It’s something of a light week this week, comics-wise. But there’s still plenty on the stands to enjoy, including The Fifth Beatle, a biography of Brian Epstein, the man behind the Beatles. A full review, plus looks at books from DC, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, Valiant, and IDW.
Vivek Tiwary and Andrew C. Robinson tell the story of Epstein, and the book is striking not least because of the contrast it creates; Epstein is so successful in business because he can’t overcome his personal failures and his inability to connect meaningfully. The book opens with Epstein thinking he’s met someone, only for him to get brutally beaten.
And in a lot of ways, that defines the tone of the book. The Beatles are there; in fact, arguably they’re ever-present in the story. But it’s really about Epstein and how he turned them into a cultural force. It’s helped considerably by Robinson’s polished, beautiful art; even when dealing with ugliness it’s a stunning book, and Robinson’s clever use of Beatles iconography without letting it overwhelm the book stands out.
There are points where the script is a little wordy; Tiwary isn’t a graphic novel writer by trade, and this is his first major outing. But the book has heart, and it’s a fascinating read you should pick up.
So what about the rest of this week’s books? Read on…
Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti are launching Harley in her first solo ongoing, but it has to be said this issue feels pretty forced. The essential thrust of it is Harley, fully aware she’s in a comic, tries out a series of artists, ranging from Darwyn Cooke to Walt Simonson, while Conner and Palmiotti weigh in.
There are some pretty funny comics in-jokes; the shout-out to Louise Simonson in particular is a nice touch. And I have to admit there’s one audaciously tasteless joke. But it doesn’t really seem all that necessary, as an issue, and it doesn’t seem to have much to do with the ongoing getting launched next month, so consider that before coming across with the three bucks.
Hey, DC sends ’em, I review ’em. Honestly, this is a book for kids, through and through, although Dario Brizuela and Sholly Fisch do throw in a few knowing gags for adults who might be reading this to smaller kids. It’s not terribly complex but if you’ve got a small child you want to introduce to comics, or a comic to stuff in a stocking, this would be a good start.
Spidey goes up against former Ghost Rider villain Blackout, and… it does not go well, for Blackout. Christos Gage and Javier Rodriguez do a good job of developing Otto as a person… but he’s still not a nice guy. And he’s getting worse. So, bad for backbencher Marvel villains, but good for us!
Joshua Fialkov and Carmine Di Giandomenico approach the end of the Ultimate universe from the Ultimates perspective. It’s fun enough, and the depiction of Ultimate Modok is actually quite clever, but it’s the kind of book that hinges on smart people doing dumb things, so unfortunately, there’s only so much you’ll get out of it.
Larime Taylor’s book concerns itself with Zoey, a bookish, introverted college freshman with a new radio show. Zoey also recently murdered somebody who humiliated her sister. Suffice to say it’s a different kind of serial killer story.
It’s not a bad book, either, but it’s struggling a bit to find its pace, and to be honest, it needs a different artist. Taylor’s not really good with action, which is a problem in a book about stabbing people. Also, a lot of this book is tied up with Zoey dealing with college, and Taylor can lay it on a little thick in places. Still, it’s something different and it’s got some real promise as a thriller, so it’s worth picking up.
OK, so the title has cancer of the colon, but this book, which takes place thousands of years before the start of the movies, is a fun slice of pulp SF from Jan Duursema and John Ostrander. If you like your stories pulpy and full of lightsabers, this is the book to pick up.
Jason Henderson, Gordon Purcell and Scott MacRae deliver a kid-focused superhero book based off the cartoon that’s a fun read, but really more for the kids at your FLCS. Still, if you’ve got a kid you want to introduce to comics, this is smarter and won’t be condescending.
Jim Zub and Andy Suriano continue the Cartoon Network cult classic, and it’s a really fun, light, all-ages read. This book really nails the tone of the beloved show, and if you’re looking for fluffy action, this will definitely fit the bill. If you’re not sold, here’s a preview:
Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky hand in easily one of the best books about sex out there right now. For every juvenile boob book on the stand, this more than makes up for it with wit, absurdity, and heart. Definitely pick it up if you haven’t been following it; it’s one of this week’s must buys.
Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw continue one of the best superhero books on the stands. What do you do when you’re a superhero who gets his powers from being an addict? And any stimulant gives you powers? It’s a concept Cates and Shaw play with in clever ways, and the metaphor of superheroism as an addiction is a clever one. Sadly, this isn’t an ongoing, but a four-issue limited series, so pick this up. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this week. Here’s a preview to see if you agree.
Fred Van Lente’s take on a goofy Silver Age hero takes an unexpected twist in this issue, but it’s one that’s quite interesting, and sets up a long-term antagonist for this book. Plus, it’s a lot of fun to see Brain Boy beat up a swarm of psychics like they’re nothing. Perhaps not the deepest book on the stands, but definitely one of the most purely entertaining. Here’s a preview to see what I mean.
Or “Hope You Really Like Eye-Gouging!” This isn’t a bad book, but you can feel the inevitable mid-budget movie starring Vin Diesel that it wants to be keeping it from being anything special. Everything about it, stem to stern, is something you’ve seen before, but if you like the covers, you’ll probably like the book.
Greg Pak and Trevor Hairsine continue what amounts to a snarkier Conan in the modern day. If that sounds amazingly fun, that’s because it is. The story is action-packed enough to be engaging while the overarching plot is surprisingly personal about Gilad Anil-Padda and his ties to the gods. Also, there are killer robot birds. Here’s a preview, in case you’re not entirely sold yet.
David Lapham tries really hard, but there just isn’t enough here that’s different to make this book more than a fairly standard “monsters take over the world” book; considering Dark Horse already had a book like that, BPRD, this suffers in contrast. It’s by no means bad, but there needs to be a bit more to it to be worth reading, instead of just relying on interest in the upcoming TV series to sell books.
This mix of two of Valiant’s goofier nineties properties is actually working out to be one of the better team books on the stands. Christos Gage and Joshua Dysart manage to both deal with some of the ethical problems surrounding brain implants that give you superpowers and also manage to uncork some ridiculous action scenes, courtesy of Emanuela Lupacchino and Guillermo Ortego on pencils and inks. Here’s a preview, courtesy of Valiant.
Robert Venditti ties off a loose end in a way that demonstrates there’s a lot more to Aric than just his armor. It’s a pretty interesting book, although Cary Nord’s art, while quite accomplished, is something of a jarring shift. Still, it’s a fun, interesting book and if you’ve been following Unity, it’s key to that plot line and worth picking up.
Brian Wood’s adaptation of The Song of Belit is good, creepy, action fun. Riccardo Burchielli, on art, also does a spectacular job of capturing Conan while making the book feel fresh and dynamic. In short, if you’re a Conan fan, Wood’s run continues to be a must-read.
Marc Andreyko’s maiden voyage on this troubled title isn’t a bad start, but you can tell it was a rush job; there are four artists and two inkers, so this issue feeling remotely unified is kind of an achievement in of itself, and Andreyko feels a bit limited by the Zero Year tie-in. But it’s a good issue, and Andreyko knows his way around superheroines, so fans of the book won’t be disappointed.
One of the best anthology books on the stands just keeps getting better. This issue in particular fires up a few new stories worth checking out; Fred Van Lente and Reilly Brown’s Saint George: Dragonslayer, Jamie Rich and Brent Schoonover’s Integer City and Monstrous by Steve Horton and Ryan Cody stand out in particular. Well worth your eight bucks, as always.
Lake of Fire, a Liz Sherman story, builds to a pretty explosive ending. There’s still one issue to go, but if you’ve been following the book, its take on humans rebuilding after an apocalypse, or not, is a pretty intense story. Here’s a preview to see if it’s your thing.