One of the most beloved, if bizarre, tropes in anime, at least in anime imported to the US, is humans hanging out with giant robots. It’s usually played straight, sometimes a little too straight. Mech Cadet Yu (BOOM! Studios), out today, plays with those tropes a little bit while keeping the starry-eyed optimism of the idea of a boy, his robot, and their scrappy spirit.
Greg Pak and Takeshi Miyazawa bring an incredibly earnest tone to the book, and it’s oddly refreshing. In this world, robots regularly descend from the sky and bond with humans to protect the Earth from alien menaces, and being a “cadet” is a rare honor reserved for the rich. The Yu in question, and yes the name isn’t subtle, is the son of a janitor told he’s at the bottom and has to work five times as hard to get a fifth as far. But Yu’s luck seemingly turns around when he meets a robot just as hardscrabble as he is, and the two find an unlikely benefactor in the first boy ever to bond with a robot, now a grizzled old war veteran.
Pak hints, ever so slightly, that there will be more to this book than its gee-whiz first issue suggests. Miyazawa, meanwhile, gets to apply his manga-tinged sensibility to the art and seems to be having more fun than even the kid with the pet robot. His giant robots are cleverly expressive without compromising suspension of disbelief, and he carefully riffs on anime design tropes while making them his own, giving the book a classic feel and helping make Mech Cadet Yu a splash of unabashed joy on the stands.
Sex Criminals #20, Image Comics
Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky fill this issue with heartbreak, as a twenty-issue relationship comes to an end, friends part ways, and people choose not to deal with their problems. And then they end it with a sex joke, because that’s how this book rolls. Sex Criminals has always been, in the end, a book about how we relate to each other, or don’t, and how sex can either facilitate or get in the way of that. And this issue ends with the promise that things will get tougher before they get better. Also we get all the lyrics to the Wide Weiner theme, so that’s nice.
Batman #28, DC Comics
The War Of Jokes And Riddles continues to unfold, and Tom King and Mikel Janin cleverly riff on both Batman history and reader expectations. Most stories, pitting Deathstroke against Deadshot, would focus on the massive villain fight, and likely make it the centerpiece. King and Janin focus on Batman desperately containing the fallout, and care more about how Batman and Gordon are desperate to stop a war, not be the coolest heroes in town. It’s a more emotional, thoughtful story than the giant supervillain fight would indicate, and shows King and Janin want to have an extremely different Bat.
Nick Fury #5, Marvel
James Robinson and Aco clearly decided, at the start of this book, to just be the most fun, eye-popping book on the stands every month, and creatively it works for them. This time around, Nick Fury is supposedly on vacation in a small town, doing a little antiquing. But, of course, there’s a bit more to this sleepy little town than it looks. Part of the joy here is just Aco’s pop-art sensibility, always teetering just on the edge of chaos, but still coming together. This tribute to the swinging ’60s Steranko books is just sheer fun, and always worth reading.
The New Gods Special, DC Comics
As part of DC’s ongoing celebration of Jack Kirby’s centennial, some classic New Gods stories are reprinted here alongside some originals, in the Kirby style of writing, from Shane Davis. Davis has a lot of fun with Kirby’s character design and writing style, and the stories feel, quite a bit, like Kirby’s, which is tough to pull off. If you’re in the mood for a little Silver Age style, this will scratch that itch.
Elsewhere #1, Image Comics: Where do all the famous missing people go? To an alternate reality full of fantasy creatures, in this amusing if so far slight book from Jay Farber and Sumeyye Kesgin.
Generations: Banner Hulk And Totally Awesome Hulk, Marvel: Yes, the seemingly endless Secret Empire is finally ending, and that means Marvel is setting up its next big event. Still, watching Amadeus Cho hang out with Silver Age Banner and figure out the Hulk isn’t just something fun, but a heavy responsibility, is a fun read, courtesy of Greg Pak and Matteo Buffagni
Ghost Station Zero #1, Image Comics: This comic, from Atomic Blonde‘s Antony Johnson and artist Shari Chankhamma, and starring Bond except she’s a Russian woman, has plenty of goofy action and glamour for those who can’t wait for a new Bond movie, or at least a Kingsman sequel.
James Bond: Black Box #6, Dynamite: Granted, this is Bond at his most Roger Moore, but really, who can turn that down?
Dead Of Winter #1, Oni Press: The board game gets an amusingly tongue-in-cheek comic that affectionately parodies zombies and their tropes.
This Week’s Best Collections
Slam Vol. 1, BOOM! Studios ($15, Softcover): The joys and lows of roller derby are explored in this funny, touching take on the sport from Pamela Ribon and Veronica Fish, with a story that’s really about the growth and struggles of friendship.
Spencer & Locke, Danger Zone ($15, Softcover): Calvin and Hobbes meets noir in this unusual, but entertaining, crime story.
The End Of The F***ing World, Fantagraphics ($20, Hardcover): Before Netflix adapts it, get familiar with this strangely funny and tragic story of a teen couple as one begins to lose his mind and the other tries harder and harder to pretend nothing’s wrong.