Tagged: kieron gillen

Chris’ Comics: The Top 4 (and a Hawkguy) Finale

At last, it’s time for my final article for the Daily Planet. Instead of reviews, I’m going to recommend 4 series to you (plus Hawkeye, because we all know that’s coming) that are some of my favorite comics. There’s a few “well duh” choices on the list, but hopefully someone will find a new favorite on this list, or at least think I have excellent tastes in comics.

DCD5297571) Batgirl: Year One (Chuck Dixon, Scott Beatty, Marcos Martin) The only way you can buy Batgirl: Year One these days is in a trade packaged with the also great Robin: Year One. But Batgirl: Year One is arguably my favorite story featuring my favorite DC character. It’s a nice re-imagining of her origin from pre New 52 times, from a writer who wrote a good portion of the best Babs Gordon stories in the 90s. Marcos Martin later blew up on books like Spider-Man and Dr. Strange: The Oath, but this is where the Martin hype train officially began. A gorgeous story that does wonders for one of the most iconic superheroes out there, Batgirl: Year One is the one DC story I can’t recommend enough.

DCD4061942) Phonogram: The Singles Club  (Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson). While I absolutely adore this team’s work on The Wicked + The Divine and Young Avengers, P:TSC is my next pick, which was the first time Wilson joined Gillen and McKelvie on a creator owned joint. Set over the course of a single night, each issue in this trade tells a different story, focusing on a different character, and occasionally crossing over. My personal favorite of the various stories is the finale, a relatively silent story that focuses on Kid-With-a-Knife, one of the more simplistic but exciting characters in the series. While it’s technically the second part of the Phonogram trilogy, it’s by far the most accessible, and an excellent entry point for Gillen/McKelvie/Wilson’s indie work.

15958246263) The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys (Gerard Way, Shaun Simon, Becky Cloonan). I really wanted to throw a Grant Morrison penned story on this list, but honestly, there’s enough best of/recommendation lists out there featuring his work on All Star Superman, JLA, Doom Patrol, etc. Instead I’ve opted for a comic featuring a character played by Morrison in the My Chemical Romance music videos this comic series is based on/a sequel to. While being familiar with said music videos/album helps. Killjoys is good enough to enjoy on it’s own, thanks to Cloonan’s gorgeous art, and Way’s sensational and kinda out there scripts. While you can make an argument that both creators have stronger work on the market, this is a favorite of mine, and it’s definitely worth your time if you’re a fan of either creators.

07851983934) NEXTWAVE: Agents of H.A.T.E. (Warren Ellis, Stuart Immonen) Also known as my favorite comic series before Hawkguy was a thing. Warren Ellis’ funniest book to date, in which his team of super hero pirates fight an evil corporation profiting from a war they’ve created. A cult favorite that’s influenced so many books, NEXTWAVE was at one point the weirdest but also one of the best looking books Marvel had ever published thanks to Stuart Immonen’s art. Assuming you haven’t read it, you should, unless you hate nuclear puppies, flesh eating koalas and dragons that wear shorts.

 

 

0785192190Hawkguy) Hawkeye (Matt Fraction, David Aja, Annie Wu, Matt Hollingsworth, and various) And here it is, my obvious favorite that I’ve never shut up while writing for Forbidden Planet NYC. Hawkeye was a game changer for Marvel, and is easily the best for-hire work Fraction and Aja have done, possibly ever. The creative team makes walking dumpster fire Clint Barton one of the most relatable characters in comics, while making Hawkeye Kate Bishop a break out star. From the Pizza Dog issue to the Sandy relief issue, there’s some many amazing, genre defining comics that show that you can do big 2 comics with an indie comics sensibility. No comic series has affected as much as this book has, and there’s never going to be a time where I won’t recommend it.

And with that, I take my leave. I’d like to thank everyone who’s read my work, my fellow contributors, and the fine folk at Forbidden Planet for giving me a stage over these last years to talk about comics, and toys. I’ve had a blast, and if you care to see what I’m doing post Forbidden Planet, give me a follow on twitter (@theanarchris). Thanks for the memories FPNYC faithful!

 

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Chris’ Comics: The Wicked & The Divine #22

 

TheWickedAndTheDivine_22-1The Wicked & The Divine #22

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelive, Matt Wilson, Clayton Cowles

Image $3.99

The timing of this issue of The Wicked + The Divine couldn’t be better, given the current drama surrounding the Steve Universe fandom.  Toxic Fandoms are something that affect comics on the regular, i.e. anytime a creator gets death threats for taking a book in an unpopular direction, and it’s cool to see WicDiv attempting to have another discussion about that while pushing it’s narrative forward.

The Wicked & The Divine #22 wraps up the current arc, with an ending that can be best described as “THIS IS FINE!” While I won’t be spoiling the ending here, I’m glad to say the finale of this arc isn’t as much as of endgame for the series as I previously imagined. Yes it definitely wraps up this action heavy arc, but how this book ends sets up a few more arcs nicely. The downside is that the potential for disaster for these gods remains YoUChildrenat an all-time high, as someone may have bitten off a little more then they can chew.

Matt Wilson and Jamie McKelvie’s art for this arc has been nothing short of career defining, and this issue is no different. We get the artistic duo’s most graphically violent scene to date, and I say that well aware that this is a book where heads and people explode on a semi-regular basis. There’s also an amazing double spread (accompanied by some choice Kieron Gillen dialogue) and a nice visual callback to another character at the end that will have long time readers worried about the remaining cast members. McKelvie’s lay out and facial expression are top notch as always, but Wilson really takes things to the next level. “Neon ultra violence” is the best way to describe the colorist’s contributions to this book, with blood reds playing off of bright greens, blues, pinks and whites.  Issue 22 is another gorgeous issue, and it’s hard to imagine a better artist/colorist duo working in comics than McKelvie and Wilson.

Writer Kieron Gillen is also doing some amazing stuff with this book’s dialogue. The humor in this book is great, being perfectly self-aware when it needs to be and completely devastating for maximum effect. There’s a bit where a character does something absolutely savage, but the reasoning behind it is all too sound. It’s shades of gray characterization like that make Gillen such a fantastic writer, and makes the book all the more compelling. There’s also a bit of running gag between Amaterasu and the Norns this issue that’s simultaneously funny, but also manages to show wickedandivine26 (1)how immature and naive Ammy is. Again, I adore how complex and layered this cast is, and am fully expecting to feel all sorts of awful once the creative team starts killing them off.

The Wicked + The Divine is a rare book that somehow gets better with every arc. While this issue ends one threat, it unintentionally sets up so many other potential problems, which is both exciting and terrifying to me as a reader. It’s a book that continues to be a fantastic read every issue as well as incredibly topical in an era where some fans have problems accepting actors/actresses based solely on their skin color or sex.

Christopher Troy is a freelance writer/editor/snarky jerk on the internet. He can be found here weekly, on Twitter@TheAnarCHris, and is the co-creator/writer the webcomic “In The Name of Thy Mother”. Please don’t @ him with your scorching hot film TAKES.

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The Wicked + The Divine #21

TheWickedAndTheDivine_21-1The Wicked + The Divine #21

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, Clayton Cowles

Image $3.99

While The Wicked + the Divine has definitely had its share of fight scenes in the past, I can’t recall there being an arc that has been this heavy on action. That’s not a critique mind you, as artist/co-creator Jamie McKelvie’s ability to draw pretty people hurting each other, with breathtaking colors from Matt Wilson, is something I enjoy immensely.

WicDiv #21 sees bitty demi-goddess Minerva returned to Ananke and Woden, which is less than great for her, as the duo has some less than great plans for the wee deity. Obviously this does not sit well with Laura/Persephone and her allies, which means fighty time, fighty time, blood blood blood! This is not exactly the deepest issue of WicDiv, but again, McKelvie and Wilson excel at drawing fight scenes, and writer Kieron Gillen does a Wicked+Divine21_01damn fine job with the dialogue that it’s still a super fun read.

“Fun” may be the wrong word to use. Two minor characters meet their untimely fates in this issue, but since they weren’t exactly the most fleshed out nor beloved, their deaths seem to serve no purpose other than a reminder that Ananke isn’t a nice lady. But this more restrained Kieron Gillen thrives with his abrupt, straight to the point, dialogue, Baphomet and Baal have been bitter opponents throughout this arc, but their beef may finally be squashed when Baphomet drops 16 words that completely changes his opponent’s views. Dionysus finally has a break out moment, and it’s a less than 20 word affair. And my personal favorite is an exchange between Ananke and Woden, in which she #micdrops him in 10 words. It’s quick brutal and and a fine example how good Kieron Gillen’s dialogue is. Clayton Cowles also deserves props for his lettering contributions, especially when it comes to font choices and word balloon placement. Letterer’s are often the unsung heroes of the medium, and considering what Cowles brings to this book, creators like him deserve more recognition.

That being said, McKelvie and Wilson’s art is the real selling point of this issue. McKelvie once against manages to draw some brutal fight scenes, mixing what he did with Young Avengers with a heavy manga influence. And Wilson is incredible this issue, from his ability to set scenes with his palette choices, to incorporate some many effects into the art. Wicked+Divine21_03As well choreographed as Dionysus’ scenes are by McKelvie, Wilson’s colors bring those pages to a different level, injecting a level of energy very few colorists are able to. Woden and Dionysus alone are proof of that, but when you factor in the other 4 characters with their own signatures palette and visual effects, it speaks volume about Wilsons talents. Also best nicks and bruises in the business.

The Wicked + The Divine #21 is a VERY good fight comic which some fantastic visuals. It’s the type of comic that really takes advantage of the medium, overloading the reader’s eyes with fantastic and colorful visuals. It also feels like working towards an endgame of sorts, which is odd, because the end of the book hasn’t been announced. It’s the type of comic that will leave you both satisfied with what you got, but will leaving you dying for more.

 

 

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Chris’ Comics: The Wicked + The Divine #20

TheWickedAndTheDivine_20-1The Wicked + The Divine #20

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson Clayton Cowles

Image $3.99

Oooh, WicDiv and The Fix both dropped this week. Good job this week, that’s some fine comic booking!

So The Wicked + The Divine #20 is a comic book that explains how Laura/Persephone isn’t a headless corpse who is burnt and dead after the events way back in issue 11.  It involves  a heroic sacrifice, sexy times, and a lovely bit of character exploration that reveals that one of the demigod’s true identity. “But Chris, isn’t that just the character’s names?” is something you may be asking, in which I reply HOW DARE YOU, IT TURNS OUR THAT ONE OF THE GODS IS A BIT OF FIBBER, NOW WHO FEELS DUMB!

But yeah, the bulk of this issue focuses on how Persephone isn’t dead, and what she was up to during the previous arc. It’s a well-crafted comic, that masterfully weaves itself between the events of the Commercial Suicide arc, while tying into the end of issue 18 quite nicely. A lot of this issue is told in flashbacks, in which Matt Wilson and Jamie McKelvie do a fine job of making visually interesting. Instead of coloring the book in a traditional method, Wilson Persephone-c0d75pulls from the dedicated color pallet he uses exclusively for coloring Persephone for the flashback sections. It’s such a cool idea, and when you factor in he does it twice for the different time periods, it serves as testament as to exactly how talented of an colorist he is. As for his pal/the book’s artist Jamie McKelvie, it’s great work as usual. There’s a page in which resident goth badboy Baphomet is posed like a 90s Lobo cover, which I adore, for the simple fact that it’s super ridiculous, but played straight. Not to talk down on Jamie, but this is an issue with some great art, and some REALLY inventive coloring practices that’s super impressive.

As someone who appreciated how meta/”inside baseball” Kieron Gillen got in Phonogram, there’s a page in this issue that channels that feeling while explaining one of the character’s roots. It’s not the deepest cut in any way, especially given the subject matter and the medium, but it’s still an incredibly endearing scene, and shows how much charm he can inject into his scripts when he wants to. I’m not saying that it’s a weakness of Gillen’s mind you, it just seems that the noted devil-man rather twist in tumblr_o8cx2zatBJ1tuoa2wo2_1280the knife in his reader’s then make us say “d’awww”. No, I’m still not bitter over Tara, why do you ask?

Once again, The Wicked + The Divine is a satisfying read, with a creative team that never fails to impress. Issue 20 is an well crafted comic that’s spectacular from both a narrative & craftsmanship stand point, not to mention rewarding from a fan perspective. A perfect blend of action, suspense, comedy and intrigue, The Wicked + The Divine #20 is a perfect example of how great the Gillen, McKelvie, Wilson and Cowles team is, while being a comic that rewards long time readers.

 

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Chris’ Comics: The Wicked & the Divine #19

tumblr_o6mfzkAJHN1tuoa2wo1_1280The Wicked + The Divine #19

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles

Image $3.99

DID YOU KNOW: Marvel isn’t the only comics publisher focusing on a Civil War these days. The cast of The Wicked & The Divine finds itself in the middle of feud, as secrets, murder, and secret murder have several characters at each other’s throats.What this means is that Jamie McKelvie gets to draw a lot of pretty peopling throwing punches at each other’s pretty faces for this arc. A while I love how smart and inventive this title usually is, and it’s commentary on fandoms, having McKelvie drawing big fight scenes again is nice. He did a bang up job on that sort of thing back during Young Avengers, and having him do an action heavy arc is a welcomed change of pace.

The Wicked and the Divine #19 sees Baal and the gods aligned with secret murderer & den mother Ananke go after the newly resurrected Persephone and her allies, as well as the return of party god Dionysus. We also learn about some additional plots involving murder, become holy crap, this is a VERY dark arc! While there’s a some trademark whimsy and snark to this book’s dialogue, for the most part Kieron Gillen’s writing plays it straight, letting the readers know we’re in for serious business. It’s very much in a Wicked+Divine19_01similar vein of what Gillen brings to his Darth Vader book over at Marvel, versus the low stakes, slice of life type stuff he did on Phonograms or the first volume of WicDiv.

Moving back to the subject of art, Matthew Wilson continues to do no wrong.  His work on Black Widow and Captain Marvel impresses me month after month, but what he brings to WicDiv is something entirely else. Issue 19 is a very dark issue in the literal sense, and Wilson’s colors do an excellent job working off a lot of pages where black plays a massive role in the design. Wilson also excels in the brighter panels, doing some fantastic stuff in the chamber where the Parthenon meet, giving it a clean, sterile look. I also dig the way he uses colors to show injury, especially in the case of Baal, enhancing McKelvie’s line art in the process.

Clayton Cowles’ font choices also remain inspired. I’m not going to lecture y’all on the importance of good letting in comics, but Cowles’ work on this book definitely deserves Wicked+Divine19_05some recognition. He’s a gifted letterer and much like Wilson colors, his choice in placement and design are brilliant.

The Wicked and the Divine #19 is a great comic. It gorgeous, dramatic and pushes the narrative in a very interesting direction. While it’s not as though provoking as some issues have been in the past, it being a more action oriented comic definitely livens things up a bit, while raising some fascinating questions. And it appears we’ll be getting some answers next month, which is a neat way to get reader to get excited for the future while thoroughly enjoying the present.

 

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Chris’ Comics: The Wicked + The Divine #18

1The Wicked + The Divine #18

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles

Image $3.50

Hooray, The Wicked + The Divine is back! Quick, come grab a copy for yourselves immediately, shoving and or trampling anyone who dares get in your way!

DISCLAIMER: It is impossible to discuss this book without mentioning some spoilers, so if you aren’t caught up on WicDiv, skip this review.

The title for The Wicked + the Divine #18 is “Don’t Call it a Comeback”, which is WAY too appropriate. Series lead Laura Wilson returns, reborn as the Goddess Persephone, and she has a score to settle. Writer/co-creator Kieron Gillen made a joke that this arc was the WicDiv equivalent of Civil War (The Marvel version, not the historical one), and that’s a pretty fair description of the event of this issues. This issue also sees the return of Artist/Co-creator Jamie McKelvie, who will remain on art duties for the book until it ends. More details on that over the coming months. Both returns are welcomed, as the artist and colorist Matthew Wilson create one of the most action packed issues in quite some time. It’s McKelvie meets Shonen Manga in the best sort of ways, as Wilson’s bright, Wiced+Divine18_002energetic colors give the book a cool look that also reminds me of the action scenes in Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim adaption. The use of pinks, greens and blues are the types of colors usually not associated with action scenes is a nice touch, and really gives the book a distinct look.

Kieron Gillen also said that Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood video serve as inspiration for this comic. That much is obvious, given Laura’s dialogue, and the way McKelvie draws her. Before her “death” Laura came off a naive, an excited fangirl walking amongst gods. Now she’s drawn with more confidence and swagger, obviously looking to settle the score with Ananke and her co-conspirators.  I love the way McKelvie handles body language, and the devil may care smile on Laura’s face is fantastic.  Also look how he arranges the panels on the 2 preview pages I posted; you can switch the first two on each page, and the comic still makes sense. And the range of emotions McKelvie can draw is some next level stuff, and I’m thrilled to see his return to this title being nothing short of spectacular.

Kieron Gillen seems oddly restrained in this issue. That’s not so much a critique as it is an observation, which makes sense, as this issue really feel like more of a celebration of the art team. That’s not to say that Gillen doesn’t make any worth contributions to the issue.There’s still plenty of good to be mined from the dialogue, especially the scenes Wiced+Divine18_003involving Baal and Baphomet. Seeing two lovers scorned go out it twice in this comic gives it some really emotional weight. Well more emotional weight, can’t forget Laura’s return and all that. The team also begins to shine some light on X, who’s probably the least developed of Parthenon, and it’s revealed that she’s in a really unique position due to her age.  There’s a lot to enjoy from this issue, which is no surprise, given how good this creative team can build worlds.

I really missed the lack of The Wicked + The Divine in my life, and am over the moon that is came back as strong as it did. It’s a title that’s gone from something I was really digging, to someone that gets read immediately once the newest issue drops. The way Gillen, McKelvie and Wilson choose to explore fandoms and icons makes for an fabulous read, and issue 18 is more proof that they’re one of the most consistent, creative,  and thought-provoking teams working in the industry today.

 

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Chris’ Comics: Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #6

tumblr_o199gy2Mcg1uxdbsko1_1280Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #6

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, Clayton Cowles, Tom Humberstone

Image $3.99

The final issue of The Immaterial Girl, which is also the final issue of Phonogram in general, is an extremely satisfying read. Creators Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, Clayton Cowles and Tom Humberstone come together not only to deliver a fantastical final issue, but to eulogize and pay tribute to a part of Kieron Gillen’s life. It’s an extremely personal story, and that’s part of the appeal of it to me, as we rarely get comics that discuss what it’s like to be in your 30s as in-depth as P:TIM girl does (especially with that B-side drawn by Tom Humberstone).

In past reviews of this mini series, I’ve stated multiple times that this is Gillen at his most Grant Morrison-y here, only instead of weird magics and silver age comics, Kieron pays tribute to pop music from over the last couple of decades. Also there is magic, hence the Morrison comparison. However this final issue, the various references to bands and song lyrics, and very distinct Kieron Gillen dialogue reminds me of another favorite comic creator of mine: Chris Onstead of Achewood fame. At first glance, Achewood and tumblr_inline_o1byuiTjOz1qa75wn_540Phonogram couldn’t any more different (if anything WicDiv and Achewood make the better comparison, given the fact that both properties have cats who don’t wear much clothing in them) , but when you blow off your day job responsibility to really think about it, there’s a lot more in common between then one. More than just that fact that one could easily see Kid-With-A-Knife screaming “BONE! BONE! BONE!, making lewd gestures while David Kohl looks on in disgust/embarrassment.

First and foremost is that both Phonogram and Achewood make some deep music cuts (as well as ones that aren’t as deep, i.e. Emily referencing both Brittany Spears and Lady Gaga in this final issue), without much care if you’re on their level in terms of recognition. But what comics force to do is to learn their specific languages to ensure you fully appreciate them. Morrison does this sort of referencing too, but you can still enjoy a lot of his comics without fully being clued in on what he’s talking to. Not so much with Phonogram and Achewood, which REALLY force their audiences to almost re-learn how the English language works in a way. But once you do, it pays off immediately. Also both Gillen and Onstead do a superb job of creating a wide range of characters with their own distinct personalities. By doing so, it’s really easy for the readers to connect with the casts, even if the represent some less than desirable traits.

Screen-Shot-2016-01-19-at-10.32.07-PMI feel bad spending so much time talking about Kieron Gillen and noted-owner of Airwolf, Ray Smuckles, and not mentioning the art in this issue. Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson are so damn good, as per usual, and always find new ways to blow your mind. They do stuff with blood in this issue that’s so good you’ll want to quit drawing/coloring immediately. And that’s only the tip of the iceburg, as there’s some fantastic page layouts, panel composition, pallet choices…the first 10 pages of this comic are some of the best and inventive use of art I’ve seen since the pair’s work on Young Avengers. Even the quieter stuff towards the end of the issue is great, as you can see what the years of magic-related drama have done to these characters. Also it’s nice to see Jamie draw characters who aren’t model gorgeous all the time, and I feel better about that slight winter gut I got now.

Phonogram will probably never be the breakout hit The Wicked and the Divine is, which is a shame, because I love it just as much. It’s the “3 Cheers for Revenge” and “Killjoys” to WicDic’s “Black Parade”, which makes me love it all the more, because I’m a bit of a snob and prefer the works that don’t get as much love. The Immaterial Girl is a perfect ending to pair of mini series I’ve read dozens of times over the year, and I cannot thank the creators involved enough for this journey.

 

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Chris’ Comics: What I loved about Comics in 2015

It’s been awhile FPNYC Faithful! Both my wife’s and my parents are divorced and remarried, so that means 4 families in 3 different states over the course of 3-5 days, depending on the year. The upside to that is that I got to see “The Force Awakens” twice, which I enjoyed a bunch. Downside is that my portable keyboard’s “N” and “B” keys don’t working, making writing while traveling virtually impossible, at least if I wanted proper spelling.

2015 was kind of a mix bag for Comics. Between Convergence and Secret Wars, there were WEEKS where I didn’t pull any big 2 comics. Which was fine really, as Dark Horse, Image and Boom put out some fantastic books this year. Which means I’m going to spend today talking about what I loved about comics this year.

Kaptara-coverTHE RISE OF CHIP ZDARSKY: The homie Matt Fraction is probably my favorite dude working in comics, but in terms of books released in 2015, I think I’ve read all of 6 books written by Fraction in 2015. HOWEVER, his chum/Sex Criminals co-creator Chip Zdarsky had a fantastic year as far as I’m concerned. 2015 saw Chip teamed up with Infinite Kung-Fu creator Kagan McLeod and put out the excellent Kaptara for Image, Joe Quinones on Marvel’s absolutely hilarious Howard the Duck series, and in a move no one saw coming, Archie hired him and Erica Henderson for a Jughead series. Zdarsky and his army of artists released some gorgeous comics packed with sharp and brilliant humor. I’m excited to see what Chip and his friends can do come 2016, which will hopefully include Sex Criminals coming out on a regular schedule.

KIERON GILLEN, JAMIE MCKELVIE AND MATT WILSON PUT OUT PHONOGRAM VOLUME 3, OH AND THE WICKED AND THE DIVINE REMAINS AN EXCELLENT TITLE. 

PhonogramIG_04-1 Warning, this is where things get a little Image heavy for a bit.

For months, WicDiv has been battling it out with Saga for the crown of “Most Emotionally Damaging Image title”. 2015 saw that book hit all sorts of new creative highs, making for a fantastic read.

BUT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS THAT PHONOGRAM CAME BACK!

Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl isn’t the trio’s most accessible work, something I’ve stated several times,  but I don’t care. The music + magic plot point with it’s fascinating cast resonates with me in ways most comics don’t. I’m glad to see it come back, especially with these creators as good as they are now, and it deliver on levels I couldn’t predict. Between this and WicDiv, it’s hard to argue any creative team have had such a banner year more than these two.

PaperGirls_02-1BRIAN K VAUGHAN RELEASES A 2ND ON-GOING, IMAGE GETS ME TO GIVE THEM MORE MONEY. 

I might as well just get the rest of the Image stuff out in a single, dedicated section. In addition to books I was already reading like Rat Queens, Deadly Class, Saga, Sex Crimz, WicDiv & Pretty Deadly, Image decided to let a bunch of talented folk to put out more great books, which is both great for me as reader, and terrible for my savings account. Bitch Planet, Paper Girls, The Goddamned, Island, Montress,  and Tokyo Ghosts are just a few of the incredible offerings coming out from Image, who has had an banner year in 2015. And with creators like Bryan Lee O’ Malley preparing books for Image in 2016, I can’t see the publisher slowing down anytime soon.

SECRET WARS ISN’T TERRIBLE, A TON OF MARVEL BOOKS ARE FUN, THE STAR WARS BOOKS ARE GREAT, AND ALL NEW ALL DIFFERENT MARVEL Silk Marvel #1NOW HAS A TON OF POTENTIAL HITS ON THE WAY*!

I have plenty of issues with Marvel 2015, but I can’t deny the company has put out some amazing books over the past 12 months. Secret Wars, even with the delays, may be the new standard of excellent for event books. Marvel added wonderful books like The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Spider-Gwen, and Silk to their catalog. Hawkeye, Uncanny X-men and Secret Avengers all ended on high notes, as the Star Wars line kick several types of ass in ways Star Wars comics never had before. 2015 has been another great year for the House of Ideas, and 2016 looks to continue that trend with the new Black Panther, X-Men ’92, Black Widow, Luke Cage/Iron Fist and Captain Marvel titles dropping over the new few months.

*Anything Inhuman related being the exception, unless we count the wonderful Ms. Marvel.

DC….WELL DC TRIED REAL HARD AND THEY DESERVE SOME PROPS FOR AT LEAST MAKING AN ATTEMPT!

DC did not have a banner year, which is a shame. Convergence was a massive flop and it Batgirl_45_coverdid a ton of damage towards the DC You launch this past summer, which was pretty great for the most part. Black Canary, Starfire are excellent companion books to the already established (and wonderful) Batgirl and Harley Quinn titles, and Tom King is doing the Lord’s work over in Omega Men. The creative teams over on the Superman and Bat books are taking some neat risks, and the Justice League books have been pretty solid as a whole. Sadly, the sales haven’t been there, so who knows what’s to become of books like Gotham Academy and Prez come 2015. But with such cutting edge and diverse titles like John Constantine: Hellblazer, Cyborg, Grayson, and Midnighter coming out, hopefully DC’s 2016 will be better without having to sacrifice much.

And that concludes the annual wall of text. A weird but good year for comics IMO, which plenty to look forward next year! Thanks for reading, hope to see you again come 2016!

 

 

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Chris’ Comic: Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #4 and The Wicked and the Divine #17

PhonogramIG_05-1_263_405_s_c1TheWickedAndDivine_17-1Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #4

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles

Image $3.99

The Wicked and the Divine #17

Kieron Gillen, Brandon McCarthy

Image $3.50

I’ll confess, I’m a little sad that this is the last WicDiv/Phonogram same shipping day  that we’re possibly ever getting. It’s a real shame, because I’ve really enjoyed the last 4 months of having my heart torn out when reading the former, and then being confused in the best sort of ways when it came to Phonogram. 2015 has been a fantastic year for fans of Kieron Gillen comics, and it’s only appropriate the final month of the year gives us a penultimate issue of one series, and the end of the arc with the other.

CWTGfPkWsAIH-szPhonogram: The Immaterial Girl #5 features the return of Kid-With-A-Knife, who is the best character. That it not an opinion, mind you, it is fact. Also it’s the first issue in a long time that focuses on David Kohl, who’s clearly based on Kieron Gillen, and is the closest thing Phonogram has to a main protagonist.  Having Kohl as the issue’s central character seems appropriate, he was the first character we were introduced to, so it makes sense that he sets up the ending of Phonograms.  Once again, Gillen, artist Jamie McKelvie, colorist Matt Wilson and letter Clayton Cowles are brilliant, taking everything they created specifically for this minute and showcasing it in this issue. It’s been a incredible run so far, and I’m excited to see it all come to a head next issue. And props to artists Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt, who handle the art to the B-side story for this issue. Higgins and Brandt create some gorgeous art, art that actually rivals what McKelvie is capable of creating. It’s another delightful installment of my favorite mini series of the year, as every creator really shines in this issue.

 

Over in The Wicked and the Divine #17, the final chapter of “Commercial Suicide” focuses on the Cat-demigod Sakhmet, drawn, colored and letter by  Brandon Graham. I really like how this issue is a play on the excessive partying Rock Star stereotype, with a the-wicked-and-the-divine-17-statuetwist that is horrifying, but makes total sense given Sakhmet’s M.O.. Graham is a fantastic talent,  and having him work with Gillen is a treat for readers. His more manga/graffiti mash up art style couldn’t be any more different than regular series artist Jamie McKelvie, but it’s so good that you shouldn’t mind. Gillen’s dialogue is as sharp as ever, and particularly dig the page in which cat and dog people are mentioned. And speaking of McKelvie, his final page of this comic sets up the next volume quite nicely, teasing at the return of a character who’s presence in this book has been missed. It’s a fantastic finale, and surprisingly easy on the reader’s nerves for a change.

Kieron Gillen’s creator owned output in 2015 has to be highlight of sorts for him, because it definitely is for me as a fan. The Immaterial Girl has exceed my expectations, and the Commercial Suicide arc of WicDiv has been nothing sort of incredible. Of course him being surrounded by a murder’s row of artistic talents helps a ton as well. It’s going to challenge for him and his team of creator to wow me as much come next, but if there’s anyone who can do it, it’s Gillen and co.

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Chris’ Comics: Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #4

PhonogramIG_04-1Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #4

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles

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Common sense would dictate that you shouldn’t jump into a mini-series when it’s halfway over. “But Chris, the cover is a Scott Pilgrim reference, and I love Scott Pilgrim!” That’s cool, I GET that, I too love Scott Pilgrim. And hey, there’s plenty more of references on the inside. BUTTTTTTTTT, chances are if you didn’t read Phonogram: The Singles Club in addition to Scott Pilgrim, this book will confuse the hell out of you, despite it being a very good comic. To say that it’s required reading is an understatement.

For those of you who actually have both those books and currently reading The Immaterial Girl, you are in for a treat! Issue 4 of this mini series focuses on Lloyd, aka Mr Logos and his love/hate relationship with Laura Black, all while playing homage to Bryan Lee O’Malley‘s massive hit comic. Of course it’s done in the most Kieron Gillen way possibly, which means references to Blondie, with some amazing art. This fun done in one is a bit of side story, focusing on some character that have appeared in past volumes of Phonogram, but does not touch upon the the events of T.I.G. much.

PhonogramIG04_Preview_Page2-932x1415So I want to talk about those lovely Scott Pilgrim homages first. What I really dig about team WicDic Phonogram’s tribute to SP is that it’s entirely done through visual cues in the book’s art. Letterer Clayton Cowles, who’s brilliant, uses several font styles found in SP v1: Precious Little Life (I actually have my copy next to me as I typed it to serve as confirmation, look at me, I’M DOING ACTUAL RESEARCH FOR A REVIEW!). Artist Jamie McKelvie frames the opening page exactly the opening page of said book, and like O’Malley’s art, the majority of this book is in black and white. Colorist Matthew Wilson goes the extra distance, giving McKelvie’s black and white art that manga influenced-zine-esque look, while masterfully coloring the pages that allow for color (And there’s a reason for those pages to be in color this issue, which is a story telling technique I love).They could have easily made a “bread make you fat?” joke (No offense Chip and Joe ) and called it a day, but no, they went the extra mile, because they are a gifted bunch.

As for the non-SP influenced content, I really like how Kieron Gillen writes the relationship between Lloyd and Laura. It’s a interesting love/hate relationship, and it PhonogramIG04_Preview_Page3speaks much of Kieron’s talent that he managed to make it so deep and complex in a span of an issue. Additionally, Gillen excels at having a least ONE brilliant phrase per comic and here we’re treated to two that were so good, I actually stood up and cackled a bit. It also helps that Jamie McKelvie’s art is so expressive, so the book looks as good at it sounds when you’re sitting in your living room reading dialogue to your cat. Yeah I do that some times, what of it?!

Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #4 is a done and one that allows the story to breathe a bit, and shines some light on some fun characters. I enjoyed the hell out of it, and am absolutely loving what this return to Phonogram has given me so far.

 

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Chris’ Comics: The Wicked and the Divine #16

Wicked+Divine16_Digital-1The Wicked and the Divine #16

Kieron Gillen, Leila Del Duca, Mat Lopes

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Up until this issue, the guest artists attached to the last few issues of WicDiv were all relatively new to me. With issue 15, we get a art team I’m very familiar with, thanks to their excellent work on the Image series Shuttered. Having Leila Del Duca and Mat Lopes come on board to work on this comic is pretty exciting for me, especially when it involves 2 of my favorite characters. This month, the Morrigan and Baphomet are the focus of issue 15, giving us an origin issue that’s very much a (NONE MORE) goth romance story. It’s the perfect story for Del Duca and Lopes, who have plenty of experience in working with young adult characters, and it gives writer Kieron Gillen excuse to make references to LARPing and painting miniatures. It’s also home to by far the MOST Kieron Gillen pun to date, so all of you who’ve blocked/unfollowed Gillen on twitter, be warned.

WickedDivine16_PreviewPageMy love for  Shuttered aside, having Leila Del Duca and Mat Lopes draw and color this issue couldn’t haven been any more perfect. Del Duca’s style is softer, more animated than Jamie McKelvie’s, channeling Babs Tarr in a way while giving WicDiv a more grounded look. I love McKelvie’s art a ton, but it also seems that the dude is incapable of drawing unattractive people. Leila manages to make the demigods very human in their pre-awakened state, and gives the book a cool, indie film look. I’m also a fan of what she does with  the Morrigan and her various looks, resulting in some absolutely stunning imagery.  And Lopes’ manages to perfectly re-create the bright, futuristic colors that Matt Wilson established for us for the present day content, while toning it done and giving us more drab and bleak colors for the flashback material. The final product looks nothing like what the duo do for Shuttered, but is an spectacular looking comic none the less.

In terms of tone, this particular issue feels like a mash up of what Gillen did over on Young Avengers with a dash of Phonograms. It also reminds me of the excellent tumblr_nxoniddzFl1qbolnoo1_1280Becky Cloonan and Brian Woods maxi series Demo, which also focused on young lead characters with supernatural abilities. It’s as nerdy as it is clever, and actually way less soul crushing as the previous installments have been. By doing an origins issue, Kieron Gillen gets to show up as side of the Morrigan and Baphomet that we’ve never seen before. The pun dropping Baphomet ( aka the true face of devil Kieron Gillen) is given some much needed development this issue, making him a way more sympathetic character, and hinting that there’s more to been seen regarding his involvement in the murder of a demigod. Seeing him being a crappy youth with the Morrigan is a bit of treat for me, as I’m a fan of slice of life romance tales. Granted it’s a brief look, it’s a nice change of pace from the usual macabre, soul crushing theatrics we’ve seen as late. Also it’s nice to see him sneak another My Chemical Romance reference in one of his books.

The 3rd volume of Wicked Divine continues to be some fantastic comics. The book has benefited immensely from the done in one origin issues, which have fleshed out the cast while carefully moving the story forward. Having an artist like Lana Del Duca swing by and put her spin on these characters was a fantastic choice, and arguably my favorite guest artist on the book to date.

 

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Chris’ Comics: The Wicked and The Divine #15

TheWickedAndTheDivine_15-1The Wicked & The Divine #15

Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson and Clayton Cowles

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The Wicked and the Divine has never been shy about the fact that it’s as much about fans and fandom as is about death. I approve of this sort of examination from the creators’ perspective, as fandom is something rarely discussed in comics aside from the occasional cosplay joke, so to see it explored the way it has been in WicDiv makes the titles one of the most relevant books on the stands, and has made the creative teams a trio of darlings on social media platforms like Tumblr.

Tumblr is a platform that I use sparingly, but one I enjoy a lot. As someone who’s in his early 30s (#KILLME), I feel ancient on the platform, given the average user age is nearly a decade younger, and also the fact that my random dick jokes tend to go over better on Twitter. But I’m well aware that it’s generally the most progressive of all of the social media platform, even though some of those folks are well meaning but still “doing it wrong”. This particular issue of WicDiv touches upon that, making for a fantastic comic featuring a fan favorite character while discussing appreciation vs appropriation.

tumblr_nw81rrxqfQ1rn4nneo3_500Amaterasu was the first goddess we met in WicDiv, yet she’s barely had much exposure since her appearance in that debut issue. Drawing the red-headed goddesses’ tale is Stephanie Hans, who’s worked with writer  Kieron Gillen over on Marvel’s Journey Into Mystery and Angela in the past. She’s a great choice, as there’s something that screams “epic” about Hans’ painted style. Of course I mean epic in the sense of Homer’s Iliad, not as an overused buzzword. It’s a fitting description in my opinion, and a fitting choice of artist, given the fact that it’s about Amaterasu, a goddess who was also featured in a video game Okami, which also had a painted, water brush style as the basis for it’s graphic engine. And since Kieron Gillen use to be a video game journalist for a number of publications, I doubt it’s much of a coincidence! Origins aside, I like how Hans uses the color red in this comic well, as it’s striking when used property. Her character acting is superb, show the cast portraying a number of emotions and looking great while doing so. Hans was the first artist that came to mind when McKelvie’s temporary departure was announced, and seeing her slay on this issue was an absolute treat.

the-wicked-and-the-divine-15-hospitalGillen and Hans have made a really clever comic with this issue of WicDiv. There’s a internet flame war played out as a stereotypical super hero fight that looks great, and gives Amaterasu some need depth Hans’ use of color mixed with Gillen’s sharp dialogue is great here, and it’s Clayton Cowles lettering that really brings the whole thing together. The entire scene is so bombastic and over the top it’s hard not to laugh when you realize why what Amaterasu is doing is so wrong, and the follow up conversation and ending make you incredibly sympathetic towards her.

There’s so much to enjoy with this issue of WicDiv. For starters it’s the first issue in a while that didn’t devastate me emotionally, so that’s cool. But more importantly Gillen and Hans give Amaterasu a some depth, while showing the reader that’s she’s far from perfect but still likeable. It’s a book that’s visually stunning, really smart, and isn’t afraid to have some fun at the audience’s expense. Stephanie Hans is a welcomed addition to this arc of rotating artists, and I hope to see her revisit the title again down line. But as it stands, this is a perfect done in one issue of WicDiv, and one that should be read immediately based on the level of talent exhibited by the creators alone.

 

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Chris’ Comics: Diesel #1

4741654-diesel_001_main_hesseDiesel #1

Tyson Hesse

Boom/Boom! Box, $3.99

Writer/Artist Tyson Hesse is a creator I’m familiar with from his late webcomic Boxer Hockey, but I was sold on this new mini series, Diesel, the minute the preview art hit the internet. Completely missing out on his run on The Amazing World of Gumball, it’s nice to see Hesse’s art improve so much since the last installment of Boxer Hockey. Diesel #1 is a gorgeous book, just one that’s a little light on content.

Diesel tells the tale of Dee Diesel, who’s apparently the heir to a awesome airship that also doubles as a small mobile community. The book reads like a Miyazaki movie, only less whimsical and more sarcastic and comical. The majority of the book introduces us to the cast of the book, and a hint of backstory, but mostly focuses on Dee. Dee is a fun lead, and a lot of the humor associated with her is solid, but she also reads a lot like the cliche bratty lead who’s got a gift but is also kind of a pain due to her over confidence. Diesel wears a lot of it’s influences on it’s sleeves, and while the premise is near and a lot of the jokes land, it also feels very familiar.

That being said, the book looks great. Tyson Hesse, with help from Mariel Cartwight, create a fun world with characters who are very expressive and animated. The character’s “acting” go a long well to help sell the jokes, and the visuals are very clean and fluid. The art really does a lot for this book, making it an entertaining read.

I understand that first issues are difficult to nail, so I hope this promising start improves with it’s next issue. Diesel is a great looking and funny book, it’s just a little light on the story. With the cast now introduced, I expect great things from future installment. It’s a cool all ages book with some charm, and fan of The Legend of Korra and Japanese role playing video games ought to check it out.

Phonogram_vol3_02-1Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #3

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles

Image, $3.99

Jamie McKelvie y’all.

Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #2 is the comic Jamie McKelvie drew “for real” this past week and my god, it’s gorgeous. Given arguably the MOST Kieron Gillen script in some time, McKelvie not only draws fantastic looking characters with gorgeous outfits, but also pays homages to 2 iconic music videos in this issue and completely nails it. His character’s acting is flawless, perfectly capturing the look and energy the 2 videos he pays homage to, but also puts his own feels to it. It’s incredibly good looking, and impressive how he can change his style mid book and then go back to his default setting with no problem. And as someone who’s read the previous installment of Phonograns, I’m amused of how we get to see David Kohl aged and become more Gillen-esque in appearance with every passing volume.

Helping Jamie set the mood as per usual is colorist Matthew Wilson, who’s also having an amazing week. If killing it on WicDiv wasn’t enough for Mr Wilson, he also changes up his palettes multiple times in this comic, and it all looks terrific in the end. Same with letter Clayton Cowles, who swaps up the fonts to help differentiate the narrators. This may be Kieron Gillen’s semi-autobiographical story about critics, but the artists are clearly having a blast telling this story, having the freedom to experiment with their styles as they see fit.

Phonograms: TIG isn’t any more accessible than the first issue, but you don’t have to be in the loop to appreciate how good this book it. It’s brilliant even if you don’t get the references without the help of glossary, which I am grateful for. Plus the gorgeous back up illustrated by Jamaica Dyer is worth your time and money. It’s certainly not a book for everyone, the the 2nd issue of The Immaterial Girl is a terrific experience for the target audience.

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Chris’ Comics: The Wicked and the Divine #14

tumblr_inline_nueywojFWZ1r77eon_540The Wicked and the Divine #14

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson

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If team WicDiv were dinosaurs, they would all be Raptors, because this team is all a bunch of clever girls.

…somewhere out there, a version of this joke that actually works exists, and I really wish I had access to it.

 The Wicked and the Divine #14 is part TV clip show, part remix album, all Saga-levels of shock, heartbeat and revelations. Using the Tron/Daft Punk inspired demigod Woden as a lead, we finally learn who set up Lucifer back at the end of the 1st issue, and that this particular dem-god is a bit of a scumbag. He’s aware of that fact by the way, but Woden does not particularly care of what others think of him.

The-Wicked-and-The-Divine-14-2-940x1442WicDiv artist and co-creator Jamie McKelvie is the credited penciler for this issue, and while that’s technically correct, it’s also a tad misleading. While every page of this book is in fact drawn by McKelvie, the vast majority of the content is recycled. A lot of it is actually old art from previous issues remixed by colorist Matthew Wilson, with some retouches by him and McKelvie. It sounds lazy, but seeing it in action will make you realize that it’s actually really freaking clever, as the new colors and words by Kieron Gillen give these scenes entirely new meanings. It’s actually brilliant, and explained how McKelvie managed to work on WicDiv and a new issue of Phonograms Volume 3 in the same month. And while McKevlie isn’t exactly the first artist to attempt this, he’s the first one to pull it off in quite some time.

The definitive proof of this issue comes from another comic that had some fun at this comic expense, and completely reworking it to Wid Div #14’s advantage. For all of you not reading Sex Criminals, there was a bit in the 2nd volume which poked fun at 2 of the WicDiv characters in that special Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky way. Kieron, Jamie and Matt fire back at the SexCrimz team buy making that joke canon, taking Chip’s art and reworking it, stripping away any relation it had to the event in Sex Criminals, and giving it a completely haunting narrative delivered by Woden. In a way the team is taking the hide road with it’s use, but it’s also a testament to the team that they managed to rework a joke a like that.

tumblr_nufxm5M9v71qhppfvo1_1280Speaking of haunting, Kieron Gillen’s voice for Woden is down right creepy. While his ambitions are relatively low key, he’s written as SUCH a scumbag you’ll love to hate him real quick. Gillen had some impressive work on super villains over at Marvel, so what he does with Woden isn’t exactly the biggest surprise, but with Woden we have a different type of villain. His goals and motives are very realistic, so while there’s some degree of reliability with the character, he’s also a massive scum lord when it comes to his actions and logic. It makes for an incredibly  compelling character to read, even if you’re rooting for him to fail.

Wicked and the Divine #14 will have fans talking feverishly for the next 30 days. Between the big reveal and the experimental story telling, there’s a lot to take in with this very satisfying installment.

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Chris’ Comics: Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #1

STK680389Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #1

Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles

Image $3.99

Phonograms has a special place in my heart. I bought both previous collected volumes of the series directly from creators Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson several years ago, and I’ve made it a point to re-read the 2nd volume at least once a year ever since. I’ve been asking Gillen about the long teased 3rd volume at conventions as far back as 2012, and I’m beyond thrilled that it’s finally here.

That being said, if you’ve never read Phonogram before, this is not the book to jump on with. Gillen has said the series is always been a mixture of self-indulgence and autobiographical, and that’s very much the case with the first issue of The Immaterial Girl. Gillen points out that this issue is probably the most read single issue of Phonograms to date, which is ironic to me, because I honestly think you need to read The Singles Club (volume 2) at the very least to get a basic idea what’s going on with this book.

759ad8c5-f0a0-4de9-812b-189563614783-bestSizeAvailableAs someone who’s read both volumes, I was very pleased with what I got, despite it feeling weird to be reading this book in a single issue format. The Immaterial Girl’s lead is Emily (or possibly Claire, it’s complicated to explain without getting into spoiler territory), who got obsessed with music videos at an early age, and struck some sort of deal with a magical deity. In case you’re not in the know, music is a type of literal magic in the world of Phonograms, and mucking with it tends to lead to bad times.

Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson skills have come a long way since the last installment of Phonograms, so this book looking as good as it does doesn’t come as surprise at all. While it’s been cool to see McKelvie delve into super heroes over the last few year, seeing him draw an urban fantasy book like this just feels right to me. Wilson has always killed on whatever he’s colored, but him working with Jamie usually results in the best things from the both of them. What I found interesting about this collaboration is that for the most part it’s actually pretty straight forward & traditional story telling, versus some of the more experimental stuff that we’ve seen from the pair on Young Avengers and The Wicked + The Divine. That is until we hit the final 2 pages of this book, where McKelvie completely changes his style to channel a iconic music video. It’s incredible, caught me completely off guard, despite it being something set up early in the book.

tumblr_nsxedorfil1qav783o1_1280As for the words, as I said earlier, this is Kieron Gillen at his most Grant Morrison. He assumes everyone is operating on the same level as he is, with little disregard for those who aren’t. I love it when creators expect readers to get on their level, as the comics that result from those expectations are generally excellent. In Gillen’s defense, he does include a glossary at the end of the issue to explain some locations and bands he name drops in this comic, BUT it doesnt cover everything and everyone. BUT if you’re caught up to Phonograms at this point, you should be able to enjoy this book well enough, even with it being VERY much part autobiography. Letterer Clayton Cowles is put to task this issue, but he absolutely delivers, and does some cool things with the narration boxes that falls together nicely towards the end of the book. Cowles, along with Kelly Fitzpatrick and Sarah Gordon contribute to some fun and brief B-stories at the end of the issue, which are cool little additions to this comic.

The first issue of The Immaterial Girl is a incredibly well crafted comics that’s for serious Gillen/McKelvie/Wilson/Cowles fans only. I adored it, but I imagine not everyone is going to spend some time of Spotify researching the bands name dropped in this game. But if you’ve read Rue Britannia and The Singles Club, get on it ASAP, unless you’re waiting for the trade or some junk.

 

 

 

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