It’s hot and the cottonwoods are seeding. The fluff is falling like snow and drifting in piles all over. That might make it seem like the start some kind of idyllic tale set in the West. There could be taciturn people brought together by loss and love. Or a father who expresses all his emotions in slight variations on a nod. But it’s not, because it’s not the Great Plains and I’m not Sam Elliott or Timothy Olyphant. It’s humid and I’ve swallowed some cottonwood fluff and tried to drink some mint iced tea to clear my throat but ended up with more fluff stuck to my lips. It’s summer here in the Gutter and our beauty is often awkward and strange. So, while I wait to see if transform into a tree or just learn to speak for them,* here are some comics to read while you drink iced teas, sit by the river, hang out in the park, travel to see some friends, or even use to try to express your most taciturn love as the cottonwoods fluff. Enjoy some tales of derring-do, family, acceptance, robots, Florida Man, monsters, reptile cults, and mystery.
Black Beetle: No Way Out (Dark Horse, 2013). Francesco Francavilla
You like derring-do, don’t you? (No one likes derring-don’t. Well, most people don’t). Black Beetle is filled with derring-do! Black Beetle is the masked hero of Colt City and he is stopping Nazis up to no good. They are after ancient artifact that once belonged to an ancient Egyptian cult that could be just what they need to turn the tide of the war. Black Beetle takes after other pulp heroes–the Shadow, the Spider (my favorite), the Sandman (no, the other Sandman), and Lobster Johnson. He even shares the color palette of Lobster Johnson, if not the lobster theme. He has a personal heli-pack and a secret identity that I still don’t know! There’s also one of those 1940s serial villains who isn’t quite a modern super-powered supervillain, but wears a creepy mask, has some kind of cult and a subterranean villain lair. I love those guys. And I love Francavilla’s art.
Hawkeye, Vol 3: Family Reunion (Marvel, 2018) Kelly Thompson, writer; Leonardo Romero and Stefano Raffaele, art; Jordie Bellaire and Digikore, colors; VC’s Joe Sabino, letters.
Really, you could start with the previous volume, Masks, but I just enjoyed Family Reunion so much. As Hawkeye Kate Bishop investigates what happened to her mother and deals with…recent changes…in her father, she asks Hawkeye Clint Barton to come to Los Angeles and help her out. Clint has his own problems, however, because Clint always has his own problems. And they usually involve someone trying to kill him. Meanwhile, Ms. Masque’s minions find even more reasons to hate the Hawkeyes. They are my favorite minions in comics.
I’m sad that Thompson and Romero’s run on Hawkeye is over for now, but we’ll always have frozen peas, pizza, Lucky the Pizza Dog and so many sucktastic plans. It is plain superhero fun rendered with such nice, clean art.
And, yes, I know I included Kate’s team-up with Jessica Jones in “Summer Fun Time Reading ’17,” but so what? Read this one, too. And you know what? Read Thompson’s Jem & The Holograms and The Misfits while you are at it! That’s right, I can’t live by my own annual list-making rules.
Mega Robo Bros (David Fickling Books, 2016) Neill Cameron with additional colors by Lisa Murphy
We’ve been getting a lot of robots lately. Sassy robots. Robots leading droid and human rebellions. Gloomy robots. But it’s just not summer without adorable sentient robots, you know? Alex and Freddy Sharma are the Mega Robo Bros, robot brothers “created by the mysterious cyberneticist Dr. Roboticus” and “adopted by a normal family” in a future London. Alex and Freddy regular kid routine is disrupted when a mysterious robot in a tuxedo decides to test them. That’s right, shenanigans ensue. Also hijinx. There is no derring-don’t in Mega Robo Bros. (Also long as one is mature enough to derring-do responsibly). I mean, there is a sinister robot villain in a tuxedo. And before I say too much, there might be robo dinos when a field trip to the British Museum goes wrong for the average Londoner, but brilliantly for us.**
My Brother’s Husband, Vol. 1 (Pantheon, 2017) Gengoroh Tagame, translated by Anne Ishi.
In My Brother’s Husband, Yaichi is divorced and co-parenting his daughter, Kana, while grieving over the death of his brother, Ryoji. Ryoji had moved to Canada and married Mike Flanagan. (Not that Mike Flanagan). When Ryoji dies, Mike comes to Japan to meet Yaichi and Kana and to see all Ryoji’s places. Kana takes to Mike quickly and is excited by the thought of having an uncle. Yaichi is more conflicted. Mike is friendly, physically affectionate and openly gay. Yaichi’s community sees Mike as a “bad influence.” If Mike is a bit of a symbol, it didn’t bother me too much. The book is lovely. Tagame’s previous work has been erotica geared towards gay men and every now and then it really shows in his rendering of Yaichi in the bath or in Mike’s body hair. But My Brother’s Husband deals sensitively with grief, loss, parenthood and change. Tagame delicately conveys Yaichi’s internal struggle with what it means that his brother was gay and that Ryoji and Mike were married. And I appreciate how Tagame carefully and cleverly conveys Yaichi’s different internal and external reactions to Mike as well.
I love this moment where Yaichi connects acceptance of difference with his role as a father. “I’ll protect her from harmful thoughts. And raise her to not cause harm. That’s my duty as her father. For Kana. And for Mike.”
My Brother’s Husband has subsequently been adapted for television in live-action form.
My Favorite Thing Is Monsters (Fantagraphics, 2016). Emil Ferris
This book is monstrous in every way. My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is a dense book. It’s huge. It has a lot of text. It reminds me a bit of Lynda Barry’s work, but with a very different drawing style. Like Barry, Ferris sets her book in the late 1960s and it concerns Karen Reyes, a 10-year-old, girl who isn’t quite like her peers. The conceit is that the book is her blue-lined notebook. Using the materials available to her, Karen recreates the covers of horror comics and “Renowned Creatures of Movieville.” She copies art she sees at the Art Institute of Chicago. She even recreates “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grand Jatte” not in pointillist dots, but in her own hashmarks and sweeping lines in pen and pencil. She records her dreams of transforming into a werewolf and being pursued by the people of Chicago. And she records her investigation of a unexplained death in her building. If you are looking for a big, thick, summer mystery for you, this is it.
Planet of the Apes: Ursus (Boom!, 2018). David F. Walker, writer; Christopher Mooneyham and Lalit Kumar Sharma, art.
David F. Walker returns to the Planet Of The Apes with a miniseries about General Ursus. Col. Taylor is in Ape City and Ursus believes he’s seen Taylor’s kind before. Ever since, Ursus has been terrified that intelligent, organized humans would come upon an unprepared Ape City and there would be a massacre. Planet of the Apes: Ursus alternates between Ursus present attempts to convince Zaius and the Ape Council that something drastic must be done to protect simiankind and the past where a young Ursus and his mentor, the genocidal gorilla preacher Kananaios, discover whole ape villages destroyed by humans. Mooneyham and Sharma’s art illustrating the past is remarkable–almost like sketches colored with pastels. It’s looser, and sketchier, as remembrance so often is. There’s also a mention of our old friend, Gen. Aleron from Betrayal on the Planet of the Apes.
The X-Files: Case Files: Florida Man (IDW Publishing, 2018) Delilah S. Dawson, writer; Elena Casagrande, pencils; Silvia Califano, inks; Arianna Florean, letters.
It was the JJ Lendl’s cover that caught my eye. I mean, what do you want from me?! Who can resist that gator-headed man? But the little two-comic series is as fun as the cover. Scully and Mulder are in Halpadalgi, Florida investigating a rash of strange occurrences, including disappearances. Is it bath salts? Is it the people in the “trailer resort?” And why is the town of Halpadalgi so disturbingly nice? Will Mulder ever stop sweating?
Dawson’s characterization is good and captures my favorite Scully and Mulder. Scully is mildly put upon. Mulder is a jerk about any case that isn’t his. And he isn’t as cool–in any sense–as he imagines himself. And if it ends a little quicker than I’d like, “Florida Man” is more in line with the stand-alone monster of the week episodes than the Mythos, and that is exactly what I like. Nothing heavy, just a nice read.
**There is also some kind of robot crab, but crabs are practically robots anyway.
Carol Borden is now 18% tree.