Comics Disassembled: Ten Things of Note from the Past Week in Comics, Led by…You Know
It’s a tough time, everyone. Trying to write about comics right now feels weirdly…wrong, to a certain degree, especially when it’s not through the prism of how the coronavirus is affecting everything within that world. And as you might know, I already did that at great length earlier this week! So with that in mind, I’m going to try and keep this column limited to one point – the first one – related to all of that, and everything else will be related to comics related things. So let’s do that here.
That said, I will not be talking about New Warriors, because I do not need that in my life right now! Let’s not even go there, people!
1. Coronavirus, Destroying
So…this is all bad. Toronto Comic Arts Festival was canceled. Free Comic Book Day almost became Free Comic Book May until someone realized that was a very bad idea, and then the whole thing was pushed back to a currently undetermined date in the summer. Retailers are struggling due to lockdowns and self-quarantining, with Lee’s Comics in Mountain View, California becoming the first to close. Even connected but non-comic specific things are happening, like the Black Widow moving being delayed to…who knows when!
It’s all a lot. The biggest concern centers on the direct market, where some publishers – led by Image Comics, who made their titles for the foreseeable future fully returnable (and created the above comic with Alex Cox, Skottie Young and Nate Piekos to drive people to comic shops) – are doing what they can to help shops make it through. The problem is Marvel, DC and Diamond are not doing their parts, which led to Image’s Eric Stephenson publishing an open letter effectively directly asking them to step up. But as I wrote in my feature this week, if they behave poorly, it could – or maybe would – kill a lot of shops.
I get Marvel and DC to a degree. They are pretty dang selfish with this kind of thing, and if it doesn’t work out there, they have intellectual property forever. They’re good. But Diamond makes no sense. They need to figure something out because if retail stores close, their own business is harmed. It makes zero sense that they wouldn’t be doing everything they can to solve the problems of shops, but from what I’ve heard, it’s radio silence from all three to shops. That’s enormously disappointing, even if I understand this is a challenging time for everyone.
Comic folks are scared in a way that is beyond compare, and with good reason. This is an unprecedented moment, as the incredibly fragile nature of the direct market is being tested to its absolute limit. It either need support from the biggest players in the market or the federal government. Unfortunately, the people who run those two players are…not exactly good teammates. I’m hopeful their minds will change – especially as pressures mount – but I’ve been accused of being idealistic before. Apparently a pandemic doesn’t get rid of that side of me.
2. America vs. America
As America tears itself apart, it feels only fitting that comic publishers announced plans to publish two comics starring a character named America. And it’s not just America as an overlap! It’s America Chavez, the character co-created by Joe Casey and Nick Dragotta, versus America Vasquez, a new character…co-created by Joe Casey and Nick Dragotta! These new titles are America Chavez: Made in the USA by writer Kalinda Vazquez and artist Carlos Gómez and All America Comix by Casey and artist Dustin Nguyen, and they’re both working in June because of course they are.
This is one of those absurd moments you can’t help but laugh about. The co-creator of a character fighting back against the publisher he worked with before by creating…the exact same character is weirdly funny (and with precedent, as Steve Gerber and Jack Kirby once did Destroyer Duck, a response to Gerber’s loss of Howard the Duck to Marvel). This is something that has been in the works for a long time, so that both titles end up launching on the same month feels either planned or perfectly ridiculous. Who knows at this point, but I kind of love that it’s happening because of how weird it is.
3. Wicked Things, Killing It
Wicked Things #1 was exactly what I needed this week. This murder mystery starring everyone’s favorite teen detective – Lottie Grote – dropped on Wednesday, and I had read it twice before I read anything else. Was the second time through on this John Allison and Max Sarin book in the bath, where I coughed and then accidentally dipped half the comic in my bath? Yes. But that’s love. I was so enamored with it, so desperate to read it again, that I did so at great risk of its CGC grading. That’s how you know I dug it.
Lottie’s a personal favorite, so I’m naturally biased, but there is so much to love here. Allison’s strengths are omnipresent, from the rhythmic, amusing language and the subtle but robust world-building, and Sarin is, of course, one of the finest cartoonists in comics. This Giant Days pair – along with their collaborators on that title in Whitney Cogar and Jim Campbell – do what they do as well as anyone does, and that’s all on display here. I wanted a joyous, unexpected read, filled with delightful Allisonisms and wondrous cartooning from Sarin. I was given exactly that. It was perfect.
4. Decorum, Astonishing
When I wrote The Pull for the week that Jonathan Hickman and Mike Huddleston’s Decorum #1 arrived, I was hopeful that Hickman would have taken his own elevation of Marvel’s design game as a personal challenge and done something special with Decorum. The good news is he did, as Decorum #1 was one of the most astonishing looking comics I’ve read in some time. Between the wondrously integrated design and Huddleston’s honestly unparalleled, unbelievable visuals, we were given a comic without a comparison on the market. A visual tour de force that was much about pure feel as direct narrative, thrilling and bewildering me with equal measures. I loved it.
That’s the thing I love about Hickman books. While so many people in comics are more than happy to create a new version of something else we’ve seen before, Hickman often seemingly asks, “How can we do this better or more interesting?” Partnering with Huddleston – someone who has rarely followed convention with his visuals – makes it all the better. Decorum #1 might have been madness to a certain degree, but boy was it inviting madness, and something that promises a much bigger world and a much more fascinating read going forward. Big fan.
5. Alex Ross, Still Got It!
You know, that Alex Ross guy still has got a little something, doesn’t he? His cover to Marvel #4 arrived, and it’s him doing his most X-Cellent effort at X-Celling with X-Force, and it both somehow feels like Alex Ross but also him at his most Liefeld like. He’s channeling a bit of himself and of Robby L at the same time, and it’s deeply impressive. I can dig it. Big fan.
6. Willow, Getting Her Close Up
I’m not a huge Buffy guy, but everyone knows that Willow – Alyson Hannigan’s character from the original series – is the best. And now, the character is getting her own mini-series from an A+ creative team, as writer Mariko Tamaki – who is suddenly tremendously busy – and artist Natacha Bustos are pairing up to tackle this five issue mini-series.
What’s not to like about that? I’m very fond of Tamaki’s work, and the partnership with Bustos seems ideal. Throw in covers from Jen Bartel and Mirka Andolfo, and we’re cooking with gas. It arrives in June, although, you know, that could be a flexible date, all things considered.
7. Batman Universe, Delighting
I had to visit the doctor yesterday, and expecting a longer than usual visit for a less than joyous reason, I wanted to bring something that just seemed fun. So I packed the new Batman Universe hardcover from Brian Michael Bendis, Nick Derington and Dave Stewart, and you know what? It was just what the doctor ordered (although technically my doctor ordered me a cough suppressant), as it was a blast of a read in collected form.
Everything about it was top notch. The production value, from the dust cover and the hardcover itself. Bendis’ writing and the bonkers but amusing plot. Derington’s outrageously fun art and Stewart’s pitch perfect colors on him. The pacing, which was aided by its original fit in the Walmart Giant collections, creating a propulsive read that felt considerably different than everything else I read. It was a tour of DC’s history, both in time and space, and it was an astonishing achievement that matched everything I want from DC’s comics and heroes. This was off brand for DC’s general vibe right now, which, you know, is right up my alley. I couldn’t recommend this book more. It’s a gem.
8. Shops, Helping Out
I bought comics from three shops this week. I wanted to tout them all.
First, my home shop, Bosco’s Comics in Anchorage, Alaska. They had their schedule turned upside down by the Tuesday roll out Diamond allowed, and they rolled with the punches, quickly sorting out pulls and getting inventory out on the racks. With everything going on, it was rad to see the crew getting it done.
Second, Comics Dungeon in Seattle. They were in the thick of things with all of the coronavirus business before almost anyone, but when I reached out both for my article and to say I wanted to buy some comics for them, they quickly sorted it out and got me taken care of. It was a dream to handle, and glorious comics were on my way just like that.
Lastly, Comix Experience in San Francisco. I called up on Wednesday and chatted with the clerk there, and the woman I spoke with was super friendly, knowledgeable, and when I asked for a recommendation, she came up with a good one (Perdy by Kickliy, an Image release from last year). I ordered a bunch of books from them, and even pre-ordered something for April.
All three shops have a ton to deal with right now, and despite being nowhere near two of them, they quickly sorted me out and guided me to some great comics. I love it. Comic shops are magic, and you cannot convince me otherwise.
9. Mondo, Getting Krakoan
Mondo is doing…something with Marvel, and it’s related to the HiXMen. The part that is unclear to me is whether it’s the poster above – which says “To Me My X-Men” in Krakoan – or if this is just the teaser for the real poster. It seems likely that it’s the latter, but I have to say, that’s a fun poster even if that’s the final version. I do love the idea of Marvel and Mondo partnering up for something related to the current X-Men stuff, because Mondo puts together tremendous products and the design of the X-Men world right now is exceptional. I love it. Can’t wait to see what it is, unless this is it, in which case I dig it all the same!
10. Coronavirus, Building
As noted before, not everyone in comics is stepping up in the face of the coronavirus. Marvel, DC and Diamond are absentee, at best, from what I understand, and that’s causing some deep consternation amongst retailers and their fellow publishers.
But I just wanted to say: good job by those that have stood up. Good job by Image Comics, leading the way. Good job by BOOM!, IDW, Aftershock, Vault, Mad Cave, and others for doing what they can to help follow suit. Good job by all of the creators, namely Leah Williams, who have stepped up to help people understand that comic shops are offering more options for consumers in this time. Good job by everyone signal boosting the stories and the people who are doing what they can to make this all work as well as possible.
All of the signal boosting in the world won’t necessarily stop this. But we can only control what we can control, and to see people and companies step up is the right direction. Destruction is a part of this process, but it’s thrilling to see some do what they can to build as well. That’s what everyone should be doing right now. Helping their fellow people in whatever way they can, whether that means those in comics or someone important in their lives or a random strange. I hate to beat this drum over and over, but the way you get through any hardship – even unprecedented ones – is by doing it together. Let’s remember that as we move forward into this great unknown.
Hope everyone is well. My emails are open – firstname.lastname@example.org – if you want to talk with anyone. Take care.