Robot 6

Best of 7 | ‘Empire,’ ‘Justice League United,’ ‘Elektra’ and more

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Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to something great fans are doing to an awesome comic that came out. So let’s get to it…

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We Are Comics shines a light on the faces of comics

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There is a shift taking place within comics culture. Despite a panicked collection of anonymous fans trying to stop it, progress marches on with or without them. Modern comics culture is filled with faces of all kinds. It’s evident at comics conventions and comic book stores, and now it’s reinforced in a new Tumblr blog celebrating our rich and varied community.

We Are Comics is a campaign that launched Friday to “promote the visibility of marginalized members of our population; and to stand in solidarity against harassment and abuse”. Editor/writer Rachel Edidin teamed up with Racialicious and The Raw Story editor Arturo Garcia and blogger Elle Collins of ComicsRiot.com to create the site, which posts pictures of comics fans of all kinds declaring “I am comics.” Any one can submit their picture and a write-up of themselves, yes even straight, white male adults, as long as the submission is provided to support a diverse community of fans and professionals.

Scrolling down the page is already a really beautiful thing: people who identify as female, male, asexual, straight, gay, lesbian, young, old, and more, all unafraid to say that comics are awesome, and so are they for loving them. This is not only a wonderful promotion of our diverse community, it’s a wonderful promotion for comics as a whole. A few days old, and there are already a wonderful variety of faces proudly and happily embracing their love of comics. A few comics pros have also contributed in a gesture of support, like writers Matt Sturges and his two daughters, Chris Roberson and his 10-year-old daughter, and editor Janelle Asselin. A backlog has already grown, so send your picture in fast. (Corey Blake)

Get ready for more Empire and Supreme

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Fans of alternative takes on superheroes got some pretty good news this past week. First, as part of the Thrillbent presentation at WonderCon, Mark Waid announced that he and Barry Kitson would be bringing back Empire, the supervillain-centric series they co-created several years back. This will be Empire’s third publisher: After Image published two issues in 2000 (under its Gorilla Comics imprint), the feature continued in 2003 as a six-issue DC miniseries.

Now, however, Empire will be an ongoing Thrillbent series. As always, it centers around Golgoth, a Doctor Doom-like supervillain who has finally disposed of any superheroic interference and conquered the world. However, he’s surrounded by scheming advisers, his daughter has her own agenda, and his grip on power depends on a particularly dark secret. Waid went on to write Irredeemable, about a Superman-style hero who turns against the world, but it’s hard to compare the two. Irredeemable was practically a horror comic, about a group of survivors struggling against an unstoppable foe. Empire has its share of horrors, but since the world isn’t going to be freed anytime soon, it’s concerned primarily with how its characters get along as part of Golgoth’s despotic rule.

(A brief note on the technical side of things: the Image and DC issues are available free to Thrillbent subscribers as a PDF download. It’s part of an incentive for Thrillbent’s new iPad app, but I downloaded Empire directly to my Kindle via the Thrillbent site. Anyway, if you don’t mind $3.99 per month for access to Thrillbent’s vast library, and you haven’t read Empire, what’s stopping you?)

In the early ’90s Supreme started out as Rob Liefeld’s bare-bones Superman analogue, but a few years later Alan Moore and a host of artists turned it into an all-out Silver Age homage. After a 15-year hiatus, Erik Larsen and Cory Hamscher’s six-issue continuation tried to pick up where Moore left off, but ended up wiping out much of Moore’s work. This past week, Image announced that writer Warren Ellis and artist Tula Lotay would be bringing back the character in Supreme: Blue Rose.

Considering that the Larsen-led version ended on a cliffhanger, and the press release mentions Ellis wanting to “extend [Supreme] into a … new floor on top of Alan Moore and Rob Liefeld’s house,” it’s reasonable to think that Ellis will try to harmonize all the various treatments of the character — in his own inimitable way, of course. To my knowledge, Ellis hasn’t written much Superman, outside of alternate versions in Planetary and a 2005 JLA Classified arc, so I’m curious to see how he handles Supreme. One thing is for sure: The newest version of Supreme begins on July 23. (Tom Bondurant)

The Big Guy and Rusty blast off on another adventure

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As a fan of the original Big Guy and Rusty comics — and short-lived animated series — from the 1990s, I was pretty happy to see that creators Frank Miller and Geof Darrow are reteaming to tell a new story about the duo in the relaunched Dark Horse Present.

“I have an idea of what it’s going to be,” Darrow told CBR. “It’s kind of funny, I think. I hope. In theory, Frank is going to do the dialogue for me when it’s ready. He said he would. He can really put something into it…I don’t want people’s expectations to be too high. This is just a simple thing.”

Simple or not, I’m looking forward to seeing the pair blast off again. (JK Parkin)

Elektra’s new status quo is spectacular

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Consider me in the category of people wondering why Marvel was pursuing yet another Elektra ongoing series. Yet after reading the first issue, I admit I was mistaken in thinking that way.

Indulge the reviewers cliche for a moment, but writer W. Haden Blackman successfully has gotten into the head of the series’ lead character. In the opening pages of the book, Blackman allows Elektra to have an internal monologue, reflecting upon how she sees herself–and how she has often been defined by others. Without giving any plot away, I see this series as twisted mirror image of what the Black Widow crew is trying to do with that series.

If the writing does not appeal to folk, I am hard pressed to see how one cannot be drawn in by the majestic art by Michael Del Mundo. Since the early days of the character’s story, her training in ballet has been noted. But Del Mundo is the first artist I can recall who gives almost a ballerina’s grace to Elektra’s poise and movement in scenes.

Sometimes first issues are saddled with too much “setting up the status quo”–Blackman is efficient in doing that and getting us right into the action. Of the slew of All-New Marvel #1s that have hit the shelves in the past month or so, I count this to be among its strongest. Cannot wait to see what the team does with the next issue. Oh–and lest I forget, Marvel needs to make a poster of Del Mundo’s cover. I could stare at that single piece for hours on end. (Tim O’Shea)

Good starts for Justice League United and Secret Origins

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This week DC relaunched two well-established series. Justice League United #0 (written by Jeff Lemire, drawn by Mike McKone, colored by Marcelo Maiolo) is the post-Forever Evil version of Justice League of America, while the new Secret Origins #1 marks the return of a classic DC anthology title. I found both to be entertaining examples of traditional superhero series. Specifically, right off the bat JLU got on my side by showing the bulk of the team working together immediately, before flashing back to see how they all got that way. It wouldn’t have been unusual to, say, spend six issues explaining who everyone was and why they chose to form a new Justice League team — but considering that we all know they’re going to do that, it might have been a bit frustrating. McKone’s precise figures and clear storytelling (along with Maiolo’s colors) complement Lemire’s efficient script, allowing the issue to move smoothly from in medias res action to character introductions (with a bit of action in each, naturally) while setting up the rest of the initial 5-issue arc. Furthermore, JLU #0 refers only obliquely to the events of Forever Evil, suggesting that whatever angst was left over from the big event, this series isn’t that concerned with it. That attitude is always welcome, especially in a DC comic. This was a great first issue, and I hope this creative team puts out a lot more just like it.

As for Secret Origins #1, it may have been unintended, but the three stories were each connected by the theme of “mothers.” The Superman origin story (written by Greg Pak, drawn by Lee Weeks with some inks by Sandra Hope, colored by Dave McCaig) trades off Lara’s narration for Martha Kent’s, while the Robin story (written by Kyle Higgins, pencilled by Doug Mahnke, inked by Keith Champagne and Christian Alamy, colored by John Kalisz) involves Dick’s last birthday present for his mom, and the Supergirl story (written by Tony Bedard, pencilled by Paolo Siquiera, colored and inked by Hi-FI) uses some of Alura’s perspective, although it’s told mostly from Kara’s. Each story is 12 pages, which makes the $4.99 price tag a little easier to take. More to the point, though, 12 pages gives each creative team a little more space to spread out — exploring baby Clark’s powers alongside Martha’s protectiveness, using a page each for some critical relationship-building between Bruce and Dick, or finishing up Supergirl’s story with a brief rescue. The Superman and Robin stories may be the most successful because they have clear emotional centers. This is not to say the Supergirl story is bad, but it tries to harmonize a lot of New 52 continuity elements into a cohesive narrative — and then wrap around them a story about how Kara’s sense of justice gets her in trouble — and it’s just not as focused as the other two are. Still, all three stories look great, as you might expect from this artistic lineup. Even if Secret Origins is never an “important” series, it can still showcase some good work, and I’m glad DC has made a place for it. (Tom Bondurant)

What in the Sam Hill is this?

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In late 2012, Kevin Melrose wrote about Rich Tommaso serializing The Mysterious Case: Sam Hill 1939 online. While those pages are no longer online, I was pleased to recently discover that Tommaso (through his Recoil Crime/Suspense Comics Atlanta-based self-publishing entity) is releasing it in a black and white printed format.

Sam Hill is a character that Tommaso first explored in 2012’s The Cavalier Mr. Thompson–and he has now returned to that character. The story online was in color, but its printed form is in black and white. I think crime/suspense from this era works best as gritty black and white.

Other than building the tale around a toothache–what really appeals to me about Tommaso’s storytelling is his eye for layout. At one point, he draws two pages with 48 panels (alternating consistently between art and text for the most part). And that’s just one of the more ambitious sequences in the story, he spreads the ambition in his narrative fairly evenly throughout the whole story. (Tim O’Shea)

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