It’s strange that Iceman, Marvel’s solo book starring the X-Man which has its fourth issue arriving this week, isn’t getting more attention. It’s not just that it’s Marvel’s first book anchored by an openly gay superhero; it’s that Sina Grace and Edgar Salazar are consistently delivering a smart, funny superhero book where Bobby Drake’s personal life is tied cleverly to the fun superheroics on the page. And this issue just underscores how brilliantly that’s been done.
This issue opens with Bobby writing a letter to his parents to start his long overdue departure from the closet for them. But it’s quickly derailed by a student going missing from the X-Mansion, leading Bobby to track him down in an after-hours club. One small problem, as fans can tell from the cover: Daken, Wolverine’s jerkass son, is in the mix.
Grace practically turns Bobby into James Bond here, as he sneaks into the club with an ice statue, smoothly works his way through the club, and even takes out a would-be seducer in a hilariously suave manner. There’s even a rooftop fight. And it ties to an ending splash panel that’s going to shake Bobby up in even more ways. Iceman has quietly become the kind of character-focused, smart superhero book we need more of.
The Hard Place #1, Image Comics
It’s a tale as old as noir. A man gets out of jail, tries to go straight, and finds himself sucked back into a life of crime by forces outside his control. What makes The Hard Place, from Doug Wagner and Nic Rummel, so fascinating is how careful they are to avoid clichés. AJ screwed up, he’s paid for it, and the first issue is largely AJ making amends and putting his life together. The thick-lined, woodcut-esque art feels almost like you’re reading a medieval morality play, and the brisk plotting suggests this limited series will be worth committing to.
War Mother #1, Valiant
Fred Van Lente and Stephen Segovia revisit their post-apocalyptic story of a woman, her nervous sniper rifle, and a far-flung future where the world has fallen apart and most people are just looking for a place to call home. Van Lente and Segovia don’t push any boundaries here, but what makes it work is the theme at its center; War Mother killed the protector of the Grove, and now she has to live up to her responsibility.
Shipwreck #5, AfterShock Comics
Warren Ellis and Phil Hester explore an alternate reality where a scientist is, well, shipwrecked. The sci-fi concept may sound standard, but Hester’s imaginative, flowing art and Ellis’ characterization elevate it well beyond what you’d expect from a plot summary. There’s one moment, in particular, where the nominal hero confesses just how weak he really is that’s especially arresting, and Hester puts an expression on his face as this comes tumbling out of him that will haunt you.
Manhunter Special #1, DC Comics
Keith Giffen, Mark Buckingham, and Dan DiDio revive, if only for an issue, a Golden Age hero with a troubling problem. Paul Kirk is a former big game hunter back in the city, and in the union suit and steel mask beating the tar out of bad guys. But is Kirk a hero? Or is he somebody who simply wants to hurt others and will take any excuse to do it? That moral question sits at the center of this one-shot and makes it a surprisingly compelling story.
Moonstruck #2, Image Comics: Grace Ellis and Shae Beagle’s story of modern love among the supernatural creatures is touching and more than a little cute, but it ends with a smart twist that makes it hard not to want more.
Nightwing: The New Order #1, DC Comics: Kyle Higgins and Trevor McCarthy revive Elseworlds in grand style with Dick Grayson leading a team to shut down metahumans. There’s a twist you’ll see coming, but what it has to say about Grayson makes it worth reading.
Hi-Fi Fight Club #1, BOOM! Studios: In this adventure romp set in the last golden age of record stores, Carly Usdin’s script could stand some brisker pacing, but Nina Vakueva’s art, and the sheer adorability of tomboy Chris, do a lot to make up for it.
Black Hammer #12, Dark Horse: This oddly touching wrap-up to an arc from Jeff Lemire and David Rubin continues what’s been a thoughtful rumination on the human cost of being superhuman.
Generations: The Unworthy Thor And The Mighty Thor #1, Marvel: This team-up cleverly brings together two Thors, and a major Marvel villain, while being a lot of goofy fun.
This Week’s Best Collections
Calla Cthulhu, Dark Horse ($13, Softcover): It’s tough being a teenager, so Evan Dorkin and Sara Dyer decide to make it harder by sticking poor Calla with a silly name. Oh, also she’s the direct descendant of the Old Ones and they want her to destroy the world. Being a teen sucks.
The Few, Image Comics ($20, Softcover): Sean Lewis and Hayden Sherman mix Mad Max with Joan of Arc for a serious SF story about what we value most when society falls apart.
Rick And Morty Official Coloring Book, Titan ($15, Softcover): Yes, this is real, and hilarious, although let’s just say it’s not exactly “soothing” to color some of its subjects.