The Stack: The Last Ronin, X Of Swords And More
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On this week’s comic book review podcast:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin #1
Story by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird & Tom Waltz
Script by Tom Waltz & Kevin Eastman
Layouts by Kevin Eastman
Pencils/Inks by Esua & Isaac Escorza
X of Swords: Stasis #1
Written by Tini Howard and Jonathan Hickman
Art by Pepe Larraz and Mahmud Asrar
Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Michael Dialynas
Dark Nights: Death Metal – Rise of the New God #1
Written by James Tynion IV, Bryan Hill
Art by Jesus Merino, Nik Virella
Sex Criminals #69
By Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky
Stranger Things: Science Camp #2
Dark Horse Comics
Written by Jody Houser
Pencils by Edgar Salazar
The Immortal Hulk #39
Written by Al Ewing
Art by Joe Bennett
The Last God: Songs of Lost Children #1
Created by Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Written by Dan Watters
Art by Steve Beach
The Department of Truth #2
Written by James Tynion IV
Art by Martin Simmonds
G.I. Joe #9
Written by Paul Allor
Art by Ryan Kelly
Colonel Weird: Cosmagog #1
Dark Horse Comics
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Tyler Crook
Written by John Layman
Art by Dan Boultwood
Batman: Three Jokers #3
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Jason Fabok
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Dustin Nguyen
Written by Gene Luen Yang
Art by Dike Ruan
Undiscovered Country #9
Written by Scott Snyder & Charles Soule
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi
Written by Cecil Castellucci
Art by Emanuela Lupacchino, Marguerite Sauvage, Aneke
Written by Sean Lewis
Art by Caitlin Yarsky
An Unkindness of Ravens #2
Written by Dan Panosian
Art by Marianna Ignazzi
A Man Among Ye #3
Written by Stephanie Phillips
Art by Craig Cermak
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Alex: What is up you all? Welcome to the stack. I’m Alex.
Justin: I’m Justin.
Pete: I’m Pete.
Alex: And on the stack we talk about a ton of comics that came out this week. So many comics, so many big comics, but I want to kick it off with this one Pete. Pete, this goes out to you.
Alex: Once upon a time, there was a little boy who grew up in Rochester, loving four turtles.
Alex: Those four turtles lived in the sewer, they loved pizza and they were ninjas. They were the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and this is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin #1 dedicated to Pete LePage.
Pete: From IDW comics story about Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird and Tom Waltz script by Tom Waltz and Kevin Eastman. Layouts by Kevin Eastman, Pencils and Inks by Esau and Isaac Escorza. Now the whole thing behind this is, this is reportedly [crosstalk 00:02:18]
Alex: Wait, wait. Allow me to just take it over. Allow me to just take it from here.
Pete: Oh you want to take it over? Okay take it from here.
Justin: It seems like a risk.
Alex: Basically Eastman and Laird back in the day had this story and they just put it on the shelf because they stopped doing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for a while. And so they had this story planned a long time ago and just as a fan it’s very exciting that they got the chance to do this. And the fact that just to see the names Eastman and Laird next to each other again, what a magical time, but I’m sorry [inaudible 00:02:55]. Go ahead.
Justin: No, I have a question. Because they famously started getting along, right Pete?
Pete: I don’t know if it who… They split ways. They went their separate ways. I don’t know why or whatever happened? I didn’t really dig into that but.
Justin: So is this them getting back together a little bit?
Pete: Well, this is them at least dusting off something and being [crosstalk 00:03:21]. No it’s Eastman dusting it off and working with IDW to move forward with a story probably without Laird or I mean, I don’t know him but I assume him being like, “Whatever, do whatever you want.”
Justin: You don’t know Laird?
Pete: I don’t know Laird.
Justin: Let me ask you, do you think they are going to do any alternate covers or anything for this book?
Pete: I tell you what’s funny about that is, because there’s 60 of them.
Alex: 71 alternate covers.
Pete: But I just want to say, I was paging through them and I was like, “Wait a second, Last Ronin. Oh my God. The other turtles are dead.” And it took me to the 45th cover before I really put it together. I was like, “Oh no, this is going to be sad as fuck.” I’m not ready for this.
Alex: That’s the genius about it is it really does take you until the 45th cover to really get the plot of the book.
Justin: Yeah, honestly when I was it’s a little bit behind the curtain we get to review these, we get them as PDFs and I was already through it. I was, “Wait a second. Is this the comic? Am I just not putting this together?” And I was like, “No, these are covers.” After another 30 I was like, “Oh no, this has to be the comic, am I missing the story or maybe they link up.” And then finally I was, “No, I guess this is just covers.” And then one last time I was, “This is just a series of pinups or something.”
Pete: It’s an emotional roller coaster to page through for sure?
Pete: But then it’s actually a story. It’s basically Dark Knight Returns but with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, that’s pretty much it or old man [crosstalk 00:05:06] Teenage Mutant chip in the story.
Alex: Hold on. Pete don’t jump on me yet because I thought this was great. I’m saying, this as a reference point, it is very much one of the turtles heads back to the city to take down the descendant of Shredder, he’s the only one left, he’s old man turtle now and that’s what it is. You know what the setup is but it really does feel there’s old Eastman and Laird comic books down to the art, down to the piecing and everything and I thought it was awesome. I was very excited about reading this comic, even though I understood the comic, even though the concept, even though we’ve walked through this thing multiple times before it’s fun to see the turtles in it or turtle.
Pete: Or turtle.
Justin: It’s super sad.
Justin: It definitely has that very much like I dwell in darkness vibe throughout and that’s why the reveal at the end is like the whoa moment.
Alex: Yeah. That was really heartbreaking and I was not ready for.
Justin: Let me say, there’s a moment where our Last Ronin turtle falls out of a skyscraper and falls. He’s like, “Oh no, I’m going to die.” And then he lands and he doesn’t land on his shell. And I feel if he landed on his shell he would have been all right.
Alex: Right [crosstalk 00:06:32].
Justin: I guess that’s what [crosstalk 00:06:38] trouble.
Pete: I think later the last couple of panels, explain why do you, if you put that together, but you know, okay.
Justin: Wait, why does they explain why?
Pete: Because of what happens later?
Justin: No, it doesn’t explain why he didn’t land on the shell.
Alex: No, that doesn’t explain.
Pete: I will say, one of the things that I also thought was great about this is one of the Hills I’ll die on is I never liked the animated series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It made me actively angry. And one of the reason it made me angry is, I read the Eastman and Laird comics first and those are bloody, those are intense, they’re emotional at times and then they turn them into these [inaudible 00:07:17] dude eating pizza guys and it was very frustrating for me that this was why everybody loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles versus the comics. That was definitely my first gatekeeping experience, I think. And getting back to these comics, it feels like getting back to reminding people, no, these comics were actually kind of hardcore.
Alex: These turtles are miserable. They’re not having fun with [inaudible 00:07:44], they’re mad and sad. Though I will say you get your Baxter Stockman references here, you get your [inaudible 00:07:52] references here. And were those in the original comics or is that?
Justin: I all the time, and we’ve talked about this in the show before, but I all the time think about as a teen reading Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and being like, “Okay, they’re going to beat Shredder in this first arc.” And they don’t and Shredder destroys them and they run away and they spend an entire arc hiding at a farm and healing because they got beaten up so badly by Shredder and that needs such an impact on me. So same sort of thing here happening to our Last Ronin, I think it is very reminiscent of that. Starting it off at a place where they just don’t win, they lose. It almost works against the idea of them being Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at a certain way, where it is very serious and it is very bloody, but an intense action, but it’s very good.
Alex: They’re teenagers, when you’re a teen-
Pete: You’re going to lose.
Alex: Yeah. You couldn’t lose.
Justin: You’re going to lose. Speaking of people that are going to lose, let’s move on and talk about-
Pete: Wait, wait, wait, not moving on yet.
Alex: Just wanted to say a couple of things here. First off, I was really hoping this was all going to be black and white. I was a little disappointed it was color. The original ones were black and white and really well done but the coloring is cool I guess. And I was really kind of heartbroken by this issue. This is very sad and depressing and I was really looking forward for this to pick me up and when it didn’t and it made me sadder it was rough. I was really looking forward to this issue and the fact that I liked how dark and gritty it was, but the way it ended really hurt. But I do hope that Eastman and Laird can set aside whatever they have, because I would love for them to give me a little bit more TMNT.
Justin: I don’t think that’s going to happen, but let’s move on to another team. X Of Swords: Stasis #1 or 10 Of Swords: Stasis #1 from Marvel written by Tini Howard and Jonathan Hickman, art by Pepe Larraz and a Mahmud Asrar. This is the mid point exactly I think. I think it’s chapter-
Alex: Of 22.
Justin: Yeah of 22 of 10 Of Swords and we finally get the thing that you’ve been begging for Pete, that you’ve been asking for, we transition from everybody getting their swords to getting ready for the tournament. That’s what happens in this issue. We finally have our sword bears. We meet the other side, we meet the villains and then they all get together in other worlds. Get ready for the final battle. This is great.
Pete: So good.
Justin: I loved the building of the villains. I love these villains. They’re so smart and they’re so interesting. And even if the reveal at the end is pretty obvious, I feel like you could have seen it going for the building beginning, it’s still very emotionally satisfying.
Pete: Yeah. I’m happy we got the fast forward button because I would have really been upset if we had to go through another 10 issues of everybody getting their swords on the villain side. So I was glad it was one issue and get it all done. I wish we could have had that with the other side but great. It’s all out of the fucking way now, the next issue’s got to have action. It’s got to have a sword fighting, right?
Alex: I actually don’t think there’s any sword fighting I think now that they have their swords all together they’ll put them away and [crosstalk 00:11:35].
Pete: Wolverine [crosstalk 00:11:37], right?
Pete: That they’re like metaphorical swords.
Alex: Exactly. And he’s also like, “You know what? Claws are just tiny sores. I don’t need these either. I’ll give these up as well.”
Justin: He hands them to a poor [inaudible 00:11:50] kid on the street. He’s like, “Here you go. Here’s my claws.”
Pete: [crosstalk 00:11:54] day is it sir? Christmas morning. Have my claws.
Alex: I got to say though, this is an Epic cover. It’s a really glorious cover to this book.
Justin: I love all of this. I feel like with this issue, everything’s cranky on all cylinders. The Arakko stuff is really starting to come together and the different corners of it, the different sort of monsters and mutants from their side coming together. We get the interstitial panels where we get to see all their swords. Very cool. Saturnine is setting up both a villain and sort of the unlike the person who’s just not able to control the situation that she’s created and then the tarot card bit at the end I thought was awesome.
Alex: Yeah, this is all so good. The art by Pepe Larraz and Mahmud Asrar is seamless. Normally I’m not a fan of taking two artists and sticking them together though both of the artists are great but fantastic. There was no stoppage in the pace of the issue between their different pages. I think Tini Howard and Jonathan Hickman are working on musically together. You can tell where Tini Howard is leading into jokes at Jonathan Hickman is leading into, “Here’s some insane mythology.” But it still blends very seamlessly. Fantastic stuff. This is one of my favorite crossovers that has happened in a very, very long time.
Alex: Let’s move to a ending, at least for now with WYND #5 from BOOM! Studios written by James Tynion IV and wrote by Michael Dialynas, I got to get that right at some point. So this is as mentioned the end of the arc, they’re going to be coming back next year at some point with this issue with this title. This [inaudible 00:13:45] fantasy world that hates weird things. We get some big revelations this issue about the villains, as well as our heroes, as well as the promise of more to come. There’s a big show down. I thought this was a really good arc and I’d highly recommend if you didn’t pick it up in individual issues, definitely pick this up and trade.
Pete: Yeah. I think this really ended such a great place. It did such an amazing job of weaving the venture tail and such a cool way. And man, what a fantastic last issue that makes me very sad that it’s ending. I want more, they really did a great job of setting up this world and I hope they get to play in it more because I would be excited to read it. Art’s fantastic, writing’s unbelievable. This is a great, great package. And speaking of great packages, Justin, what are your thoughts?
Justin: Thanks Pete. I am a great package using your words as a description of me. I like this a lot too. I feel like it really is a small step into a huge world that I feel like James Tynion IV is ready to really walk us into. It’s a world where everything is pretty contained and controlled but it’s also like… Basically any fantastical thing can exist in this world. It’s just been so restrained that it needs to be released perhaps by our hero. And that’s just a nice spot to start this whole series or however long they run it for.
Alex: Yeah. And just to mention off of what Pete was saying, it is coming back for WYND #6 next year. This is just the end of the first arc. There’s just going to be a gap. I believe it’s coming back in May.
Alex: So there you go. Moving on to another James Tynion IV book, Dark Nights: Death Metal Rise of The New God #1 from DC Comics written by James Tynion IV and Bryan Hill, art by Jesus Merino and Nik Virella. This is picking up on the Dark Nights Death Metal event and showing us, this is kind of a big revelation, not just for this event but also for the mythology that Scott Snyder and company have built up. They have been promising that Perpetua, the mother of the multi-verse has been preparing the multi-verse for someone or something else. And we finally get a little taste of what that something or something else is here in a more dick watcher who shows up essentially to [inaudible 00:16:16] what’s going on in DC Universe.
Pete: [crosstalk 00:16:19], you were like more of the dick watcher. I was like, what? Like a watcher with more penises.
Justin: I was like, man, if you want more dick, check out this new watcher.
Pete: That is a note we get a lot is like, I love the watcher, but more dick.
Alex: Yeah, but we meet new character called the Chronicler who is of course chronically the DC Universe. Things go interestingly from there as he resurrects a character who was recently killed. I’d like this issue though, this was not what I expected for the title and it’s a key piece of the mythology and I’m happy that they’re finally getting there.
Pete: Yeah. This is just continues to be over the top fun. I enjoy it. The Chronicler is a cool new kind of like reveal. Also this Metron guy really misses his chair and I get it, man. If you’re standing for a long time, especially out in space, that’s got to be rough when you-
Justin: It’s actually very easy to stand in space.
Pete: Well, he’s complaining a lot for a guy who misses his space chair.
Alex: Have you ever seen the movie Gravity? Sandra Bullock has a lot of lines about, “Wow, this is easy. I’m standing. This is so easy”
Justin: And that big ending is where she’s like, “It’s even easier than I thought it was.” I like this issue a lot. This Chronicle, it’s very [inaudible 00:17:51] this whole issue. Now at a point in the book, the Chronicle is showing off his his little book, his codex of the DC Universe to brainiac five and he reads it and barfs. Now what do you think would have to be in a book to make you instantly barf? Is there a comic book you’ve ever read where you got very close to barfing?
Alex: I don’t think so but if somebody had to be the next Game of Thrones book, I’d probably throw up excitement.
Justin: Like a positive.
Pete: Oh, a positive barf, I don’t know. I was going to say, if they were graphically describing something that was grotesque and was very queasy I might throw up. If it was talking about maggots writhing in some kind of vomit or garbage.
Alex: Like if you saw a picture of someone vomiting in a book, you’ll be like, “Oh, here I go.”
Pete: I’ll be like, oh.
Alex: Maybe that’s what it was.
Pete: I did. When I saw Brainiac 5 throw up that book I vomited too.
Alex: Yeah. It’s visceral.
Pete: Sympathy vomit.
Alex: Yeah. But good stuff. Moving on to Sex Criminals #69, you get it. Image comics by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky. This is the last issue of Sex Criminals ever. They’re done with the story. We kind of thought they were done with the story last issue but we zoom forward a bunch of years to catch up with the characters.
Justin: I got to ask you a personal question here yourselves, you got to be really disappointed because dedicated to there’s an Alex W not an Alex Z that is dedicated to, that had to really chop your buns.
Alex: Yeah, I definitely read that, saw that and had a emotional reaction to that so thanks for catching that.
Justin: I’m sorry man. Pete famously known for reading every dedication page in a comic book and giving us his take. I think this series finished really strong, a series that I thought wavered a bit at a point, and by their own admission, Matt Fraction was sort of like, “Yeah, we wandered for a little bit in there.” But I think really the last issue I thought was great and this issue had all the… It felt like those moments when you see someone that you used to date or used to be in love with or something and all of that, it just played so well in this from top to bottom. And then all of the sort of the sex stuff is treated as just a little side thing, which I think is a little bit the point of the series whereas it was always about the characters and their sex crimes, the Sex Criminals stuff was just the fun bit that got everyone [inaudible 00:20:53].
Pete: I love this. I wish the whole series was like this. I thought it was really focused on the love.
Alex: Sure. You would prefer love criminals?
Alex: Oh, interesting.
Pete: Or just sex relationshipers.
Alex: Even if it wrapped up very nicely in the last issue with the main plot, this is a nice little coda, a nice little finishing bit on there. Yeah. I can make a lot of jokes but for Pete’s sake, I will refrain from making all of them.
Alex: Stranger Things: Science Camp #2 from Dark Horse Comics written by Jodie Houser, pencils by Edgar Salazar. This is a interesting comic that takes place between seasons two and three of Stranger Things as Dustin is at science camp meeting Susie, the girl of his dreams that we find out about it in season three. And it turns out there’s maybe a stalker killer at the camp. And the weird thing to me, I like this book just fine but the weird thing to me about Stranger Things comic books is almost nothing strange should ideally happen in any books outside of the big continuity or stranger things, right?
Pete: What? They can’t have some side fun?
Justin: I sort of felt the opposite. I felt like I wanted something to happen. This was very less strange.
Pete: What are you talking about? The guy is killing kids.
Alex: Is he though?
Justin: This just feels like a totally unrelated book so I’m like, yeah, it’s vaguely one of the stranger things kids here but it feels unrelated to the main series and so it’s hard to get in on it.
Pete: Focusing it on the star of the show. I love it. It’s great.
Alex: So you like this one?
Pete: Yeah. I thought it was fun. I like the setup of this relationship. And I like the kind of, okay, some things are happening and I’m sure our hero we’ll get to the bottom of it and save the day.
Alex: Yeah. I guess we’ll see what happens. I do think Jodie Houser does a good job with the writing, captures Dustin, Edgar Salazar’s art is good as well. Yeah, it’s just tough to wrap your mind around this book a little bit, at least from my perspective. Next step, here’s an easy book to understand, one that you could just sink right into. The Immortal Hulk #39 from Marvel Comics written by Al Ewing and art by Joe Bennett. Oh my God. This issue was insane. As the leader continues to enact his plan working for the one below who controls this whole gamma hell, whatever is going on there and tried to take over the Hulk, we thought the leader was doubted out last issue, it turns out he was very much not, as usual he has a plan to get one over on all the Hulks and everybody as we slowly moved towards the end game of the series. This is as wild and gross as any issue of this title.
Pete: Yes. This one, I felt like really brought a lot of this stuff to a head. The grossness, the viscera of the Hulk throat mouth coming out and eating Hulk’s dad in the middle of this book and just like, I love it though. It’s so good. The idea that the only way to defeat the Hulk is to get inside his brain, open the green door, inside his own mental state. And we see Hulk at his weakest tier where he’s like, “I just want my dad to say I love you.” And he messes up, he fucks up because he it’s his vulnerability and we’ll have to watch it happen ending on this just horrifying image.
Justin: Yeah. It keeps getting worse and worse for the Hulk and it gets creepier and more disgusting looking and, man this is a crazy fucking tale. I’m really interested to see how this all ends up. But amazing ride and this has been an amazing new take on the Hulk and it continues to crank forward in such a cool way. For someone who’s read the Hawk for most of his life, this is unbelievable.
Alex: Well to that end, and this is something I was thinking about reading this issue in particular, is the one below somebody we know, or is this a new character? Because it feels like Al Ewing has been mining so many different aspects of Hulk continuity throughout this run, from Bruce Banner’s father to Bruce Banner, to all the Hulk’s different personalities, to everything throughout his history, it feels like this should be some sort of new villain who’s the ultimate villain who’s controlling things, but is it somebody we know already? Is that possible?
Pete: What could the possible options be? Thunderbolt Ross or Bruce Banner himself.
Alex: I think that’s it.
Pete: What are the other possible the truly Epic Hulk villains?
Alex: I don’t know, Abomination?
Pete: Yeah. Maybe, but I feel like, didn’t we fight him already in the early part of [inaudible 00:27:39]?
Alex: Well, and to your point, leader is the step up there, right? Leader is the big Hulk villain. And once you’ve gotten past Bruce Banner’s father, the only place you can really go is Bruce Banner himself. So if there is some sort of the one below was Bruce Banner when he was separated by the gamma bomb or something like that, I could see that as a possibility, but I don’t know. It was just something that occurred to me while I was reading this. Let’s move on and talk about The Last God: Songs of Lost Children #1 from DC Comics created by Phillip Kennedy Johnson written by Dan Watters and art by Steve Beach. This is an interesting one because we’ve been loving reading The Last God, but this is not written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, this is somebody else, somebody else is playing in his world here which is pretty fascinating. How do you think it holds up and how do you think it works as a comic all on its own?
Pete: This is a fucking freaky ass story. I think it’s a nice kind of like it fits in this world, but kind of it’s its own thing. I think it’s a cool kind of like Halloween tale in the middle of this thing. It’s just kind of like a fun, scary ass fucking creepy story with the kid that, oh my God, I’m a very scary monster. That freaked me the fuck out. That was really intense and very scary. This is a very cool book if you like horror books or Halloween kind of things, this is definitely a must pick up.
Justin: I love that this is becoming a little corner of the universe. The Last God is such a fun, well thought out universe and story and the fact that we get sort of just another version of that, that is equally horrifying. Talk about body dysmorphia in the Hulk, we get a bunch of that here as well, which is gross and scary. I hope there’s more, I hope this becomes a real thing.
Alex: Yeah, I agree. Just a great one-shot. Even if you haven’t been reading the main series, if you want to read a horror fantasy one shot, this is a real good. Steve Beach’s art is great and horrifying. Dan Watters definitely captures the tone of the [inaudible 00:29:57] series. Just a very good book overall. Let’s move to one that I know Justin was very excited about, The Department of Truth #2 from the Image Comics written once again by James Tynion IV, Martin Simmons. The set of this book is, what if every conspiracy theory is true? Or rather if you believes conspiracy theories are true, they become true in the real world and there’s a governmental agency that is trying to take them down. We see all of this through a new recruit of the agency and in this issue, we find a big twist about his past the ties into the satanic panic of the 80s. What did you think about this one? Did it hold up to the lofty heights of the first issue?
Justin: I love this series because it takes a real world issue and concept and doesn’t play it for the politics of it or anything that is in the public eye, it plays it pretty straight. It is dangerous in our current world that so many people believe false things, believe conspiracy theories and it’s causing problems in our culture. And so the fact that those people believe that is making it harder for us all to live normal lives. And this takes that one very small step further in that the amount of people that believe in a conspiracy theory make it actual reality.
Justin: And if enough people believe in something, it will manifest. If enough people typically we hit a tipping point where more people believe that the earth is flat than not, the earth becomes flat and everything changes. It’s such a smart real threading the needle premise. And to play that through the first issue and then the second issue, which is about the satanic panic and how it was something that wasn’t believed and then the more and more people believed it meant it started to become real which is literally what happened in America.
Pete: Satanic panic. Yeah, this is very creepy shit. It’s really well done. The art is perfectly creepy in all the right waves and right ways. Yeah, I think it’s just really cool, really well done. I’m completely all in, and I love the kind of reveal that we get in this issue about the main characters past and why he is where he is. So I’m very excited to see how this all unfolds. I’ve been really impressed with each issue.
Alex: Martin Simmons art is great, James Tynion’s writing is great as well. I am very nervous about this arc speaking as a Jewish person just because the character, the demon character, just a spoiler here, that is menacing our main character, which they referenced this way in the book is a anti-Semitic stereotype. Just to describe him, he is a guy who has a upside down pentagram on his face, he eats babies. This isn’t exactly the thing. It’s like one step removed, but there is an anti-Semitic stereotype, I don’t know, not meme is the only word that I’m thinking of, but that Jews eat Christian babies.
Justin: It’s like a century’s old conspiracy. Conspiracy theory stereotype, whatever you want to say like racist belief.
Alex: Yes. So I think James Tynion is aware of this given that he references it in the book.
Justin: Yeah, I think it’s meant… But I also think that, it’s good, you finish your point.
Alex: No, no, no, all I was going to say is, it definitely makes my chest feel a little tight when I’m reading it because it gets be concerned about how all of this is going to turn out. I’m not too worried about it. He’s a responsible writer, but it’s something that puts me on edge when I’m reading it.
Justin: Do you mean how reality is going to turn out?
Alex: Yeah reality, that’s what I’m talking about.
Justin: I agree. I was like, whoa, that’s a thing to put down is your villain here. But I also think he’s manifesting something that is one of the longest held conspiracy theories in our world. So I feel like he’s sort of, what I like about this book is it really looks hard at real shit and leans into the paranoia and anxiety through the main character here about what it means to believe in something no matter what it is. It’s scary and good.
Justin: It feels like a vertigo book despite the fact that it’s from Image Comics. The art feels very Dave McKean. It’s really nice.
Alex: Yeah. It feels like in a certain way, the air of [inaudible 00:34:46] which I know is a big thing the second issue is something, but it could to get there. G.I. Joe #9 from IDW written by Paul Allor and art by Ryan Kelly. We have been loving this book that is completely reinvented G.I. Joe for a modern context. In this issue we’re focusing on Tunnel Rat I want to say who [crosstalk 00:35:09] in tunnels with rats and he’s fighting some bats which are Cobra, robot soldiers and these tunnels and that’s what’s going on.
Pete: It’s funny because all I can think about when I read this now is you because when they’re saying everybody’s code name, you have no reference for that so you’re just seeing a silly name and then it’s like somebody died. But because-
Justin: A lot of these are made.
Pete: No they’re actual G.I. Joe’s so real people. Yeah.
Justin: There’s a guy whose name was [crosstalk 00:35:47].
Pete: Yeah, it was my favorite, well one of my favorite Joes is Shipwreck.
Justin: But that’s [crosstalk 00:35:53]. Yeah, Shipwreck Jones. But Pete that’d be like, if he was a good sailor, he wouldn’t be named Shipwreck.
Pete: Yeah, but he’s a scrappy guy. It’s a fun name.
Justin: That’d be if one of us is named bad podcaster.
Alex: My favorite G.I. Joe is fuck up. Jinx. There’s a jinx. She was in G.I. Joe. She was great or is great.
Justin: Great. Does she always like saying the same stuff at the same time?
Alex: I didn’t love this issue. This is after a run of fantastic issues. This was a little bit of a step down for me. I still think the art by Ryan Kelly was good but the story didn’t feel quite as sharp as the last couple which were granted high water marks and excellence so I think that’s an unfair judging point. But this is a good story of war. I like the whole overall arc of Cobra has one, G.I. Joe has to fight back. That’s a smart place to put them. But I do think the last couple of issues were bad. Also it’s kind of crazy to see G.I. Joe’s use real guns because in the show it was always lasers, no one got hit. So it was crazy to see turn around and actually shoot someone and see blood. I was like, “Damn.” But yeah.
Justin: Well and I think that’s what this issue. I take your point Alex, the other ones really dealt, the previous issues dealt with really intense themes and this feels more like it’s taking an episode of the G.I. Joe animated series and giving an actual stakes where a bunch of Joes died and Tunnel Rat is scraping by, getting away with this, by the skin of his teeth and escaping from this horrible situation.
Justin: So in that way, it felt like giving, giving stakes to the goofy plots of so many of those G.I. Joe episodes, I wasn’t allowed to watch it because they had guns is I think, cool. I like this issue.
Alex: Agreed, and it’s also kind of like naming Joes and then being like they died. So it’s kind of sad. And if you don’t really connect with it, I can understand what you’re saying [inaudible 00:38:14].
Justin: Yeah. I can’t believe [inaudible 00:38:18], my favorite child died in this.
Alex: RIP. That is a sour note to end on. Colonel Weird: Cosmagog #1 from Dark Horse Comics written by Jeff Lemire and art by Tyler Crook. This is spinning off of the Black Hammer series following the, I guess he’s best described as the Adam Strange of the Black Hammer universe who has gotten unstuck in time our Slaughterhouse-Five. This is following him as he was trying to piece together his history. As usual just great comics, great plotting, Tyler Crook’s art is great. This is great. The end.
Pete: It felt to me like a pitch for Adam Strange and I was like, “Oh, someone’s already doing that. Okay, well I’ll just put it over here.” And it’s really great. Like you said, I felt the same way of the comparisons. Adam strange and Slaughterhouse-Five, two things I love. So with the fantastic art here is a great book to read.
Justin: It’s not the worst than when you go to grab a sodie pop and then you’re stuck in time. It’s just rough. But yeah, this is classic tripped out Jeff Lemire shit and I’m excited to see where this goes. The art is unbelievable in this kind of setup in this world. Yeah, I thought it was a solid first issue. Does a great job of getting you excited for more. I can’t wait.
Alex: Let’s move on and talk about Chu #4 from Image Comics written by John Layman, art by Dan Boultwood. We’re finally getting into it here as Chu and his sister are coming to head by the end of the issue. This series is really hitting its stride I think in terms of a heir to Chew C-H-E-W versus C-H-U. It took an issue or two to get there, but John Layman has hit his groove again in terms of the series. There’s fun stuff, there’s ridiculous stuff, there’s dark stuff that’s happening. I’m having a lot of fun reading this series.
Justin: Me too and I’m not a Chu fan. I’m not a Chu head. I’m not a chow hound but I like this issue a lot. I like this series a lot. I don’t know if it means I should go back and reread the original Chus. Take another, go back because I feel like I ate it and then I spit it out and I’ll just eat it again. Okay.
Pete: I’m a Chu head so I was going to like this, but yeah, I’m really impressed with this now, especially it feels like it’s really got its rhythm and this is very exciting, fantastic ending. I’m excited to see what happened and who got shot.
Alex: I think two fans are called chronic masticators. Is that true?
Pete: I’m glad you Googled it.
Justin: I think so.
Alex: Didn’t Google it, my brain did. My brain did right out.
Justin: The original Google.
Alex: Let’s move on to one that I am concerned and nervous and interested to talk to you guys about, Batman: Three Jokers #3 from DC Comics written by Geoff Johns and art by Jason Fabook. Now I think we’ve been pretty complimentary of the first two issues. Jason Fabook’s art has been great, Geoff Johns plotting as Batman and Red Hood and Batgirl have been tracking down the three jokers and trying to figure out. The mystery has been I think interesting and really driveling into the characters. I believe what I said with the last issue is this felt like what Geoff Johns was trying to do with Doomsday Clock but is actually now doing his Alan Moore riff on killing joke instead. I got to tell you though, I was real disappointed of this issue personally. I didn’t love how it turned out, still like Jason Fabook’s art, but I was unhappy with the turns for Red Hood, for Batgirl, for Batman, for Joker. Just none of it really sat with me the right way even though I respect the craft that was put into it.
Pete: There was one. I thought the way they had that Joe chill interview run throughout the issue was cool. While different things were happening you got little clips of it. I thought that was very creative and cool and you kind of really felt that. Yeah, the reveal of what the deal is is the big thing on this and you’re either like, “Oh cool.” Or you’re like, “What?” And I was a little scratching my head. And it was also weird. There was a lot of infighting which I don’t like. Batman losing it on Robin and a lot of fighting with Robin and Barbara. And it was just a lot of misconnects there. I wasn’t excited. I think it was an interesting choice and the art is definitely worth checking it out. I did kind of like there was a Batman moment where he saved somebody and I thought that was powerful and cool, but yeah, I don’t know, the reveal was a little kind of.
Justin: For me, it’s like, because I agree. I really like the art and I think that really shines through a lot of it. I haven’t seen a comic really laid out this way with a sort of classic conflict paneling but very close up. You’re very close up to a lot of the characters. But I think it’s a little bit impenetrable as a read because you got “three jokers”, and then you’ve got these three characters in the bat family who are the most affected victims of Joker. It feels a little too directed or it’s a little too on the nose in the way that the story unfolds. And then it feels like too much of threading together different continuity things. It feels like it’s doing so much editorial work that I don’t need it all to make sense. I feel like we’ve reconciled for the fact.
Justin: We talk about this a lot that, yeah, the Joker’s a sort of genius biochemist and a crazed psychopath who just shoots random people all the time. And it’s like, well, that’s just what people have chosen to take the character in different iterations of the character. To try to thread all that together is difficult and also a little bit unnecessary and I think it’s difficult. I think this issue proves it’s really hard.
Pete: I also really liked how Alfred was alive in this and it was nice to see Batman talking to Alfred again.
Alex: Sure. One of my problems with this is I think Scott Snyder already put in the work to explain this in his run, where he went through very meticulously and explained how the Joker reinvents himself all the time for various reasons but one of them to be to respond to Batman, to be the different antagonist that Batman needs because he loves Batman and he needs Batman and he wants to make a better Batman or whatever he wants to do at the current time. And Geoff Johns coming up with these three jokers, the ultimate conclusion here seems to reiterate that in a different way that already feels like it’s been covered. Beyond that the two things that really kind of, this sounds too strong, but stuck in my craw, I didn’t love how he characterized Barbara. I think she was too much like, “Oh boys, what are you doing?”
Alex: There’s a lot of conflicted looks from her and not a lot of action and she’s a fantastic character who should have agency of her own that has nothing to do with the Red Hood’s arc or Batman’s arc. Well then the other thing, the big thing, and this is getting into the big spoiler for the issue so if you don’t want to know, definitely turn away, but he pretty definitively chooses one of the three jokers from killing Joke to say, this is who the Joker is, this is his origin and I hate that. I hate that because he tries to have it both ways by saying it doesn’t matter who the Joker is. It’s not important. Also here’s who he is and here’s this origin and here’s his family and why I don’t say what his name is. And that to me is a very frustrating have your cake and eat it too type moment that I did not love at all.
Justin: And it’s also like what’s the point of doing that in this non continuity book? It’s just literally Geoff Johns putting his stamp on something but it doesn’t really mean much for the larger world. And I think this book and so many books are like, I’m going to research so much of the continuity and carve out a tiny little thing that feels like there’s an opening there. And I think as a comic book reader, I’m ready to move on from that as a philosophy of storytelling which I think we’ve done a lot in the last five, 10 years.
Pete: I would like to say that I think sometimes when get an idea for maybe a character or something and you want to try it, I think, yeah, go for it, definitely. Well, I want to see Geoff Johns take on this three jokers idea. I was into it. I was like, yeah, let’s do this. This could be crazy. This will be fun. Geoff Johns is amazing writer. Sometimes you’re like, I tried something, great. I don’t think he should not try it because maybe somebody else did something similar or whatever, he should be allowed to do it. He definitely tried and hey, sometimes it’s like, “Oh my God, that’s crazy.” And sometimes it’s like, “What are you going to do?”
Alex: I think he just needs to stop correcting for Alan Moore. Geoff Johns is his own writer. He’s a fantastic writer. He’s written some of the best DC Comic stories of all time. Doomsday Clock was his way of correcting the course from Watchman. This is clearly his way of correcting the chorus from killing Joke. He doesn’t need to respond to him anymore. He’s done it. I want to see him move on. I want to see him do his own stories, create his own stories, create his own continuity because the things that he’s done have been so wonderful and he has so much craft and so much heart to his things and we need more of that. I don’t know what that character is. Obviously he’s doing Stargirl and I love that show that it’s wonderful and there is so much heart put into that. But when and if he comes back to comics, I want to see more on that side than just saying no Alan Moore sent the DC Universe the wrong direction for 20 years, let’s [crosstalk 00:49:32].
Pete: But maybe that’s how we get Stargirl with so much heart because he’s got to write something that’s darker and more fucked up.
Alex: Maybe. I’m not necessarily saying about that, I’m saying specifically about relating to Alan Moore, which is fine, those exist. Let’s move on. Speaking of which let’s move on to Ascender for #14 from Image Comics written by Jeff Lemire and art by Dustin Nguyen. This I think is my favorite book in the stack everyone. I think this is the bit that I [inaudible 00:50:07] about the things that happened to the book, and in this issue we continue to get so many characters coming together. Spoiler, three, two, one, but Tim 21 from Descender finally comes back of this issue and it is such a thrill. And this is the Epic space opera that we’ve been missing while saga has been gone and it is wonderful to read every month, month after month.
Pete: Just every character really pops in this book in every issue and there’s so many great moments like, the team on this book has just done the work to establish so much stuff in Descender. And the fact that they were able to from a writing with Jeff Lemire and the artist standpoint with Dustin Nguyen continue to just deliver these excellent stories, where we see driller in this and he’s just being himself. He has one scene, but it’s just great. And a great battle here near the end and then reveal of Tim 21 like Alex said is just so sweet it makes you cheer and it’s so hard to do that. And the fact that they can do that with almost every issue in this series is amazing.
Alex: Yeah. It’s really impressive. There’s one kind of character who’s kind of like the reader a little bit who’s like, “What? Oh, shit, look who it is.” And you’re kind of like, “Oh.” It’s just it’s so well done and so impressive. And I can’t stress this enough. The art is like a watercolor painting. It’s so beautiful and so cool with what they’re doing and I love the characters and this just continues to kick freaking ass every single issue and I can’t wait for this to be collected Ascender, Descender because I want to go back and read it all again.
Justin: Do you think they’re going to do a third series like just Sender, return to sender?
Alex: Come on, don’t ruin it man.
Pete: Return to sender.
Alex: Don’t ruin it.
Justin: It will be, it’s Descender and then Ascender and then just sitting there cold chilling.
Alex: Next up. Shang-Chi #2 Shang cheek, number two from Marvel Comics written by Gene Luen Yang and art by Dike Ruan. We really enjoyed, I think the first issue of this book was found Shang-Chi returning to his roots, going up against his sister. Here, we meet his sister very briefly and a conflict arises as well as more of mythology. I really liked this issue. I just needed more of it. That’s my one criticism. It was surprisingly short it felt like.
Justin: Yeah, I feel that way in that a lot of the stuff that happens I’m like, I see this makes sense, everything total sense. And then later in the issue, we get some fun reveals and some great art transitions. Shang-Chi has a sort of vision at one point and that’s where the issue really touched off for me and it was great.
Pete: Yeah. I’ve been really impressed with this, also just the classic story. It sucks when your sibling gets split off from you to be raised in some kind of killer martial arts and you don’t get to see them till later in life because you miss those golden years. But I think this is-
Justin: Yeah Pete, how is Sam?
Pete: Ah, man, he’s good. He’s on torture Island, still doing great, doing what he loves. But I think that this is just-
Justin: Being tortured?
Pete: No, he does the torturing. He’s moved his way up in the island, worked from the bottom now he’s [crosstalk 00:53:57].
Justin: We should have him on the podcast.
Pete: I don’t think that’s a good idea.
Justin: He actually has a much more controlled temper than you.
Pete: Yeah, well it’s all the training.
Alex: I just think this is a great book. I hope people give it a chance and I’m excited to see where this goes. The art continues to be amazing. Next up, Undiscovered Country #9 from Image Comics written by Scott Snyder and Charles Soule, art by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Leonardo Marcello Grassi. In this issue our heroes? Are in the second wrong of America as they continue to go deeper and deeper towards the middle. I find a lot more about the backstory of American, what happened after the closing of the walls around America? Also some very, very bad things happen to unity, courtesy of the destiny man. Just a really good every issue I enjoy. I’m really enjoying this arc in particular. It feels far more accessible than the previous arc.
Justin: Yes. I feel like with this issue specifically, I’m like I finally come to grips with not the stuff I don’t know and the stuff I do know they’re in balance in a way where I’m like, yes, now I can move through this story. Because I agree with you. I really like it. The arts were great. It’s like peer discovery every issue and every panel that you’re reading of this comic and now it feels like we know what the characters know and we can all move forward together.
Pete: Yeah. I think it’s really because it’s us as the reader and this comic really line up because there a moment where a wall is gone and they start driving and it’s like, “All right, here we go. Now we’re rolling.” And I feel like there’s so much craziness and us trying to figure out what’s going on. And now we’ve gotten to a place where it’s like, “All right, I kind of understand some things enough to really start enjoying the story.” And it’s really taking off in a great way so I’m excited to see how this unfolds, but it’s really rolling now and I’m very excited.
Alex: Yeah. Great stuff. Move it on to an ending, Batgirl #50 from DC Comics written by Cecil Castellucci, art by Emanuela Lupacchino, Marguerite Sauvage and Aneke, and this is the last issue of Batgirl for now. Also kind of a big deal because it introduces Ryan Wilder aka, the new Batwoman on TV into DC Comics continuity, albeit very briefly. I got to tell you, I have not read Batgirl that much recently but I like this issue quite a bit versus my commentary on three jokers. I think Cecil Castellucci perfectly captures what Barbara is about. I like her status quo here working for a Congress candidate I want to say. And just the balance she finds throughout these three stories with both Batgirl and Barbara Gordon I thought it was very nice across the board.
Justin: Yeah. I thought this was a lot of fun. The game night story was great. Bright fun stories. It was wasn’t as dark and gritty. I like Batgirl and it’s sad to see her go.
Pete: I thought the art throughout this whole issue is just so good. It’s so clean. I feel like Barbara just really pops the whole time. And yeah, to your point, Batgirl in this book really exists in her own pocket of the Bat family and the Gotham universe. And I think that’s the way it should be. I too haven’t read too much of this arc, but I love the Batgirl character and I love how each different writer gets to come in and really find a different avenue to explore with Batgirl. I’m going to go back and reread some of the earlier stuff.
Alex: I think so too because I like this quite a bit and I like the status quo as well. I hadn’t really read it since the Batgirl and [inaudible 00:58:10] stuff but this is a nice place to put Barbara.
Alex: Next up Bliss #4 for Image Comics written by Sean Lewis and art by Caitlin Yarsky. It was set in a world where people suck on a what?
Pete: Cheese steak? I want to say cheese steak.
Justin: Don’t force it guys. Don’t force it.
Alex: There are beings who sell misery and suck out people’s misery. There’s a guy who works for them. He is going after his wife. We both catch up to that moment and catch up to the present here and finally move beyond it in this issue. There’s just some epic action and emotional stuff here, and this title continues to be.
Pete: Yeah, this is one of my favorite picks for the week. I was really impressed. It kind of builds to this moment in such a great way. This comic does a great job of like, okay, this is what it’s about, but it all culminates in this issue, and a classic husband and wife showdown and then-
Justin: Classic gunfight. We’re all going to be there in a gunfight with our significant other,.
Pete: And you got to be careful for crows because they can fly through people if they want to. So fun fact.
Justin: Smart birds.
Pete: But yeah, I thought this was a fantastic bad-ass issue. The father-son hug was such a cool moment that they lingered on a little bit, which I really liked. I had just been really impressed with where this comic started to where it is now. The art is unbelievable, but man what a cool story.
Justin: Yeah, I agree. This to me feels like Dune meets Twin Peaks in a cool way. Later when we see the older version of one of our main characters, Bob from Twin Peaks which I think was very cool. Yeah, so I liked that blend. The art is fantastic. I agree. It’s good.
Alex: Next up, An Unkindness of Ravens #2 from BOOM! Studios written by Dan Panosian and art by Marianna Ignazzi. If you haven’t listened to our live podcast with Dan Panosian you can go back just a week or so and listen to that in the comic book club feed. But the first issue was kind of like the craft meets Sabrina and meets a couple of other things as a girl moves to a new town, finds out she looks exactly like somebody who’s missing and it gets pulled between the popular kids and the goth kids who turn out to be the witch kids. We find out a little bit more about this this issue. How do you think this held up from issue number one?
Pete: I think it’s great. It pushes both stories sort of down the line. When we talked to Dan, I said, I really love the transition of the first little bit at the top that sets the dark tone into the more Archie style art I think is so nice. It really lets the horrifying tone from the first couple of pages bleed over into the situation and you feel more paranoid reading it and it really puts you in the same mindset as the main character. I like [crosstalk 01:01:21].
Justin: I do too. I’m really impressed from where it started to where it goes. It’s really, the more we kind of find out, the better the story gets. This is really interesting. The art’s unbelievable and they’re doing a great job with the art leading the story in such a way, like they really change panels in such a cool, magical way that really fits things. And yeah, you got to be careful when someone wants to write on your hand, you can’t just be okay with that. You know what I mean? You got to be really wary when someone’s like, “Hey, give me your hand.” That’s not cool.
Pete: Hey, you don’t want to join the PEN15 club.
Alex: I know what you’re talking about. Last but not least, A Man Among Ye #3 for Image Comics written by Stephanie Phillips and art by Craig Cermak. We talked about the first two issues of this one as well. This is a female focused pirate tale. The place that they left off at the last issue felt like finally getting the crew together and I felt like that’s where we pick up this issue. This is the one that I’ve enjoyed the most so far because I feel like we finally have the right mix of characters in this crew, even if they’re not technically a crew yet. But lots of fun, and Craig Cermax’s art is still great.
Pete: Yeah, I agree. I felt like this is really picking up steam and all the right ways. It’s very excited now that we kind of got the people all in the same place, how this is going to unfold. But yeah, just classic bad-ass pirate lady. I love it. This is really cool. I love the last page reveal. I think this is great and the art is fantastic.
Justin: Yeah. It’s all right. It reminds me of Captain Valiant, the Sunday comic.
Pete: Hey, fuck you man.
Justin: Where I was like, I’ll read this at the end of the comic.
Pete: Fuck you, man.
Pete: This comic’s better than that.
Alex: Hey, I’ll tell you what, I’m glad we ended with this one. If you like support our podcast patrion.com/comic book club, also, we do a live show every Tuesday night at 7:00 PM to Crowdcast and YouTube. Come hang out. We would love to chat with you about comics, iTunes, Android, Spotify, Stitcher, or the app of your choice to subscribe and listen to the show at comic book live on Twitter, comicbookclub.com, this podcast and many more. Until next time, what’s up [inaudible 01:03:54].
Pete: Yeah, it’s all right.
Justin: What? I had a slightly non bang review and you’re like, man.
Pete: I think it’s better than you’re giving it. You’re not giving it a chance.
Justin: Okay, I can read it.
Alex: Not to interrupt you guys, but the show is over.
Justin: No, it’s not over yet. Bye. I just have to take this call with the Marvel Comics action figure line for watcher with more dick and I think it’s going really well.