Throughout its last three issues, Secret Weapons, Valiant’s offbeat team book which wraps up its first miniseries today, has been about turning superhero tropes on their heads. It takes place not in some fictional metropolis but the very real Oklahoma City. Its heroes aren’t reporters and billionaires but college students, art kids, and homeless people who (literally) talk to birds. Eric Heisserer and Raul Allen finish it off with wit, style, and more than a little heart today.
Our heroes, a man who can become a statue (but can’t move), a conjurer (who can’t control what he conjures) and the aforementioned bird lady, are being hunted by a machine that absorbs their powers. But, with the help of their mentor Livewire, and some teamwork, they overcome. What makes it work so well is Heisserer relentlessly takes apart superhero tropes while remembering they exist for a reason. We want to see the team pull together and beat the bad guy. But we also have seen it a thousand times before, so things need to be spiced up.
Allen, in particular, uses his thick-lined, detailed style to uproarious effect here, especially in how Rex-O, the villain is taken out. It looks like a Looney Tune (in part due to what happens) without feeling like one. He also can deploy layout in clever ways, with a touching moment at the end of the book that stands out in particular. This bunch of superheroes may be misfits, but they’re misfits you want to be around, and we can’t wait to see where they turn up next.
Dark Ark #1, Aftershock Comics
We’ve all heard the story of Noah. But… what about all the monsters in the Old Testament? What happened to them? Cullen Bunn and Juan Doe answer that question with, as you might have guessed, an ark of their own. Of course, pack a bunch of angry sentient animals who live off flesh and lifeforce onto a tiny boat and things get ugly fast. At root, this is a murder mystery, which is only set up only on the last panel, but it’s a hell of a set-up, if you’ll pardon the pun.
Angelic #1, Image Comics
Si Spurrier and Caspar Wijngaard here tell the story of Qora, a flying monkey living in a post-apocalyptic Earth. She doesn’t know it’s post-apocalyptic, though. All she knows is ritual, routine, and being told, relentlessly, not to question religious dogma, to know her place, to submit to orders. But she wants something more and, much to even her own surprise, she’s about to get a lot more of it. This isn’t quite a kid friendly book; there’s one panel in particular where Spurrier and Wijngaard underscore just how alien this abandoned world truly is in a creepy way. But it is wildly creative, and often unexpected, in the best way possible.
Wonder Woman/Conan #1, DC Comics
Gail Simone and Aaron Lopresti deliver a team-up that seems obvious in retrospect. Conan the Cimmerian finds himself in Aquilonia, as he tends to do whenever there’s gold involved, and he witnesses some gladiatorial games with a familiar woman at the center. We all know just who it is, of course, but Diana can’t remember who she is. Fortunately, the iron-thewed Conan is here to help out, although he quickly has his own problems. Simone writes a heck of a Conan story, and Lopresti, who usually draws superheroes and fancy tech, has a lot of fun with the high fantasy aspects of the crossover.
Spider-Men II #3, Marvel
Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli reveal the secret origin of the 616’s evil, older Miles Morales, who, it turns out, is a friend of the Kingpin. Not as in an “ally.” They’re true friends. Pichelli here really sells it with a handful of panels that are so relaxed and friendly you almost want to grab a seat with these two vicious gangsters and just listen to them chat about life. It’s a surprising turn that keeps the villainy up front while humanizing the villains, and sets the stage for the rest of the book.