Steampunk ghost hunters and and dead mutants and sex criminals, oh my! It’s that time again. What time? Short and Sweet (or Sour) time!
Boston Metaphysical Society #2
Madeleine Holly-Rosing, Emily Hu, Gloria Caeli, Fahriza Kamaputra, Troy Peteri, Alti Firmansyah
Back in the day, I attended Boston Comic Con 2013 and had the opportunity to meet some very brilliant creators and check out some independent work. I picked up the first two copies of Boston Metaphysical Society after chatting a bit with creator Madeleine Holly-Rosing. A steampunk supernatural tale, set in the city of Boston, was intriguing enough for me to check it out. Alas, it took me almost half a year to get around to reading them.
After finishing #2, I am officially charmed by this comic. The story revolves around Samuel Hunter, who lost his wife to a supernatural being called “The Shifter” years earlier and has spent his life tracking and trying to slay the demon. His partner was tragically killed in #1, leaving behind a daughter eager to follow in her father’s footsteps of demon hunting despite her mother’s attempts to prevent her from meeting the same end. Caitlin O’Sullivan is a tough as nails Irish girl who can sense the supernatural and plays a nice foil against the more upper class Hunter.
This issue really introduces the Metaphysical Society’s competition: a group of scientists who wish to study, rather than destroy, demons. The Metaphysical Society consists of Hunter, O’Sullivan, and Granville Woods, a black scientist who is underappreciated in his 1895 setting. Though mentioned in the first issue, the members of B.E.T.H. (Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and Harry Houdini) start to make their presence known when they grudgingly enlist the expertise of Hunter and his team. They team up to go after “The Shifter” but find that, even with their combined genius, the powers of the demon, as well as the tensions between the Irish poor and the rest of the Boston community, are far tougher than they could have imagined. If the Metaphysical Society can’t contain the demon, the Boston upper class and the Irish lower class are going to get violent.
The story so far has been a fun romp, with ghosts, demons, and science vying for your attention. Holly-Rosing is doing a fine job taking familiar historical figures and blending them into the steampunk Boston she’s created. If I could think up the perfect steampunk Ghostbusters, it would be these guys. I’d read a comic based solely on that, truth be told. The addition of original characters is nice, though, and they are all motivated toward the common goal of destroying “The Shifter.” However, there’s always one guy who never seems to be quite what he claims…
The story continues as a webcomic and while I haven’t read much of that (in hopes that I can buy it in print eventually), the art looks as good on the screen as it does on the page. The linework, the colors, the details, everything works together to tell a bright, fun tale of revenge on ghosts with science!
Rocket Girl #2
Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder
We last left Rocket Girl in 1985, where she had blasted off from the distant future of 2013 to stop Quintum Mechanics, the shadowy organization that is up to no good in her own time. We still don’t know much about Quintum Mechanics, except that in 1985 they hire a bunch of smart-asses with outrageous hairdos (ah, the 80s) and have accidentally invented time travel by receiving it from their future selves.
Time travel is a tricky thing. If Rocket Girl succeeds, she’ll be eliminating the timeline she comes from. Officer Dayoung has no idea what that might mean but as a member of the New York Teen Police Department (which is hinted to exist because you can’t trust adults in 2013) she has youthful dedication to her cause to keep her from worrying about that sort of thing. She simply knows that Quintum Mechanics is bad, her boss can’t be trusted, and her partner, Detective O’Patrick, would only slow her down. It’s all very cowboy of her and it’s fun.
Dayoung’s disregard for messing with the timestream is a little unsettling, as though because her own future/present is uncertain, she’s just going to go crazy in the past, stopping crime as she sees fit. She’s trashing convenience stores, causing a ruckus on all the TV news outlets, and generally making a nuisance of herself as her reluctant hosts, a couple of Quintum Mechanics employees (anyone want to bet that one of them is the villainous head of 2013 Quintum Mechanics, a figure we’ve only seen shadows of?), try to reign her in.
The art, of course, is beautiful. Amy Reeder just outdoes herself, especially when Rocket Girl is careening around with her rocket pack. The book is bright and intense, very fun all over. And I’m sort of picking on time travel because it is EVERYWHERE in comics this year but Brandon Montclare is doing a fairly good job keeping the story straight, even when it comes to the time travel. It took me a minute to realize that 2013: The Past means 2013 before Dayoung traveled back but once realized, some of the stuff from last issue made a bit more sense. I have a lot of faith in this story, but I can’t wait until there’s some background information filled in. Hopefully Rocket Girl #3 has Dayoung spend some time in an interrogation room where she can really explain what’s going on.
The Superior Spider-Man Annual #1
Christos Gage and Javier Rodriguez
Wow. If anyone was wondering how deep into Peter Parker’s life Otto Octavius would slip, this is the story that shows us. We’ve known that Dr. Octopus has been parading around in Parker’s body as a ruthlessly effective Spider-Man, but much of that has been proving that he is better than Parker in every way, even in his personal life. The Superior Spider-Man Annual #1 shows that Doc Ock is majorly invested in his new life and will stop at nothing to protect it.
I was a little nervous to see a writer other than Dan Slott writing a Superior Spider-story, but I’ve loved Christos Gage’s work in the past (Avengers Academy, Angel & Faith) so I was eager to see what he would do with this “reformed” villain. What I liked best, was that it felt like the start of this story could have been pulled right out of the early years of Amazing Spider-Man. It features “Peter” having a nice breakfast with Aunt May (though playing the part of Uncle Ben is Jay Jameson, her new husband), chatting about how much of a rapscallion that Spider-Man is, and how Peter is too good a boy to be hanging around those types.
Of course, Spidey is a pretty lethal rapscallion these days, and Parker is now the owner of a start-up science center and sporting a shiny new PhD, so things are a bit different now. And Blackout is about to find out just how different this Superior Spider-Man is. He kidnaps Aunt May, in an effort to reestablish his reputation as being the biggest and baddest there is, not knowing that beneath the cuddly Parker exterior is a villain who very well might be the biggest and baddest yet. After all, Dr. Octopus has successfully infiltrated Parker’s life and effectively removed the hero from this world entirely (I won’t say he killed him, since this is comics we’re talking about).
Blackout makes a big mistake in targeting the Superior Spider-Man’s family, which he learns in true superior style. Gage breaks from the Amazing and delves deep into Otto’s Superior reserves, striking the villain in a way that hurts and deters him from making that same mistake again. It surprised me how much I wanted Spider-Man to hurt Blackout (just as it continues to surprise me when I cheer for Otto’s more devious tactics). That’s always been one of my issues with Peter Parker as Spider-Man; he’s a short-term solution to a bigger problem. The villains knew that when they committed a crime, no matter how heinous, they would get beat up a bit, get sent to prison, and then break out or get released to do it all over again. There was nothing to fear from Spider-Man.
Until now, unless the Green Goblin has anything to say about it…
Rick Remender and Steve McNiven
Building bonds and breaking them seems to be the theme of the most recent issue of Uncanny Avengers that sent a shockwave through the blogosphere and social media. It was that shockwave that piqued my curiosity. Be warned. This is not a good jumping-on point for a new reader!
The team is split facing off against the Apocalypse Twins. Wolverine, trying to turn over a new non-lethal leaf, is facing struggles keeping to that vow, especially with his wrathful son Daken on the rampage. Rogue and Sunfire have a secret side mission of their own, and their own inner demons to fight. The Scarlet Witch and Wonder Man have finally found each other–only to find it necessary to work together with a view to pulling mutants out of the ether to stop the bad guys.
The big reveal of this issue is who dies–kinda. Without spoiling that for you (there are oodles of places online where you can spoil yourself, if you must), anyone who has been reading the X- and Avengers titles since House of M is probably not going to be terribly shocked. That has been the source of tension between the two teams for years now, and that tension hits a fever pitch here.
The writing by Remender is a little jarring as compared to other books in which the mutants appear. Rogue’s southern accent is way played up here, and not played up at all in the X-Men title, for instance. But he is a pro at the emotional gut punch, and the art by McNiven is a joy to behold. Every look of horror and betrayal, grief and shock, rage and mad glee, is rendered in loving detail. So I was able to keep up with the emotional pace, even having started in media res, and with time-travel going from one era to another between panels. Kudos to the death scene(s) in question not being gratuitous, as well.
Whether the deaths are real or the typical “gone for a while until the revolving door spins again” remains to be seen. Marvel editorial has told us before that “once they die, they’re gone forever.” I’ll believe that when I see it. Keeping the trademarks and copyrights in circulation usually make that necessarily a fib. My major concern–without giving too much away–is that it throws off the already uneven diversity level of the team. We’ll see if who’s dead really stays dead, considering the powers that were in play when the fatal blows were struck.
Sex Criminals #3
Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
Sex Criminals is weird. It involves time-freezing orgasms and the sex police. Surprisingly, though, it works. The characters are very likeable and Fraction and Zdarsky have a peculiar sense of humour.
The story basically goes like this: Suzie and Jon, the main couple, have this strange superpower that stops time when they have sex. So they do what anyone in this situation would do and go have some fun robbing a bank. Obviously.
Suzie is smart, fun and looks like Zooey Deschanel, but apparently she can be a jerk too sometimes. I hope we’ll see more of that, so she gets as far as possible from the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. Jon is her perfect match. I just love how ugly he was as an adolescent, and how he grows up to be still not pretty, but instead this strange, nerdy cutie. (As a teenager, he uses his time stopping powers to visit a porn store called Cumworld–he’s such a misfit that it is laughable.)
In issue #3, there is a lot of cuteness/sexual tension going on with the couple, as we get to see their first few dates, and how they fell in love.
There is also a very amusing scene in which Suzie’s favourite song, Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls, starts to play, and she sings and dances. There are backup dancers, and a Freddie Mercury outfit, and all this Broadway stuff in this 3-page sequence. But the thing is, they were not able to get the song’s rights in time, so they simply replaced all the balloons that would contain the lyrics with silly talking from the authors to their readers. That’s exactly the kind of humour you should expect from this book.
But I have to say, I was expecting more plot development in Sex Criminals #3. I’m not sure that’s exactly a flaw, but I’m just afraid that if the serious stuff doesn’t get rolling now, it never will properly. We’ve had a lot about the characters’ stories and personalities, and it has been enough for now. There’s a non-linear narrative, so we get a little tease about Suzie and Jon’s future adventures, but that’s all, actually. A tease.
I love that Zdarsky’s art mirrors perfectly the characters personalities: cool, but quirky. It sets the tone for a light, but at the same time touching, story that feels honest and relatable, even though it’s such a crazy plot.
I strongly recommend Sex Criminals for those readers who enjoy romantic comedies with a crazy touch, and, as the title suggests, are mature enough for sex scenes.
Bryan Lee O’Malley and Nathan Fairbairn
“Scott, if your life had a face, I would punch it,” says Kim Pine, Scott Pilgrim’s put-upon friend, and it’s easy to see why. In the fourth volume of the Scott Pilgrim series, the titular slacker is finally getting his life together: his band’s recording an album, he’s got a new job, and his romance with Ramona Flowers is reaching the L-word (not “lesbian”) stage. But this fragile stability is disturbed by the arrival of two very different blondes: Lisa Miller, an old high school friend carrying a torch for Scott, and Roxie Richter, ninja fine artist and Ramona’s fourth Evil Ex.
If this sounds familiar, well, you probably read Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together after it was originally published in 2007. But Oni Press’s deluxe color edition is the Blu-Ray to the first edition’s DVD, and well worth the upgrade. Nathan Fairbairn’s vibrant colors are perfectly matched with Bryan Lee O’Malley’s art, so much so that reading the book again feels like a new experience. (Nega Scott has never looked more menacing.)
Volume 4 is my personal favorite of the series, rich in humor and character development, and a fuller experience than the condensed version in the film Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. The new edition is also well-stuffed with extras, including deleted scenes, early cover designs, production sketches, and more. Make no mistake, the Scott Pilgrim: The Color Edition is no unnecessary cash grab, but the essential edition of the series.
It’s hard to believe Ramona Flowers’s hair was ever black and white!