Is there a song about Mondays? I mean other than Manic Monday? For some reason, I want to say that there is, and that I should be quoting it right now to kick off the week. God dammit, this is gonna’ bug me.
Whelp, after a pretty gosh darn stellar weekend (holy shit, that Doctor Who finale!) we’re back to bring you more… things. As always, we’re kicking things off with the BEST for last week. So, uh… let’s get to that.
One of the ways in which The New 52 absolutely succeeded is that it got me checking out some series that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Sure, I’d always heard that Jonah Hex was a great series, and that Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray were absolutely killing it on writing duties there and for Power Girl, but for whatever reason I never got around to checking them out. Probably because I am a deeply broken individual who resists happiness, but that’s for my
bottle of bourbon therapist to barely care about, so I wouldn’t trouble yourself too much.
What The New 52 did was get books like this in my hand, where I could discover firsthand that a gothic western buddy cop story about a psychiatrist and a disfigured Confederate soldier-turned-bounty hunter was what was missing from my life. The first issue of All Star Western sees Hex and Dr. Jeremiah Arkham teaming up to catch a Gotham version of Jack the Ripper (which, to be fair, is probably around half the population of the city) as the age of the Wild West wanes in the 19th century, and it manages to be both funny and also incredibly creepy. The issue is like a first act of a horror film, and not the kind where a bunch of co-eds get tortured, instead like the kind where there’s suspense and emotion and not just body parts. As freaked out as the issue made me, I wanted more as soon as I was done reading, and what better recommendation is there? Just to make sure, I’ll give the issue the Silver Spittoon of Justice. (J)
Can I get real with you for a second? Let’s sit down. Let’s rap. You comfy there, champ? Look, I’m not exactly sure how to start this recommendation without getting into well-intentioned-but-ultimately-alienating-step-dad territory, so I figured I’d just go all in. You’re fine with that, right slugger?
Every now and then Archie Comics will print something that absolutely shouldn’t work, but does. Books that immediately spring to mind are the Archie Meets The Punisher one shot, or the newest Life with Archie series… or even the new Kevin Keller books. As much as I love Archie Comics, they aren’t known for approaching stories with a lighter touch, usually tipping the scales over towards camp than anything else. And… man, this whole paragraph sounds like damning praise, but trust me, that’s not my intent. Archie Comics have been around for decades and they are probably the most successful comic publishing company out there today. Because seriously, do you see Spider-Man digests hanging around every supermarket till? Nope, you sure don’t.
Anyway, getting back on track here – this week in the pages of Archie #625, Alex Simmons and Dan Parent told a story that probably shouldn’t have worked. It starts out with several new members of the Archie-verse teen set noticing a change in Shrill’s character (Shrill being Riverdale’s token goth character). Betty and some of the new kids talk about how she’s been acting a little meaner lately, and set forth to find out exactly what’s wrong. Soon enough they discover the fact that Shrill’s little sister has been diagnosed with cancer. Oh yes, I can hear your eye rolls from here, but please, just go with me on this for a second.
After the gang discovers this information, things click into place fairly swiftly. Shrill (who’s real name is Avalon) is pretty distraught over her sister’s condition, and with the fact that she’ll have to change schools once again. (Granted, she’s much much more concerned with the well being of her younger sister.) In typical Archie fashion, the gang all kicks in to help out this girl and her family, and the results are heartwarming. After all this is an Archie comic book – even when it touches on some of the harder stuff, the ending is usually a happy one. But in this case, it’s tempered with a few fairly brilliant flares of character.
I think the absolute best chracterization in this came from Kaylee, the little girl with cancer. Through out the book, she was probably the person who was taking her dire news the best – and not because she didn’t understand the consequences, but because she knew that if she did this, it would help out her family. It’s a subtle bit of characterization, but one that is absolutely pitch perfect. Having dealt with a bit of cancer within my family, I know that even though the kid might be sick, the thing that sometimes hurts them the most is seeing their family worry about them so much – and so they will go out of their way and do anything they can to try and make their family more at ease, and that shines through beautifully here. And later, there’s even a bit when everyone gets to the Ronald McDonald House in NYC, they don’t portray the place as a solution to all things. It’s treated much like it is: a place that does everything it can to try and make the cancer patients, and their families as comfortable as they can be with the resources available to them. It’s a tough line to walk, between having their feet firmly planted in the Archie universe, where bad things never really happen, and in the psudo-real world where… well, where sometimes people just do things to cope, but the storytellers walk it well. Which is why I give this book the Geraldine Grundy Memorial Award for just… being pretty gosh darn amazing. (B)
I don’t think it is a secret that I watch far too much TV. Hell, I’m watching iCarly right now and it’s 2:30 in the dang morning because I had a nap earlier and now my sleep schedule is messed up. The point is, I deeply love television and I spend a good portion of my free time enjoying the shows I love.
One of my favourite shows is Castle. In another life, I tried my hand at reviewing the third season until I realized I wasn’t really suited for taking a critical eye to the show every week because there were only so many ways I could say, ‘This show is just having so much fun, these are the parts I liked,” every week. I was just more suited to loving the show and getting as much of it as I possibly could. So when I heard that one of the titular protagonist’s fictional novels was going to be “adapted” into a graphic novel written by two of my favourite writers, Brian Michael Bendis and Kelly Sue DeConnick, I might have flipped the hell out.
I’m generally skeptical of cross-promoting or anything that could be described as “synergy”, but ultimately the only true arbiter is the quality of the works themselves, and Castle: Richard Castle’s Deadly Storm: A Derrick Storm Mystery is a fantastic story and a great read. Of course, with the talents of Bendis and DeConnick – two of the finest writers in the comic industry today – as well as the art of Lan Medina, that’s not exactly surprising. “Oh, these awesome people made something that is awesome, just like the other awesome things they are always delighting me with” sounds less shocking than I originally heard it in my head.
Castle and ABC have actually been pretty great for striking the right tone with the Richard Castle books they’ve put out. The Nikki Heat novels surprised me with how great they are as crime/thriller novels and with Deadly Storm, Bendis and DeConnick have made something that absolutely feels like a great comic adaptation of a book that launched a multimillion dollar franchise and Richard Castle’s career. It’s not just a great espionage story with all the right wisecracks and action, it absolutely feels like a giant, tentpole work that millions of people could and do love. In the TV show, “Derrick Storm” is the character that launched Castle’s career, and Deadly Storm was the book that did it. Reading the “adaption” of it? I absolutely believe that this is a giant franchise, because it’s awesome on a giant scale. It’s a smart, exciting summer blockbuster in a comic, and if they wanted to keep these books coming out (with Bendis and DeConnick, of course) I would gladly keep giving them money every year for as long as they’ll let me.
I hope this book finds its way into the hands of fans of the TV series, because they will absolutely love it and there are millions of them, including Kelly Sue herself. The fact that it’s a “Castle tie-in” is just how the book can get its foot in the audience’s doors. Behind the label, it’s intelligent and absolutely hilarious story. It’s got twists and turns that will surprise you. It’s got characters you can root for. It’s some of the most fun I’ve had reading a comic in ages and I want more of it right now. (J)
This is Comics! The Blog. We now commence our broadcast week.