief pause before Reagan continues.

Reagan: Oh and good luck with Tabby.

Reagan: And now over to a Mister Sinister whose qualifications we’re still trying to verify with some more coverage from Krakoa!

Reagan: Hello?  Are you there Sinister?

Sinister: What?  Can’t you see I’m on hold with Sinister services right now?  I’m trying to find out about my current upgrade plan but I’ve been here for HOURS.  The Sinister system has been really put through the ringer this week so things are running a little slow.  Lot’s of new drama to catch you all up on!  I followed those trouble-causing Sinisters through the secret portal, UNDETECTED MIGHT I ADD, as we all slinked around the creepy warehouse over Murderworld.  Arcade, ever the master of misery, decided to bury the creepy amusement park he calls home two thousand feet underground and build a very cramped elevator down there.  It’s part of the torture too of course, the only music playing the whole time is Arcades mixtape of recorder covers to ABBA songs with the occasional ad-break for his Soundcloud.  How did I follow them on that tiny elevator you ask? Well-

Sinister: ARGH!  Where was I?  Ah yes, so the Hellions battle with Tarn the Uncaring and his Locus Vile continued on and our gang of beloved misfits and idiots was not faring well.  With the revelations of Psylocke’s betrayal, our lovesick Greycrow went a little off the rails and nearly ended reality as we know it by feeding Amino Fetus.  That at least managed to distract Tarn for a while to go “cast his child into a black hole” and the silly Arakki god-mutant left his fish-knife portal open for our Hellions to stroll on through and see what all the fuss was about.  And it was something beautiful.

Sinister Services: Hello, you have reached Sinister Services.  For cape enquiries, press 1.  For body upgrade enquiries, press 2.  For Scott-  Thank you for choosing 2, please hold…

Sinister Services: Hello?

Sinister: Hello, yes I wanted to ask if my body upgrade plan includes fancy Sinister-Arakki god-mutant chimeras?

Sinister Services: Hmmm, let me check.  It says here that any chimera project doesn’t exist, and even if it hypothetically did then it was blown up when – 

Sinister: SHHHH!!!  SPOILERS!  I haven’t gotten to that bit yet!

Sinister: Anyways, as Sinister Prime revealed his grand design, a chimera that will give him the power of Tarn, some non-Sinister secrets are revealed as Empath shows himself a TRAITOR and sets our harmless himbo Havok on a…harmful path, all in the White Queen’s name.  With Havok in one of his Axis moods again, there were some slight… explosions as the lab was destroyed, maybe even with Kwannon’s daughter’s DNA with it.  More importantly, maybe even the pilot program of that gorgeous chimera!  If I hadn’t managed to sneak through the fish-knives portal at the last second, even I’d be doomed!  While I wait on the other end for things to calm a bit, back to you!

Reagan: That is certainly a lot to take in all at once. Good luck with all of that. Now to Justin with some Avengers news. [Sarcastically] Everyone’s favourite superhero team.

Justin Partridge III sits behind his taped together TV trays, looking the most normal he’s looked so far. He wears a sort of consternatated face. His clothes, while admittedly lame, look fairly normal.

JPIII: So apparently the She-Hulk is red now? And a blonde?

Now I can hear you now, you simpering flesh-sacs called Citizens. “Now, Justin! We already knew that! She’s been seen kicking around with The Immortal Hulk and the Defenders lately! This is old news!” To which I say, WHY are you talking to me?

This isn’t THAT She-Hulk! This is the OTHER She-Hulk! The AVENGER! NOT the Defender! (Though, technically that other She-Hulk was a Defender too, once upon a time, but I can’t think about that right now or I will get a migraine I have to promptly drown with dark alcohol). BUT SHE’S GONE NUTS! And Bottle Blonde apparently, which I just can’t get over.

Rampaging all across the world, apparently doped to the gills on vampire blood and palling around with a depressed gorilla. By last word, the pair were on their way to Atlantis. No doubt looking to spread a little of her obviously venting rage on the King of Ab-Lantis, Namor McKenzie (Yes, That Is His Real Last Name, @ Me All You Freaking Want). Honestly, just saying it here now, it sounds like the dopest shit ever. A brand new Hulk, diving down in the depths of the earth, aiming to face Ol’ Wingfoot under the direction of some probably no-good nogoodniks. Only for later her friends, Earth’s Mightiest, to make the scene and hopefully bring her green jeans back to the side of the angels.

The thing is…I don’t give half of a rip about it. And I don’t think you should either. Frankly, s’not a very good report and barely even had Namor in it at all. Isn’t that disappointing? That a news report about Earth’s Mightiest HeroesTM can make someone, even someone as unfeeling and robotic as me, just NOT CARE? Even more so than I already DON’T care?

He sighs heavily. 

JPIII: S’just really depressing. I am really depressed now. THANKS, AVENGERS, you freaking clods. You’ve DEPRESSED ME. Back to you, I SUPPOSE, Reagan.

Reagan: Depression and the Avengers do happen to go hand to hand. Frustration too. And boredom. A lot of emotional responses to them, [under her breath] few are positive. Well, anyways. On to an update on a previous story.

As longtime viewers may know, Gabby Kinney A.K.A Scout was initially reported to have been murdered after the Hellfire Gala. After the Gala, we at GC616 issued a correction for that story explaining that Ms. Kinney had in fact not been murdered and had merely been briefly missing. 

We would like to issue yet another correction. Recent information that has come to light. has revealed that Gabby Kinney was murdered. Currently, our sources have yet to have revealed whether or not it is known who murdered Ms. Kinney.

In related news, Krakoa has seen movement on the front of establishing who counts as an individual in terms of being eligible for resurrection, something which could allow clones with identities separate from themselves to be eligible for resurrection. 

What this means essentially is that, should this become an established aspect of the protocols surrounding resurrection, there would be what would amount to a legal difference between say a Sinister clone and someone like Gabby Kinney, who was cloned from her older sister Laura Kinney A.K.A. Wolverine.

Well, that’s it for today. We’ll see you next time. Thank you for tuning in to GC616.

The logo plays and the broadcast ends.

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Uncategorized

We Don’t Kill Spiders #1 Review

It’s a viking murder mystery. That’s it, that’s the hook.

Credit: Joseph Schmalke/DC Hopkins (Scout Comics)

Look, there were a few ways I thought to start this review. At first, I was going to discuss how the Detective as a character is the perfect audience surrogate; how their penchant for discovery and their traditional role as outsider allows for natural explanation of plot and setting. If the audience needs to know something, so does the Detective. In a good mystery, all the information is shared – only the Detective’s insights are kept from the audience. Then, I decided to invoke Umberto Eco’s seminal novel The Name of the Rose, perhaps the most famous example of nontraditional detective fiction. I don’t think that you get We Don’t Kill Spiders without Eco’s story of friar-turned-investigator and its popularization of the detective outside of the modern and Victorian trappings the genre traditionally traffics in. After all, there’s no reason a detective couldn’t exist in the Middle Ages, or Viking-era Scandinavia. Neither of those really sat right with me, though – because the truth is both simpler and infinitely more interesting.

We Don’t Kill Spiders #1 is a damn good-looking viking murder mystery, and sometimes that’s all you need.

Joseph Schmalke (whose work I previously adored on Count Draco Knuckleduster #1) handles both the writing and the entirety of the art duties on We Don’t Kill Spiders, while DC Hopkins letters. This gives the book a very singular feel, and despite some occasionally clunky dialogue, I appreciated the unified vision.

The colors in particular are simply extraordinary. The Scandinavian environment gives Schmalke the opportunity to play with tone and temperature in truly beautiful ways, blending the book’s naturalism and mysticism incredibly well. The pink colors used to denote the book’s magic feels truly otherworldly next to the traditionally warm orange and cold blue environments the characters dwell in. 

Credit: Joseph Schmalke/DC Hopkins (Scout Comics)

Of course, none of this matters if the mystery is not interesting – in this case, however, it absolutely is. As We Don’t Kill Spiders begins, a serial killer is haunting a Viking community, slaughtering entire families, taking their heads, and covering their homes in runes. The local Jarl (the term for the chieftain of a territory in Viking history), Ulf, calls upon a well-known Viking detective of sorts named Bjorn to track down the killer and bring them to justice. Ulf has his own idea of who the murderer is – a witch named Revna, seeking revenge for her mother and grandmother’s deaths at the hands of the Jarl years prior, after their magic was blamed for the deaths of a number of livestock. Revna herself was a young girl, and banished from the community.

While Ulf insists she must be the killer, Bjorn decides to conduct a proper investigation. And when he meets Revna, it becomes clear that not everything is as it seems in this small community. Since this is only the first issue, there’s no way to truly tell if We Don’t Kill Spiders will stick the landing, but it does an excellent job at setting up a compelling mystery. While it may use the setup of a fairly standard detective story, the Viking setting and mysterious magic gives We Don’t Kill Spiders a great hook. I can’t recommend the book enough.