There’s something to be said for fun. While it’s great that comics have gone well beyond grown men in tights punching each other, that also means you appreciate grown men in tights punching each other when it’s exceptionally well-executed. Fred Van Lente and Pere Perez, with the fourth issue of Deadpool Vs. The Punisher out today from Marvel, have it pretty close to perfection.
Van Lente is one of comics’ master comedians, of course, and handing him Deadpool alone is usually worth the price of admission. But from the start, Van Lente’s take on the Punisher has carried the book, as the Punisher finds himself the put-upon straight man dealing with a wacky sidekick that he can’t just shoot in the face, because he’s tried that multiple times. Van Lente, however, has also woven in a subtle thread that pays off this issue: Deadpool and the Punisher, in different ways, are alike in their anger at innocents being hurt or killed; they just express it in very different ways.
There there’s Pere Perez’s art. Perez’s facility with action and comedy have made him an excellent collaborator with Van Lente in the past, but here, Perez’s action scenes and layouts move with a confidence and fluidity that make them a joy on the page. Perez can make a guy in a skull mask subtly expressive even as he’s beating up a mass murderer on his way to a bank heist.
Deadpool Vs, The Punisher isn’t particularly deep, of course, but it’s particularly funny, thrilling, and well-executed. Superhero fights are a dime a dozen, but this is one of the few worth four bucks.
Sex Criminals #19, Image
To this point, Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky have kept their book about people who get superpowers after orgasm fairly light. Even when it hints at something deeper, it turns out to be a metaphor for something personal, not a broader conspiracy. But while this issue is, as usual, hilarious, it also ends with a blunt raising of the stakes, both on a personal level and in the broader sense. Also, it really needs to be read just for the jargon-filled first date between two therapists, one a former porn star and one her former biggest teenage male fan.
Wonder Woman Annual #1, DC Comics
DC, to celebrate Wonder Woman’s long, long overdue arrival to movie screens, has put together an anthology book of sorts, packed with talent, and which hinges around what makes Wonder Woman so important. Her strength lies in her compassion, not her punching, and that’s the theme of this handful of short stories ranging from the mildly goofy to a tale of heroic sacrifice.
Rick And Morty #26, Oni Press
Oni’s comic is like getting an extra episode of the show every month, but this issue, in particular, underscores both the dark comedy and the rather grim underpinnings of the show in general. At root, Rick and Morty is about laughing in the face of disaster, and this issue, in particular, as Jerry manages to nearly destroy the Earth with his mediocrity, brings that to the fore. The back-up feature, as well, is funny as hell, but grim when you stop to think about it, so really it’s doing the show proud.
Kill Or Be Killed #9, Image Comics
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ deconstruction of vigilante justice stories continues with a sharp, thrilling issue about Dylan’s behavior finally catching up with him. It’s a great issue in general, but the best moment is towards the end, when Dylan confesses what’s been happening to him to a man who won’t tell. The sharp contrast between Brubaker’s internal monologue, and the growing terror Phillips works into his art, shows why this is one of the best creative teams in comics.
Aliens: Dead Orbit #2, Dark Horse: James Stokoe’s mix of paranoid-fueled cat-and-mouse game on a wrecked ship and the story of how it got there is a better Alien story than what’s in theaters, right now.
Hulk #6, Marvel: This book’s slow burn pays off with a monster fight but, more importantly, Jen Walters realizing she’s got more to live for.
Blood Bowl: More Guts More Glory #1, Titan Press: The over-the-top board game gets an equally over-the-top comic in the grand tradition of football as violent slapstick.
Ladycastle #4, BOOM! Studios: Deliah Dawson and Ashley Woods finish their kid-friendly satire of fairy tale tropes with a witty final issue.
Hadrian’s Wall #7, Image Comics: This SF murder mystery sets up a killer finale in its penultimate issue. If you haven’t been following this book, now’s the time to pick it up.
This Week’s Best Collections
Deadman: Dark Mansion Of Forbidden Love, DC Comics ($17, Softcover): Deadman becomes the tragic lover in a Gothic horror story in this lushly drawn and written series.
Bitch Planet Vol. 2: President Bitch, Image Comics ($15, Softcover): Kelly Sue DeConnick’s feminist SF allegory remains a potent and important discussing of how power treats women, and how women survive when it mistreats them.
Kingsway West, Dark Horse ($15, Softcover): This miniseries mixes fantasy, Western, and alternate history into a rich, tasty stew of a book.