Home Sick Pilots #7 Review

Thinking back on some of the concerts I’ve been to, the ones I remember the most clearly and fondly aren’t my favorite bands. I mean, they’re bands I really love, but not at the top of that list, y’know? 

The concerts I remember the best are the ones where in between songs, while grabbing a sip of water or something, the frontman would tell us a story or crack a joke. Keeping a crowd of hundreds attentive while you do that is no small feat, and requires a ton of charisma, but it makes the experience much more personal and memorable. 

This comic is pulling that off and making it look effortless. If the second arc of Home Sick Pilots has proved anything so far, it’s that the creative team doesn’t need to be playing power chords to keep our eyes glued to the stage. 

The very first panel of #7 makes you feel the clear and crisp mountain air of the pacific northwest, the color palette and lighting immediately establishing a different feel for this scene than any other part of the series thus far. We’ve seen plenty of blue before, but this is the warm blue of a new day’s sky. Everything tells us that we’re farther than the ghosts than we’ve ever been.

And yet Ami still carries part of them with her. 

Caspar Wijngaard’s phenomenal art maintains a sense of continuity even as we immediately jump back to the previous arc’s climax, reinforcing warm daylight shades of blue as the natural world and the unnatural pink glow as a ghostly violation of that world’s order. 

We also see some of our first real splashes of bright orange in our protagonists’ outfits, as if they’re adopting the colors of the day to ward off the terrors of the night. Ami’s orange beanie even covers up her Danny Phantom hair when it goes ghost (so of course it immediately gets lost right before she uses her powers). 

This issue also includes the first scene where the colors go fully natural, and it feels very deliberately like no other scene in the comic. Watters tees the scene up with richly three-dimensional characters and a great eye for choice of scene, and Wijngaard knocks it out of the park with outstanding character acting.

Seriously, I could talk about the storytelling and symbolism in Wijngaard’s color choices for the rest of this review, but I’ll spare you because I figure you get the point by now. It’s really fucking good.

Like in issue #6, excellent character development and worldbuilding keep the reader invested through the downtime. Of the two, this one’s heavier on the character development. The developments in the status quo for our protagonists feel natural and earned. The time skip was a fantastic idea, because it forced the characters to adapt to new circumstances and reexamine their priorities in the wake of what happened in California. Everyone from Ami to Meg to the Old James House itself has a strong new goal driving them forward, which gives the story momentum and really engaging stakes. 

Where the first arc was about surviving trauma, this arc seems to be about living with it. The ghosts-as-PTSD metaphor has an incredible amount of potential, and Dan Watters is doing great work bringing it to the fore. 

Any Home Sick Pilots review would be incomplete without mentioning Aditya Bidikar’s lettering. The borderless speech bubbles don’t get enough credit for how they help define the look of the comic, and a familiar jagged speech bubble’s return takes an incredibly eerie page over the top.

Every time I write a review for this series, I find myself wondering if I’m going overboard with my praise — but the thing is, they’re never content with repeating past hits. Every issue has been another step forward, evolving their sound further by doing something you didn’t think a punk/ghost/mech story would attempt and nailing it. I’m just impressed.


Syphon #1 Emphasizes The Value Of Empathy

Empathy and humility should not be mutually exclusive. Instead, a humble mindset broadens one’s capacity to understand another, if your intentions are rooted in compassion. Syphon #1 from Image’s Top Cow imprint introduces a protagonist, Sylas, who already demonstrates both empathy and humility in his everyday life. An urban fantasy miniseries roping in some noir aesthetic flair, Syphon #1 is the first of three issues about an empowered empath. Syphon was conceived by comic book documentarian Patrick Meaney, co-written by Mohsen Ashraf, illustrated by Jeff Edwards, and colored by John Kalisz.

Syphon protagonist Sylas is a New York City EMT in his 20s, saving lives and easing pain-riddled victims through calming words of affirmation. He is an everyday hero, exhibiting heroic characteristics right from the story’s start. Due to the nature of his day job as a first responder, Sylas possesses natural empathy and sensitivity concerning peoples’ well being. A patient frantic over the loss of his finger in the back of the ambulance offers to repay Sylas’s alleviating conversation after the trip, but Sylas never demands nor expects repayment to come to fruition. Critically, Syphon #1 presents Sylas as genuine in his empathy. It’s this kind of humility that deems Sylas worthy of transcending his emphatic personality trait. Thus, Sylas’s transformation into a supernatural empath feels like a logical event. 

Syphon #1

Flashbacks reveal how Sylas is not without flaws, because he is still human, after all. Through a horrifying sequence of panels rotating to emulate a car flipping upside down and the fiery aftermath of a car crash, readers learn of Sylas’s involvement in the accident. Subtle uses of dialogue evidence a former drinking problem Sylas works hard to curb. Unassuming dialogue interspersed within the story exposition chiefly allow readers to assume an interconnectedness between the two crises. Rescue from a good Samaritan during the crash turns out to be an inciting incident for Sylas. Because someone saved him out of empathy, he dedicated his life to helping others survive accidents by becoming an EMT. The story is touching and formative of Sylas’s character. Additionally, this brief page provides a vital example of how human flaws can provoke immolation, but out of destruction comes an impetus for change and rebirth. 

Sylas eventually receives power to not only sense other’s pain but also siphon pain from these suffering individuals. A paranormal encounter with a woman spirit introduced in Syphon #1’s opening pages grants Sylas a sight to visibly witness pain, extract the burden from a person, and thrust the weight on himself instead. Therefore, Sylas’s life takes yet another direction leveraged by his core propensity for empathy. Balance then behooves his actions. Syphon #1 posits a question extremely relevant to our current society: How do you carry another’s pain and heal their adversity without succumbing to the intense agony of that pain yourself? 

Syphon #1

All the themes in Syphon #1, visceral empathy, engaging with others’ viewpoints devoid of a personal agenda, and mitigating another’s’ misery without letting their burdens induce a schism inside your own psyche are splendidly displayed. Co-writers Patrick Meaney and Mohsen Ashraf pack Syphon with a gripping showcase of the human experience and a unique supernatural aspect. The beginning pages revealing ancient origins and multiple users collectively involved in the “siphoning” power come across somewhat nebulously on a first read through. However, the supernatural circumstances are interspersed through the narrative coherently, elaborating sporadically instead of opening with a mountain of exposition.

Syphon #1

Beyond the veritable fantasy, Meaney and Mohsen write a sublime character I could read an entire novel about. Quick pacing is inevitable in a three issue miniseries. Their ability to make me care deeply about Sylas and proffer enough backstory for a full-scale analysis in one issue is astounding. 

Let’s talk about the phenomenal art in Syphon #1. Whenever magic and siphoning powers takes centerstage, readers are blessed with vibrantly cinematic illustrations, illuminating light sparkling in popping technicolor on the pages. Illustrator Jeff Edwards and colorist John Kalisz create a synthesis of electrifying imagery. Adorned by Kalisz’s kaleidoscope of vivid violet and vermillion hues, Edwards’ experimental renderings of siphoning power usage lash out over panel gutters or explode over double splash pages. 

Additionally, colors and shapes within speech bubbles supplement the supernatural atmosphere Syphon. Speech bubbles in the magic realm take on a loose congealing form against an orange tinted background. The imagery swells with a phosphorus glow, reinforcing the theme of pain and the magic-adjacent red color palette.

Syphon #1

Novelist Mohsin Hamid says that “Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself.” Perceptible through Syphon #1’s narrative, branches of this theme are exemplified by the comics’ artistry. Characters in Syphon are drawn with correct anatomy and proportions, but Edwards distorts true reality. Combining a semi-realistic art style with flairs of impressionism reflects echoes of realism. Moreover, we can identify with the characters’ resemblance to ourselves, easily empathizing with those echoing parallels of pain they endure. 

Lately, empathy appears to manifest less and less. People adopt numbness or indifference toward overwhelming tragedy occurring daily, as opposed to responding empathetically. Largely, this emotional barrier is due to the simple fact that the human mind is incapable of processing the amount of information contained in a single day news cycle. Syphon #1 empowers an already empathetic protagonist with an empathy-driven skill. This beautifully-drawn first issue is elevated by topical thematic material. Syphon portends an ambivalent future for Sylas, but I am eager to see how learning balance will tectonically shape his destiny. Balance, empathy, and humility should function as touchstones of our own lives as well.


Fun-Size Roundtable: Ordinary Gods #1

Welcome back to this week’s installment of The Fun-Size Round Table. I’m your host, Ashley, and today we’ll be diving in to Ordinary Gods #1 from writer Kyle Higgins, artist Felipe Watanabe, colorist Frank William, and letterer Clayton Cowles. 

Ordinary Gods starts out with a bang, right in the middle of the action in late 90’s Japan. As a reader, we’re not entirely sure what’s happening, but when things go south, we’re transported off-world and rewarded with some intriguing lore recounting the past of the One King and 13 immortal Gods.

As a lover of well-told stories, Ordinary God’s non-linear story structure shines. Often a fantasy series can be dogged by the “info-dump,” that age-old method of overwhelming readers with world-building and back story right at the onset. But Higgins has woven together the past and the present with finesse, always providing just enough to propel the next few pages forward with meaning and context. 

Our present-day hero is Christopher, an ordinary 22-year-old guy unhappy with the mediocrity and direction his life has taken. Christopher wants more. He’s tired of feeling weak. Well, Christopher soon gets what he asked for, but will he finally be happy when destiny meets him right at his kitchen table? Ordinary Gods is a story of reincarnation, otherworldly Gods, and alternate-Earth history. It grips you from the first page, and leaves you craving the next issue.

To weigh in on Christopher’s destiny, we’ve put together an incredible team. So read on and uncover our panel’s thoughts on Ordinary Gods #1, available today!

Rook Geary (@rookgeary)

Ordinary Gods #1. Credit: Kyle Higgins, Felipe Watanabe, Frank William, Clayton Cowles.

Well, that blew my expectations out of the water. I had heard good things about some of Higgins’ work, enjoyed the first couple of issues of Radiant Black and some of his Nightwing a few years back, but this hits hard out of the gate with vivid, engaging, bold storytelling choices.

I wasn’t even sure this premise was a great idea going in, but the setup with the gods has a huger-than-huge scope that sweeps you up, and a relationship with our “real world” that’s startlingly relatable. If they can do justice to half of the themes brought up in this comic (particularly the therapy session), this book is going to be really special.

And this is all without mentioning Watanabe’s brilliant direction of action and character, the saturated bursts of violence and clever manipulation of tone from Williams, and the effortlessly classic lettering from Cowles. This book had me from the start and didn’t let go.

Katie Liggera (@kataloupee)

Ordinary Gods #1. Credit: Kyle Higgins, Felipe Watanabe, Frank William, Clayton Cowles.

Most likely, I’ll show my age from this comment — but I can’t help drawing parallels between this expansive ‘immortal gods’ narrative and the beloved Percy Jackson book series from my childhood. Therefore, my Rick Riordian indoctrination in middle school makes Ordinary Gods #1 a perfect jump into indulging in a fantasy comic as an adult. Kyle Higgins demonstrates a remarkable propensity for storytelling structure. I wasn’t expecting an alternating narrative that both juxtaposed and echoed one another. However, Higgins engineers the dual storylines with alacrity. I found myself enraptured; astonished at how well the comic shifted between depicting immortal beings’ grandiose battles and relatability of young adult normalcy in the present.

Spectacularly, Felipe Watanabe’s illustrations, colored thoughtfully by Frank Williams, intensify the stakes. Intimate, close-frame panels expose Christopher’s struggles with depression, while sprawling splash pages enforce the ramifications of the gods’ conflicts. Clayton Cowles letters dialogue in the god-inhabited realms to stylistically appear as if we are reading an ancient manuscript. Visuals heighten every moment where I stopped reading often to let the images settle into my head. Ordinary Gods approaches its tale exactly like Percy Jackson. The fantasy concept proves more than palatable in the comic by treating a war of the realms and an everyman’s human experience with equal measure. Ordinary Gods whisks me back in time — in more ways than one! I am definitely adding this comic to my pull list.

Matt Brimfield (@the_brimmy)

Ordinary Gods #1. Credit: Kyle Higgins, Felipe Watanabe, Frank William, Clayton Cowles.

Ordinary Gods has a compelling way with its approach to its storytelling. While not being a reader of traditional comics, I found myself intrigued and curious over the lore that was trickling through the panels of this issue. Though “Gods among People” is a common trope used in storytelling, Higgins has found a way to circumvent the cliche with the delivery of the lore given to us. Higgins gives us little breadcrumbs to an overarching plot of a war among gods. 

The art between Watanabe and WIlliams is also punchy and vibrant; Giving life to Higgins’s story. You can go from a vivid depiction between the battle between gods to a seemingly average day at the mall with the protagonist, Christopher, and his sister. The over-the-top, gorey violence is icing on the cake.

Between the storytelling and the art, Ordinary Gods will definitely be a series that I will keep an eye on as it has captured my attention and drawn me into its vast world.

 Jordan Edwards (@IamJordanZoned)

Ordinary Gods #1. Credit: Kyle Higgins, Felipe Watanabe, Frank William, Clayton Cowles.

Higgins does an excellent job kicking off another series at Image. Ordinary Gods has an engaging premise and immediately interesting world. My only gripe was that it wasn’t explored enough. The issue does a great job of getting us a peek of the setting, but pinballs between different times and peoples a bit too quickly, I felt. The story alternates between sections with our young protagonist and expository scenes explaining the nature of the conflict. I felt that these expository bits went by a little fast, especially compared to the appropriately slow mundane scenes. I’m sure this issue will be resolved as the story continues, however.

Watanabe and Williams’s art does a lot of the work to sell this book’s two halves, as a whole. It could be easy for the extreme contrast to be overwhelming, but the art team paints with a careful brush, enticing us into a new and exciting world.

Ordinary Gods is absolutely a book to keep your eye on. It sets up an engaging premise with a relatable and human core. This could be something really special and I’m excited to see it kick off even further.

Jimmy Gaspero (@jimmygaspero)

Ordinary Gods #1. Credit: Kyle Higgins, Felipe Watanabe, Frank William, Clayton Cowles.

There’s a lot I enjoyed about Ordinary Gods #1. Felipe Watanabe excels at both chaotic action sequences and intense, close-up character moments, with excellent coloring by Frank William, the comic was visually appealing, further enhanced by Clayton Cowles’s smart lettering choices, from tightly controlling the pace of the dialogue to letting loose with gunshot SFX. The story is also laid out in an interesting fashion. As the focus switches from another world inhabited by immortal gods to our own world and the protagonist Christopher, the panels bridging the gap are often visually connected as well as connected through dialogue or narration. There are clues seeded here early on regarding Christopher’s true identity, which I especially appreciated reading through this issue a second time. Kyle Higgins’ dialogue through the panels of Christopher and his therapist as well as Christopher and his family at the dinner table was straightforward, honest, and believable. It’s one of the reasons the end of the issue feels especially brutal.          

I think it’s inevitable now when dealing with stories of gods on Earth to make The Wicked + The Divine comparisons, and I found this first issue more accessible, but that’s not necessarily a positive. I was certainly left with questions regarding Christopher’s sister, what Christopher’s true identity means for him and his future, and if it somehow affects his depression/mental health, but there wasn’t enough here for me to connect with or to differentiate itself from things that have come before it to add this to my pull list.   

RJ Durante (@ArghRJ) 

Ordinary Gods #1. Credit: Kyle Higgins, Felipe Watanabe, Frank William, Clayton Cowles.

From a Yakuza shootout opening to a life-altering closing for our young protagonist Christopher, Ordinary Gods does not fuck around. Heads are blown off, families are torn apart, and uprisings are quelled, and that’s just the first issue. The tight narrative stylings of Kyle Higgins gives readers a release that’s less of an info-dump and more of a hand-holding guide into a world similar to ours. 13 gods lead 13 lands, with one overzealous ruler, appropriately named the One King, to oversee them all. Sauron be damned, there is no ‘one ring’ in this realm, but we can forgive this transgression as these gods bring new life to an old construct. The most relatable experience is to our aimless and depressed leading character Christopher. I’m all for ‘greatness thrust upon’ trope, especially when it comes from a family-ending bloodbath, I mean, look at The Punisher.

The real heavy lifting goes to artist Felipe Watannabe and colorist Frank William for creating visuals that seize your attention frame by frame, not letting go from beginning to end. Even though I laugh every time I see a gun fired and the words BLAM! are spread across the page, but they weren’t much of a distraction here as the artistry had me mesmerized. The look of the Gods themselves had a strange familiarity to them, which definitely made it easier to try and guess who was who without a label on their chest. Being a fan of violent comics, but specifically, violence with purpose because anything else is excess, Ordinary Gods fits the bill. I will definitely be looking forward to the next issue as this was a strong hook into this not so ordinary world.


The Department of Truth #10 Review

Truth is a funny thing, it has many forms, and people relate to it in vastly different ways. Truth can change a person… it can destroy them. So what happens when someone lets the truth consume them? and what happens when fiction starts walking around like wild beasts? 

This issue of James Tynion IV and Martin Simmonds’ The Department of Truth the team goes hunting for Bigfoot and discusses the existence of cryptids (or lack thereof). In between the main story the issue also has the diary of a Bigfoot hunter, telling the story of his father’s relation to the Bigfoot hunt.

While this issue continues the fantastic world building the creative team has pushed forward with past issues, this time going into what are the creatures they call wild fictions and how they work, the real strength of the issue is on the diary pages and the story they tell. 

In the past Tynion and Simmonds have explored the themes of truth and beliefs through the lens of conspiracy theories, so far this exploration has occupied itself with the epistemological side of the dilemma, asking questions like: Why do people believe in conspiracy theories? How do beliefs spread? How do organizations can make people’s perceptions of the truth change? This issue (the diary entries in particular) goes over the personal side of things. 

In the story of the bigfoot hunter and his father, we see what the truth can make to a person, how it changes and consumes them. Like I said before, truth is a funny thing, while from a far the truth seems to be this cold scientific instrument that is frozen in time and space, but the way I see it the truth is more complicated, more wild, like a living creature. The father of the writer of the diary stumbles onto a truth that changes him, the existence of Bigfoot. In this truth he sees something bigger than himself, something that gives his own existence purpose. Once that truth was presented to him, his world changed, because that’s what truths do, they become the center of our lives and change and evolve as we do the same. 

I don’t think it is a coincidence that the diary entries where included in the same issue the members of the department discuss the creatures known as wild fiction, creatures that are not quite alive, creatures that make you feel sick when you are around them, creatures that can not be captured with any device on Earth. I think this issue takes a leap previous issues couldn’t take, in this issue the truth and beliefs are no longer talked about like they are information, they are talked about like they are living creatures that wrap the reality around those who surround them. 

This has been my favorite issue of the series because it changes the discussion. Tynion and Simmonds are no longer talking about mere stories and theories, they are now talking about the changing pillars on which we build our lives. I think this series has been so popular not only because its art is spectacular and the dialogue is amazing, but because it understands that we have finally realized that the relation we have with truth is a lot more complicated that what we once thought. 

I really liked this issue and I’ve been loving the series so far, and I’m really excited to see where the hunt for Bigfoot (and the truth) takes us next. 


Fun-Size Roundtable: Crossover #7

It is June 16, 2015. Reality has begun to collapse. Something once believed to be too ridiculous to ever actually happen has. A man who built an empire by sacrificing his name to a dark and foreboding tower has just announced a con to become President of the United States. Everything that has occurred before or since is but a faint echo of this moment in time. Things will only get more fantastical from here.

It is August 20, 2014. Five days ago, a pathetic little man with pathetic little ideas started a harassment campaign against his ex-girlfriend. From the wreckage of this relationship, the collapse of reality would be fostered and calcified until its entropic ends were met. Today, a scotsman begins a Dear John letter to a multiverse they still, in spite of themselves, love. They plead for the multiverse to embrace diversity over regurgitating old stories and old heroes.

It is April 1, 2015. A small group of men, faced with the potential of something new, opt to plead for a return to the past. Fittingly, one of them is a nazi. In this moment, a Convergence of reality will act as a mystical ritual to reject the alternative of a diverse multiverse in favor of a Rebirth of the old.

It’s October 30, 2013. Our dreams have begun to die.

It’s May 6, 2015. The Marvel Universe is dead. The ruins are being kept together by an egomaniac, needy game-player. A so-called Great Man of History who sees his place as a Great Man as the most important thing in the world. The past must remain existent. The future, he claims, would be death.

It’s May 27, 2015. A second reality is scheming to overlap and consume the reality we know. It is a reality dreamed up by reactionary figures who see the “lesser races” as in need of extermination. The fascist ideals of old racists forced down upon a reality of diverse alternatives. A Single Vision brought about by Cthulhus Sleep.

It’s January 11, 2017. In nine days, Donald Trump will be sworn in as President of the United States. The collapse of reality has concluded with the invasion of a superheroic reality upon a non-superheroic one. The consequences are devastating.

This is not a dream. This is not a dream. This is not a dream.

Donny Cates Proudly Presents…

Crossover #7

Written by Chip Zdarsky

Art by Phil Hester and Ande Parks

Colors by Dee Cunniffe

Letters by John J Hill

Brason T. (@UltimateBrason)

Crossover #7. Credit: Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, Chip Zdarsky, Phil Hester, Ande Parks, Dee Cunniffe, John J. Hill.

As someone only vaguely familiar with Crossover from friends who have read it, and someone who has read a couple of Zdarsky’s Marvel runs, this issue really works. I struggle with self-doubt and my place in this world, and that is exactly what this boils down to for me. Fun, lighthearted coloring from Dee Cunniffe combined with grimmer dialogue and scenarios that compliment each other as well, showing that these characters are more complex than some conversations surrounding comics give them credit for. 

The overall idea of these characters coming to life sounds sillier when they really dig into it, which I’m not sure if that works in the context of the larger series. Trying to bridge that Twitter meme-culture built around Cates & Stegman with their works in Western comics is certainly a neat idea I trust Zdarsky with, but not really something I need to see again. Luckily the frequent references to other writers actually doesn’t get tiring here. Final verdict: definitely check this out if you get the chance.

Gabrielle Cazeaux (@gabrielle_doo)

Crossover #7. Credit: Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, Chip Zdarsky, Phil Hester, Ande Parks, Dee Cunniffe, John J. Hill.

I didn’t know what Crossover was about, but I heard it was good. I didn’t imagine it was this good. I know going meta has been over-used during the last few years, and for some people that will be enough to decide to avoid the book. It can get pretty annoying for me too when the joke is just that it’s something meta, so I’m glad that is not the case at all with this. It’s used to not only create a fun and intriguing story but as a metaphor to explore the feelings of the protagonist, who in this case, is also the creator of the story. It can be very on-the-nose, but I sincerely have no problem with that, and sequences like the one where his persona hugs him and supports him are just very endearing and plain cool to me, and I never even read something from Zdarsky! I don’t know if the rest of Crossover is as good as this issue, but, most probably, I’ll at least check it out.

Christa Mactíre (@christawolf94)

Crossover #7. Credit: Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, Chip Zdarsky, Phil Hester, Ande Parks, Dee Cunniffe, John J. Hill.

When Sean asked me to review this comic, I admit I didn’t know what to expect. I was going in completely blind with no expectation of what I was about to read, no preconceived notions, nothing. All I knew was that he needed my help, and like a good friend, I said yes.

So, Crossover #7. The story is that someone is killing comic creators, and the characters they made are coming to life. This issue follows Steve Murray (aka Chip Zdarsky) and his attempts to flee from the mysterious killer, only to cross paths with his comic book version of himself. I won’t say more beyond that, but I will say that as someone who A) adores metafiction and B) continually puts fictionalized versions of herself in her own work, I loved seeing someone take that same mechanic and use it in a way to subvert our expectations of what the encounter would be like, and build something better in its place. If nothing else, I’m definitely interested in catching up with the rest of the story. If you like metafiction and the storytelling possibilities it offers, this is an excellent starting point!

Alfie Taylor (@AGeekForFun)

Crossover #7. Credit: Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, Chip Zdarsky, Phil Hester, Ande Parks, Dee Cunniffe, John J. Hill.

I came into this issue knowing two things: “I like Chip Zdarsky,” and “everything I’ve heard about Crossover makes me doubt I’d enjoy it.” I left with a certainty in the former, but did not gain an inclination to delve into the rest of the series. 

Crossover #7 shows Zdarsky’s knack for efficient plotting. He seamlessly weaves together a nakedly personal tale that a newcomer can pick up and enjoy. The trio of Hester’s pencils, Park’s inks, and Cunniffe’s colors were sublime. The inherent balancing act of illustrating a comic about comic characters invading reality shouldn’t be underestimated. Regardless, Hester and Park make it look effortless with their pairing of fantastic character acting and heavy uses of black, keeping the inherent fun of the premise drenched in contemplative shadow. Cunniffe turns it up another notch – never over-rendering, always letting the inks speak – but being skilled enough to know when to employ a little extra glow on a car’s headlights to guide your eye. As someone whose own life has created an online character, If we hacks must go meta and birth an invincible imp to protect us, then the least we can do is love them back.

David Mann (@davidmann95)

Crossover #7. Credit: Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, Chip Zdarsky, Phil Hester, Ande Parks, Dee Cunniffe, John J. Hill.

To my own shock I’m quite familiar with Crossover since I pick it up for my dad (glad he enjoys it!). While there are moments where it collapses in on itself entertainingly, mostly its ‘what if us nerds got sent to concentration camps with all our favorite characters’ premise is so profoundly dopey as to transcend the visceral offense it deserves, and the high concept doesn’t extend far past trying to overwhelm you with references. At heart it’s little more than a pretty curio overly enamored with its banal excesses.

But then there’s Crossover #7. The guest art team alongside Cunniffe and Hill manage to mimic Geoff Shaw’s knack for blending the mundane and mad that does so much to sell a reality in the idea of reality breaking down. Zdarsky however does more than fit: the exploration of fact and fiction blending moves way past shiny cameos here in ways that serve to expose the lack of ambition of the rest of Crossover as much as anything else. A brief rumination on the narratives we offer up about ourselves, why, and what comes of them, this is clever, raw, startlingly personal storytelling that’s infuriatingly better than this series deserves.