Marvel NOW! Teasers Pay Off With Enigmatic 'Divided We Stand' Group Shot
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? To see what the Robot 6 crew — or at least two of us — has been reading lately, click below.
I know I just talked about Marvel’s Battlestar Galactica very recently in this space, but I did want to mention a pair of standout issues late in the run. For better and worse, the comic separated itself from the TV show fairly early. This meant it never dealt with elements of the show like the Pegasus or the Ship of Lights. The comic also continued well past the show’s cancellation. However, for much of its run it maintained one of two ongoing subplots. First, it put Adama in a memory-enhancing chamber which was promptly sabotaged, thereby allowing him to remember a few issues’ worth of old adventures. Second, it shipped Starbuck off to another patchwork fleet called Scavenge World, where he was completely off the book’s radar. Starbuck’s return happened in issues #19 and #20 (September and October 1980), which were written and pencilled by Walt Simonson and inked by Klaus Janson. These are fun comics, and Simonson clearly had a blast putting them together. For one thing, he opens up the layouts considerably, giving them a playful quality which underlies the jaunty spirit of the occasion. His likenesses are also spot on, especially Starbuck and his ever-present cigar. Same goes for the ships and sets, but his original designs (like Starbuck’s ship, a Galactica “shuttlescout,” and Scavenge World’s fightercraft) both fit with the established aesthetic and expand on it. The plot is pretty straightforward — Starbuck only left Galactica in exchange for Scavenge World’s empress healing Adama, so when he gets bored, he finagles the parts to repair an old starship — and the endpoint is easy to see, but the point is to spend time with Starbuck, and this Simonson accomplishes nicely. Plus he gets some good comic relief out of Boxey, which is pretty impressive.
The first non-Geoff Johns issue of Green Lantern (#21) since George W. Bush’s first term came out this week, written by Robert Venditti, pencilled by Billy Tan, and inked by Richard Friend. There’s a lot going on, from the “we are so dead” opening flash-forward to subplots with Carol Ferris and a GL in love with a criminal, but it doesn’t feel as busy as one of Johns’ issues. Tan and Friend’s work is fine, if a little modest compared to some of this title’s previous art teams, but it gets the job done. By putting Hal Jordan in charge of the Corps while the new Guardians grow into their roles, Venditti seems to be playing with the concept’s core components as Johns did — but he’s dealing with the nuts and bolts of being a Green Lantern, not the philosophical underpinnings of the Emotional Spectrum. It’s like the new creative team is taking a deep breath, surveying the landscape, and figuring out what to do next. I like that attitude, and I’m looking forward to more.
Finally, Dial H #13 (written by China Mieville, pencilled by Alberto Ponticelli, inked by Dan Green) is a spotlight on the immensely appealing Open Window Man, as he guides a youngster with a very familiar childhood tragedy quickly through the steps of becoming a superhero. Meanwhile, our main characters search desperately for a way to reach a special dial, which is literally trapped in another dimension. Both plot threads depend on chalk graffiti, which is an inspired narrative device and manages to be slightly less meta than you’d think. Sadly, this issue opens up the worlds of Dial H just in time to wind everything down, because the book’s only got a few more issues left. I’m hoping we’ll see more of these characters and ideas, though — they’re too good to leave in limbo.
Donald Duck “The Old Castle’s Secret” by Carl Barks (Fantagraphics) — The title story is one of my favorite Barks tales (admittedly my Barks immersion is relatively shallow), partly because the plot involves Donald, his nephews and Uncle Scrooge skulking about an old, haunted castle and solving a mystery, making it not completely unlike your average episode of Scooby-Doo. Barks gives it his all, too, filling the panels with lots of slapstick and suspense. The good news is that’s not the lone gem – this book is filled with wonderful tales involving Donald taking up fox hunting (at Uncle Scrooge’s behest, facing off against gunslingers in the old West, competing in a rocket ship race to the moon, being an extremely bad member of the Coast Patrol and – in perhaps the funniest story of the bunch – acting as a very sleepy night watchmen, with the nephews trying any number of devices (including a tuba) to keep him awake. This is all-killer, no-filler Barks material here and an excellent introduction to those who haven’t dived in yet.
Nurse Nurse by Katie Skelly (Sparkplug) — A young nurse travels to outer space and battles pirates, evil corporations and nefarious butterflies. I’m making it sound more genre-y and action-oriented than it actually is. Skelly has a loose, trippy style, both in her storytelling and her art that gives the book an off-kilter, “anything can happen” vibe. There’s also an air of melancholia that runs throughout the work, a sense of loss and confusion that gives the book an added weight. I enjoyed reading this.