SPIDER-MANDATE: The Lowe-down on "Secret Wars," Tie-Ins and Stacey Lee
Writer/artist: Aaron Kuder
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
It was a close call between this issue and the spotlight on the First Born in Wonder Woman, but the Parasite won out thanks to Aaron Kuder’s offbeat style. This version of the Parasite is a jaded slacker bike-messenger whose eventual nom de crime comes from his mooching personality. He sees Metropolis not as a fantasyland protected by the world’s greatest superhero, but as a never-ending source of unimaginable headaches. When he ends up stabbing one of those headaches — in his words, a “giant booger monster” — with a live power line, it earns him a broken leg and the interest of STAR Labs. Subsequently, their experiments turn him into what looks like a purple version of The X Files‘ Flukeman — which isn’t a criticism, mind you, but an appreciative acknowledgment — with a hunger for energy.
Kuder’s visuals sell the Parasite’s story quite effectively. A montage describes the unappreciative recipients on the proto-Parasite’s messenger route, and oversized single-word captions underscore the turning points which lead him down the dark path. Indeed, the whole issue combines a cartoonish, caricature-heavy sensibility with the atmosphere of a horror movie, and it makes the Parasite … well, not exactly sympathetic or relatable, but easier to understand, and ultimately chilling.
On a more practical note, the issue has gotten me eager to see what Kuder does with Greg Pak’s scripts on future issues of Action Comics. If Kuder’s work is going to look like this, it’ll bring a new kind of energy (as it were) to the series. — Tom Bondurant
By Satoshi Kon
Published by Vertical Inc.
Satoshi Kon, who died in 2010 at the age of 46, is best known as an anime director (Paprika is his signature work), but he began his career as a manga artist and in fact was the assistant to Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo for a while.
None of this matters very much, though, because Tropic of the Sea, his first manga, is a book that not only stands alone just fine, without any additional context, but is very accessible to people who don’t usually read manga. Kon has a clear, uncluttered drawing style and although his story has some twists, it unfolds in a straightforward way.
The story is set in a small seaside town with an odd tradition: The villagers care for a mermaid egg, returning it to the sea after 60 years and then getting a new one, and in return, the mermaid protects them. The story focuses on Yosuke Yasuhiro, a teenager whose father is the priest in the shrine where the egg is kept. While Yosuke and his grandfather both believe in the tradition, Yosuke’s father is dismissive. When developers come to town to build a resort, the town splits, with some (including Yosuke and his grandfather) wanting to stay faithful to tradition while others (including Yosuke’s father) want the benefits that modernization and an influx of cash can bring. While this is a classic plot, Kon throws in some curve balls and brings it to life with a solid cast of characters who all feel real. The manga is complete in one volume, and it’s a very satisfying read. — Brigid Alverson
Cover by Bruce Timm
Written By Paul Grimshaw and Erik Warfield
Drawn By Ed Laroche and Marc Sandroni
Colored by Tony Fleecs and Andrew Siegel
Lettered by Tony Fleecs
Published by Art of Fiction
Digitally released by ComiXology Submit
I will not lie, I was immediately drawn to this project solely due to the sexually charged/faux damaged pulp cover by Bruce Timm. Do not expect the interiors to have a hint of Timm to them. That being said, artistically the art has a strong mixture of gritty pulp by Laroche (in chapters 1 and 3) and retro pop art by Sandroni (in chapter 2) to it. The pop art vibe of chapter 2 really works thanks to Siegel’s coloring.
The crime story offers a great mix of pulp romance, a substantial level of (be advised) graphic violence (admittedly to be expected) and just an underlying element of classic betrayal. I hope this project is not a one-trick pony and that the story delivers as strong a plot in the next installment. –Tim O’Shea