Staff Picks – Week of 03/06/2015

Future Imperfect #1
Peter David (w), Greg Land (a)
Disney Comics

Thomas says: I have had no interest in this current version of The Secret Wars but flicked through this particular tie-in during unpacking because it featured The Maestro and was delighted to discover an interesting revelation regarding said character, a revelation that made absolute perfect sense. It changes nothing of what Mr David has previously written regarding the future of Banner and the Hulk (check out the recent Hulk: Future Imperfect trade if you haven’t already) but enhances it and gives it a greater weight through just a few explicit panels and masterfully so. The final page cements the glory of this single issue with Land simply paying attention to detail; time takes it’s toll on all of us, of course “the Boss” would look the way he does after a few centuries of wear and tear, time and tide wait for no man indeed.

House of Hem
Fred Hembeck (w/a)
Marvel Comics

Chris says: I haven’t had a lot of time to read anything this week, but I’m looking forward to tucking into this week’s batch of Secret Wars tie-ins, which reference a few past events that I have a soft spot for. In a similar manner, Marvel released another book this week that indirectly referenced one of their previous events: House of M. Retitled House of Hem, this over-sized comic (which is not quite a collection, but totally could have been) brings together some of Fred Hembeck’s best strips from the last three decades. Hembeck was taking a comical look at the Marvel Universe long before Chris Giarrusso or Skottie Young, and it’s a shame his work isn’t more widely known or published today. These classic takes on Marvel characters will make you laugh and (hopefully) make you want to see more of Fred’s work today … For me it was a welcome blast from the past that I can only hope means good things for the future!

Groot #1
Jeff Loveness (w), Brian Kesinger (a)
Marvel Comics

Ryan says: So you’re a Guardians of the Galaxy fan who loved the characters but demands more of the playful Rocket and Groot double act? Well then this is the comic for you! Tag along with the pair as they go on an interplanetary road-trip, getting stranded along the way, and have to adlib their way home. Well paced and full of laughs, Jeff Loveness writes one of the most entertaining comics on our shelves this week, teamed with the whimsical art of Brian Kesinger, making this title feel animated and alive (which makes a great deal of sense when you realize Kesinger has worked at Disney Studios for 16 years). What started off as a chuckle-worthy idea has quickly become a must-collect series, and I hope to see a lot more Groot on our shelves in the months to come!

Pope Hats #4
Ethan Rilly
Adhouse Books

Will says: Slightly cheating here as this was released last week. Regardless, it’s such a deserving title that it still qualifies as my pick of the week. Pope Hats is a collection of short stories each distinctly different, both in tone and content, keeping it a fresh read throughout. It does have some great storytelling, but what made me give this a go was the art. Rilly’s illustrations really hit home for me, filling me both with awe and envy. Everything from the Hergé-esque cartoons to the breathtaking colouring kept me engulfed long enough for the engaging storytelling to take its effect, and then I was hooked throughout. I think Rilly has drawn this with a magic paintbrush that has caused me to love the book unconditionally. Magic has to be involved somehow. This book is amazing! Yup, definitely magic.

Midnighter #1
Steve Orlando (w), Aco (a)
DC Comics

Liz says: This week DC introduces the first round of a fresh new batch of titles, and the freshest so far is Midnighter. A very strong first issue is made all the more significant for the fact that it is the first mainstream solo series to focus on an openly gay male character.
First appearing in 1998 in Warren Ellis’s Wildstorm series Stormwatch and playing a central role in it’s follow-up The Authority, Midnighter began as a (more ruthless) Batman facsimile engaged in a long-term relationship with the Superman-equivalent character, Apollo. Enhanced with superhuman strength, speed and the trademark ability to predict the outcome of a battle before it starts, Midnighter has most recently been seen menacing Dick Grayson, aka Agent 37 in Grayson.
Openly gay series writer Steve Orlando makes clear from the get-go that the character’s sexuality is not his only defining characteristic, but that it is still a central component and will not be shied away from. One of the gems of the issue is that throughout the general mayhem going on around him, a newly single Midnighter is trying out dating via gay hookup app Grindr. It’s great to see DC taking a confident, realistic approach to their LGBT characters and to finally see Midnighter get his own book.

Star Wars #6 And Darth Vader #6
SW: Jason Aaron (w) John Cassaday (a); DV: Kieron Gillen (w) Salvador Larroca (a)

Paul says: Double review this week (not because I’m a pig, you understand), but… The Star Wars comics universe is proven to be one of the better expanded / pocket / licensed universes out there right now. One thing that always bugged me about comics, especially long-form ongoing titles that weave in various minis, maxis and crossover events, is the lack of editorial control. “Write what you want, we’ll make it fit” seemed to be the order of the day. Except it didn’t.
As a result, what you’re often left with is lots of series, featuring the same characters, often in two places at once. Sure they’re good stories. But if you’re any kind of completest (and I am) putting it all together is a ball-ache. Not that any book won awards or plaudits for being well edited, but it’s important. Especially if you’re reading a cross-medium universe. Luckily, Marvel seem to hold a tight reign on their keepers of the star wars universe. And this week, finally, the two main books start to weave together in a satisfying way. Of course, I can’t say how but hey, my job is to get you to buy the book.
Sales pitch aside, the Star Wars title has always been slightly less engaging that the Vader book, despite being an entertaining, week on week read. If the SW book is episode IV, then Vader is definitely The Empire Strikes Back. But this week kicks things into high gear with a Luke Skywalker / Boba Fett confrontation that I’m sure no one was waiting for but everyone will be glad happened. It also begins (in DV 6) to sow the seeds for Vader’s act of betrayal in Return Of The Jedi. Meanwhile, Han and Leia have their own confrontation with a surprise new character that lands Solo deep in the Bantha S**t. It’s credit to both writers that the detail and care with which the put word and action into the mouths and bodies of the characters is fantastic, enriching the people we met as wide-eyed children over 30 years ago. And yet still keeping it all fresh enough for today’s wide-eyed kids to experience as something new. I don’t really have a great deal of excitement for Episode VII, to be honest. But I’m chomping at the bit for issue 7 of the comics.

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