Friday, June 23, 2017

Comic Shop Comics: June 22nd

All-Star Batman #11 (DC Comics) Alfred Pennyworth hang glides to the rescue of Master Bruce in this week's issue, so you're probably going to want to pick this one up.

Archie #21 (Archie Comics) Mark Waid has been writing comic books for a really long time now, so it really shouldn't come as a surprise at this point, but jeez, he's really good at it. This particular issue of Archie was one that really impressed--or re-impressed, I suppose I should say--just how good Waid is at it.

This issue is the second part of the "Over The Edge" story arc, one that is meant to be notable enough that it has the title on the cover and everything. There were some parts about the initial chapter that I found wanting, mostly because of how artificial they seemed, but the ending involved a horrible three-way car crash that sent vehicles over a cliff, and the marketing promised that the lives of one of the characters would be changed forever as a result.

So one way of looking at the storyline? Genuine tragedy interrupting the regular dramedy of Archie.

Waid structures this issue to reinforce that, setting up a series of vignettes featuring supporting characters getting up to what might seem like typical shenanigans, only to have each of these four scenes interrupted when the character receives a phone call that makes them drop everything. So, for example, Jughead is trying to work off his debt with Pop as a waiter, Dilton has Moose helping him test a new invention and so on. The place they are all rushing off to is, of course, the hospital, where one of their three friends involved in the accident is pretty badly, flat-lining hurt.

It's a very effective strategy, and Waid's current artistic collaborator on the book, Pete Woods, sells both the "regular" teen comedy of the opening scenes and the dramatic reveals of who's okay and who's hurt and the high emotions extremely well. It's really hard to get too worried about any 75+-year-old comic book character that a publisher has such a multi-media investment in, but Waid and Woods sure do their damnedest.

Batman #25 (DC) This follows right on the heels of a pretty big moment in Bat-history--even if that history was just rebooted six years ago--in which Batman got down on one bat head-shaped knee pad and proposed to Catwoman. Batman narrates, and, as is revealed on the very last page, he's actually telling the story of "The War of Jokes and Riddles" to Catwoman while the pair are lying in bed, apparently because the events of said war are meant to reveal something about him that no one else knows.

But the bulk of this over-sized, $3.99 issue takes place during an ill-defined past; Batman says he was coming off his first year, so this is either near the end of his post-Flashpoint "Year One" or the beginning of his "Year Two" (No Robins are present, which is curious, given that he had four of them in just the first five years of his seven or eight year long career).

As the title of the story, and the cover and all of the marketing has made clear, this is about a struggle between The Riddler and The Joker. I believe I've mentioned previously that such a match-up doesn't really seem "fair" to me,  as The Joker is in a completely different class of Batman villains than the  Riddler. The Joker is in the uppermost echelon, and is a big enough deal that he occasionally fights other superheroes (although, now that I stop and think about it, aside from that bit at the beginning of "Endgame," I'm not sure we've seen the post-Flashpoint Joker cross paths with Superman or any other super-people who operate on the other side of the Gotham city limits). The Riddler, at best, is a second-tier Bat-villain.

That said, in the last five or six years or so, Scott Snyder has gone to some lengths to try and rehabilitate The Riddler into a genuine threat, even using him as the villain of his epic "Zero Year," but then, he's also made The Joker a bigger, scarier threat--in large part by simply using him somewhat sparingly, and somehow convincing everyone else at DC to use him sparingly (Meanwhile, The Scarecrow, Bane, The Penguin and especially Ra's al Ghul seemingly show up somewhere at least once a month).

Writer Tom King does a somewhat convincing job of making the pair seem like they might actually be in conflict...and that The Riddler might actually survive it for a little while. He has The Riddler approach The Joker and try to draw a parallel between himself and the Clown Prince of Crime, noting that both The Joker's raison d'etre and his own are somewhat soured by Batman's continued existence, as Batman is the constant, disappointing answer to his riddles just as he is the unsatisfactory punchline to The Joker's jokes (The Joker, in this iteration, has lost his ability to laugh, and seemingly even smile; Riddler diagnoses this as his need to kill Batman, which doesn't feel right to me personally, but could be in keeping with Grant Morrison's version of the character, who assumes a new identity and motif of sorts with every crime spree, something Snyder has carried on).

The Joker decline the proposed alliance, despite Riddler's seemingly correct prediction that if they don't ally themselves with one another they will go to war, by shooting The Riddler in the gut.

The part that felt most off to me, however, was when The Riddler escaped police custody, presumably for the first time since the end of "Zero Year" (I guess he wasn't sentenced to Arkham Asylum immediately?). He does something much more Joker-y or Mr. Zsasz-esque than anything I've ever seen The Riddler attempt, and it felt really wrong and off...especially given the way he manages to escape the SWAT team waiting outside for him with rifles pointed at him in a more traditional, Riddler-y way.

Luckily, this story has been assigned to Mikel Janin, the better of the King's two frequent artistic collaborators on the book (by a long shot). I'm not a big fan of his work, and seeing him get to draw pretty much Batman's entire Rogues Gallery doesn't thrill me in the same way that the prospect of another artist drawing this story or one like it might* (that was among the most fun parts of The Long Halloween and Hush, for example), but despite the rocky start, this is an interesting enough story that I want to see it play out, even if it's more in a I-want-to-know-what-happens way than an I-can't-wait-to-see-what-this-looks-like kind of way.

DC Comics Bombshells #29 (DC) When Lois Lane first lays eyes on Supergirl, Supergirl is surrounded by stars. Lois' first words to her are "Oh, um, wow," and she continues to stumble over her words as the two of them lock eyes. When the time comes for three fliers and three non-powered human beings to escape Hugo Strange's Soviet lab, every super-person grabs a normal human being, and it is Lois that ends up in Supergirl's strong arms, gazing up at her.

This being Bombshells, where a good 50-75% of all of the characters are lesbians, I think it's a pretty safe bet that writer Marguerite Bennett and whichever of the two artists drew this section of the book were definitely implying that Lois is head-over-heels for  Supergirl, and the feeling is more than likely mutual.

That strikes me as so damn weird given that Supergirl is--in the "real" DCU and most other iterations--Superman's cousin. I know that's not the case here, because Bombshell Superman is introduced like two pages later, and he is apparently some kind of clone of Supergirl (just as Power Girl is, only in his case I believe he's meant to be a human with Kryptonian genes infused with his own), and while it's easy to see how Bennett would arrive at Lois, who has a multidimensional thing for Superman, liking Supergirl in this continuitiverse where pretty much everyone is a lesbian, it still feels a little weird to me on, like, an emotional level, knowing that Supergirl is her husband's teenage cousin on so many other of the infinite Earths.

While a lot of times Bombshells reads and feels like Internet fan-fiction in comic book format--that "ships fighing Nazis" premise is actually one of the book's many selling points--I think this budding relationship is the one that reads and feels like that the hardest.

What else happened? Oh, a super-catfight between Supergirl and Power Girl (the former of whom is rather scantily clad) and the intro of Bombshell Superman, here romantically paired with Power Girl, and his sweet, old time-y strongman handlebar mustache.

There has been precious little attention paid to the male Bombshells in this series, which is fair, given that Superman and Batman dominate all the other Elseworlds-esque comics DC publishes, but it's fun to see such big star characters appearing in a superhero narrative to basically just play supporting roles (as Aquaman did many issues ago).

I'm going to be slightly disappointed if Bennett never gets a chance to introduce Bombshells Batman. Ideally she would get to pair him romantically with Superman, but, like I said, it seems that Superman is already spoken for. Unless Bombshells Superman is bi, maybe...?

Lobo/The Road Runner Special #1 (DC) There's a purity to the wordless Road Runner cartoons that make its stars perhaps the perfect ones to participate in superhero crossovers like this. Wile E. Coyote is about as pure evil as any supervillain, perhaps more so, as he's defined solely by his overwhelming and ultimately unachievable goal, without so much as the ability to speak to try and generate any sort of rationale or audience sympathy with. He's also all about weapons and elaborate traps. The Road Runner, meanwhile, is an unbeatable superhero: He's one of the few Looney Tune characters with a super-power, and in addition to his tremendous speed, he's an escape artist with the ability to always outsmart his foes in a way that would make even Batman jealous.

I feel like DC could pretty easily have all of their characters crossover with the Road Runner and/or Wile E. Coyote (And I suppose now is as good a point as any to note that Grant Morrison and Chaz Truog already introduced Wile E. Coyote to the DC Universe, sort of , way back in in the pages of 1988's Animal Man #5).

There is a lot going on in this one, written by Bill Morrison and drawn by Kelley Jones, even before the DC Universe guest-star gets introduced. Our tale starts in 1949, the year that the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote were originally introduced in their very first cartoon short, when the top secret Acem lab is infusing animals with alien DNA recovered at Roswell (this, then, is an origin for the Looney Tunes characters in general; we can see several animal/human hybrids growing in tanks, one of which has the general shape and coloration of Sylvester). Jones draws this lab in his usual insanely detailed but incredibly fanciful way.

The hybrid animal people all eventually escape, and the entire Road Runner/Wile E. Coyotoe  history seems to play out in a montage showing the coyote's failures to catch the bird between 1955 and 2009.

The coyote eventually learns to speak from another mutant, a very muscular version of Sam The Sheepdog, who calls him "Ralph," because he looks so much like someone he used to work with (That would be Ralph Wolf, Wile E. Coyote's doppelganger from a handful of shorts). So this version of Wile E. is both mute, as he is in Road Runner cartoons, and can talk, as he can in Bugs Bunny cartoons. From there he takes one of the labs experimental rockets to space and hires Lobo to catch the Road Runner for him. (Pretty much any villain would work, but bounty hunter Lobo's a good one because his regeneration powers allows him to suffer spectacularly grievous harm but recover in time to make another attempt upon the Road Runner's next pass).

While Lobo is playing the role of the coyote, the actual coyote  finds himself in the custody of some familiar space cops, including the one perhaps best suited to being drawn by a monster expert like Jones (well, among this Corps; Jones would crush the Sinestro Corps book, wouldn't he?). Eventually, things go pretty much back to normal...with one change.**

Jones is at once perfectly suited to all three of these main characters and a stylist who seems completely wrong for the Looney Tunes characters; in other words, he's an inspired, maybe even perfect choice. While reading, I kept racking my brain for an example of Jones drawing Lobo, as it just seemed like, statistically, he must have drawn him at some point, but not that I recall reading. Given Jones' ability with exaggerated musculature, excess in general and love of drawing skulls though, he's an ideal Lobo artist, particularly this version of Lobo, which is the '90s Lobo...basically a dark cartoon version of a super-comics character.

Jones, somewhat amazingly, makes both the Road Runner and the Coyote look like his but also look like themselves.

At the end of the story, Lobo says he's off to Vegas, and that's where the back-up--"But Wait, There's More!" drawn and written by Bill Morrison--picks up. It finds Lobo, now resembling the version of himself seen in Superman: The Animated Series, just leaving Vegas when Bugs Bunny shows up in a three-piece suit (well, the top two pieces anyway) claiming to be from Warner Bros.' legal department. Lobo is contractually obligated to appear in eight more pages, and so he continues to try and capture the Road Runner, while Bugs periodically appears to enforce the "rules" of Road Runner cartoons.

Unable to swear or smoke his cigar because "this part of the book is all-ages, Doc!", Lobo points out the absurdity of, well, this entire publishing endeavor, really: "Why in the #%@!! are these pages any different from the rest of the book?"

This is probably the best of the DC/Looney Tunes books so far; if DC does any more of these, Morrison and/or Jones should definitely be involved.

Lumberjanes: Faire and Square #1 (Boom Studios) This is one of those many Lumberjanes one-shots that seem to appear without fanfare on a regular basis. I actually didn't even realize that this was a one-shot special until I got home and started reading it; when my local comic shop shop-keep handed it to me, I just assumed it was the next issue of the ongoing series. It's not! It's a 40-page, $7.99 ($7.99! Jesus!) one-shot featuring a 32-page story written by YA prose author Holly Black and drawn by Marina Julia and an eight-page back-up by Gabby Rivera and Gaby Epstein.

I liked the first story quite a bit. Molly has found a Robin Hood book in the woods and is reading it on a rainy day when the girls discover there is a name written in the book and a flier for a Renaissance Faire in the woods nearby (hence the name of this story). Considering it "practically a quest," they convince Jen to accompany them to try to find the Faire and return the book to the young woman they suspect may have lost it. They have fun at the faire, make friends with the girl and also encounter a pterodactyl.

Black packs in a lot of fun little moments--this was my favorite Lumberjanes story in quite some time, maybe since the Gotham Academy crossover--and Julia's art is among the best to ever depict these characters. It's much more realistic in style than is often the case with Lumberjanes, but still far, far away from what one usually might consider "realistic" comics art. There's definitely a very strong manga influence in the character designs and depictions, if not the storytelling.

Unfortunately, Julia draws fairly terrible Pterosaurs.

The back-up involves the other 'janes trying to cheer up an uncharacteristically blue Ripley by acting out telenovella plots with her. It's decent, if somewhat far removed from the typical Lumberjanes story, as it doesn't have all that much to do with camp and/or high weirdness in the wilderness, but Epstein's highly cartoonish art if fun, and it is in sharp contrast with Julia's artwork.

Nightwing #23 (DC) The title character and his girlfriend, ex-supervillain-turned-social worker Shawn, have a disagreement over Dick's failure to show up for a job interview because he--not unreasonably!--prioritized trying to keep alien laser guns and killer robots out of the hands of local youth gangs. Writer Tim Seeley is portraying their disagreements okay, and he has Shawn starting to articulate why she cares if Dick has a job or not--something about giving him an additional reason to stick around town instead of just moving on as he has so often in the past--but, at its core, this still seems like a flawed plot point for this particular superhero instead of, I don't know, Peter Parker or someone. Dick Grayson is, after all, one of the heirs to the Wayne billions, so it's not like he has to work and, even if he did decide to get a job, why would it be something like loading and unloading crates from boats? That's not really the sort of gig most billionaire heirs gravitate towards, nor is it the sort of job that would allow him to stay close to the action, like Clark Kent's gig as a reporter, or Barry Allen's job as a police scientist and so on.

Similarly, just before they have their conversation, Shawn is shown arguing over the phone with her boss at the Haven Community Center about having spent some discretionary funds on a video game system, which she wanted to help keep troubled youth off the street. Surely her boyfriend's insanely rich adoptive father could give her community center a couple hundred bucks for some video game systems to keep troubled youth off the street; that's pretty much the Wayne Foundation's whole deal, isn't it...?

Like I said, Seeley does a fairly convincing job with this stuff, but I have a hard time wrapping my head around Dick Grayson, and those in his orbit, having anything at all resembling money problems.

That's the out-of-costume stuff. The in-costume stuff deals with the new Blockbuster's brewing rivalry with Tiger Shark, which climaxes when Nightwing stumbles into what appears to be a supervillain auction of some kind. There's a two-page spread full of villains, only a handful of whom I recognize--Magog, Shado, maybe Count Vertigo?--although that could be because many of them are new characters, like this Jersey Devil-esque Skyhoook character is...

Minkyu Jung does a pretty strong job on art, although I think the out-of-costume sequences are stronger than the in-costume ones.

Superman #25 (DC) So this is an anniversary issue--an "extra-sized anniversary issue!" according to the cover--which actually is kind of a big deal, concluding the overarching storyline that this volume of Superman has been telling since its launch, and seemingly presenting a pretty big turning point for Superman and family. The mystery of Hamilton County, previously revealed int he last few issues, has been solved, meaning all that remains is winning the fight against the villain, and Clark, Lois and Jon prepare to leave town. Where will they move to? Metropolis is probably a pretty safe bet.

Superman and his allies--Batman, Robin, Frankenstein and The Bride--battle "Superboy Black," Manchester Black and the Super Elite. It can't possibly be a spoiler to tell you which side wins the day, and Manchester Black suffers a humiliating defeat that was unusual and amusing enough that it didn't even occur to me until the next day that some Marvel villains suffered almost the exact same fate in a classic Silver Age confrontation.

Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason have done a pretty fine job on this 25-issue run, despite the peculiarities they had to deal with, like Superman's continuity shift and soft-reboot during "Superman Reborn," and I hope they continue writing--and, in Gleason's case, often penciling--this title for at least another 25 issues.

Wonder Woman/Tasmanian Devil Special  #1 (DC) Of the four DC/Looney Tunes crossover specials I've read so far, this one is by far the worst, but I'm unsure of just how much blame should be laid at writer Tony Bedard's feet, since I'm unsure of how exactly this books came about and how the various pairings were assigned. These two characters, for example, just plain don't really work together in any particularly natural or compelling way, and, if there is an inventive way to play them off of one another, well, Bedard didn't come up with it in time to craft this script.

As Jim Lee's cover makes clear, this version of Taz isn't the "real" Looney Tunes character, as the Marvin The Martian and Bug Bunny of last week's crossover specials were. This is some big, scary, "realistic" version of the cartoon creature, drawn so titanic is size that he dwarfs no only cartoon Taz, but the six-foot Amazon heroine as well. He's a full head taller she is at the shoulder, but he's really massive; that's in a stooped, gorilla-like posture in which he is moving around on his knuckles. He still has a voracious appetite. He's still an extremely tough customer. And he still has the peculiar method of attack by which he turns himself into a tornado of sorts.

And that's about where the similarity ends. This gigantic Taz is, for the purposes of this story, a "greater guardian" for The Labyrinth, a gigantic, world-spanning, magical maze full of various monsters that the Amazons run around in for fun. The tale begins with Wonder Woman recalling when she first met Taz in her youth, journeying through the labyrinth to Tasmania, where she escaped him in rather Bugs Bunny-like fashion: Promising him a better meal than herself, playing him to sleep with music and then clipping off one of his "horns" of hair as proof that she survived an encounter with him.

In the present, Circe and an army of generic monster men attack Themyscira, and she turns the Amazons to stone with a special medallion. The maguffin needed to save them is held by The Minotaur, another greater guardian, and since only guardians can find one another, Wonder Woman enlists Taz's help.

And...that's it.

Instead of gibberish, Bedard has his Taz speaking in pictograms that appear in his dialogue bubbles, which Diana's ability to speak to animals apparently helps her understand. At one point, she lets him grasp the lasso so that he can speak English to her. Midway through the story, he puts on armor for some reason.

While there's not much to the story--and don't bother trying to match it up with current Wonder Woman continuity--Kitson's art is nice. I don't really care for his radical, random-feeling Taz redesign, but he draws Wonder Woman and all the Amazons really quite well. I don't know if he's just been getting better and better, or if he's working in a different style here, but this was the best work of Kitson's I can recall seeing, and I liked it a lot more than all the other Kitson-drawn comics I've read over the years.

The Looney Tunes-style back-up, which, like that in Lobo/Roadrunner continues the main story, features the aftermath of Taz's feast. As he's digesting, Wonder Woman plays the harp for him again, and it turns into the story of the Trojan War, as told by the pair, with various Looney Tunes characters standing in for the ancient Greek characters. This allows artist Ben Caldwell to draw not only the two title characters, but also Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam, Elmer Fudd, Foghorn Leghorn, Bugs Bunny and so on.

*Of those who have drawn Batman in the recent-ish past? Jeez,  I don't know. Maybe John Romita Jr or Guillem March or Ian Bertam or Riley Rossmo? 

**Wile E. Coyote is really more of an orange than a green though, isn't he?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Marvel's September previews reviewed

The theme for Marvel's September variant covers is "Venom-ized" villains, which is exactly what it sounds like. That image there is the X-Men: Gold cover featureing a Venom-ized Omega Red by Clayton Crain, and seems fairly typical of these, featuring a villain associated with the title possessed by the Venom symbiote.

Looking through this months solicitations (as you can do here), it seems that Marvel has rather drastically reduced the number of some of their titles--one Black Panther title instead of two, for example--but their line still seems crazy big to me, just in terms of how long it takes to scroll through the solicits.

It's also super-apparent that Thor: Ragnarok is on the horizon, based on all the Thor and/or Hulk trades solicited here.

Anyway, here's what jumped out at me for good or ill this time around...

Cover by ALEX ROSS
SECRET EMPIRE AFTERMATH! Not every Avenger came out of the Secret Empire’s regime the same as going in. One of Earth’s Mightiest, in particular, will either step up to lead the team — or retire altogether!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Is that Sam Wilson, encircling his former teammates either in a group hug, or something more menacing? If so, what's he wearing? Based on the Generations solicit featuring him and Steve Rogers, I'm assuming he will still be a Captain America at the end of Secret Empire...

Skeletor tries some Scarlet Spider cosplay, hates the way it makes him look. (Okay, that's actually the cover for one of September's issue of Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider, which demonstrates that Marvel is still publishing a boatload of Spider-comics, even if
Spider-Woman and Silk are no longer among the published. I guess Spider-Gwen is the last book about a woman with spider powers that Marvel is publishing.)

REDEMPTION COMES CLOSE… As Black Bolt turns the tables on the evil Jailer! But what about his fellow prisoners? Given a choice, will the Midnight King choose the company of thieves? And what hope do they have against a creature who knows their deepest secrets?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

I've no interest in this book at all, but I have to admit: That is a hell of a cute cover.

Ms. Marvel’s falling out with her idol Carol Danvers, a.k.a. the Mighty Captain Marvel, just took a BIZARRE turn! Kamala suddenly finds herself as an intern at Woman Magazine – Carol’s former place of employment! Between cozying up to her boss, filing back issues, and her usual super-heroing, how will Kamala find time to figure out what got her here in the first place?
40 PGS./ONE-SHOT/Rated T+ …$4.99

Not sure why this is titled as it is, rather than Ms. Marvel & Ms. Marvel, as Carol is totally in her Ms. Marvel costume there. But I'm glad she's in that costume, rather than the black bathing suit costume, as that means we're somewhere around, what, the late seventies? Maybe early eighties? Based on the solicitation copy alone, I have to assume that this comic is going to be The Devil Wears Prada, but with multiple Ms. Marvels. That sounds fun.

Variant Cover by JOHN CASSADAY
Variant Cover by PAOLO RIVERA
They were part of the Greatest Generation! And now Sam Wilson finds himself alongside them yet again in a strange yet familiar setting — fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with Captain America and Bucky against a seemingly unstoppable threat to the safety of the world!
40 PGS./ONE-SHOT/Rated T+ …$4.99

Whew! I'm glad Marvel's still letting Nick Spencer write Captain America comics after Secret Empire ends. Nick Spencer is really good at writing Captain America least the ones starring Sam Wilson (I haven't read any of his Steve Rogers comics yet).

Variant Cover by ALEX ROSS
EVERYTHING STARTS HERE! It begins at the dawn of the human race, and ends with a child’s prayer! In between, empires fall, mysteries brew, secrets are revealed, quests are undertaken and legends are forged! All leading up to the dramatic return you’ve been waiting for — and one you’ve been dreading!
Jason Aaron (MIGHTY THOR) and Esad Ribic (SECRET WARS) usher in a new dawn — one whose rays will touch every corner of the Marvel Universe in the days to come!
MARVEL LEGACY: It’s everything you’ve been longing for — and more!
64 PGS./ON-SHOT/Rated T+ …$5.99

It's always fun to see Ross drawing modern comics characters, and by modern I mean "any costume designed after the Silver Age that he himself didn't design," as it can often look...uncomfortable. He's been drawing a lot of the Avengers and company for Marvel, so most of these characters actually look pretty natural...with the exception of Gamora there, who I assume is only on this cover at all because they keep making Guardians of the Galaxy movies...?

CULLEN BUNN(W) • Andrea Brocccardo (A)
Cover by R.B. SILVA
THE LEAD UP TO LEGACY STARTS HERE! KEI KAWADE thinks he knows what his powers can do, but honestly? He has NO idea.
Join the House of Ideas for the next chapter in this monster epic as KID KAIJU explores the very depths of his own abilities!
Featuring Kid Kaiju, ELSA BLOODSTONE, their merry band of monsters and some surprising GUEST STARS!
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

It is both a tragedy and a travesty that the above cover has nothing to do with the interiors, but is simply a "VENOMIZED" variant. I mean, how great would a story in which the Venom symbioite possessed Fin Fang Foom have been?!

GET READY TO RUN! The “IT” book of the early 2000s with the original cast is back – Nico! Karolina! Molly! Chase! Old Lace! And, could it be? GERT?! The heart of the Runaways died years ago, but you won’t believe how she returns!
Superstar author Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor & Park, Carry On) makes her Marvel debut with fan-favorite artist Kris Anka (ALL-NEW X-MEN, CAPTAIN MARVEL) in the series that will shock you and break your heart!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

I've never personally read any of Rowell's prose work, but I know she's popular enough that she's a real "get," particularly for this book, the traditional target audience of which overlaps with that of her novels. I'm pretty excited about the return of Runaways, and I'm curious about a couple of aspects, like how they will explain away the apparently missing members of the line-up (Victor, Xavin and Klara), and Nico's whole deal, as she's been away from the others in a few other rather unlikely books since the last time Runaways was canceled.

ELLIOT KALAN (W) • Todd Nauck (A)
When the villainous ARCADE decides to build a second, even deadlier Murderworld in Madripoor, he kidnaps Spider-Man and forces him to be the park’s first guest! Deadpool, meanwhile, has a bone to pick with Arcade… Namely that his terrifying theme parks are besmirching murder and its good name!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

I like Arcade.

Squirrel Girl, Nancy and Tippy are trapped in the Savage Land! Good thing there’re only regular dinosaurs there and not, for example, a giant metal killer-dinosaur version of Ultron instead!! Sorry, I’m just getting word that there is, in fact, a giant metal killer-dinosaur version of Ultron here, and Squirrel Girl needs to stop him before he takes over the world — a task that has regularly bested many other super heroes, including the Avengers themselves! But don’t worry, because SQUIRREL GIRL IS NOT ALONE: She’s got Nancy (a regular human with no powers) and Tippy (a regular squirrel with no powers) on her side to help her out against the rage of Ultron! And it’s not just any Ultron, but a new and improved Ultron with an extremely dangerous (and, we must admit, extremely awesome) Tyrannosaurus rex bod! Oh, also Kraven the Hunter is in this issue too, so if you love dinosaurs, robots AND men in lion vests, boy howdy have we got a comic book for you!
32 PGS./Rated T …$3.99

There are few things I like better than Unbeatable Squirrel Girl comics, and one of those things is dinosaurs. So this should be good!

Here's hoping this turns into a stealth crossover between North's USG and his Dinosaur Comics...

THE VENOM EPIC OF THE FALL STARTS HERE! During a routine battle with the villainous Jack O’Lantern, Venom finds himself transported to a far-off world and learns a terrible truth – a deadly new species called the Poisons has emerged from the vastness of space, and to make matters worse, they’re hunting Venoms! Trapped on the planet’s surface with a ragtag band of Venomized heroes, Eddie has no choice but to mount a counteroffensive and hope to find a way home!
40 PGS./Rated T+ …$4.99

"The Venom Epic of the Fall"...? Does that mean this year will have multiple Venom epics, with other Venom epics falling during other seasons? Will there be more than one Venom epic this fall, and Venomverse is the bigger, better or most important of the two...? So confusing...!

That said, I would just like to reiterate that this is a really good idea.

The Poisons’ relentless campaign against the Venoms continues, and Spider-Man is among the first to fall! VENOM VS. POISON SPIDER-MAN: NO HOLDS BARRED! Meanwhile, Deadpool’s cooked up an idea of how to stop the Poisons, but it ain’t exactly sane!
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Hey, that "Poison Spider-Man" looks a lot like Anti-Venom, doesn't he...?

Giovanni Valletta (A)
NOW YOU SEE BEAST…HENRY McCOY is known for a lot of things–his persona as the X-Men BEAST, his massive intellect…and now a penchant for MAGIC. But where did Hank learn this new-found skill? And will his teammates still want him around once the secret is out in the open?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Douglas Franchin (A)
…NOW YOU DON’T! While HANK continues to struggle with his newfound magical skill, JIMMY HUDSON struggles with a challenge all his own… Will Jimmy be able to regain his memory with the help of his new friends? And will he like what he finds if he does?
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

Arthur Adams draws good. I can't match that cover up with the contents of either of those solicits, though.

Also, Jimmy Hudson is Wolverine II from the Ultimate Universe, right? So even though "The" Wolverine Logan has been "dead" for a while now, and Laura Kinney is the new Wolverine, there's now an old man version of Logan and a young man version of Logan kicking around the Marvel Universe, and the main way in which they are distinguishable from the late Logan is that their hair is differently colored? Okay.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

DC's September previews reviewed

The weirdly-named Dark Nights: Metal event seems to be growing. In addition to two-issues of the Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo series of that name, there are a bunch of one-shots with names like Batman: The Murder Machine and Batman: The Dawnbreaker, each featuring a cover seemingly illustrated by a silhouette and some sort of fusion of the Bat-symbol with that of one of his Justice League peers (the above is from Batman: The Merciless). And there's a multi-part tie-in storyline running through the pages of Teen Titans, Nightwing and Suicide Squad. I liked last week's The Forge just fine, but I'm still not entirely certain I get the premise of this--representatives of an evil Multiverse invading Gotham City and/or the world, I guess?--and when it comes to big super-comics crossover event stories, usually the simpler the basic premise, the better the series (there are, of course, exceptions to that rule).

We'll see. Anyway, beyond Metal, DC has plenty of other comics on their September schedule, and these are the ones that stuck out to me. (I read the full solicits at CBR, and you can too.)

Written by DAN JURGENS
Lenticular cover by NICK BRADSHAW
Variant cover by MIKEL JANIN
“THE OZ EFFECT” part one! The agents of the mysterious Mr. Oz begin to move as the Man of Steel works to stop the chaos they unleash in Metropolis and across the globe. But when Mr. Oz steps from the shadows his identity rocks the Last Son of Krypton to his core. The story that began in DC Universe: Rebirth #1 begins to end here!
On sale SEPTEMBER 13 • Lenticular version $3.99 • Nonlenticular version $2.99 US • RATED T

Written by DAN JURGENS
Lenticular cover by NICK BRADSHAW
Variant cover by MIKEL JANIN
“THE OZ EFFECT” part two! As Superman struggles with the ramifications of Mr. Oz’s identity, the mysterious figure’s origins and the long road to Superman’s doorstep finally reveal themselves.
On sale SEPTEMBER 27 • Lenticular version $3.99 • Nonlenticular version $2.99 US • RATED T

Oh man, September's first issue of Action just "begins to end" the story that began in DC Universe: Rebirth...? How much longer are they going to draw this out?

I am increasingly curious about this Mr. Oz person, the longer they tease it and the more cryptic solicitations I read. The popular, obvious assumption is that it is Ozymandius from Watchmen, working for or with Doctor Manhattan. That seems too obvious though, and these bits of solicitation copy suggest it is someone known to Superman. I'm not entirely sure how Ozymandius would have the power to do what he's been doing, including capturing and holding both Doomsday and Mr. Mxyzptlk, but then, I'm not entirely sure how Doctor Manhattan was powerful enough to "steal" ten years from the DC Universe when Pandora was apparently screwing around with it in the final pages of Flashpoint. (Also, there's no real reason for Ozymandius to "disguise" himself with a new costume and a codename, since no one who has seen him in the DC Universe would know who he is anyway...other than readers, of course). I guess we'll see.

Backup story art by SEBASTIAN FIUMARA
“The First Ally” finale! In the final issue of Scott Snyder’s high-octane run on ALL STAR BATMAN, he and superstar artist Rafael Albuquerque put Batman to the ultimate test! Faced with either losing his future as Batman or the person he loves most, the Dark Knight must decide which ultimate price he is willing to pay.
On sale SEPTEMBER 13 • 40 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T • FINAL ISSUE

I can only hope that All-Star Batman is being canceled so as not to confuse the market when DC resumes printing new issues of Frank Miller and Jim Lee's All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder in October.

I just read Batman: Zero Hour this weekend, and it was a nice reminder of just what a fine artist Graham Nolan is. And look, here's some new Graham Nolan art! That's the cover for September's issue of Bane: Conquest, which Nolan is drawing and his old Detective Comics collaborator Chuck Dixon is writing.

Written by HOPE LARSON
Cover by DAN MORA
“Summer of Lies” part two! Just as Batgirl and Nightwing discover which villain from their past has returned, they realize something worse…it was all a trap! When everything they thought they knew comes crashing down, will they be able to confront their true feelings for each other?
On sale SEPTEMBER 27 • 32 pg, FC, $3.99 US • RATED T

Fun fact: According to The DC Comics Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to the Characters of the DC Universe, Batgirl Barbara Gordon is 5'11, while Nightwing Dick Grayson is only 5/10.

I'm not entirely sure what's what in the Batman/The Shadow crossover, as I know next-to-nothing of The Shadow's story and mythology, but the art has been great, and this is a rather fine cover. I really dig the way artist Riley Rossmo uses The Shadow's crazy-long scarf and Batman's cape to make an abstract Joker face.

Written by GARTH ENNIS
Art and cover by MAURICET
It’s a red-letter day for the good folk of Unliklistan as they start to power up their first atomic reactor. But after pushing the wrong button, the ultra-rare radioactive element, unstabilium, has been released into the atmosphere! Now it’s up to pilot Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Atcherly and his navigator Captain Dudley “Mutt” Muller to save the day. Will they safely complete their mission? Or are things about to get a little…wacky?
On sale SEPTEMBER 6 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 6, $3.99 US • RATED T+

When I saw that cover, my first thought was something along the lines of "The only person who could make me want to read a Dastardly & Muttley comic that looked like that would be Garth Ennis...and what do you know, Garth Ennis is writing it!

Four of DC’s recent “greatest” trade paperbacks are collected in a slipcase set featuring BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN: THE GREATEST BATTLES, HARLEY QUINN’S GREATEST HITS, WONDER WOMAN: HER GREATEST BATTLES and JUSTICE LEAGUE: THEIR GREATEST TRIUMPHS (solicited in this catalogue for October on sale), featuring some of comics’ greatest heroes and villains!
On sale NOVEMBER 1 • FC, $39.99 US

I can't speak for the quality of the material within each of the these anthologies yet--of the ones I've seen, it is about as hit-or-miss as you would expect--but it's cool to see Kevin Maguire doing putting the current Justice League into his classic Justice League pose. I think each and every time there's a change in the Justice League line-up, Maguire should be hired to do some version of that image for a cover. Hell, I'd buy a "gallery"-style comic that was just pin-ups of Maguire drawing all of the Leagues like that.

“A Lonely Place Of Living” part one! It’s the story you’ve demanded: Where in the world (or otherwise) is Tim Drake? Red Robin faces a crossroads…escape the most devious prison ever devised, or find himself abandoned beyond time and space for all eternity! Not much of a choice, right? But when he finds out just who is locked in there with him, Tim’s world will change in ways he never imagined! This is one of the biggest stories of the REBIRTH era, setting the stage for an explosive DETECTIVE COMICS epic!
On sale SEPTEMBER 27 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Hopefully Tim is intensely looking at that costume there in his hands, perhaps the second worst costume he's ever worn, and considering whether he should through it in an incinerator or not. Perhaps I can help you make that decision, Tim. Yes! Yes! For God's sake, throw it in an incinerator immediately!

I think you should go back to your original costume and just go by Robin once again (or, ugh, for the first time in current continuity); there can certainly be more than one vigilante named "Robin" operating at the same time. And, if you must keep the code name Red Robin, and least get a decent costume. Maybe something close to your original, but swapping out all the greens and yellows in it for reds, blacks and/or grays? At the very least, lose the double-R logo; maybe your traditional R, only in red instead of yellow...?

Variant covers by JIM LEE and BRUCE TIMM
Celebrate twenty-five years of Harley Quinn with this collection of stories by some legendary Harley talent and some who’ve never drawn her before! How does Harley manage her insanely jam-packed life on Coney Island? What haven’t we seen from her past with the Joker? And can even Harley’s psychological acumen crack the twisted mind of…Robin, the Boy Wonder?
One-shot • On sale SEPTEMBER 6 • 48 pg, FC, $4.99 US • RATED T+

It didn't occur to me until I was reading solicitations today--for both this and September's issue of Teen Titans, a Metal tie-in featuring Harley Quinn, but I can't recall a time in which Harley Quinn and Damian Wayne have ever interacted before, can you? Given how long both have been around at this point--twenty-five years in her case, obviously, and ten in Damian's--that seems kind of remarkable. Surely I'm missing something? If not, then that could prove interesting. As I've said a few times before, Damian has become such a particular and distinct character that it's actually fun to see him meeting and interacting with other characters in the shared DC Universe.

I was a little surprised to see Chip Zdarsky up there among the credited writers, as I just sort of assumed Marvel had him under some sort of exclusive contract by this point.

In this three-issue miniseries that led into Grant Morrison’s JLA run, something is wrong with the World’s Greatest Heroes! Each has forgotten the life in which he or she wore a costume and protected the planet with their own unique powers and abilities. Even stranger, ordinary people everywhere are gaining their own powers in an insidious plan to cultivate Earth’s population as a race of super-soldiers!
On sale OCTOBER 25 • 128 pg, FC, 7.0625” x 10.875” $24.99 US

I read, re-read and re-read this one a lot when it first came out, as it was just before the Grant Morrison/Howard Porter/John Dell JLA launched, and that was and is one of my favorite super-comics of all time. I think the idea of this series was to kinda sorta show how the "Big Seven" iteration of the League came together, but it wasn't necessary to make sense of JLA #1 (there's simply a line of dialogue from Metamorpho or Atom-Smasher or someone from the previous line-up mentioning how the big guns were going to be taking over).

Now, though, I'm hard-pressed to remember too terribly much about it. I remember the artwork being somewhat uneven, with at least two distinct styles on display throughout. And I remember the inter-connecting covers, which formed a single horizontal image by Kevin Maguire when all three issues were placed next to one another.

The above cover, the middle-part of the triptych of covers, is the one that accompanied this week's solicitation. When the series was originally collected back in 1996, though, the cover looked like this:

Written by GERRY CONWAY, J.M. DeMATTEIS and others
A new era of JLA thrills began with these 1980s tales in which Aquaman assumed leadership of the World’s Greatest Heroes! First, Vixen traces the financing for a terrorist group to the African nation of M’Changa, where she must battle a charismatic leader who wants her powers. Then, the team races to the Soviet Union to rescue Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash, and Amazo returns to find a completely different team! Plus, Despero escapes his prison on Takron-Galtos to menace the universe again!
On sale DECEMBER 6 • 952 pg, FC, $99.99 US

So my first thought upon seeing this was "Good God, who would spend $100 on a 1,000-page collection of the Detroit Era of the Justice League?"

And my second thought was along the lines of, "Actually, I wouldn't mind owning that...maybe Amazon will have a steep discount on it..."

I'm not a fan of books that thick, and I would actually be more likely to buy this chopped up into three 300+-page collections or so, but this is one of the several eras of Justice League history I haven't been able to assemble whole runs of from back-issue bins, so I've mostly read these comics out-of-order, oftentimes months or even years apart from one another.

Somewhat surprisingly, this collection includes individual issues of rather recent vingtagee, including issues from the relatively short-lived Justice League anthology book JLA Classified and the 2011 DC Retroactive: JLA--The '80s special (there seems to be a typo above, though; while JLA Classified #22-#25 did indeed feature the Detroit-era League, #14 and #15 were the fourth and fifth chapters of Warren Ellis and Butch Guice's six-part "New Maps of Hell" featuring the then-current League line-up, while #16 is the first issue of the Gail Simone/Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez story also featuring the then-current, Big Seven League.

As for the quality of these comics, I think that in general they are rather unfairly maligned. Sure, pretty much everything having to do with Vibe in them now seems dumb, insensitive and possibly even insensitive, but I think it more likely has to do with the fact that they did not age well at all. I assume that Gerry Conway and company all had their hearts in the right place when they were trying to create a young Hispanic superhero.

Written by TOM KING
Variant cover by KEVIN EASTMAN
After the epic battle among the animals of last issue, Eisner Award-nominated writer Tom King and legendary artist Kevin Eastman (making his DC interior art debut) weave a suspenseful tale of Kamandi lost at sea! Imprisoned alongside a menagerie, Kamandi devises a plan to escape. Will they ever see land again? Or are they trapped in the veiled Vortex forever?
On sale SEPTEMBER 27 • 32 pg, FC, 9 of 12, $3.99 US • RATED T • DIGITAL FIRST

I haven't been following this book too closely, but I was struck by the art credit here. Weird to think of Kevin Eastman drawing anything for DC Comics, let alone an interior of a comic book that isn't a Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossover one. Of course, this being Kamandi, it will be full of half-human, half-animal characters, and that is definitely in Eastman's particular wheelhouse. Weird too that DC is using the ninth issue of this fairly random project as the place to debut Eastman's first interior artwork for them, instead of something a little more prestige and notable/noticeable.

I'll be interested in seeing what this looks like when it comes out.

I like this Ryan Sook cover for Superman.

Variant cover by JENNY FRISON
“Children of the Gods” part one! Spinning out of the pages of DC UNIVERSE REBIRTH and JUSTICE LEAGUE: DARKSEID WAR, legendary writer James Robinson (JSA: THE GOLDEN AGE, STARMAN) comes on board to answer one of the biggest questions of the year: Who is Wonder Woman’s brother? Taken away from Themyscira in the dead of night, the mysterious Jason has been hidden somewhere far from the sight of gods and men…but his life and Wonder Woman’s are about to intersect in a terrifying way, bringing them face to face with a cosmic threat they never imagined! Don’t miss the start of the next great Wonder Woman epic!
On sale SEPTEMBER 27 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T

Huh. So incoming, temporary Wonder Woman writer Shea Fontana will be followed by James Robinson. That is something of a surprise. I mean, just by virtue of being "James 'Starman' Robinson," the man's writing credit is almost always gonna carry with it some cache, but it was my understanding (mainly from Airboy, admittedly) that Robinson wasn't really happy with the (mostly quite poor) work he was doing for DC between Cry For Justice and Earth 2, and that DC wasn't all that happy with him, either. At least, that was a plot point in Airboy.

That said, more perplexing than Robinson returning to the publisher to write Wonder Woman--I was honestly expecting to hear that Margeurite Bennett and Bilquis Evely would be the new team, or perhaps that Phil Jimenez would be returning, given how well Rucka coming back seemed to do for DC--is his particular pitch. This is following up on plot points from the pre-"Rebirth" Justice League story "Darkseid War" which, I'll be honest, I forgot a whole lot about, and other DC series seem to be intentionally forgetting about as well (see Mister Miracle, for example). That ended almost a year ago, and, by the time this sees print, will be a reboot and over 30-issues of Wonder Woman ago, following a story which, as I understood it, seemed to re-re-rejigger Wonder Woman's origin in such a way to call into question some background events of "Darkseid War."

So honestly, I'm not sure what DC and/or James Robinson are thinking here.

On the other hand, from what I've read regarding the announcement, Robinson's run is also intended to be a temporary one; longer than Fontanas, but not by much. So I don't know, maybe we will get a Bennet/Evely Wonder Woman in the near-ish future, or a Devin Grayson/Phil Jimenez one (Shut up! It's my daydream!).

Written by GAIL SIMONE
Variant cover by LIAM SHARP
What makes one a legend? How do legends carve their names into history, when countless others are forgotten? Wonder Woman and Conan the Barbarian are destined by the fates to be legendary, but when their stories collide, will both emerge victorious, or will the fickle Gods cut their lives short? Co-published with Dark Horse Comics.
On sale SEPTEMBER 20 • 32 pg, FC, 1 of 6, $3.99 US • RATED T+

I...don't think this is a good idea. I haven't kept up with Dark Horse' Conan comics--it's probably been almost a decade since the last one I read--but unless they've radically re-written him as a particularly woke version of himself, Conan and Wonder Woman seem almost antithetical to one another, and it's hard for me to imagine the pair of them so much as holding a conversation without even Wonder Woman at her most patient slapping him every few minutes.

That said, it's weird enough a pairing that I'll want to check it out. In trade. From the library. Someday.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

On Wynonna Earp Season 1*

Wynonna Earp, created and written by Beau Smith, began its comic book life as a limited series from Image in 1996. The descendant of the wild west lawman Wyatt Earp, Wynonna was saddled with not only the famous name, but also the task of hunting down supernatural threats as an agent of the US Marshals' "Black Badge Division." IDW would later publish miniseries Home on the Strange in 2003 and The Yeti Wars in 2011. The comics could, most charitably, be described as somewhere between completely incompetently made and mediocre (We'll discuss those in the next post, though; don't you worry).

In 2015, Syfy acquired the project pitched to them by IDW and showrunner Emily Andras, who had previously written, produced and showrun fantasy drama Lost Girl. The 13-episode Wynonna Earp series debuted on April 1 the following year. Andras was extremely selective in what she chose to take from the comics. TV's Wynonna Earp had the vagabond title character (played by Melanie Scrofano) returning to her hometown of Purgatory on the eve of her 27th birthday in order to attend a family funeral. Having suffered a particularly traumatic event as a child (when her family home was attacked by the undead), and a particularly troubled childhood that followed (since no one believed her stories of that attack by the undead), Wynonna left town and never looked back--until the start of the series, anyway.

She soon found herself re-embroiled in the family curse when she becomes "The Heir," the only person capable of sending the town's 77 undead revenants to hell by shooting them with her great-great-grandfather's now-magical gun, "Peacemaker." The revenants, lead by the charismatic Bobo Del Rey (Michael Eklund), are seeking a means to escape The Ghost River Triangle, the geological region which the curse kept them all entrapped within the borders of.

The threat of an army of revenants caught the attention a mysterious government agent named Dolls (Shamier Anderson), who worked with a joint U.S./Canadian task force known as Black Badge Division. Together Wynonna and Dolls take on Bobo, the revenants and assorted other supernatural threats with the help of Wynonna's little sister Waverly (Dominique Provost-Chalkley), a self-taught expert on the curse and local history, and the immortal Doc Holliday (Tim Rozon), the former best friend of Wyatt. Over the course of the season, the characters unraveled mysteries about the curse and learned secrets of their own pasts, while new mysteries and secrets arose at the climax so they would have new stuff to deal with in season two.
Spoiler alert: Canonical ship WayHaught totally kiss in evening gowns, neither gets killed off
The show gathered a cult following online, particularly with LGBT fans on Tumblr, thanks in no small part to the cast's active Twitter presence. Andras and others often live-tweeted episodes as they aired, actively engaging with fans directly through social media. The show also premiered during the height of the "Bury Your Gays" epidemic last year, when lesbian characters were dying off at a pace of almost one a week. Andras, who is no stranger to courting LGBT viewers, actually took to Twitter to assure fans that neither Waverly Earp or Nicole Haught (Katherine Barrell), the show’s resident lesbian couple, would meet an untimely end. That care is one of the reasons LGBT fans are so protective of Wynonna Earp; it's one of the few times they feel a showrunner has their best interests at heart. Andras understands she is targeting a marginalized audience and, more importantly, takes great pride in the responsibility of treating fans with respect.

In preparation for season two, which began airing June 9 on SyFy, we marathoned the first season and sat down at our laptops to discuss it. Please note there will be some spoilers, so you may want to watch the first season yourself before joining us below.

Meredith: OK, since I forced you into watching Wynonna Earp, I’ll start. The best way I can describe the show is this: Emily Andras packed a car full of characters, plot, action sequences and tropes. She took the car from 0-90 and started pushing them out onto the highway. If this is not a show you can get on board with in the first 15 minutes, then you might as well get out.

Wynonna Earp isn't interested in getting bogged down in heavy internal mythology. Why does Peacemaker work the way is does? I don't know, it's a magic gun with a mind of its own. How did Doc spend 80 years in at the bottom of a well? Shrug; a witch’s curse, I guess.

If you are the kind of person who needs a show to articulate hard and fast reasoning for everything it does, then you should probably go back to watching Game of Thrones, because you're not going to find it here. And honestly, I couldn't love this show any more. I cannot remember the last time I had so much fun watching TV.

So Caleb, give me your brief gut reaction to Wynonna Earp now that we’ve watched season one.

Caleb: "Brief"...? Oh man, I hate brevity!

It took me a few episodes to really get into it honestly, precisely because I am the kind of person who nitpicks internal logic in fictive narratives, and can get hung up on little details (Doc spending a chunk of immortality in the well I can handle, but it still doesn't explain how Wynonna didn't bump into him when she climbed out of that very same well!). That said, once the major players were all introduced and were around long enough that I got to know them, I became much more engaged with the show.
I really liked the Waverly character, who is easy on the eyes, has a confoundingly weird wardrobe and was presented first as a typical, cheerful, twenty-something small-town barmaid, and then is revealed to be this secret student of history and the occult with a serial killer-like zeal for the subject matter, complete with the crazy person's wall of pinned-up photos and newspaper clippings.
And I particularly loved the Doc Holliday character. He's a handsome fellow with a sweet cookie-duster mustache, and I like his overall old timey-ness, from his manner of speech to just how out of it he is when it comes to things like cars and other, more modern inventions he missed while sitting at the bottom of a well. For the most part, they play him as if he walked across the studio lot from the sound set where they were making a cowboy show into that of this one about demon-hunting, and he decided to just stick around this set instead.

I found the crypto-Canadian-ness of it pretty hilarious too. There's something funny about setting a show full of riffs and allusions to the all-American Western myth of cowboys and gunslingers in Canada, and the show rarely commits to exactly which side of the border it's set on.

I think the show suffered a bit whenever it tried to get too fancy with the special effects, as some scenes were obviously more ambitious than the budget could afford, and the anal retentive in me felt parts of several episodes could have used another round or two of script-polishing to explain the sorts of things that it either waits until the last episodes to address or just plain never gets around to, but overall I had fun with it, and even became invested in the characters.

Meredith: One of my favorite themes to discuss is the search for identity. The trifecta of Willa (the eldest Earp sister, played by Natalie Krill, who was thought to have been murdered by revenants as a child), Wynonna, and Waverly represent "the one who was chosen, the one who was forced to choose and the one whose choice was made for them." Willa was meant to then be the heir. She was trained. Wynonna wants nothing to do with the Earp curse but had to step up because no one else could. And Waverly wanted nothing more than to be the heir herself.

I enjoyed the way Emily Andras inverted the "search," so to speak. When the show starts, our characters are thrust into these roles (heir, sister, pariah) and we get to watch as they struggle to fill this new space and navigate changing dynamics. But by the end, Willa arrives and Waverly might not even be an Earp. The identities the characters have been developing are completely torn away. They're forced to rethink everything they had once taken for granted.

Caleb: I suppose the same could be said of their relationships to one another, to their enemies and allies and to the town itself. Everyone ends up somewhere different than where they started not just personally, but as they relate to all of the other elements of the show.

Meredith: I liked that not one character had the upper hand for long. Bobo wasn't just sitting around in the trailer park watching his master plan unfold while our heroes marched toward him. I thought by shifting the power dynamics between Bobo, The Stone Witch (Rayisa Kondracki), Wynonna, Doc, Dolls and so on it gave the series a lot of sparking energy. You think Bobo has all the power until you find out about the Stone Witch. But then you realize she's lying to Bobo about having the lead and it's actually Waverly who has the skull that Bobo needs. The series is like a poker game. Everyone is keeping secrets in hopes of shifting the power back to them, while also praying that no one calls their bluff.

Caleb: What's interesting about that too is that despite how long some of these characters have had their plans in motion, none of them seem to have planned for what happens once they meet their goals. Like, Bobo is able to escape the Ghost River Triangle: Then what? In addition to his immortality and his powers, he's basically got a whole devoted cult at his beck and call where he is; is the ability to go on vacation all that important? Also, he might not know it, but if he does discover a means for escape, the government is just going to nuke the town out of existence anyway.

Similarly, Doc has spent his immortality planning on vengeance, but then what? And the peculiarities of the spell prevent him from actually taking that revenge, anyway.

And what happens to Wynonna if she's able to break the curse? Will she lose her newfound purpose in life?

I think that's part of what makes the characters so engaging. They are a lot like the real people in you know in your real life, seemingly making dumb decisions or not thinking through their actions and that you want to sit down and talk to them but you can't--because they are TV characters.

Meredith: You make a really great point about Wynonna. When we first meet her, she's a total mess. Working with Black Badge and accepting the role of the Earp heir gives her life the structure and meaning it's been sorely missing up until that point. It gives her a second chance to reconnect with her sister. It gives her purpose and direction. So you’re right, it makes you wonder what will happen when (or if) she breaks the curse.

I want to talk a bit about the morally ambiguous heroes and villains. When I realized that not all the revenants were completely evil, I knew I was going to love this show. The Stone Witch's curse was wide-reaching, so a number of revenants were just poor souls caught in the crossfire of Wyatt's gun. It puts extra weight on Wynonna, who is tasked with sending all of them back to hell, but it's not as simple as kicking demon ass. She had to come to terms with the fact that some of these cursed people are no worse than she.

Even Bobo, who is ostensibly the season's "Big Bad," is not motivated by pure evil. He's tired. He wants to leave the Ghost River Triangle. In fact, it's Black Badge that's threatening to drop an atomic bomb on Purgatory and all its human citizens. So tell me, who is really the villain here?
Caleb: Based on haircut and costuming decisions, I'm going to say Bobo. Seriously though, I think the show operates very much within the realm of the deconstructionist--or are we on post-deconstructionist at this point?-- concept of the Western, where there are no longer any white hats or black hats. The closest thing we get to an ethically pure, old-school character is that of Wyatt Earp himself, who appears only in a flashback or two, and then only to express disapproval of Doc's life choices.

Of course, something went wrong with even Wyatt's life, to the point that his descendants are suffering this curse, so maybe not even his is a traditional white hat character...

Meredith: How does it function as an adaptation of Beau Smith’s comic? Did you think it made the leap from page to screen successfully? Is there anything from the comic you would've kept? What change did you like the most?
Reminder: This is what the comic book this show is based on used to look like
Caleb: Ha ha ha ha ha ha! You're kidding, right?

Well, I think as an adaptation, in the strictest sense of the word, it's obviously pretty poor, as I think it's safe to say next-to-nothing from the comics actually makes it into the show. It's mostly just a couple of names, and the idea of a curse on the Earp line, right? But then, the comics themselves were so poorly made, that's not a strike against the show at all. As a show based on the comics, which is different than an adaptation, it's phenomenal. It's comics-to-TV alchemy, turning a base metal into gold.

One potential advantage the concept evidenced in the comics vs. that of the show was the idea that, in the comics, Wynonna as already a fully-functioning member of Black Badge, which appears to be like Mike Mignola's BPRD. Had they kept that premise, I think we would have had a show in which Wynonna, Dolls and the gang travel from place to place, fighting different sorts of supernatural threats. I would imagine something closer to The X-Files, I guess, with a different threat each episode, and maybe the occasional "mythology" episode tying into some overarching plotline. That would also allow for more and different types of monsters rather than just the revenants. In the comics, she fights werewolves, vampires, a mummy, zombies and so on, whereas the show basically has her dealing exclusively with the revenants, with the occasional witch or skinwalker.

That, of course, would have been a very different, very expensive show, and this particular premise allowed for one location with a handful of different sets. Additionally, I think the idea of Wynonna as someone protecting a single town resonates as a Western, deconstructionist or otherwise, as she's basically the heroic sheriff of Purgatory, protecting the townspeople from threats from inside and from without.

Meredith: You and I sat down and watched Tombstone as well as reading Beau Smith’s original run of Wynonna Earp comics and I think we both agreed that it was pretty obvious Emily Andras did the same exact thing before breaking season one. There were a couple of similarities between the show and Tombstone that just couldn’t have been coincidence. Overall, I’m impressed about how she was able to take this one fragment of an idea and turn it into such an entertaining television show.

Caleb: Yeah, viewed as a sort of prequel to Wynonna Earp, Tombstone is enjoyable on an entirely different level viewed separeately. I think I prefer Rozon's version of Doc to Val Kilmer's, even though Rozon seems to be basing his a bit on Kilmer's...or else they both based their performances on someone else's, or that's just the way Doc Holliday really was in real life?

Meredith: Thinking ahead, are you excited for the second season? What would you like to see?

Caleb: Well, the true identity of the mysterious roadside mechanic with superspeed and the initials J.C.--who isn't Jesus Christ, but seems to be angelic in nature--that showed up late in season one has been bothering the hell out of me, and I want to see who the hell he's supposed to be. I'm also curious about the monster that Bobo calls "the old one" that is trying to get into Purgatory, which looked like a poorly rendered mash-up of a giant snake and something Lovecraftian. And obviously there's something up with Dolls that hasn't been explained yet.

I'm also interested in seeing what happens next, now that Bobo is out of the picture, and so are all of the seemingly other most threatening of his kind. I would like to see Wynonna, Doc, Dolls, Waverly and Haught fight more and different types of monsters. Hopefully a yeti.

Meredith: My dream for season two would be the addition of more old-timey gunslingers, Calamity Jane, in particular. They’ve got Doc Holliday, why not add another one?

Caleb: Calamity Jane? Okay. But only if Alicia Witt plays her. And she gets at least one musical number, a la the Doris Day musical. Or is everyone sick of musical episodes at this point?

Meredith: I absolutely second Alicia Witt playing Calamity Jane. And musical episodes are still a thing. I bet Emily Andras could pull one off, too. The other thing I'm most looking forward to is Waverly exploring her family history. In the final episode, Bobo Del Ray suggested she might not be a full fledged Earp. If true, that could be potentially devastating for both Waverly and Wynonna.

*You guys know my pal, and so far the only person I've ever actually collaborated on writing anything with, Ms. Meredith Tomeo, right? We did the "Birdwatching" feature together for Comics Alliance. Well, we were intending to do a similar recurring feature on SyFy's Wynonna Earp series, starting with this year's second season but, alas, Comics Alliance is no more. So this piece is one we had already started working on before CA went away, and it was intended to be a sort of catch-up on the first season before we started doing the weekly synopsis pieces.  Since I do have my own comics blog, I figured I would just run our discussion on the first season here, rather than just letting all of these words about something somewhat comics related go to waste. If anyone wants to pay us to watch Wynonna Earp for them, though, we're totally interested.