“If an idea resonates with you, as a creator, there’s absolutely an audience for it” -The world of furry cartoonist Lobst

anthro, anthropomorphic, comic, interview

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Growing up on a diet of sci-fi and fantasy, transformation stories were the ones I loved and could always rely on the writers of most shows to fall back on one of it’s most loved tropes. For me they were always the most frustrating though, as characters spent their time trying either freaking or trying to change back, usually both. Frustratingly they almost never explored a person staying that way, gaining a new perspective on the world. It’s something I’d find renewed interest in when encountering the Furry Fandom and finally found quite literally in the works of Lobst, a furry comics artist who uses their anthropomorphic characters and an individual take on magical realism to express their unique experiences as a trans person.

As with the bulk of their work two of my favourites, both adult comics, prominently feature transgender characters and story lines. A Slightly Different Role follows the exploits of two huskies, Connor and Alex, the latter of which with the aid of a suitably gothic book of curses, magically endows the other with a vagina. The second, more science-fiction orientated That Curious Sensation takes the subject in an entirely different, rarely explored direction. Distracted from work by unwanted erections red panda Clover strikes upon the idea of nullification, quickly achieving his goal with an easily obtainable injection. In both instances the initial transformation is dealt with quickly and often humorously, instead shifting the focus onto how characters react and adapt to the changes, rather than the change itself as a way to explore other parts of a trans individuals experiences and struggles beyond the post surgery aspects that a lot of mainstream representations fixate upon.

Lobst tells stories and presents her trans and gender fluid characters in an interesting and entertaining manner without the fetishization often present in a lot furry comics staring trans characters. Their artwork explores them in entirely different ways ,and using the fantasy elements as a springboard to ask more intimate and rarely asked questions about individuals in the trans community through anthropomorphic characters. Despite the ears, tails and fur, her extended cast appear on the page fully rounded and human. Ultimately what sets Lobst’s work apart is the warmth and tenderness it exudes in both the ways their characters interact and the playful way they write about a complicated and multifaceted subject, tackled both playfully and honestly.

Has art always been a part of you life or something picked up later? How did your art change after coming into contact with the furry fandom?

I’ve always drawn artwork, although it took quite a while for me to start developing original ideas that spread out into stories.  I was a furry-in-denial for a very long time, since the “mainstream” of it — at the time, comics like Sabrina Online and Jack — either seemed too cloying or edgy for my tastes. It took a long time for me to realise that like any other fandom, furries comprise a wide spectrum of interests, so there was a gradual shift from anthro-animal comics like Cigarro & Cerveja/Living In Greytown to Gene Catlow/Kit & Kay Boodle to Associated Student Bodies, Circles, and the webcomics by my friend Moult, after which I spent yet another very-long-time producing furry media “ironically” in groan worthy “extreme” ways. And I think it was only around 2007 or so (yes, seriously) when I started actually looking at furry art, that I learned how to successfully draw furry snouts; until that point a besnouted face was seriously just a box in front of the standard comic-artist human face shield.

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“A weirdness creeping around the edges of things” – Jeff Lemire unearths family ghosts in Royal City-Next of Kin

comic, review, Uncategorized

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“and then nothing turned itself inside out”

Yo La Tengo

Ever since learning about, and subsequently becoming hooked on Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth I quickly and almost slavishly devoured everything he’d  put out, reading back from his indie roots in Lost Dogs to his more recent work with the more established stable of super hero types for the big two. Indeed some of my favourite stories of his feature the “long underwear” lot, making me deeply invested in characters I had no previous interest in such as Old Man Logan, or following up already acclaimed runs of both Hawkeye and Moon Knight to pull and stretch them, twisting their own recently established styles and motifs around and back in on themselves to surprising effect. Between this and his Image work like Plutonia and Descender there really hasn’t been a shortage of stories to enjoy from the prolific writer. Still, there’s something truly magical when Lemire swaps powers for the powerless, spandex for flannel with his more personal projects. Taking over both art and writing duties, this years Royal City is the book I’ve really been waiting for.

Struggling to write his make or break third novel Patrick Pike is unexpectedly and reluctantly drawn back to the squat, broken down city of his youth after his father suffers a stroke that leaves him in a coma. The once thriving city and the families relationships have both seen better days as Patrick quickly become entwined once again in the lives of his mother and his two elder siblings. Noticeably more grounded than a lot of his other recent work, a quick description of Royal City makes it’s initial premise sound very simple, which at first, it is. However, the real draw here is how intricately and complex and raw he writes each member of the Pike family.

In lesser hands it’s easy to see how they could be reduced to simplistic one note characters. The Bitter arguing couple, the burnout, the beleaguered father and passive aggressive mother, Royal City takes it’s time to explore these characters where other books would skim the surface. Lemire digs deeper here and mines the darkest and most destructive elements of the family, yet still manages to round them out and humanise them into a deeply flawed yet relateable cast. Slowly peeling back the years of familial resentment in it’s first five issues, it presents everyone as a lot more complex then they at first seem, showing the choices and circumstances that shaped each of them, including the devastating event at the centre of the book that haunts the family. Lemire even uses the familiarity some might be feeling with both the set up and his work to great effect here, the subtle supernatural element at work throughout is used to show each character failing to deal with the loss that it leaves the reader wondering if there really is “something different about this place” or simply the effects of psychological trauma on the family. For those waiting for a high concept twist, Lemire teasingly dangles one in front of the reader early on and instead turns a reference to his one of his previous works into a poignant and succinct summation of the relationship between Christopher and his wife Greta.

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Expecting artwork more akin to Sweet Tooth, I found myself reading it back at the same time and was instantly struck by how even more stripped back and stylistic the artwork of Royal City is. This book is probably the most “Lemire” of his work and we see him as an artist stripping everything back to it’s simplistic forms and telling a deep and moving story in the most economical way possible. There’s a deserted abandoned feel to the eponymous city and the gaunt, troubled faces of it’s inhabitants. His lines are loose and expressionistic, complimented with a muted pallet and washed out watercolours. Sparsely beautiful and haunting in it’s own unrefined way.

While I loved reading Royal City monthly and enjoyed the wait between issues and the time to re-read and speculate about it’s developments, Lemire is telling a very slow burn human story and some issues don’t have a ‘story shaped’ conclusion or cliffhanger in the typical way comics readers might be looking for. Despite all the back material, essays, playlists and the like, it might make for a more satisfying experience collected as a trade for the majority of readers. Royal City succeeds in giving readers something wholly fresh and compelling out of instantly recognisable characters and settings by pausing to look at their motivations. Lemire’s choice of a slower pace to allow them to time and space to play out in detail over the course of it’s first arc, becoming more complex and nuanced every issue. The paired down artwork and minimalist approach to dialogue makes the book initially feel a lot simpler then it turns out to be, quietly obscuring all the hard work being performed on every page and every panel right in plain view. Five issues in and Royal City is a title that Conveys perfectly the feeling of lost time and potential through both the Pike family and the ailing city, that permeates through it’s engrossing first story arc.

Royal City Next of Kin is released September 27, 2017

Royal City Issue One playlist

WEDNESDAY ADVENTURES- 16th AUGUST

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A brief weekly rundown of recommendations of new releases I’m intrigued by, excited for and will be grabbing off the shelves to curl up with every new comics day before delving into them later in the week! Have you hugged your comics store owner today?

 

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Spy Seal- Image Comics

Straight from the then thirteen year old imagination of the writer and artist that brought us the hauntingly beautiful She Wolf  comes action! Espionage! Seals? Thought up when Tommasi was just thirteen, his new book over at image takes heavy inspiration in both tone and aesthetics of the Franco Belgian comics such as Tin Tin as we enter the the world of suave Cold War spy Seal, Malcolm Warner.

Tommasi’s debut issue centers around the charmingly Sam Spade named “The Corten Steel Phoenix” that has out hero bumping into the pre-requisite mysterious stranger, a buxom rabbit who quickly embroils the seal in a high stakes museum heist  and a journey to join MI6 and become England’s “slickest spy”. Action and anthropomorphic espionage mix,with Spy |Seal looking to deliver the qaulity quips, daring action and globe spanning spy-hijinks of a classic Connery Era Bond film.

 

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Secret Weapons- Valiant Comics

I’ve professed my love before (a lot) on this blog, for Marvels stable of teen X-men and their school based mutant adventures. A love that has been tested many times before and endures no matter how many killings or cancellations they go through. From Wolverine and the X-men, Academy X and Generation X I’ve read them all but it’s the latest reboot under the Generation X title that has really, really tested my love. A forgettable line up and bland characterizations for them pretty much killed any interest stone dead. The biggest compliment I can give Heisserer’s Secret Weapons is that it does in two issues what Generation X is struggling to do with five.

Even with a universe I’m unfamiliar with beyond a smattering of Archer and Armstrong  issues, the team makes easy work of catching readers up. Teens left with esoteric and seeming useless power shipped off to be forgotten about, we follow four such teens Owen , Nikki,, Martin and Sunil under the guidance and protection of Livewire. An exhilarating exploration with some genuinely relateable and interesting characters all trying to make their way in a world with some seriously duff powers.

Wednesday Adventures 9th August

anthro, comic, First Impressions

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A brief weekly rundown of recommendations of new releases I’m intrigued by, excited for and will be grabbing off the shelves to curl up with every new comics day before delving into them later in the week! Have you hugged your comics store owner today?

 

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“The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.” – Marcus Aurelius.

Mister Miracle 1- DC Comics

From the unravelling of the best made plans or mice and sythanoids, deep dissections of the inherent darkness of Batman’s sprawling playground to the horrors or armed conflict, Tom King has quickly proven himself to be one of the comic industries top talents. This time he delves back into DC’s roster for a politically charged take on the master of escapism, Mister Miracle.

Part of Jack Kirby’s sprawling Fourth World saga, the future Mister Miracle, Scott Free is imprisoned on the tartarus planet of Apokolips before escaping to the sanctuary of New Genesis. This twelve issue series promises to explore Mister Miracle, still haunted by his time on Apokolips and take the cosmic grandeur of Kirby to tell a trademark personal King story. Early previews show Mitch Gerads, artist on King’s Sheriff of Babylon, using an impressive and immersive range of comic visuals from Ben-Day dots, watercolours and other visual distortions to give Miracles adventures a rougher, grounded feel.

King is a master of heady yet accessible storytelling and his new series is already garnering a lot of pre-release buzz and should be a great entry point for readers like myself who have yet to full dive into the world of one of comics true greats.

 

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“They don’t even know what it is to be a fan. Y’know? To truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band, so much that it hurts” -Sapphire (Almost Famous)

The Wicked and the Divine 30- Image Comics

Magic, music and mayhem continue to lead the cast of Gillen and McKelvie’s Wicked and Divine on a merry and mystical dance. Continuing the pairs Imperial Phase arc the focus this issue is on Dionysus. Drawing on Gillen’s obvious passion for music with knowing nods with musical archetypes and subcultures, the series has offered a real world hook before Gillen lays his deeply intricate mythos of gods, humans and the music that irrecoverably ties their fates together. 

Wicked and Divine is akin to falling in love with the music again, each and every issue and like the rest of his comics perfectly capture the energy, pain and passion of loving a band or song.

 

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 23- Marvel Comics

Although solicitations, especially Marvel ones, are usually the place for hyperbole, bombast and grandiose statements, describing North and Henderson’s Unbeatable Squirrel Girl as “the complete package, really” rings true! Come on folks, stop being so self deprecating, it really does have it all! Friendship! Fun! Computer Science! Dinosaurs?

Yeah, if you expected fourteen years of hilarious Dinosaur comics to have gotten giant reptiles out of his system, then think again as this issue continues Doreen and Nancy’s trip to the Savage Lands (that of X-men and big freakin’ dinos fame!) after taking a break from school and thankfully the off putting events of Marvel’s Secret Empire. Brilliantly presented as a pun filled Dino theme park, the pair are tasked with saving it and all it’s Triassic glory. While Henderson’s art ranges detailed to deceptively simple when letting a joke or scene breathe, last months issue really let her indulge with spreads and spreads of squirrel and giant lizard fun!

 

 

 

Wednesday Adventures- 26th April

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“The superhero is the kind of last, small, broken ideal of what we might all become one day if we just get it together and stop being assholes”- Grant Morrison

Doom Patrol 6- DC Comics

Fantabulous first arc complete! DC’s most obtuse and outlandish band of superhero misfits continues to be the perfect place for Way’s seemingly endless stream of delirious ideas and deranged pop punk poetry dialogue. As ambulance driver Casey brink comes to terms with her origin, the team finally reunites against the Vectra to defend Danny Le Street from becoming intergalactic street food

A dadist infused, psychedelic romp that serves as both a love letter to the Doom Patrol’s legacy and the enduring power of super heroes and comics, Way and Derrington have found the perfect midway point between the outlandish and perplexing antics the roster of strange characters have to offer and the good bright fistpumpimg super-heroics in the strongest and strangest title from the Young Animals imprint so far.

 

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Infamous Iron Man 7- Marvel Comics

Despite my criticism of the first few slow paced issues, Bendis and Maleev’s re-introduction of Victor Von Doom and his newly aligned moral compass is the one title I quietly look forward to each month with it’s perfect inversion of superhero characters, motivations and interactions as it skewers the rivalry against Marvels first family, eventually pitting the new found hero against The Maker.

Seeking redemption for a life of tyranny and the combined might of the villain community and SHEILD pursuing him, Doom finds the hardest thing to escape are his own reputation and actions. The idea of an inverted Victor was around in Axis and here Bendis writes that concept in widescreen, big and bold in it’s action set pieces whilst at the same time small and intimate when exploring it’s troubled protagonist.  The slow pace that bothered me at first actually gives the story breathing room letting Bendis pull off a more poignant and complex examination of the once power mad Doom. For all it’s cinematic superhero action, at it’s core the Infamous Iron Man is revealing itself to be a fascinating study of a man at war, with himself

“I only want to do good things”- Gerard Way is rebuilding the Doom Patrol, Brick by Brick..

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“Your head’s like mine, like all our heads; big enough to contain every god and devil there ever was. Big enough to hold the weight of oceans and the turning stars. Whole universes fit in there!-

Grant Morrison

Three months into the new Gerard Way penned Doom Patrol and issue one still seems to be kicking around the place with it’s peelable, Warhol inspired gyro sticker still clinging defiantly to the front cover, taunting me. I can’t help but fret over what’s underneath? Am I missing something vital? Pealing it off seems obvious, right? One flick of the wrist is all it takes, and yet..surely Gerard knows the average comic readers mentality? No  matter how cool and hip you make your new imprint, the strongest instinct is to store these away like priceless artefacts, bagged and boarded, catalogued and cared for. Not very rock and roll is it? Not exactly what a ‘dangerous human’ would do. A dangerous human would have stepped out of the comics store, peeled it off immediately without even a second though and months later found it at the bottom of an increasingly precarious pile of these beautifully inspiring but ultimately disposable objects, the delicious sticker stuck onto the fridge among crappy takeaway menus, gig tickets and terrible snapshots. Fuck it! I’ll probably just go and buy a second copy…

I only mention this because looking back it seems the perfect representation of his Doom Patrol work, even for a series only on it’s third issue. From to this little hoarding, compulsive tic, Way knows how our minds work, how His mind works. He knows us, he is us. It’s been clear from the get go, issue one, the cover, that he’s going to use all that against us. It’s not going to be an easy ride. “Think you know the Doom Patrol?” you can almost hear Cliff Steele snarling from the page “think again, Jerk sauce!” In any given issue Way can take a Morrison idea, turn it through itself  and twist expectations, your own preconceptions against you.  Just in case you thought you’d got a grasp on Doom Patrol, he makes what at first seems familiar into the unfamiliar again with a few simple twists and tweaks into a different directions. A lot of the imagery might seem similar with its stylistic callbacks to iconic Morrison moments almost as a stepping on point, but the delivery and pacing is pure Way. It’s the Doom Patrol at a breakneck speed with a rock star sneer, lyrical dialogue and confident cocksure attitude. It’s the comics equivalent of a dizzying wall of feedback buzz, the clatter of drums and hum of guitars as he splices in the DNA of a fizzling, defiant two-minute-something punk-pop song onto the printed page with the pure unbridled energy you’d find in any of his music.

“I’m going to put it in a fucking blender” claimed Way before the first issue when asked about the Doom Patrols history and legacy and three issues on he’s not shied away from this claim as we enter issue three, as questions are answered while more sneak up behind your back. No matter how far into weird and experimental areas of comics writing Morrison’s went into during his tenure, the book always had a solid anchor in the characters he explored as part Doom Patrol roster, all with bizarre, grotesque yet simple origins and ultimately relatable drives and personalities. It’s a trick that Way has continued here to great success already. In this respect this issue is perhaps the most conventional and straightforward of the new Young Animals incarnation, not to say that the easy read makes it any less creative when this issue turns out to the be super secret origins issue of new protagonist, Casey Brinke in more ways than one. It’s an origin story told perfectly in step with the Doom Patrol style.

dpa_3_2Last issue Casey found herself face to face with the man of muscle mystery, Flex Mentallo and we pick up with the Hero of the Beach welcoming her through the Perpetual Cabaret and on to Danny Le Street as she reluctantly and irreversibly throws her lot in with the still disparate Doom Patrol, her strange origin finally revealed to her. Taken on a “it’s a small world after all” ride in Danny-Land, he introduces her and new readers to the team of misfits greatest hits album, The Scissormen, The Painting that ate Paris all rendered like cheap, wooden  carnival dressings for her to walk around. Elsewhere we get caught up with Cliff and Larry dealing with Way’s new spin on the negative spirit with some terrifying and stunning panels courtesy of artist Nick Derrington, who brings a sharp visual style to the title. Some pieces fall into place at least thematically this issue, as we start to realise the small  touches that make this such a fascinating read. At first it seemed Flex Mentallo showing up was a welcome, if random callback, while this issue reveals why Danny felt it best for him to the be the one to usher her towards joining the team as she reluctantly and irreversibly throws her lot in with the still disparate Doom Patrol.

Storywise, this series third issue once again goes a long way to re-introducing elements of the Doom Patrols now pureed ‘legacy’, establishing it’s own idea and also firmly re-cementing the team’s roles as DC’s finest band of outcasts as they both deal with the sorts of threats that would send the average hero mad and provide refuge and a purpose once again for the misfits and outcasts. Like Danny-Land this comic is one hell of a ride. Chaotic, confusing, and gloriously silly.

Also posted to Graphics Policy

“To be a fire when I feel like ice”- Cecil Castellucci delves deeper into madness and isolation with Shade the Changing Girl

comic, review

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School is Hell. School is madness, even for the displaced avian Lomo currently inhabiting Earth girl Megan as she returns to Amelia Bloomer High School, much to the confusion of her fellow students. Insisting on being called shade in her new amalgamation of body and personality. Her peers are obviously wary of her, assuming her strange and oddly calm behaviour is a result of her accident and resulting comca as she struggles to make sense of her place in the social strata of the school, her relationships with other students and even lunchtime.

Series writer Cecil Castellucci is crafting a strangely off kilter look at this world through the eyes of her uniquely alien, avian creation Loma. Far more advanced and intelligent then the primitive world around her she none the less has to work to make sense of her strange new home and the people around her already questioning her act of rebellion in stealing the M-vest. Thrown into school Loma has a lot more interactions this issue as we start to learn more and more about Megan’s life. Faced with the tense and confused reactions of Megan’s former friends, unaware the majority wanted her dead. While initially indifferent to those around Loma is still left with the creeping uneasy sense that she’s logged herself firmly into a human with a very complicated and prickly past than she might have first thought. So far there is no sign of the previous occupant, Megan, beyond her memories but it’s such a tantalising layer to add to an already out there story,  I have a hard time believing that Castellucci won’t bring some of this into the mix during her run.

Being no stranger to writing teens in her long career as a novelist or indeed the criminally overlooked Plain Janes for DC’s last teen oriented imprint, Minx back in 2008, She has an amazing grasp on writing what feels like authentic teens dialogue and speech patterns without ever slipping into groan worthy cliche or dropping in social media mentions and in fact seems to be actively avoiding this particular pitfall with Shade. The comic slips between this tone and Loma’s more poetic inner monologue beautifully. Ultimately I was left with the feeling that even if the alien elements were stripped out, this series is strong enough already that it would still work wonderfully as a story of identity, change and dealing with the preconceptions others bring into that equation. Working as it’s own unique story even for those like myself who might be coming to the book with only general idea of Shade’s long and esoteric character history.

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Matching this with some sensational art  from Marley Zarcone further sets this apart from the rest of the comics crowd, Imbuing the comic from start to finish with it’s own loose flow and momentum as the story drifts almost lazily and fluidly from one moment to the next. A page featuring Megan getting ready for school shows this in a single panel showing her movement from the room and time, fain versions of herself around the room almost like echos which emphasises the books dreamlike qualities and elements of madness. Despite the book’s solicitation saying “No one can have a little bit of madness” the visuals are toned down this issue letting the book breath a  little after the stunning visual spectacle of it’s debut issue. Subtle and effective when they are used, a small poster here, the madness takes over small parts of her surroundings almost seeping through into the panels.

“I have to study up. Do my homework to really live this life” Shade promises herself setting out her plan for the future as this issue itself does,  expanding on last issue this one treats us to just a little more of Megan’s life, a world that Castellucci makes you eager to explore and learn more about as Loma sets about discovering too. Gorgeous art and sharp writing sets this as perfect allegory for being an uneasy teen and a story of identity put through a psychedelic, kaleidoscope filter.

 

“Doom will consider your request!” -Victor Von Doom suits up as the Infamous Iron Man

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Tony Stark is dead. Sorry, spoilers I guess. Although considering this is only one of two Stark-less Iron Man books hitting the shelves it should hardly be a surprise that everyone’s favourite playboy, billionaire, philanthropist would be taking time off from heroics and calling in dead for the foreseeable future. Along with the invincible Iron Man Riri Williams, longtime villain Doctor Doom on a questionable path of redemption after Secret Wars will be filling the shell head’s Iron shoes as a more, infamous hero.

It’s a headline grabbing premise and one with a proven track record, even as recent as Doc Oc becoming the Superior Spider-man and now as Doom becomes the latest of the Marvel rogues gallery to start “breaking good”.  Although here it somehow doesn’t feel as natural a fit as Slott’s tale. Whilst ‘rescuing’ Sheild’s Maria Hill and demonstrating his own brand of heroics, Victor gives a brutal  verbal strip down of a c-list science villain and whilst it’s a cool moment in a book sorely lacking them it does highlight why this first issue lacks any real conflict or excitement. Stripped off all the bombastic, larger than life theatrics Doctor Doom comes across as creepy, rather than menacing. Bendis sets Doom up to be an intimidating presence even in a regular business suit but it feels like we are the ones who are following a c-list bad guy rather than one of the companies most feared and wildly popular characters.

While Bendis has always had his fair share of detractors from his pacing and decompressed style, this issue feels almost glacial in it’s pacing. Opting to spend the bulk of the issue reiterating Victor’s desire to atone for his past, moving along slowly until a first reveal of him suited up in new Iron Man armour. Considering the character has spent the majority of his time already encased in metal, what should have been a jaw dropping final page feels decidedly underwhelming and doesn’t have anywhere near as much punch as I suspect the creative team intended. While Doom’s debut as Iron Man sets up some interesting ideas with his struggle to prove he can do good in the world whilst struggling with and exploiting his reputation and could make this an interesting series, the sheer lack of exciting moments and it’s slow pacing left me without any real interest or indication where the story might lead.

Picks of the week 19/10/16

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Even a few titles in, Gerard Way’s ‘Young Animals’ is already proving to be a shot in the arm for DC’s comics line, with the My Chemical Romance front-man and his team embracing the weird and cherry picking the most obscure and weird characters from the company’s vaults.They don’t come any more obscure than Cave Carson, the one with the cybernetic eye, first appearing in four issues of the ‘Brave and the Bold’ in the 60’s before making his way onto the aptly named “Forgotten Heroes” along with Animal Man in the 80’s.

“Inspired by the visionary work of DC’s experimental past, but shaped and focused on the absurdity of today” is the imprints mission statement and it would seem that Way and Rivera are taking the spelunking hero down a psychedelic, self exploratory path as he struggles with his grip on reality after his wife’s death.

Following in the footsteps of Doctor Octopus as Superior Spider-man, this month Iron Man becomes infamous as the leader of Latveria dons Stark’s armour. One of two characters taking over the Iron Man Mantle along with Riri Williams it remains to be seen if Bendis and Maleev’s Victor is truly on a path to redemption or working an angle to a new devious master plan.

While his last big plan saw Doom elevate himself to the status of God of the newly formed battleworld, can one of the biggest and most complex villains of the Marvel Universe really step up and become a true hero? With the series’ second issue featuring long time adversary and sure to be sceptical Ben Grimm, it’s sure going to be an interesting look into an already layered character.

“Panic in Detroit Baybah!” Zac Gorman and Will Robson reassemble the Great Lakes Avengers

comic, review

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Calling the Great Lakes Avengers Z-list heroes would be an insult to other hardworking Z-listers. Indeed, an insult to the very concept of lists itself. Unless it’s a “most obscure Marvel characters of all time list”, which like most people is where my knowledge of this quirky little group of lovable underdogs both starts and ends.

Created by John Bryne, and subsequently deemed unfit to even be a part of the Avengers “brand” due mostly to the combination of crap powers and weird personalities, the team has always been a tongue in cheek, off kilter look at the world of well intentioned, yet hilariously inept superheroes. With the run of success from books with more humorous bent, such as former member Squirrel Girl it’s perhaps not surprising that Rick and Morty comics scribe Zac Gorman has brought the team back.

Thrown back together through a legal loophole and perhaps the most ridiculous fall out from the still ongoing second Civil War, the majority of the book revolves around getting the four team members; Flatman, Big Bertha, and Doorman back together. Eventually moving the team out to new digs in Detroit. Beyond that Great Lakes Avengers’ debut issue stubbornly refuses to offer up any solid hook for readers or indication of it’s direction beyond bored genius Flatman wanting to get the team back together to relive the good old days. For a first issue featuring a team with such an interesting history, the plot feels strangely low key.

Gorman does a great job re-introducing these characters and portraying their varied personalities and powers, but it’s just somehow never quite as funny as you’d expect it to be. It has a few solid moments early on with some perfect comedy pacing, with so much of the remaining humour feeling forced or flat. The funniest parts of the book centering around the group’s well meaning leader and his predictably squalid home as well as a great moment involving an ex-member’s recent rise to the big time. Overall it just doesn’t quite have the effortless delivery or laugh out loud moments that elevate the likes of North’s Squirrel Girl or Zdarksky’s Howard The Duck just yet.

Robson’s cartoonish, exaggerated artwork is what sets this book apart right now, ringing every bit of physical humour from the outlandish cast with his gorgeously over the top facial expressions and character design, each with their own distinct look and feel. He gives a strong sense of movement and action throughout, which helps in an issue with a lot of dialogue heavy set up, and callbacks to the characters past exploits. The introduction of new character “Good Boy”, a huge blue werewolf, is when the writing and artwork finally come together for one of the issues funniest moments. Although not the strongest first issue of any of the recent humour focused Marvel books, overall it’s still has a solid enough base to build upon in future issues, and hopefully establish more clearly what Gorman has in store for these misfit heroes in the months to come.