In June 2016, DC Comics kicked off the start of its Rebirth initiative. After a wave of criticism surrounding the way they have treated their characters’ rich histories since 2011’s New 52 relaunch, DC has decided to rebrand. They hope that by restoring their characters’ pasts, they will restore readers’ faith in them as well. Do they succeed? That’s what the Comics Beat managing editor Alex Lu, entertainment editor Kyle Pinion, and contributor Louie Hlad are here to discuss. Book by book. Panel by panel.
THIS WEEK: Kyle dives into the fourth part of the thus-far highly entertaining Milk Wars crossover, as well as Liam Sharp’s welcome return to Wonder Woman
Note: the reviews below contain **spoilers**. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye/Swamp Thing Special #1
Writer: Jon Rivera
Artist: Langdon Foss
Colorist: Nick Filardi
Letterer: Clem Robins
The other day, my partner and I began watching the very, very good Netflix original anime Devilman Crybaby. Now, I really consider myself a noob where anime and manga are concerned, but after we both got hooked into the videogame Persona 5, a franchise very influenced by those same stylings – we had a sudden urge to really dive into the artform a bit more and perhaps finally find a series that might work for us. One of those ended up being Masaaki Yuasa’s re-envisioning of Go Nagai’s classic manga. It sort of put me in mind of Naoki Urasawa’s spin on Astro Boy with Pluto, but with an even more cutting sense of devastation throughout that I can only compare with the Ghibli heart-ripper, Grave of the Fireflies. It’s a highly recommended piece of streaming media and I think one of the best original series in the Netflix catalog.
One of the elements of that run of episodes that really struck me more than anything was its sense of pure grotesquery that seemed to pervade moments where you’d least expect it. This typically involved some sort of sudden decapitation or evisceration, and basically bodily fluids galore, but still well within the realm of the cartoon as befitting something within the visual space of Yuasa’s oeuvre. It’s probably because of this was fresh in my mind that I drew the immediate the comparison between that triumph and the work of Langdon Foss here within the latest chapter of the Milk Wars crossover. I don’t have a ton of experience with his work, short of the three issues of The Surface I bought – a fourth issue of which I know eventually came out, but I never bothered with…I had already picked up and moved on. But as with each of these Milk Wars books playing with different approaches as established by their ongoing artists, I was very excited to find another opportunity to take a look at the somewhat Geof Darrow-like Foss provided the first sort of new reinterpretation of Cave Carson’s cast and world.
I should note, it’s important to stress that Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye (still the best cover title of a US mainstream comic, by the way) is the only ongoing Young Animal book to have never had a fill-in, Bug! as a miniseries notwithstanding. From Mother Panic, which was wracked with fill-ins to its detriment, and Doom Patrol and Shade the Changing Girl both making use of second artists to provide a rest-period between their first and second arcs, Cave Carson stands alone as a book that fully constructed on the page by Michael Avon Oeming and colorist Nick Filardi. And until you see another illustrator take a crack at that world, you don’t actually realize what a sheer body horror comic the entire effort has been – especially given to how Foss plays with human characteristics just a little more true to life than Oeming’s much more square-jawed approach. There’s also a pretty garish twist towards the end of the book that lays out RetConn’s plans a little more bare and how Cave and company end up helping them that is both tragic, and also a little emotionally pulverizing – not so much for what’s on the page, but in how it interprets the idea of the human body as a disposable commodity. Looking at the dreamers all piled on top of one another, headed for destruction, there’s a strange sense of hopelessness and maybe even nihilism that I think I carried my own personal baggage into – but it struck an effective scene.
The other day, I was speaking with a pal of mine about the Milk Wars crossover and its general success, both as a crossover between four comics that really don’t have much business cross-pollinating and how it extrapolates in the broader themes of each series with every respective chapter. With Cave Carson, I was really curious where this might lead, because while Shade, Doom Patrol and even the less than good Mother Panic all ring out with identifiable theses, Cave has always been the much more plot-oriented action based comic. I guess if it has one through-line, its in how it tackles grief and the development of a new family when your previous one is falling to the way-side. Or maybe it’s more about how Cave, as an absent, not particularly great, father has to reconnect with a daughter that is now entering the early stages of adulthood. Both of these things could be true, though that I’m trying to wrap my head around it, does indeed underline that it does take some small amount of analysis to parse that out. That doesn’t mean Cave is lesser than these other books in any way, it’s just very different. But this Cave Carson/Swamp Thing one-shot, playing to form, does pitch itself in a varied fashion from the rest of the Milk Wars entries.
It’s more of an issue that is built around filling in the gaps, not only for the reader but also the characters in-story. As a reader, we’ve been privy to just flashes of Cave through his message being broadcast via his Cybernetic Eye to the rest of the Young Animal cohorts (by accident, as I’m assuming the goal was to direct these messages to the JLA, Batman and Wonder Woman specifically). What Rivera and Foss have as their task on-hand is to basically explain that lead-up, but because of the amnesiac condition that Cave, Chloe and Wild Dog all find themselves in, they are in the exact same state as the readers, lost in a confusing maze of cubicles and Not-Funko Pops. When done sparingly, I’m quite the sucker for those kinds of “character-reader” simulation tales, and the way those information is relayed to the reader is pretty exciting all told. This is done via Swamp Thing of course, and the way Cave is able to reconstitute the character from his imprisonment via RetConn (the eating of a ton of salad and then throwing it up) is way up there on my list of Swamp Thing reforming sequences. I think the action spurred on by Foss’ wide-eyed take on the cast, lends itself to being the strongest part of the issue, especially when that long-awaited info-dump finally occurs.
The second half of the comic is one that’s a little more of a bit of uncharted territory for this series, and has to do a lot of heavy lifting regarding RetConn as a concept. Because we basically missed one critical issue of Doom Patrol, still to come, so say the solicits, there’s a critical motivating piece that seems to be missing to underscore just why they’re doing what they’re doing in the first place. Rivera and Foss have to bridge that gap in order to make clear the actual threat ahead of the last chapter of the entire crossover. The idea as stated multiple times is “the selling and manufacturing of dreams, ideas, and creativity into a consumable, bland product”, which is a cool, abstract, very interior and personal threat, and the usage of these Funko-like toys as a key example of how intellectual property is boiled down into a consumable, family friendly object is a nice device. My favorite moment in the issue is probably when Swamp Thing helps the trio drag itself back into the psychedelic mindspace, and we’re treated to a number of artists of all stripes that have been purloined for their money-making effort. Whether or not there’s more on the line here than currency is a good question, given their efforts to in turn control minds and even reality, but that may be a question for another day – and hopefully something the last Orlando/Way issue will put a bow on.
It’s a blast. It doesn’t quite go all in on the thematics the way its predecessor did, but I think doing so would have felt false given the action-based nature of Rivera’s take on Cave. Milk Wars continues to be the one of the most impressive crossovers of recent memory.
By the way, based on the solicit, there’s a connection between this tale and the upcoming Eternity Girl mini that’s spinning out of this event, but it’s very vague and neither Alex nor I would have known to look for it if we hadn’t been aware that it exists. Keep your eyes peeled and give me your best read on what connects the two, I’d love to get your theories about that and the purple haired young woman that Rivera and Foss focus on a number of times (who if that’s supposed to be someone recognizable, my eyes have failed the test miserably). It’s got an enticing hook, that Eternity Girl. Very looking forward to where that goes too.
The Brave and the Bold: Batman and Wonder Woman #1
Writer/Artist: Liam Sharp
Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letterer: ALW’s Troy Peteri
For this week’s shorter review, I wanted to take a look at Liam Sharp’s big return to Wonder Woman, which is extremely welcome to me as someone who adored his, Nicola Scott, Bilquis Evely, and Greg Rucka’s run on the character right as the Rebirth relaunch kicked off. It was a tremendously refreshing take on what is now currently DC’s hottest character in a wider contextual sense, and after that rightly celebrated team cycled off the title…well, subsequent creative teams never quite maintained that momentum. So, the announcement that at least one part of that nucleus (to be totally honest, the part that I most favored) would be returning to the character on an exciting premise delving into another side of the real-world mythological roots within the DC Universe was very much what I’d like to call “Kyle cat-nip”.
I’ve long thought the idea of Wonder Woman dealing with some of the pantheons of other regions was always an enticing idea that never was quite given its due – it may have happened again at some point in Diana’s Post-Crisis history, but I can really only immediately cite that not particularly good War of the Gods as a prominent example. And as such, I’ve spent a lot of my years wondering just what happened to the Norse, Celtic, Egyptian, Russian, etc…mythological figures within the DCU. Sharp centers this first issue on that very idea, or at least within the folklore of Ireland. Having been forgotten by the world at large, deities like Cernunnos Cernach (which I believe is a combination of potentially two different figures, the fertility god Cernunnos and the hero of the Ulster Cycle in Conall Cernach – there’s been some debate that they’re one in the same, but I’m a bit of a neophyte regarding this topic so I’ll stop myself before going too far…it’s a fun thing to Wiki though!). Cernunnos and his fellow spirits/gods banishment to Tir Na Nog somewhat puts me in mind of how forgotten pantheons are handled within The Sandman. Much like that work subtextually (or maybe its really overt, I can’t remember) supposing that the various gods continually lose strength as they lose worshippers, Sharp absolutely makes that the text of how faiths work within the DCU. These gods – and the monotheistic god – exist, but are only as strong as the people that believe in them. Neat!
In short, Cernunnos seeks Diana’s help and skills as an ambassador to man to help bring the peace to Tir Na Nog, which has found two warring factions begin to break out due to the near cabin-feverish nature of their newly permanent environs. She leaves behind Steve, breaking the one romantic reprieve they’ve had in recent months and once having arrived at Tir Na Nog, what turns into a peacekeeping mission then becomes a murder mystery…wherein the Batman angle ties in.
Within the first issue, it’s clear there’s more Sharp has in store for Batman, but his side of the story sticks out a bit, as something mysterious is happening in Gotham..he goes to investigate this anomaly, and realizes things aren’t what they seem. It’s more of an add-on the let the reader know that Batman will eventually have something more to do, surely to pull his “world’s greatest detective” act. So basically, if you’re here for the Batman side of things, you’re going to be disappointed…but who cares? It’s Sharp’s Wonder Woman you should be excited for, and you better believe I am.
It’s great to have the artist scripting his own story here, not only to dig into his own interests – which honestly dovetail a lot with my own – and how they align with the character’s myth-diving roots, but also to provide himself with with a blank canvas for his wonderfully imaginative layouts. I got such a thrill when I turned the page (or swiped really, I read digital copies after all) and was greeted to that fellow pointing directly at me. There’s a sort of visceral immediacy there that a lot of mainstream comics artists aren’t so willing to play around with, and from there you’re off on a really lovely adventure where Sharp’s gorgeous renderings pave the way. I love how he’s pulled together the design of Cernunnos especially, as there’s clearly a good deal of love put into that character. I like his horns and beard especially. And that full page spread of he and Diana walking to their mystical destination is a terrific use of space and pacing. Good artists are the best.
This comic is a real treat, I’m so glad Sharp and Wonder Woman are reunited. Two great tastes…you know how it goes.
- This week, of the series that I really enjoy in an on-going fashion, I thought this week’s Batman was a good read. Tom King and Mikel Janin are back together and this time it’s a Poison Ivy story, and she seems to be in the midst of her most ecologically terrorist minded scheme yet. Ivy is one of these characters that’s built quite a following online, so King and Janin going this route should be lend some interest in how it will be received. But hopefully as with the previous Wonder Woman team-up issue that caused a bit of a furor until it was resolved pretty cleanly, I imagine there’s more to this than it appears. But still, another enjoyable King Batman comic that takes a narrative tact that I can’t predict. I’m always down for that.
- This week’s Super Sons is also quite enjoyable, and it’s becoming relatively clearer to me that this was the title where Tomasi’s heart really laid. It’s a shame to see it’s coming to an end with May’s solicits that were just released this week, though apparently the characters are still going to be under Tomasi’s purview in some other manner…
- Speaking of those May solicits, a few other cancellations were announced. Supergirl is coming to a close with Issue #20, which was a title I had a great time with when it started out, but thought it perhaps lost a step when Orlando pulled back somewhat into co-writing duties. That’s a big character to not have a title for, given the CW show’s ongoing popularity, I have to wonder where she’ll land next. Presumably as a member of a team, or maybe something Bendis-driven as part of the Superman relaunch that’s coming.
- Batgirl and the Birds of Prey gets its mercy killing that its needed for months. Love those characters, but woof…good riddance.
- And Ben Percy takes over Nightwing with Chris Mooneyham on art, the Humphries era on that title didn’t last long, which…well…I barely got a feel for where he wanted to take the book, but it was about on par with what came before and perhaps with Percy, whose Teen Titans I enjoy a lot, the Bludhaven cast and Dick’s place in it will much more firmly click into place.
- Oh and the Tynion run on Detective Comics is ending. It was a bit back and forth depending on who the artist was, but it was the first time I found myself returning to that book regularly since the Snyder days, which is no mean feat. A Bat-family title like that has a lot of value, so I hope that approach is maintained to some degree.
- Expect more creative shuffles and some new title announcements next month when the June solicits roll out, including the new Justice League books and perhaps some further indication of what’s going to come with Bendis’ impact on the publisher.
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