One of the best comics on the stands returns, as Afterlife with Archie starts a new arc. We’ve got a review of that, plus a look at the rest of this week’s notable comic books on the stands.
The Harley Quinn Holiday Special #1
So the first story of this book starts because Harley, who owns massive piles of pets, failed to get them all fixed, and now has to dump puppies and kittens on total strangers at the mall by hiding them in their bags of gifts.
I’m hardly an animal rights activist, but come on, really? Is Harley going to drive drunk next, and we’re supposed to laugh that off? Granted, this series and its handling have been tone-deaf from day one, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. But this kind of manic pixie dream girl/dumb broad B.S. is painfully unfunny, especially when the joke is that Harley Quinn is too stupid to know better. We’ll remind you, she’s a psychiatrist. She passed medical school.
The rest of the issue is similarly cringe-inducing, as every joke centers around Harley being a dimwit. In one story, for example, she tortures a dying old man because she thinks he’s Father Time, due to his name being Harold Thyme. At least that one has art from Darwyn Cooke, and the art is uniformly pretty good, but that can’t make up for how painfully unfunny this book is.
Spider-Man And The X-Men #1
Spider-Man has been tasked with a secret mission: Find the mole at the Jean Grey Institute of Higher Learning, because of course there’s a mole. Elliot Kalan delivers a script that hits all the expected notes of Spider-snark and surly teenagers, and Marco Failla’s art is engaging and bright, but for some reason, this book doesn’t quite hit the right notes yet. Kalan needs to tighten up his one-liners a bit, perhaps. But overall, the book’s funny and worth a read if you’re fan of either of its parts.
Bitch Planet #1
Or, The Handmaid’s Tale as an exploitation film. The basic thrust of Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine DeLandro’s book is that, in the future, women who aren’t “compliant” get dumped on the Bitch Planet of the title. I’m sure the book’s explicitly feminist stylings will rile up the usual corners of Comics Fandom Twitter who get huffy every time a girl tries to touch their precious panels, but truthfully, the book’s solid as an action read and DeLandro’s art pairs well with the darker aspects of the book.
My main problem, though, is that the feminist stylings are just that, so far: Stylings. You could make this a standard “Dudes In Space Prison” book and very little about it would change. The essay in the back by Danielle Henderson is far more engaging and thought provoking than the comic it’s supposed to be a supplement to. I’m sure there will be more to it as the book progresses, and it is a fun read, but one hopes DeConnick builds out the world more.
The Valiant #1
Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt, and Paolo Rivera team up for Valiant’s next big event. And it’s a welcome sprawl of characters tightly focused around one idea: Every few thousand years, something horrible (expertly and disturbingly rendered by Rivera) crawls up out of the Earth and eats the Geomancer. The Eternal Warrior has lost to it three times… and he isn’t going down a fourth time without a fight. It’s the kind of limited book that’s a hoot and a half, and definitely worth picking up.
What happens when, for a select few, death will no longer strike? What changes in our society? That’s the thrust of Williams Harms’ and Giovanni Valletta’s take on immortality. Needless to say, things aren’t necessarily great for everyone, and the Human Liberation Front, our heroes, might have to take some drastic, unethical steps. It’s not the subtlest book, but it moves quickly, it has a surprisingly strong mix of characters, and overall, it’s a solid SF story worth reading.
Deep State #2
Justin Jordan’s X-Files in reverse ramps up rather quickly in this issue. Truthfully, Ariela Kristantina’s art feels a bit rushed and crude this issue, but it is a good plot, and she’s got a beautiful, hellish splash page. Worth a read for government conspiracy fans.
Prometheus: Fire And Stone #4
Essentially, this is just twenty-two solid pages of Juan Ferreyra drawing people dying horribly at the hands of Aliens. It’s nothing to complain about, but considering that Ferreyra and Tobin are currently turning out one of the best horror books of the year with Colder: The Bad Seed, I kind of wanted to see a little more out of them.
The Goon: Occasion Of Revenge #4
You know how The Goon sometimes swings from goofy comedy to pitch-black horror? Yeah, this book ends on one of those swings. It’s a clever mix of fairy story and noir, with vivid pencil and art from Eric Powell, but if you’re looking for an upbeat book this week, maybe we could recommend Itty Bitty Mask?
Wild’s End #4
Or Aliens Kill Victorian Funny Animals. This mashup of Wind In The Willows and War Of The Worlds has been nothing short of brilliant, and this continues the, well, total disaster in style. I.N.J. Culbard is surprisingly adept with funny animals, and Dan Abnett’s script continues to be stunning. It’s a strange book, but decidedly a must read.