Staff Picks – Week of 18/09/2019

Steeple #1
John Alison (w/a)
Dark Horse

Joe says: A new comic by John Allison means an easy staff pick for me. Issue one of this mini-series introduces us to the characters, the setting and teases the premise, all of which I love. Illustrated by Allison himself and laced with his inimitable humour, this is a must for fans and an exciting jumping on point for new readers alike.

Spider-Man #1
Henry Abrams, J.J. Abrams (w), Sara Pichelli (a)
Marvel Comics

Liz says: Coming out swinging with a stellar first issue, Spider-Man is the origin story of a brand new webslinger: son of Peter and MJ, Ben Parker. Ben is a troubled teenager with plenty of reason to have a chip on his shoulder, mostly to do with his fractured family. One of the best things about Ben’s introduction is how simple it is; while the tropes are familiar, they’re extremely effective in putting the story on track and fully investing us in Ben’s character. Co-written by Henry Abrams and his father J.J. (maybe you’ve heard of him), this issue hit all the emotional beats in a manner that would make the senior Abrams’ mentor Steven Spielberg proud. I’ll certainly be looking forward to seeing what’s next for young Ben.

Umbrella Academy Volume 3: Hotel Oblivion
Gerard Way (w), Gabriel Ba (a)
Dark Horse Comics

Chief says: The latest UA series is something of a (space) oddity. From a purely commercial perspective, it has to follow up not only two very good volumes of weird by Way & Ba, but also a highly successful Netflix series. A series, it’s safe to say, exceeded everyone’s expectations.

Luckily, Way & Ba have a plan: make a sequel to both series and comic. With the familial destruction that went into the show and the first two volumes of the comic, your creative team are in healing mode here, with only The Rumour and Five displaying the self-destructive tendancies which previously blighted them.

As with all iterations of UA, the past is not another country, but a present place characters are marooned in. Klaus can’t shake bad habits. Number One and Diego can’t forgive each other. Vanya can’t forgive herself. And Allison can’t get forgiveness from her ex-husband. Naturally, the solution is to put the characters in a situations where co-operation is a must and solace is impossible. The book aches to have them reconnect, even if that connection is a fuse wire on a detonator that will blow the whole the whole thing to smithereens.

At the heart of this series is an idea, one that would easily find itself safe and warm in any Marvel or DC comic but here shivers and squirms to break out: the supermax prison (that isn’t a prison) in a place (that isn’t a place). It’s fascinating to see how Way & Ba play on this. It could be seen as a metaphor for all the things the family are hiding from each other and themselves. A distant dimension where the person you were lies in wait as you try and fail to become the person you want to be. The craft here remains excellent and the characters heartbreakingly rendered in both physical form and emotional vapour. UA stays with you after you close it’s pages. A place from which you can check out but never quite leave.