Staff Picks – Week of 17/02/2016

Star Wars #16
Jason Aaron (w), Leinil Yu (a)
Marvel Comics

Joe says: The beginning of a new story arc and it’s off to an impressive start. If I’m honest, I’ve largely been reading the Star Wars titles out of a sense of obligation – I love the universe and have always wanted to get more out of it but never knew where to start with the expanded universe. The Marvel relaunch gave me that opportunity and for the most part, all of the titles have been enjoyable to good. Issues like this, however, stand out. There’s nothing in particular that elevates it above the others, it’s just a well told story that’s paced well and has character voices on point. This issue follows the events of Vader Down and the title seems to be tied into the ongoing Darth Vader series more aggressively since then but I’d still recommend this issue as a jumping on point if you’ve yet to do so; most of the characters you love are here and it’s shaping up to be an exciting arc.

Doom Patrol Book 1
Grant Morrison (w), Richard Case (a)

Paul says: I remember reading this the first time round and failing to ‘get it’ back then. Second time around wasn’t much easier. Was it me? Or the book? I mean, what was wrong with these guys? They look like super-heroes. There’s robotman (a human brain trapped in the body of a robot). There’s the Negative Man. He has to be a super-hero. He has the adjective / suffix name that tells us he’s a super-hero. Then there’s Crazy Jane. Jane has multiple personalities. The personalities have powers… ah. No. It doesn’t seem like a super-hero book anymore.

Instead of the modern angst now attached to characters like Batman and Superman, we get something much deeper with Doom Patrol. None of them are, strictly speaking, human anymore. And they’re not Gods in brass bikini’s or spandex, flying around major (fake) cities saving cats out of trees. They… They’re just not normal. It’s not a word you’ll hear a lot in The Doom Patrol. Normal. The characters are just so bloody weird. They frighten you. They don’t promise to keep you safe. They can’t keep themselves safe. Nor do they celebrate their weirdness. They HATE the way they are. Everything about this is the antithesis of super-hero books. They don’t fight monsters, corrupt cops, or angry gods. They fight concepts, ideas, and the imagination, especially when it threatens to spill-out of someone’s headspace and infect our nice bland world. Pretty much the way I suspect Morrison’s brain could! Doom Patrol offers us a look at the at something that relies on almost pure creation and ideas, rather than action and event. It’s not a normal comic. But would you really want that?

Avengers Standoff: Welcome to Pleasant Hill #1
Nick Spencer (w), Mark Bagley (a)
Marvel Comics

Liz says: The dust may have only just settled on Secret Wars, so for those reluctant to hop back on the event book rollercoaster just yet, I implore you: Do it anyway, you’ll thank me.

Standoff started out as Nick Spencer’s idea for a Sam Wilson: Captain America subplot and eventually snowballed into an all-out Avengers crossover. Having read the first issue I can understand why; confining such a neat concept to a single title would feel like a waste.

After a vague bit of setup that clues us in to some reality-altering technology in the possession of S.H.I.E.L.D., an amnesiac (whose identity isn’t clear throughout the better part of the issue) wakes to find himself in a seemingly idyllic small town, where the friendly townsfolk embrace him and help him to build a new life. But nothing is quite as it seems, and something dark lurks just beneath the town’s sunny exterior. It’s an idea you’ve seen before, or at least you think you have– until you get to a twist that will make you slap the last page down, bang your fist on the table and read the whole thing over again because it was just that satisfying.

Spencer is one of the best writers working at Marvel; he knows how to throw his readers for a loop, and that’s just what he’s managed to do here. So whether or not you bother picking up every tie-in issue, don’t skip out on the main book. This is one event that you won’t want to miss.

Harley Quinn #25
Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti (w), Chad Hardin (a)
DC Comics

Rosie says: This issue is probably one of the most important in the history or the character we know as Harley Quinn. For a character who was actually created for Batman: The Animated Series rather than the comics continuity Harley has easily become one DC’s biggest properties, with some even asking whether she has usurped Wonder Woman as DC’s first lady.

The thing is Harley has a troubled past, often sexualised to the point of parody: one recent controversy occurred when an official DC competition asked fans to draw her killing herself (????) and one of the winning entries had her completely naked in a bathtub. As a beautiful young woman, introduced as the victim of the Joker’s horrific abuse and “Love” Harley has in her later years often become a an excuse to have a half naked woman on screens in video games or in the background of comics.

Luckily this; her first solo title book put her at the forefront of the story, and has turned all of that on it’s head whilst never losing the spirit of Harley from the animated series. This is a Harley who has grown up and can finally see what the joker has done to her and boy is she mad.

In this issue our (anti) hero finally gets to face up to the man who created/ruined her whilst orchestrating a breakout from Arkham and Conner, Palmiotti and Hardin don’t pull any punches. This issue spoke to me on so many levels and was an incredibly important step for Harley as a character. Whatever bad things you can say about New 52 and trust me I’ve said a lot; This book has done so much to desexualise Harley, her origins, and even more to create a strong, complex, layered, funny and relatable anti hero who is so much more than the man who ruined her life.