Escape artistry is such a glaringly obvious metaphor for, well, everything that it’s almost a cliche. But Tom King and Mitch Gerads are up to something more with Mister Miracle, the fourth issue of which arrives today. Mister Miracle is on trial, but the judge isn’t a worryingly unhinged and authoritarian Orion. The judge is Scott himself, and just as worryingly, he’s a bit too eager to be his own executioner.
Mister Miracle has been a brilliant, but sometimes tough read from the beginning, seeing as it starts with a suicide attempt and forsakes superheroics largely to focus Scott and his wife at home. This issue takes the form of a trial, but what’s supposed to explore Scott’s crime against his supposed home of New Genesis really winds up unearthing some truths about Scott himself. Gerads has largely been adhering to a 12-panel format for most pages of this book and here it emphasizes the relentlessness of the questioning. Under pressure, Scott owns up to not treason, but self-hatred, depression, rage. It’s like therapy, if therapy was deciding whether or not you’d be executed.
Woven throughout all this is the theme of traps and binding. Everyone’s bound by something, Scott points out, and this issue is about the traps and chains we build in our own mind. Scott’s suicide attempt opens the issue, and it closes, in a way, with another attempt. The question left lingering boils down to whether Scott can see there’s more than one way out of the trap he’s built for himself.
Port of Earth #1, Image Comics
What if the first aliens to make contact with Earth weren’t peaceful diplomats or aggressive military forces, but… Exxon? That’s the premise of Zack Kaplan, Andrea Mutti, and Vladimir Popov’s story. Aliens have come to Earth, but they’re only here for gas. They don’t approach us, we don’t approach them, and everyone’s happy, right? Yeah, that doesn’t exactly work out. It’s an interesting riff on the alien invasion story that has a more grounded, realistic feel than some others.
She-Hulk #159, Marvel
Thanks to Marvel’s initiative to renumber all of its books, what was Mariko Tamaki’s and Jahnoy Lindsay’s “Hulk” is now “She-Hulk,” and has been renumbered as if it were part of the run of She-Hulk. Which it isn’t, and really just makes all of this very confusing and a great book harder to find than it should be.
And that’s a shame because Tamaki’s use of Jennifer Walters to explore certain aspects of feminism and life as a woman takes a great turn here, looking at hero worship, the tensions between being a “good feminist” and not putting up with other women’s garbage, and more subtly, emotional abusers and manipulation. So, spread the word: She-Hulk is the best Hulk there is, no matter how they renumber it.
Kong On The Planet Of The Apes #1, BOOM! Studios
Ryan Ferrier, Carlos Magno and Alex Guimaraes deliver what seems an obvious crossover, but they handle it in a uniquely clever way. After all, if a giant washed ashore in our time, we’d freak out. So the book takes a similar tack, with the apes torn between believing they’ve found a god or a curious missing link. Magno and Guimaraes do an impressive job of capturing the 1960s movie without being slavishly devoted to it, and the plot raises some subtle, intriguing questions while staying faithful to both the unsubtle social commentary of ’60s SF and the sheer pulpy absurdity of ’30s monster movies.
The Wild Storm: Michael Cray #2, DC Comics
Bryan Hill, N. Steven Harris, Dexter Vines and Dearhbla Kelly really get this book going in the second issue, riffing on a brilliant theme: In the universe of The Wild Storm, the DC superheroes you know and love are still there. They’re just, well, supervillains and generally horrible people. So Michael Cray, professional assassin, is taking them out, and it helps that he can kill things by touching them. The result is a witty action book that offers a smart twist on superheroes and alternate realities.
The Normals #6, Aftershock Comics: Adam Glass and Dennis Calero wrap up the first arc of their story of a family who discovers they’re robots with both a touching moment and an unnerving twist.
Coyotes #1, Image Comics: Sean Lewis and Caitlin Yarsky offer up a take on werewolves that’s tangled up not just in the supernatural, but in the ugliness of a business tied to human lives.
Eugenic #2, BOOM! Studios: James Tynion IV, Eryk Donovan and Dee Cunniffee explore a future 200 years later where eugenics are socially acceptable… as long as you hide the results, making for one of this year’s more unnerving, and thoughtful, horror books.
The Archies #2, Archie Comics: Running a band is hard, but Alex Segura, Matthew Rosenberg, and Joe Eisma balance a comedic look at the hard work of touring and booking gigs with just enough optimism to keep rock star dreams alive.
Harbinger: Renegade #0, Valiant: Or, “You really shouldn’t explore ancient temples in the middle of nowhere, no matter how heavily armed you are.” Rafer Roberts and Juan Jose Ryp set up a new chapter of Valiant’s universe with this creepy, action-packed one-shot.
This Week’s Best Collections
Trillium: The Deluxe Edition ($35, Hardcover): Jeff Lemire’s beautiful, touching time-travel romance gets a handsome new edition. This book is a must-read on its own merits, and the upgrade offers a new perspective on one of Lemire’s more complex works.
Legacy: An Off-Color Novella For You To Color, Dark Horse ($20, Hardcover): Chuck Palahniuk and Mike Norton deliver a story about an amoral man given the ticket to immortality… provided he can get rid of the other would-be immortals out for the same thing. It’s essentially Palahniuk’s cynical take applied to a pulp story, and a gory hoot even before you bust out the pencils.
Fiction House: From Pulps To Panels, IDW Publishing ($50, Hardcover): You probably don’t know the name “Fiction House.” But you know the art style it propagated, the “good girl” pinups of the ’40s and the lurid pulp covers. This history explores how that art style got started and how a tiny, not terribly notable or even popular publisher invaded the pop culture consciousness and even pushed boundaries behind the scenes.