All I knew about Bronze Age Boogie was that it evoked the era I fell in love with comics — the 1970s — and that actually filled me with fear. Having lived through the 1970s firsthand, I sometimes get annoyed by its portrayal. It was more low-key than is often conveyed. I know crazy stuff went on, but for most kids, sitting in their suburbs, the crazy stuff was mostly on TV. Most parents weren’t swingers. Disco actually wasn’t as immersive as any popular music now because no media was THAT immersive — you still had a life without popular media that you lived in. And comics didn’t have a visible culture surrounding them, you were sort of wandering in the dark.
It’s writer Stuart Moore’s column about the time he bought Marvel Preview #4 at a place called Tiger’s Deli, in which he name-drops an Archie Goodwin editorial, that highlighted to me that Bronze Age Boogie was coming from the right place. I still have recurring dreams about going to the stores I went to in the 1970s and buying comics. Like more than the ones where I have to go back to high school and forget my pants. I have dreams about going through the Hey Kids It’s Comics racks at 7-11 in the 1970s all the time.
But the actual Bronze Age Boogie story somehow hit all the right tones for me even without Moore’s column. It partly takes place in an ancient sword and sorcery era where a fierce warrior King Domnall and his daughter Brita face evil wizards. Domnall speaks in hilarious Conan-English, while Brita, under the influence of her time traveling monkey friend, has a more modern outgoing personality and knows about people like Potsie.
It also partly takes place in the 1970s, where we meet the Ape Time Travel Action Crew, which is probably related to Brita’s buddy who teaches her all about 1970s pop culture.
The whole thing unfolds with a good sense of humor and some hints at wider ideas that take 1970s cliches and really runs with them in a clever way, as well as an intriguing cosmology and, bizarrely enough, some genuine sweetness in regard to the portrayal of Brita. Ponticelli’s art brings it all together with a frantic sense of fun, and the whole thing is just so good-natured that I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.
There’s a back-up story, “Major Ursa,” that is written by Tyrone Finch and drawn by Mauricet. It’s about a bear being launched into outer space. It’s a perfectly amusing and likable little beginning, but I don’t have much more to say about it, and reserve judgment until it moves along.
When I first heard G. Willow Wilson was going to write Wonder Woman, my curiosity was piqued. Whatever it was that got my expectations heightened never transpired though, and I felt I was reading yet another version of Wonder Woman, no better or no worse than any other (except for the late 1960s early 1970s era Diana Prince wore jumpsuits and studied martial arts, which were genius). Wilson always brings something to her work that is entirely her own focus, but in Wonder Woman territory, it seems drowned out by the enormity of the premise, of the decades of tradition, of the expectations to be fresh when there’s not actually a lot of room for it to happen in.
This all struck me as I was reading Invisible Kingdom, which is a very nice comic with very interesting ideas that aren’t dynamic ones, but have an element that Wonder Woman doesn’t and in the world of intellectual-property dominated corporate comics, never really could. Invisible Kingdom feels like it’s starting in its own place and it actually has somewhere to go from there.
The first issue is split between two plots. In one, a spaceship crew delivering packages across the universe in an obvious Amazon commentary has engine problems and uncovers a secret about the company they work for. In the other, a young novitiate heading blindfolded through futuristic streets on a journey to join a religious order called the Renunciation to become a “none.” Once Vess settles into the monastery, it’s not quite as she expected, and part of the reason is that she, too, uncovers a secret that reveals more than she wanted to know.
Wilson seems to be headed into an exploration of the cross-section between big commerce and big religion, comparing and contrasting as the concept of need — spiritual and otherwise — is examined. At least I think so. That’s why I liked this so much better than Wonder Woman because I only suspect where it is going. It’s going to take me where it will.
It also has the strength of Christian Ward’s art, which lends the story tons of personality thanks to its Day-Glo otherworldliness that makes me think of an old-fashioned Colorforms set at times — I mean that in a good way —and definitely depicts the strangeness that the story requires in vivid terms. I’m ready for Invisible Kingdom to take me away.
These two new minis from Harmon highlight what Harmon does best, rendered in her deceptively simple art style that treats some joyous, fairytale-like scenarios as bursts of joy, totally kinetic with her portrayal of action and body language and the chaos of happiness, playful in a way I wish more comics were.
One Weird Trick portrays the nexus between the adorable and the grotesque in which a cute, fuzzy bear has a little thing he does in order to create the perfect dance partner. I won’t give it away, but it’s a joyous little slice of life that has Harmon exploring all the emotional implications of the strange thing she’s introduced. Mostly it’s just cute. Cute and macabre. And sweet. And funny.
Turtles covers similar territory but in a completely different way, taking the form of a letter home written by a girl who has left her parents to live underground with a bunch of little turtles. She covers what life is like for her and the turtles, and how her emotions have reacted to the time away from her parents, and once again Harmon portrays a strange thing that evokes a fuzzy feeling, as well as a simple portrait of emotional strength in the process of maturity. And embracing the adorable, of course.
John Seven is a journalist and children’s book writer living in North Adams, Massachusetts. His books include ‘A Rule Is To Break: A Child’s Guide To Anarchy,’ ‘Happy Punks 1-2-3,’ ‘Frankie Liked To Sing,’ and others. Find out about all his things at johnseven.me.