The Threshold

Spotlight Sunday 11.11.18

Hitting the shop several days after New Comic Book Day means there are spoilers ahead for…

The Wicked + The Divine: The Funnies #1
Writer: Various
Artist: Various
Cover: Jamie McKelvie
Variant Cover: Margaux Saltel
Rated M
$3.99
Image

“We also asked Chip.”

If things had gone according to plan, you’d most likely be reading about The Green Lantern #1 by Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp, which I had planned to pick up even though I don’t normally read any GL titles, because, well, it’s by Morrison and Sharp.

Things didn’t go as planned, however, as I didn’t get to the shop until yesterday, by which time they were completely sold out.

Which doesn’t suggest that this WicDiv special is an inferior second choice, it’s just not what I anticipated choosing.

With the final arc of the series coming up and a little bit of space to fill, the creative team decided to release a one-shot special, and as the previous specials had filled in all of the relevant history, they opted to go with something fun, and that would make fun of them.

And so, as is explained in an opening foreword, they asked some of their talented friends – and Chip Zdarsky – to contribute some lighthearted tales.

Most of the very short stories are written in a very knowing fashion that toys with the actual story told so far in the regular series while also gently – or not-so gently – ribbing the creators behind theseries. The Pantheon in “13 Go Mad in Wiltshire,” by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris, which places the young gods in something of a Scooby Doo milieu, is especially adept at combining the conceit of the parody with the details of the story its parodying. It also features the young gods travelling in a tour vehicle styled after The Mystery Machine known as “The Vantheon.”

If you’re not a WicDiv reader, most of the in-jokes won’t mean much to you, though in fairness it seems as though there are a lot of in-jokes that only the people involved would understand, so I’m not going to dive in and talk through each one, but there are some highlights that even those unfamiliar with the book can appreciate.

In particular, the opening story, “The Wicked + The Canine,” by Kieron Gillen and Erica Henderson will appeal to dog lovers, while also providing a mounting sense of horror as the story unfolds. As with the regular book, Ananke is there to tell us – although not in an entirely honest fashion – what’s going on.

With their time on Earth at an end, Ananke ensures the good dogs that they will go to “Doggy Heaven,” which is on the other side of a river, and to get there, they have to all climb into a big sack. And they each have to hold a brick. You know, for momentum.

But hey, don’t get too worried. After all…

I especially liked the Buzzfeed listicle-style “5 Things Everyone Who’s Lived With Sakhmet Will Understand,” by Hamish Steele.

Chip went a bit meta with his story, “The Lost God,” which finds a pair of failed musicians in Pittsburgh viewing the news of the return of the gods, with one of the members realizing that he’s part of the Pantheon. Before this unlikely god can make his way to London to join up with the others, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie – presented here as something of a soccer hooligan – show up to deliver the bad news. This other god isn’t quite on-brand, and doesn’t match the stylistic preferences of Kieron, who fancies himself something of a tastemaker and trendsetter. Kieron delivers the requisite finger snap, though it doesn’t quite have the traditional explosive effect. Still, as a signal to Jamie to beat the piss out of the man, it’s reasonably effective, although it does leave one loose end.

I’ve grown fairly tired of origin stories lately, especially when they’re origin stories for mundane things – one of the worst offenders in recent memory was on season two of Jessica Jones in which we got “The Secret Origin of How Jessica Got Her Leather Jacket” – but the origin story that closes out this issue is an important one that had to be told.

We find pre-godhood Laura (Persephone) standing on a street corner getting increasingly annoyed as she looks at Kieron Gillen’s Twitter feed, filled with his truly awful puns, and we see the inevitable result.

We’ve all been there, Laura.

Like I said, this isn’t a comic for everyone, but it’s a lot of fun if you’re a WicDiv fan, which I haven’t spoiled for you here.

There are stories by a bunch of very talented people.

There’s also a story by Chip.

If you’re a fan of WicDiv, check it out. If you’re not a fan of WicDiv, rectify that, then check this out.

And? Did You Buy Anything Else?

I did. Here’s the list.

Adventures of the Super Sons #4
Asgardians of the Galaxy #3
The Dreaming #3

Recommended Reading

I mean, it should be pretty obvious…

That does it for the Spotlight for this week. Be sure to come back next week to see what it shines upon.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

Bonus gratuitous dog picture.

Supporting OpenDoor Comics is a thing you can do, by whitelisting the site in your ad blocker, by purchasing something from the Supply Closet or the OpenDoor Comics Shop, by creating your own comics on the OpenDoor Comics platform, or through directly giving money via Patreon or PayPal.

Spotlight Sunday 11.4.18

The work of Brubaker and Phillips being my drug of choice means that there are spoilers ahead for…

My Heroes HaveAlways Been Junkies
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Cover: Sean Phillips
Rated M
$16.99
Image

“I mean, what young lovers don’t secretly want this? Tojust be bandits on some lost highway…running until it all burns down?”

I’ve gotten off to several false starts as I sit here writing this, as the subject at hand is one that is intensely personal to me, and while I tend to be rather open about my recovery – as “open” as I’m capable of being, at any rate – even after eighteen years of sobriety there are times in which it’s difficult to articulate my thoughts.

The bare facts are this: I used to drink. A lot. Not every day – circumstances simply didn’t allow it – but most days, and on those days, I more than made up for the days I’d missed.

People talk about “struggling with addiction,” but for me it wasn’t a struggle. It was easy, because I had surrendered to it. To a very real extent, I chose it. It was a path I chose to walk, a raging river that I dove into. I knew that, ultimately, it would lead to my destruction, and that was the whole point.

Unlike “Ellie,” the narrator of this story, I didn’t romanticize it – not all the time, anyway, though there were times in which I fancied myself something of a “doomed poet” – I recognized the ugliness and futility of it, and I went along with it anyway, because it seemed as though it was better than the alternative. Life was unbearable, and while drinking made it worse, there were those moments – and they were little more than moments – in which it made it bearable, and those times in which it made it seem so much worse, in some ways, felt like progress. Progress towards what? The end. I believed that it had to get worse before it would get better, and that the faster my life fell apart, the sooner it would all be over.

Obviously, my way of thinking changed, otherwise I wouldn’t be here writing this, but sometimes, especially when I encounter something so familiar, I remember those thoughts clearly, and while I don’t have any interest in going back to that life and that way of thinking, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a kind of loss for that sense of purpose, and for that paradoxical feeling of control. Yes, control. I felt as though I was fully in charge of my life, and though I was swerving wildly along the road – figuratively and literally – at least I had my hands the wheel and my foot on the gas.

That feeling was an illusion, of course, but it felt real.

While it’s not listed on the trade dress, My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies is identified as part of the Brubaker and Phillips line of titles known collectively as “Criminal,” a set of loosely-interconnected stories with a noir theme that focus on the darker parts of life and the people who live and love in the shadows.

Our story begins – after a brief prologue – in a rehab center in which Ellie is, internally, calling bullshit on a story being told by one of the other residents during a group session. She knows it’s bullshit – the guy telling a harrowing tale of his life as a heroin addict is not even a heroin addict; he went into rehab as a cover to avoid his real problems – thanks to Skip, a handsome young member of the group to whom the speaker had confessed his deception.

Skip, Ellie notes, is into her.

Ellie, however, is not into getting sober. She’s there because her “uncle” dragged her there, and she’s just barely going through the motions of what’s expected of her.

In dark gray flashbacks we learn a bit of Ellie’s story, and about her obsession with substance abuse and substance abusers, which was the result of an early childhood shaped by her parents’ experiences of addiction, recovery, and relapse, and by a mix tape she found after her mother’s death.

The tape – made for Ellie’s father to listen to while in prison – is an eye-opener for young Ellie, not simply because of the amazing, new-to-her music she hears, but because of the discovery she makes after the fact: every performer on the tape was a junkie.

This sets Ellie on a course to become something of a scholar of addiction, or at least the addict lifestyle, tying some of the greatest artistic and intellectual accomplishments of all time to being high. Her entire view of life is shaped by this belief in the power and glamor of drug abuse, and given the litany of accomplishments, it’s difficult view to argue against, honestly.

At least, if you ignore the enormous toll. How many of the people she names are still among us? She would dismiss that, of course, by pointing to the people who got clean and seemed to lose much of what made them great as a result, but even that is a rather reductive view of causality and ignores the subjective nature of such judgments.

As things progress, Ellie comes to realize that she is also into Skip and being the “bad influence” that she has always found herself to be, their rehab romance comes to its inevitable moment of crisis after she and Skip sneak out after lights out, get high, get caught, and are compelled to take a drug test.

Skip has secrets that he hasn’t shared with Ellie – though given her talent for breaking and entering, which allowed her to read the patient files of everyone there – it seems likely that she knows what she knows what those secrets are.

(In fact, that she does know is one of the secrets we will eventually learn about “Ellie.”)

Those secrets mean that it will be a disaster for him when the drug test comes back positive. But if there’s one thing Ellie knows, it’s how addicts think, and she uses that to do what every addiction does: pull the addict deeper in with the promise of a greater high by moving on to get an even bigger, stronger fix.

Ellie steals the key to the faux-heroin addict’s Mercedes and the two young lovers go on the run, ditching the flashy car along the way for something more low-key (and without Lojack), moving from town to town, favoring the kind of Rust Belt towns that are at the center of the opioid epidemic – the kind of towns that have fully-stocked pharmacies that they can raid – and spend their days in a fog.

Eventually, and I’m not going to spoil the end, both of their secrets catch up with them in a truly horrific way – this is a “Criminal” story, after all – that brings it all to the only end that’s possible for a life lived in the “completely free” way that Ellie longs for.

I was late in getting to this story, as my dealer ran low on supply and didn’t anticipate my need for a fix. Which is to say, the week it came out, it was already sold out at the comic shop by the time I got there and it hadn’t been auto-added to my stack, so I had to have them order a copy for me.

This is a complex, morally gray – which is echoed in the grayscale coloration of “Ellie’s” childhood memories – as are most stories by Brubaker, and it walks a very fine line between taking an honest look at addiction and its allure and glamorizing the lives of addicts. For the most part, I think it walks that line, and in the moments when it seems to lean towards glamorization, the words are belied by what we’re seeing on the page and by what’s really going on in the lives of the characters.

For as much as Ellie talks about ignoring society’s rules and walking away from all of the bullshit, she fails to recognize that there are rules to the life she’s chosen, and that she is simply trading one kind of bullshit for another. (And that’s before we even get into the “Criminal” aspects of the story.)

Life is life, whether you’re sober or not, and is filled with highs and lows and grand pronouncements about how to live that life, and post hoc justifications for all of the stupid, selfish, and senseless shit we do.

It’s messy and rarely stays within the lines, or at least the lines we can see, which is what made the color work so impactful. Like life, it’s messy, and rarely stays within the lines, but that messiness adds a richness and fullness that is quite striking, and gives it a much different look than what we’re accustomed to seeing from the clean, spare color work of Elizabeth Breitweiser, who typically does the color work on Brubaker and Phillips stories.

Here, the color chores are taken on by Jacob Phillips – Sean’s son – and the youthful exuberance and psychedelic nature of his colors are an excellent fit for a story about the hazy lives of two young people. Having kids changes people and apparently having your kid color your artwork changes your style. It’s a unique look for a Brubaker/Phillips book, though it’s not necessarily one that would work with any other story.

Again, I felt a personal connection with this, as it brings a kind of wincing nostalgia for times that have – thankfully, for the most part – passed. (Though I will say that the rehab experience presented here was a bit different from mine. For one thing, my experience was, by design, a total sausage fest, and for another, it wasn’t at some high-end, resort-style place.)

For a little more on the story behind the story – along withsome other interesting items of note – check out this interview with Ed Brubaker.

The Rest of This Week’s Fix

(No links because I am lazy.)

Black Science Volume 8: Later Than You Think
Barbarella #11
Heroes In Crisis #2
Nightwing/Magilla Gorilla #1
Superman/Top Cat #1
The Terrifics Annual #1
What If? Magik #1

Recommended Reading

Brubaker/Phillips, of course.

That does it for the Spotlight for this week. Be sure to come back next week to see what it shines upon.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

Supporting OpenDoor Comics is a thing you can do, by whitelisting the site in your ad blocker, by purchasing something from the Supply Closet or the OpenDoor Comics Shop, by creating your own comics on the OpenDoor Comics platform, or through directly giving money via Patreon or PayPal.

Spotlight Sunday 10.28.18

In another reality, I made a different selection for the Spotlight, and you can ponder the question of what that other reality is like – what this reality might have been like – but in the reality in which I made this choice, there are spoilers ahead for…

What If? Thor #1
Writer: Ethan Sacks
Artist: Michele Bandini
Cover: Marco Checchetto
Rated T+
$3.99
Marvel

“In the stories, does not the noble hero always vanquishthe monster? Well…this is not one of those stories.”

Yeah, I know – two Thor comics in a row. But this one just seemed a bit more fertile for discussion than some of the other comics I bought this week.

I’ve written before about “Imaginary Stories” and “Elseworlds”over at DC, and in writing about them have mentioned Marvel’s similar What If…? comics, but I’ve never actually taken a look at any of them here, even though some of my favorite stories have been told in the pages of those comics.

As I’ve talked about before, while in their non-canonical, outside of main continuity stories start from the same basic premise – asking “What if…?” – in DC’s case, generally, the resulting story was one that didn’t necessarily have any connection to any specific events.  They were just simple high-concept ideas, like, “What if Batman was around in the late 1900s and fought Jack the Ripper?” or, as was one of the more commonly-answered questions, “What if Superman married Lois Lane?”

Marvel, on the other hand, would use an existing story as a starting point, asking the question of what might have happened if at some pivotal moment things proceeded differently than they had. Thus, you had stories like “What If Wolverine Had Killed the Hulk?” or “What If Spider-Man Had Joined the Fantastic Four?”

The other difference was that, for a time, What If…? was a regular, ongoing series, whereas “Imaginary Stories” were just one-offs that, by the time I started reading comics, were a thing of the past, and didn’t start popping up again – rebranded and reformatted as “Elseworlds” – until the late eighties.

Interestingly enough, by that point Marvel had long-since cancelled their ongoing What If…? series, but the time seemed to be right to revisit the idea of alternate realities, and Marvel launched volume two. The new series had its moments, but it was more misses than hits. For example, in “What If the Punisher’s Family Had Lived?” the answer ends up being that they eventually get killed anyway and Frank Castle becomes the Punisher in all but name. So…there was a slight delay, and he wore a different outfit. Not quite the same stakes as the entire universe being destroyed, as was the case with the earlier “What If the Avengers Had Become the Pawns of Korvac?”

After that series ended, Marvel – as they’re doing this month – would occasionally revisit the concept with a series of specials, which brings us the question posed here: What if Thor had been raised by the Frost Giants?

It was an intriguing notion, at least in theory, though the execution leaves a bit to be desired, but that’s what we’re here to talk about.

Our story begins with the well-known – I mean, if you’re familiar with Thor comics or the Thor movies, at any rate – tale of the battle between Odin, the All-Father of Asgard, and Laufey, the king of the Frost Giants. In the normal state of affairs, Odin defeats Laufey in single combat, demoralizing and driving away Laufey’s armies. On the battlefield, Odin finds Laufey’s infant son, a runt named Loki. Odin takes pity on the child and brings him to Asgard to raise as his own, as a brother to his son Thor.

Loki grows to become the God of Mischief, and an eternal thorn in the side of the God of Thunder.

But…what if Odin had lost?

That is, of course, the idea at the core of this story, which finds Laufey eventually leading the Frost Giants to the conquest of Asgard, where they slaughter everyone except Freyja and Thor, who is a young boy at this point. Laufey views it as a fitting revenge, believing that Odin will know no peace in Valhalla while Laufey holds Odin’s wife prisoner and raises his son as his own.

Besides, the son of Odin is much more likely to be a fitting heir than Laufey’s own son, the tiny – by Frost Giant standards – Loki, who has no interest in the pursuit of war and conquest.

In Jotunheim, Loki shows kindness to his new brother, giving Thor a necklace featuring a – poor – carving of a Jotunheim beast, to symbolize their brotherhood, and to remind Thor that no matter how cold and cruel his life may be in that frozen realm, he’s never alone.

In time, Thor adapts to his new life, and becomes exactly the kind of son Laufey wanted – and that Loki could never be – and despite his love for his brother, resentment takes hold Loki’s heart. After failing in an attempt to use magic to defeat an actual Jotunheim beast, resulting in Thor, the Prince of Winter, having to save his – worthless, in Laufey’s view – hide, Loki is cast aside entirely by Laufey, and left to his own devices.

Which, with Loki, is never a good thing. While off having a good sulk, Loki happens upon Freyja’s cell, and the two become friends. Throughout the years, Loki frequently visits Freyja, who is glad of the company, and she instructs him in the way of magic. However, in that time, Loki never tells Freyja about Thor, nor does he tell Thor about Freyja.

From Freyja, Loki also learns about the Bifrost, and a Realm called Midgard, and he speaks often of the two of them making their escape to the world of mortals.

That plan gets put into motion when Thor informs his beloved brother that their father wants both of his sons at his side as he leads an invasion of Musphelheim. This holds no appeal to Loki, who helps Freyja escape her cell and the two make their way to burned-out husk that is Asgard, where Freyja sets to work on repairing the Bifrost.

However, Laufey is no fool, and had been paying more attention to Loki than seemed to be the case, so he and Thor – who is armed with the hammer Ice Crusher, a family heirloom that Laufey passed down just as his father passed it down to him – are there waiting. Thor is confused as to why they’re in Asgard, but Laufey asks him if, now that he has returned to his former home, he feels any connection to it. Thor asserts that he feels none, that Jotunheim is his home, and Laufey is his father.

That loyalty is put to the test when they find, as Laufey intended, Loki and Freyja attempting to escape to Midgard. Thor begs Laufey to show Loki mercy, but he has none to give. Laufey makes a fatal error in allowing Loki to get too close, getting a knife jammed into his brain for his carelessness.

Though he loves his brother, Thor cannot allow this treachery to stand, and sends an icy blast at Loki, but it’s intercepted by Freyja, who jumps in its path to save Loki. As she dies, she hears Loki cry out Thor’s name, and realizes that in attempting to save the man she loved as if he were her son, she lost her life to her real son.

Thor, too, realizes what has occurred, and though he is angry, he can’t bring himself to kill his brother. Thor tells Loki to leave, and that he never wants to see him again, and then returns to Jotunheim to take his place as the king of the Frost Giants.

The story ends with a bit of an epilogue on Midgard, where we see a father wrapping up the telling of this tale to his children, mentioning that Loki went on to become a great champion to the people of Midgard. His storytelling is interrupted by his wife telling him that getting more firewood is more important than telling stories, and as thunder rumbles, he steps outside and we see that the father is, of course, Loki, and he finds the necklace he had given Thor lying in the snow.

As I was reading the story, I felt like it was moving too quickly and just felt sort of…off, as if something were missing, though I couldn’t say what. It was only as I began writing this that I realized that after all these years I’m not accustomed to reading one-and-done stories that aren’t decompressed and paced for trade. It was especially noticeable, I think, because this was a regular-sized comic rather than over-sized special.

It’s just odd to think that this is what comics used to be like, but I’ve become so accustomed to the current narrative approach that it felt…wrong somehow.

Mostly it was that it felt rushed, and I would have liked to have seen a bit more time devoted to the early lives of Thor and Loki. I did like that, as is the case with the best stories of this type, the writer allowed the characters to remain true to the core of who they are, to be recognizable, despite the very different circumstances in which we find them. Thor is Thor, and Loki is Loki, it’s just that Thor and Loki are Thor and Loki in a completely different environment that requires that their essential selves manifest in novel ways. Thor is noble and focused on doing the right thing, but the “right” thing for Frost Giants isn’t quite what we’d normally think of in those terms. Loki is mischievous, but cautious, given that there’s an even greater likelihood of being killed for his mischief in Jotunheim that there would be in Asgard.

Ending with a cliché “The End?” hints at the possibility of further explorations of this alternate reality, but I guess we’ll see.

The art is fine, and has a good storytelling flow, but I was most taken by the simple, clean color work of Matt Milla, and though I seldom mention it – for which, shame on me – I also liked the lettering by Joe Sabino. Lettering is one of those things that you – or at least I – tend not to notice unless it’s done poorly, but this is an instance of being done well, and being an aspect of the overall production that I should mention.

The old What If…? stories used to have a framing sequence that featured Uatu the Watcher, telling the audience about how watching just one Earth gets boring sometimes, so like Rick & Morty with interdimensional cable, he’ll occasionally change the channel and see what else is on, following the divergence that occurs at some pivotal decision point and seeing how it plays out and telling us about what he saw.

I had wondered if, now that Uatu is gone, the Unseen – formerly Nick Fury – would take on that role for these specials, but that wasn’t the case.

I think doing these specials on occasion is the better approach to having any sort of ongoing series, but Marvel could probably benefit from doing them somewhat more regularly. Still, we do have one of my current favorites, Exiles, to scratch that alternate reality itch (and that does feature the Unseen).

What If…I Had Written About These Other Comics I Bought?

Action Comics #1004

Batman Beyond #25

Bettie Page Halloween Special One Shot

Books of Magic #1

Red Sonja Halloween Special One Shot

The Terrifics #9

Wonder Woman #57

Recommended Reading

What If…?

That does it for the Spotlight for this week. Be sure to come back next week to see what it shines upon.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

Supporting OpenDoor Comics is a thing you can do, by whitelisting the site in your ad blocker, by purchasing something from the Supply Closet or the OpenDoor Comics Shop, by creating your own comics on the OpenDoor Comics platform, or through directly giving money via Patreon or PayPal.

Spotlight Sunday 10.21.18

Some good comics this week – and we’ll get to that – but did any of the others have Fin Fang Foom? No. No, they did not, so there are spoilers ahead for…

Thor #6
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Christian Ward
Cover: Esad Ribic
Rated T+
$3.99
Marvel

“The Starbrand, the Iron Fist, the Spirit of Vengeance.The Sorcerer Supreme. Doom is all these things. In addition to being Doom.”

In the days before the dawn of the Marvel Age of Comics, the company that would launch that era was primarily known for monster comics, featuring dangerous, gigantic creatures such as Xemnu, Glop, and a certain bit of alien flora known as Groot.

Many of them would eventually find their way into the Marvel Universe that sprung up after the introduction of the Fantastic Four – some of them, like Groot, would be redeemed after their initial villainous appearances, and make their way into the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and more were introduced throughout the years.

That fondness for monsters is built into Marvel Comics – indeed, one of the flagship characters of the Marvel Age of Comics is a hulking, green-skinned monsters – and the monsters even have their own island.

Of all the monsters in Marveldom, though, my all-time favorite is Fin Fang Foom. I can’t say why, exactly, but I’ve always had a fondness for the giant, alliteratively-named dragon who wears purple trunks. I used to joke about getting a Red Dragon-style full back tattoo like Frances Dolarhyde’s, except, of course, the dragon would be FFF.

After all, did William Blake’s Great Red Dragon ever do this?

With that’s said, let’s get to the issue at hand, in which we see the latest installment of a tale involving King Thor at the end of time. The last time I mentioned King Thor, he was off in search of confirmation of his suspicion that the moribund universe was not just dying but already dead, and during his travels he encountered an old friend and comrade-in-arms, the former Wolverine, now in possession – or possessed by – the Phoenix Force.

As is inevitable, given that heroes fighting heroes is as hardwired into the Marvel Universe as monsters are, the two got into a bit of a scuffle. Old Man Phoenix, it seems, didn’t appreciate Thor restoring life to Earth, as it’s time for the lights to finish going out, and also because the act would draw the attention of a certain someone whose attention no one wants.

On Earth, meanwhile, we witness the arrival of some of the remaining monsters, including FFF, but they don’t represent the real danger, as those monsters are in service of the greatest monster of all: the man called Doom.

In what had, countless eons ago, been Latveria, Doom looks upon the garden that Thor planted there, and does not at all approve of what the All-Father has done with the place. Two mortals are there to greet the strange visitor, and though they live in an idyllic, pastoral world free from want and injustice, they know evil when the see it, particularly when the evil they’re seeing starts burning everything down.

The two men begin throwing rocks and pitchforks at Doom, though they have, of course, no effect. Thor’s granddaughters arrive just in time to get the two men to safety, and as we had already learned that one of the men is named Adam, we learn the name of the other in a gag that made me laugh out loud when I read it:

Thor made Adam and Steve, not Adam and Eve.

The girls don’t present much of a challenge to Doom, but fortunately, King Thor and Old Man Phoenix talked/punched out their differences and arrive in time to take over the fight, leaving the girls free to deal with the other monsters bedeviling the planet.

Doom proves too much for the two, however, and after apparently dispatching Old Man Phoenix, Doom turns the Penance Stare on Thor, forcing him to relive all the pain he has caused throughout his very, very long life.

Old Man Phoenix is not completely out of the game yet, however, and he realizes that just as Doom has consolidated all of the powers mentioned in the opening quote, the solution is to do the same with the power of Thor and the power of the Phoenix. Finally bringing his own seemingly-endless existence to an end, Logan places the Phoenix Force into Thor’s hammer, and the All-Father rises to once again face Doom.

After Thor takes the battle underground, we get something of a montage showing that the fight rages on for generations, but, even as the Earth shakes and rumbles, and volcanoes constantly erupt, and there is the ever-present sound of battle everywhere that there are ears to hear it, life goes on, until the day that Thor, exhausted to the point of death, finally emerges from a river of lava and declares that it is finished.

As Thor dies, the Phoenix moves on to a new host, a little girl standing nearby, and declares that the true darkness is on its way.

One of the more significant storylines in Aaron’s run has been Thor’s fight against Gorr the God Butcher. It was a storyline that introduced the King Thor future, and showed us a great deal of Thor’s pre-Mjolnir past, and that led, ultimately, to the period during which Jane Foster took on the mantle of God of Thunder.

While Gorr was ultimately defeated, the evil, powerful weapon he wielded – All-Black, the Necrosword – could not be destroyed. King Thor used it to defend Earth from the appetites of Galactus, and with the Necrosword in his possession, Galactus transitioned from being the Devourer of Worlds to the Butcher of Worlds, until ultimately he made a losing attempt at butchering Ego, the Living Planet, who then became possessed by the evil of All-Black and transformed into Ego, the Necroplanet, taking on the task of butchering other worlds.

While all of the main action was happening with King Thor and his granddaughters, somewhere out in the vastness of space another battle was raging between Ego and…a worm? Yes, a tiny little worm was crawling around somewhere on and in Ego, taunting the Necroworld, and challenging the mighty planet to do its best to destroy the worm.

As King Thor’s battle with Doom ended, so too did the battle between Ego – a world now in tatters, having nearly destroyed itself in its vain attempts at crushing a single worm – and the war came to an end, with the worm obtaining the prize it had sought for so long: the Necrosword.

And, of course we know just who that worm was, don’t we?

Next issue will find us moving in something of the opposite direction, with an adventure featuring Young Thor before we return to the present and the ongoing War of the Realms, which, like the the King Thor stories are always a fun little interlude. The King Thor stories are particularly fun, as they tend to provide some hints about things that are yet-to-come for present-day Thor. We’ve seen it already with King Thor missing his arm and wearing the Destroyer’s arm as a replacement, which played out a while back with the current Thor, and we also see that, like his father, King Thor is missing an eye. Perhaps most notable is is the fact that King Thor’s hammer looks very much like the now-destroyed Mjolnir.

We’ll see whether or not we return to the future to find out how it all ends now that King Thor is gone and Necro-Loki is ascendant, but while this was a somewhat somber story about sacrifice and inevitability, it was a fun little break from the present-day story, with great art by guest artist Christian Ward, some interesting versions of known characters, and some hints of what is to come. And, of course, Fin Fang Foom!

What Else Ya Got?

Showcase Saturday is gone – and was never well-known enough to even be forgotten – but on the off-chance that anyone is interested in what the rest of the week’s haul was like, here’s a simple list:

East of West #39

Lucifer #1

New Challengers #6

Red Sonja #22

Recommended Reading

Monsters!

That does it for the Spotlight for this week. Be sure to come back next week to see what it shines upon.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

Supporting OpenDoor Comics is a thing you can do, by whitelisting the site in your ad blocker, by purchasing something from the Supply Closet or the OpenDoor Comics Shop, by creating your own comics on the OpenDoor Comics platform, or through directly giving money via Patreon or PayPal.

Lights Out Sunday 10.14.18


Okay, so, yeah. No Spotlight today. Sorry.

I’m just not feeling it, and I have some non-comics-related stuff to deal with today.

The Spotlight will return next week, and one of these days I’ll get around to that Very Special™ post, but for right now…yeah.

I don’t think that the Showcase will return, however. Even by the standards of this site, the traffic for that feature is absolutely abysmal, so I don’t think it’s worth the effort at this point.

Anyway, apologies once again, and I’ll see you in a week.

Supporting OpenDoor Comics is a thing you can do, by whitelisting the site in your ad blocker, by purchasing something from the Supply Closet or the OpenDoor Comics Shop, by creating your own comics on the OpenDoor Comics platform, or through directly giving money via Patreon or PayPal.

Getting that support would go a long way towards ensuring that there are no more Lights Out days in the future. Just sayin’. 

Showcase Saturday 10.13.18

There’s a triple helping of Gail Simone this week, along with a Spooktacular special, Superman having only a ghost of a chance of surviving in the Phantom Zone, the second part of a Wonder Woman story that I didn’t read the first part of, a look at one of Catwoman’s previous lives, Arabian Nights, and some truly glorious covers, all in this week’s Showcase.

Check it:

From DC

CATWOMAN #4 – Things have gone from bad to worse for Selina in Villa Hermosa. Her new city has taken away what little she was able to carry with her from Gotham, and her rap sheet offers scant protection when local crooks frame her for murdering two police officers. The law has caught up with her and Catwoman is in the clink, giving her time to reflect on her life and all the things that led her to Vila Hermosa. Turns out she didn’t choose the move randomly or just to get away from the Batman. This special interlude issue takes us back in time to explode some previously unknown truth bombs from Selina Kyle’s past. BATWOMAN artist Fernando Blanco joins Joëlle Jones to explore a couple of the early versions of Catwoman’s nine lives.

CURSED COMICS CAVALCADE #1 – Horror! Death! Uh…Face-punching! Witness ten all-new stories that promise to be the most terrifying, most shocking and most horrific comic that DC Comics has ever published! (Hyperbole much?) Batman, Wonder Woman, Guy Gardner, Swamp Thing, Zatanna and more of your favorite heroes face unspeakable horrors from the streets of Gotham City to the darkest sectors of the universe.

PLASTIC MAN #5 – Eel O’Brian takes a flexible view of morality: you walk on your side of the line, he’ll keep his feet on his (no promises about his hands, eyes, ears or midsection). That all stopped when his alter ego Plastic Man got suckered into the high-stakes world of super-heroic traitors and super-villainous cabals. Now he’s gonna stiffen his spine, screw up his courage and take the law into his own hands. Or he’s going to swat Queen Bee into next Tuesday with his fly-swatter hand. One or the other.

SUPERMAN #4 – As Superman fights to protect the world  from Rogol Zaar and the Kryptonian convicts trapped inside the Phantom Zone, the greatest minds on Earth devise a risky plan to return the planet from the deadly prison. With the Earth continuing to crack and crumble and its greatest heroes fall, can the Man of Steel hold the line and give his adopted world a chance to escape?

WONDER WOMAN #56 – “The Witching Hour” part two! The Justice League Dark barely escaped their first encounter with Hecate, but they know she’ll be coming back for the power inside Wonder Woman. But what if Diana could tap into that power herself to take on Hecate directly?

From DC Vertigo

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #2 – Erzulie shouldn’t be in the Dreaming; in fact, she isn’t really sure how she suddenly got stranded there. Worse, she soon learns that she is no longer connected to her worshippers, which, for a deity, means only one thing: death. Against the advice of Cain and Abel, Erzulie steers her houseboat back into the rip between the worlds in an effort to return to her realm. But how will she find her way back, and what danger lies ahead in the otherworldly waters she finds herself sailing?

From Dynamite

RED SONJA/TARZAN #5 – The final showdown with Eson Duul looms ahead for Tarzan and Red Sonja. Their worlds and their people are at stake and it will take everything they have to stop a man who only wants to destroy everything he can!

From Marvel

DOMINO #7 – After the explosive events of “Killer Instinct” and DOMINO ANNUAL #1, Neena Thurman has a new mission…

EXILES #9 – ARABIAN NIGHTS! Javier Rodriguez returns on art duties with the start of a brand-new arc! On the run from rogue Watchers, the Exiles find themselves scattered in a dusty Arabian town — and with a bad case of mistaken identity! Who is the ne’er-do-well son of a tailor everyone calls “Aladdin”? What are the 40 thieves after? And most importantly…what classic Marvel villain plays the role of despotic Caliph? Saladin Ahmed brings One Thousand and One Nights to life in the pages of Marvel Comics!

That does it for this week’s Showcase. Be sure to come back tomorrow to find out if any of these comics will shine in the Spotlight.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

Supporting OpenDoor Comics is a thing you can do, by whitelisting the site in your ad blocker, by purchasing something from the Supply Closet or the OpenDoor Comics Shop, by creating your own comics on the OpenDoor Comics platform, or through directly giving money via Patreon or PayPal.

Spotlight Sunday 10.7.18

Wanting to focus on something more lighthearted and fun means there are spoilers ahead for…

Adventures of the Super Sons #3
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Carlo Barberi
Cover: Dan Mora
Rated T
$3.99
DC

“Shut up, Robin!”

I mentioned a while back that I have plans for a very special™ Spotlight post. This week would have been a good time to spring that one on the world, as there was nothing in my stack – nothing that I finished reading in time, at any rate – that I felt a particularly strong compulsion to write about.

This isn’t a criticism of what I bought. Everything that I read was fine, but there just wasn’t anything that “spoke” to me and said, “Hey, devote a Spotlight post to talking me up!” or that shared some commonality with the current state of things for me or felt otherwise relatable*, so it would have been a good time to dive into the Archives and write that very special™ post.

Unfortunately, there are some other things I need to finish before I can write it, and life just isn’t providing me with the time and energy to get those things finished, what with the day job and the commute just eating up as much of both as it can get its hands on.

And of course, I have to have that day job to pay the bills (and buy the comics) because this site doesn’t bring in enough money to cover the cost of its own existence, let alone the cost of mine.

I guess the site just doesn’t “drive traffic,” because people don’t “click the links”, because the content “isn’t engaging,” and is “not interesting,” and is “not very good,” and the platform “offers no compelling advantages,” and while I’m “thankful” to the “twenty six or so people” who are likely to “look at this post,” I need to remember that “nobody cares,” and I should just “give up” and leave this sort of thing to the people who “know what they’re doing” and are “actually good at this,” and also I shouldn’t “use dated references.”

Remember to “support OpenDoor Comics.”

Wait, that took a turn. Lighthearted and fun, remember?

Let’s just check in and see what the boys are up to, shall we?

After the cancellation of Super Sons, I was surprised to see that a new title launched so quickly, even as a limited series, particularly given that Jon is currently on a cosmic road trip with his mom and his grandpa – or, rather, as has been revealed recently, just his grandpa, apparently. That latter bit led to a fakeout on the first page of the first issue, which featured a full-page image of Jon declaring that he was back. Turning the page, however, revealed that he was “back” from getting ice cream, and an editorial note indicated that the events in this story take place before National Periodicals’ Interstellar Vacation.

This issue opens with the boys imprisoned on a spaceship, captives of some alien kids who call themselves “The Gang.”

The members of The Gang are from a rigidly-ordered society where their only escape from the routine of their lives was observing broadcasts received from Earth, with a focus on the adventures of the heroes and, more to the point, villains that populate that distant backwater planet. Led by the evil Rex Luthor, The Gang has modeled themselves after some of Earth’s villains, taking on identities such as the Shaggy Boy, Kid Deadshot, and, more significantly to the state of the Super Sons as the issue opens, Joker Jr.

It seems that Joker Jr. didn’t choose the homicidal clown life so much as the homicidal clown life chose him. Or rather, Rex chose it for him, using the power of peer pressure to get him to join The Gang. But Joker Jr. wanted out, and towards that end, he helped Robin escape captivity and led him to where Jon was being held prisoner with a device that can simulate the effects of kryptonite.

The issue opens with the not-quite heroic Joker Jr. bravely running away in an escape pod, rationalizing that he’s done all that he can to help, and that even if Robin and Superboy don’t survive, at least he got away.

Or so he thinks, right up until a laser beam fired from a distance by Kid Deadshot cuts his ship in half and he’s sent hurtling unprotected out into the empty vacuum.

Back on the ship, Robin’s attempt at setting Superboy free had an unexpected side-effect. In attempting to change the frequency of the radiation the kryptonite device was generating, Robin accidently switched it from green kryptonite radiation to red.

This leads to an homage to a classic Superman story that was itself an homage to a classic Superman story.

The two Superboys don’t get along especially well, though their existence does throw Rex’s plans – which mostly consisted of killing someone just to make their bones as villains – out of whack, and ultimately does the same to the ship as the conflict onboard ends up taking out the navigation system.

Meanwhile, out in the vastness of space, Joker Jr. isn’t quite dead yet, and manages to activate some sort of force field/invisible spacesuit, just in time for some mysterious passerby to offer him a lift.

With the out-of-control ship about to make a crash-landing on The Gang’s home planet, Rex takes off in an escape pod, and Robin commands the two Superboys – who have been bickering over Blue’s taunting assertion that Red likes Ice Princess, the juvenile equivalent of Captain Cold – to evacuate everyone from the ship, but the two put their differences aside to execute a different plan, stabilizing the ship from the outsides to bring it in for a less catastrophic landing.

Unfortunately, being split in two seems to have halved Superboy’s powers, and Blue gets caught I the wake of the reverse thrusters that Robin fired to assist with the landing and appears to be dying as a result.

Before Robin can use the kryptonite device to try to reverse the effects of the split and restore a single Jon to health, Rex and The Gang show up and destroy it.

All is not quite lost, however, as Joker Jr. and his mysterious rescuer, an obscure character from DC’s past, arrive on the scene.

Space Uber and Space Lyft have seriously cut into his business.

This was a fun little issue, in large part because of the instant dislike that Red and Blue took to each other, and how their attempts at insulting each other really don’t pan out, given that they are each other. It’s a true case of “I know you are, but what am I?”

And, of course, he was telling on himself when he made fun of Red for liking Ice Princess.

Robin, albeit lacking a certain sense of self-awareness, sums things up pretty nicely.


The art has a good storytelling flow, which is impressive, given the story’s frenetic nature, and the slightly cartoony style is a good fit. I particularly like the design on the kid versions of the villains.

Like a said, it was a fun little issue, and there’s value in having fun.

Recommended Reading

There’s plenty of Super Sons material out there. And it’s fun!

That does it for the Spotlight for this week. Be sure to come back next week to see what it shines upon.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

Supporting OpenDoor Comics is a thing you can do, by whitelisting the site in your ad blocker, by purchasing something from the Supply Closet or the OpenDoor Comics Shop, by creating your own comics on the OpenDoor Comics platform, or through directly giving money via Patreon or PayPal.

*I mean, the two halves of Superboy not getting along is pretty relatable, but I didn’t really want to go down the path of exploring my sense of self-loathing.

Showcase Saturday 10.6.18

I bought comics.

These are the comics I bought.

I might write about one of them tomorrow.

Take a look.

From DC

ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #3 – The Super Sons find themselves tumbling through space and time without so much as a GPS to guide them! Having battled the intergalactic group of teen hoodlums known as the Gang, Superboy and Robin barely escape. However, they do end up having a shootout with gunslingers on a Western-like world before engaging in a swordfight to save a princess on a medieval-like planet. The Sons need to find their way back to Earth before the Gang does a planetary smash-and-grab with the whole planet!

SWAMP THING: THE BRONZE AGE VOL. 1 – Swamp Thing’s early adventures are collected in paperback with SWAMP THING: THE BRONZE AGE VOL. 1. Deep in the bayou of Louisiana, far from civilization’s grasp, a shadowed creature seen only in fleeting glimpses roils the black waters…a twisted, vegetative mockery of a man…a Swamp Thing! These are the tales that introduced Alec and Linda Holland, Anton Arcane, Abigail Cable, the Patchwork Man, the Un-Men, plus an appearance by Batman! Collects THE HOUSE OF SECRETS #92 and SWAMP THING #1-13.

WONDER WOMAN EARTH ONE VOL. 2 – For years, Diana of Paradise Island yearned to leave the only home she knew behind for adventures that laid beyond its shores. Now, after a fateful meeting with Air Force pilot Steve Trevor, the Amazon Warrior finds herself in Man’s World. And she is ready for anything that it may throw at her.

But is the world ready for Wonder Woman? An American government, fraught with dissension and conflicts foreign to Diana, has deemed her a danger to society. How will Wonder Woman carry out her mission of peace and love in a world that can’t get out of its own way? That is, unless there are more insidious forces at play…

From DC Vertigo

THE DREAMING #2 – Merv Pumpkinhead ain’t happy.

Sure, Merv Pumpkinhead doesn’t exactly radiate happy at the best of times, but now? Right now a bunch of blank-faced strangers from between realities are taking local jobs; foreign criminals are profiteering at the realm’s expense; and the VIPs seem more interested in themselves than getting back to the “good old days.”

The Dreaming used to be somewhere a vegetable-headed guy could be proud to call home, y’know?

Fact is, Merv Pumpkinhead’s been pushed too far. It’s time for change. Right at the top.

From Dark Horse

NEIL GAIMAN’S LIKELY STORIES HC – These dark and imaginative tales feature an odd and subtly linked world of bizarre venereal diseases, a creepy old woman who feasts on raw meat, a man obsessed with a skin model from a magazine, and a story within a story about ghosts.

From Dynamite

BARBARELLA #10 – Barbarella is missing, presumed dead: fallen into Firu Fenzu’s sun, from which there’s no coming back. But the core of this star is a brave new world, where Barbarella will learn how badly she has been betrayed – and where she just might find the allies she needs for an epic comeback.

From Marvel

ASGARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #2 – ALL DEAD GODS GO TO WAR! Angela’s ragtag team of Asgardians are hot on Nebula’s trail — but she’s left a grisly gift behind. With the power of the Naglfar Armada at her cybernetic fingertips, Nebula is unleashing hordes of undead gods to ravage the galaxy. And its only defenders are a slightly traitorous Executioner, a half-mortal Valkyrie, a lost Asgardian huntress, a hammer-wielding teenager, a suit of ancient armor and a frog. And if the rest of the team finds out who’s behind the Destroyer’s faceplate, things will go from bad to Ragnarok. Guest-starring Gladiator and the Imperial Guard!

That does it for this week’s Showcase. Be sure to come back tomorrow to find out if any of these comics will shine in the Spotlight.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

Supporting OpenDoor Comics is a thing you can do, by whitelisting the site in your ad blocker, by purchasing something from the Supply Closet or the OpenDoor Comics Shop, by creating your own comics on the OpenDoor Comics platform, or through directly giving money via Patreon or PayPal.

Spotlight Sunday 9.30.18

The passing of a legendary artist and the opportunity to support a worthy cause mean that there are spoilers ahead for…


Heroes In Crisis #1
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Clay Mann
Cover: Clay Mann
Variant Covers: Ryan Sook, Mark Brooks, J.G. Jones, Francesco Mattina
$3.99
DC

“Yeah. There’s going to be a fight.”

Before we dive into the issue at hand, I want to comment on the recent passing of artist Norm Breyfogle. For an entire generation of readers, Breyfogle is the definitive Batman artist; his clean, yet slightly surrealist style, with the physics-defying, endlessly swirling cape, and a Dark Knight who always seemed to be couched in shadow no matter the lighting conditions, was uniquely his own, yet evocative of some of the great artists, like Aparo and Marshall, who preceded him.

While he has rightly-earned his place in the pantheon of the greats for his lengthy tenure on the Bat-titles, and I am a fan of what he did in that time, my personal preference is for his work with J.M. DeMatteis on The Spectre, a series in which he upped his already-considerable artistic game.

Breyfogle was the first pro I ever met and got something signed by back when I was in college. I didn’t really speak to him, because I’m an awkward geek, but while I didn’t know him, I’ve long felt a personal connection to him. Not just because I admired his work, but because he was like me.

That is, he’s from where I’m from, or near-enough: Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Further, he and I share an alma mater, though he was a dozen years older, so our paths never crossed, other than at that signing that occurred when he returned to the area for a visit.

In a way, though, they did. In my student job as a janitor, I worked in the Fine Arts building, and during one shift cleaning the drawing studio I happened to see something lying on a shelf at the back of the room that caught my eye. On closer inspection, I realized that it was pages of original art from an issue of Prime, a comic that had recently launched with Norm Breyfogle as the artist. There was a note from Breyfogle explaining that they were a gift to his former teacher, who was still on the faculty at the time and gave instruction in that studio, to thank him helping him achieve his comic book dreams.

It was a very cool experience – though I will say that it was decidedly uncool of the professor to just leave them lying around like that – and is one of my favorite memories of my time at Northern.

The funny thing is that back in high school when I first saw his work on Batman, I had no idea that he was from the area. I didn’t actually find that out until that signing years later, when he was interviewed on the local news for the standard “local boy makes good” story.

(I also learned some time later that my brother, who is only a few years younger than Breyfogle, did know him.)

I had him sign this mini-poster, which was an insert in issue #604 of Detective Comics.

I say “standard,” but the fact of the matter is that there was nothing “standard” about it in that area, because local boys very rarely made good, which is why I wish that I had known that he was a Yooper back when I first discovered his art.

Few will admit it – and it may be that they just don’t see it – but for all the natural beauty of the place I’m from, and the admitted advantages of life in a small (miniscule, practically non-existent) town, growing up there imbues you with a kind of hopelessness, or fatalism. Or rather, it lowers your expectations and stunts your aspirations, in no small part because its very nature – sparsely-populated, remote, economically-depressed, and more often than not buried under snow – limits your opportunities and blinds you to the very existence of opportunities.

As a kid, I had dreams, and hopes, and aspirations, but as far back as I can remember they were always undercut by the suspicion that achieving them was impossible, and that working towards them – really working – was a fruitless endeavor. “Sure,” this small voice inside me would say, “try, but just, you know, don’t try too hard. You’re just some Yooper after all. No one even knows this place exists.”

It’s not my intent to blame my own self-doubts and limitations on the place of my birth, but that little voice was amplified by exceedingly rare examples of any kind of counterargument, and I can’t help but think that if I had known then that someone like me, a Yooper, had gone on to achieve the kind of success I’d longed for…well, things probably wouldn’t have turned out any differently. At least, that’s what that voice tells me.

But it would have been nice to know. To have that source of inspiration.

A hero.

And that’s why the death of someone I didn’t even know has hit me so hard, because even if I was late to discovering it, he was a hero to me.

I’ll wrap things up and get to the comic in a moment, but I want to mention something else. A few years ago, Norm Breyfogle had a stroke, and, as is so common now, crowdfunding efforts arose to meet the costs of his medical care, because, like most comic book creators, Breyfogle was a freelancer, and like so many freelancers, getting by with little or no health insurance.

So I want to mention the Hero Initiative, an organization that works to help comics creators in need. There are lots of ways to help support Hero Initiative, including buying comics signed by their creators. I have several comics in my collection that were signed by writers and artists for the Hero Initiative, and it’s a great way to help heroes who find themselves in crisis.

Which leads us, finally, to the comic at hand.

Tom King is, of course, no stranger to the Spotlight, and one of the aspects of his work that I find so appealing is the unflinching manner in which he uses comics, and the super heroes whose adventures those comics chronicle, to take an unflinching look at issues of mental health and the pervasive impact of physical and emotional trauma.

While that is a clear theme of his work in Mister Miracle, with Heroes In Crisis, that approach to grappling with those issues is front and center and is the very core of the concept.

In order to help the world’s super-heroes work through the trauma and stress of their lives, the Trinity – Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman – established a place called Sanctuary, hidden deep in a location nearly as remote as the place of my birth, a retreat where heroes can get the kind of specialized help that they need.

We open in a diner in Gordon, Nebraska, a place that’s not accustomed to seeing many super-heroes, where Booster Gold is having a cup of coffee. He’s soon joined by Harley Quinn, and we then get a double-page spread splash showing a red blur streaking through the sky over farmlands.

Next we see Harley in the first of the many “confessionals” sprinkled throughout the issue, part of the intake process at Sanctuary.


Back at the diner, Harley enjoys a piece of pie, and makes another confession.

“I hate pudding.”

Superman – the red blur we saw on the splash page – arrives at Sanctuary, where it’s clear, based on the scavenging birds enjoying a bloody feast, that something has gone terribly wrong.

At the diner, Harley finishes her pie and moves on to the real dessert: attacking Booster.

At Sanctuary, Superman discovers the bodies of several minor heroes, and is in contact with Batman and Wonder Woman, who are both en route.

Among the bodies he discovers are those of Arsenal – whose confessional about his struggles with addiction tie the super-hero lifestyle to the real-world opioid epidemic – and Wally West, who only recently returned to continuity as part of the “Rebirth” event.

Harley takes advantage of the fact that Booster doesn’t want to hurt her to hurt him as much as possible, until he finally grabs hold of her and takes to the air, intent on bringing her to justice.

At Sanctuary, the rest of the Trinity arrives, and are shaken by what they see. The dream of Sanctuary, along with the people who were there, is dead.

A message on the wall proclaims “The puddlers are all dead.”

Wonder Woman explains that a “puddler” is someone who works with metal to make weapons, skimming the surface of the molten metal to remove impurities. As to what it means, Batman says it means what it always means.


In the skies above, despite – or because of – the fact that they’ll both fall, Harley stabs Booster, who does what he can to save her life as they fall, and we get a sense of what they were fighting about. The gravely-wounded Booster asserts that he saw Harley kill everyone at Sanctuary, and that he fled in a panic.

Harley, meanwhile, saw Booster kill everyone.

The issue closes with Booster’s confessional.


Crises are a staple of DC stories – fittingly enough, among the comics I have that were signed for Hero Initiative is a complete set of Crisis on Infinite Earths signed by Marv Wolfman and George Perez – and though the nominally final one occurred ten years ago, it’s appropriate for this story, which is more personal than cosmic. Advanced press likened it to Identity Crisis, which no doubt prompted many to give it a pass, but while it’s an apt comparison in a broad sense, it feels very different, at least in this first issue. Yes, there are shocking deaths, and the kind of grittiness and “realism” that can often feel so utterly incongruous in stories about people who put on costumes and beat up criminals, but, particularly knowing the work of King as I do, nothing in it feels like it’s being done merely for shock value, and the weightiness of the subject matter does not feel out of place or an attempt to be edgy.

I’ve talked before about King’s ability to transform the mundane into the mythic and the mythic into the mundane, and that is on full display here, especially in the quiet moments before the violence – the violence we all know is coming – at the diner, and in the confessionals, which, like their counterparts in “reality” TV programming, help us feel a sense of connection with these characters as they seem to speak directly to us.

The fractured approach to telling the story, jumping between scenes with Booster and Harley, scenes featuring the Trinity, and the confessionals, works well building a sense of tension, and mimicking the disorienting effect of trauma. There’s a sense of dread that comes with the slow reveal of the carnage awaiting Superman at Sanctuary, as does seeing the Man of Steel so utterly shaken.

That’s part of what makes comics, and specifically super-hero comics, such a potent medium for telling stories that have heft and impact. Not just the unique features of the form and structure that allow for stories to unfold in a way that’s not possible in any other medium, but in the history, in that shared understanding of mythology. This is an event that left not only Superman and Wonder Woman shaken, but Batman as well.

The art by Clay Mann is stunning, and I’m most impressed by his storytelling in the quiet moments in the diner, which are just as dynamic, in their own way, as the action sequences. His use of body language in the confessionals adds depth to the monologues, and in the pre-fight sequences conveys the impact through Booster’s subdued posture. From that very first page it’s clear that Booster is in shock.

This was originally slated to be a seven-issue mini-series, with two supplemental books – with art by King’s brother in comics, Mitch Gerads – but it was recently expanded to nine, incorporating the tie-ins into the main series. Even though it’s just getting started, I have a feeling that long before the end arrives this story will be regarded as a modern classic.

Recommended Reading

Crises!

That does it for the Spotlight for this week. Be sure to come back next week to see what it shines upon.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

Supporting OpenDoor Comics is a thing you can do, by whitelisting the site in your ad blocker, by purchasing something from the Supply Closet or the OpenDoor Comics Shop, by creating your own comics on the OpenDoor Comics platform, or through directly giving money via Patreon or PayPal.

Showcase Saturday 9.29.18

I know you’re all out there eagerly counting down the days to the Showcase. Well, stop counting: it’s here!

From DC

ACTION COMICS #1003 – How well does Clark Kent know his own city? Are the threats targeting Metropolis new or something older and more dangerous than they seem?

With mobsters being killed off and the Daily Planet staff hunting for answers, it’s up to Superman to discover what lurks in the underside of the city he thought he knew so well. Who is the Red Mist, and why has Superman never heard of someone so powerful and dangerous? And what is Lois Lane doing with Lex Luthor?

BATMAN BEYOND #24 – Bruce Wayne gets to creeping around with his old cohort Jack Ryder (a.k.a. the Creeper) to thwart the Scarecrow’s attack on Neo-Gotham. But will they be in time to stop Batman and the new Robin from pummeling each other to death? Out of costume, Terry McGinnis must choose between two women who’ve stolen his heart. Who will win the hand of the Bat-chelor? Find out in the conclusion to “Target: Batman”!

HEROES IN CRISIS #1 – There’s a new kind of crisis threatening the heroes of the DC Universe, ripped from real-world headlines by C.I.A.-operative-turned-comics-writer Tom King: How does a superhero handle PTSD?

Welcome to Sanctuary, an ultra-secret hospital for superheroes who’ve been traumatized by crime-fighting and cosmic combat. But something goes inexplicably wrong when many patients wind up dead, with two well-known operators as the prime suspects: Harley Quinn and Booster Gold! It’s up to the DC Trinity of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman to investigate—but can they get the job done in the face of overwhelming opposition?

THE TERRIFICS #8 – The Terrifics find themselves stuck up a cosmic tree with the newly rediscovered Tom Strong—and the fire department ain’t coming to rescue them! The team gets split up while trying to escape this devious trap set for them by a mysterious enemy known as Doc Dread, and they wind up in a bunch of weird dimensions trippier than a spin on the “Yellow Submarine”! Is there a cure awaiting our afflicted adventurers at the end of this other-dimensional adventure? Or will Plastic Man, Metamorpho, Phantom Girl and Mr. Terrific be trapped in Tom Strong’s stronghold peddling snake oil instead?

WONDER WOMAN #55 – Then, two armies stand ready to annihilate each other, with Wonder Woman and Artemis caught in the middle, fighting for the souls of the exiled Amazons living in Bana-Mighdall! Does Diana possess the might and diplomatic prowess to convince her sisters to stop their march toward war? Who will fall beneath the flaming swords of Rustam? And more importantly, how does she make sure this doesn’t happen again? Will Diana have to Occupy the Amazons?!

From Dynamite

JOHN WICK #3 – (Forgot to list this one last week) The story of John Wick’s first grand mission of vengeance continues in the bloody streets of El Paso! As John enters the world of the Continental Hotel, he threatens to upend the balance of power among assassins — and earns a new implacable enemy. Also: the mystery of Calamity revealed!

RED SONJA #21 – It’s the final battle against the forces of Sandak, the usurper of Skath’s castle! Lera’s secret is revealed to Sonja! Can the warrior Skath find redemption? Will the dark power of Kulan Gath’s amulet influence our heroes? And how does Sonja best a SHARK? Find out in the last chapter of THE BLADE OF SKATH!

From Image

SAGA VOL. 9 TPB – Get ready for the most shocking, most impactful SAGA storyline yet, an action-packed adventure about fake news and genuine terror. Collects SAGA #49-54

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE: 1373 – “THE TRANSUBSTANTIATION OF LUCIFER” The final THE WICKED + THE DIVINE historical special plunges into the shadow of life after the Black Death. KIERON GILLEN gets back together with THREE collaborator RYAN KELLY to tell the story of penitent nun Lucifer hearing the confession of penitent murderer Ananke. Yes, everyone will be sorry.

From Marvel

DOMINO ANNUAL #1 – Tales too big for Domino’s best-selling solo series! Neena Thurman’s never worked alone… She keeps her friends close and her lovers closer! FINALLY REVEALED: the origin of Domino’s posse! Colossus and Domino rekindled? Cable takes a bath! Plus: Domino’s not the only mutant wearing her X-gene on her sleeve… don’t miss the first appearance of the RejeX!

That does it for this week’s Showcase. Be sure to come back tomorrow to find out if any of these comics will shine in the Spotlight.

As always, special thanks go out to Comic Logic Books & Artworkmy Local Comic Shop. Remember to support your LCS (find one here, if you don’t already have one).

Supporting OpenDoor Comics is a thing you can do, by whitelisting the site in your ad blocker, by purchasing something from the Supply Closet or the OpenDoor Comics Shop, by creating your own comics on the OpenDoor Comics platform, or through directly giving money via Patreon or PayPal.