The Threshold

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

“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

“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


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.

Spotlight Sunday 9.23.18

One of the greatest pages in the history of comics means that there no escape from the spoilers ahead for…

Mister Miracle #11
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Cover: Nick Derrington
Variant Cover: Mitch Gerads
Rated M

“Never underestimate the power of a good veggie tray.”

I considered shining the Spotlight on Thor this week, as the story of the ancient King Thor fighting the Phoenix-possessed Old Man Logan in the far future, with the latter annoyed at the former for bringing back the spark of life on Earth in a dying universe that he wishes would just get on with the dying already, or Buffy, which marked the end of the Dark Horse era, the license is moving on to another as-yet undisclosed publisher.

After all, given that it’s the only remaining Bonus from the days of the long-lost Weigh In, I was going to write at least a little bit about Mister Miracle anyway.

However, none of those other comics has this…

Darkseid is…a bit peckish.

…which earned the full attention of the Spotlight.

On its own, the page is simply great, but it’s that this is in many ways a pivotal scene that ties in directly to the stories denouement and flows naturally from everything that has come before – of course Scott brought a veggie tray to Apokolips, because that’s the sort of thing we’ve learned that Scott does – that makes it so much more than it already is.

Our story begins with Scott and Barda making their preparations for their journey to Apokolips to finalize a peace agreement between the gods, and as is characteristic of this series, that larger-than-life premise is presented in the mundane scenes of ensuring that they’ve packed enough diapers and haven’t forgotten anything that are a familiar experience for any new parents taking a trip.

With teething ring, and stuff Batman, and, of course, the veggie tray in tow, they arrive in the throne room of the silent and impassive Darkseid to make the exchange. DeSaad does all the talking, and he suspects that Scott and Barda are up to something, but there’s nothing to be done other than complete the transfer of custody.

Barda hands little Jacob over to his grandfather, and Darkseid, through DeSaad, calls for the immediate withdrawal of his troops.

There remains only the small matter of the Anti-Life Equation, the knowledge of which would allow Darkseid to assume control over all living beings.

A mere detail.

Being knowledge, it’s not actually something that Darkseid can give up, but in order to effectively put knowledge into practice Darkseid requires the beams of the Omega Effect, which he releases from his eyes.

And you know what the Bible says to do if an eye offends thee..

With that out of the way, all that’s left is for Scott to say goodbye to his son.

“So don’t think about this, buddy. Don’t remember it. Just kind of know…that your father. That I… I love you, Jacob Free.”

This is, of course, part of the escape plan, and Barda busts out a weapon hidden in the bottom of Jacob’s stroller that she hopes will ensure that Darkseid isn’t.

That doesn’t go so well.

I won’t  spoil the ending to this issue, but I will mention that there is a prophecy that states that Darkseid can only be killed by his son. While the assumption has always been that this refers to Orion, throughout the series there has been some question about who the real son of Darkseid is. Biologically, of course, it was Orion, but Orion was raised by Highfather on New Genesis, while Scott was raised on Apokolips. There’s also the small matter of Orion being dead.

The ending here kind of dodges that question, in a very clever way, but also provides something of an answer to the other question that has arisen throughout the story so far: Where and how does this story fit?

As we – and poor Mitch – finally escape from the prison of the uniform nine-panel grid in which we’ve been trapped so long and find ourselves in the wide-open world of a double-page spread, we learn at last that the answer to the where part, apparently, is that…it kind of doesn’t? But in terms of the how part, it might.

“See how it’s done in the next complete issue!”

I will add that, like any good mystery story, KIng has played fair with the reader. While there are surprises contained herein, all of them fit with what we have seen, and nothing comes out of left field.

Beyond simply singling out the comic I enjoy the most in a given week, part of what motivates me in making my Spotlight selection is whether there’s any sort of connecting theme between a given story and the state of my life. This week, I suppose, the theme was looking for a way out. An escape.

Unfortunately, I’m not the world’s greatest escape artist. I don’t really have a position anywhere on any list of great escape artists, so I take what I can get in the form of escapism.

Some people doubt the value of escapism, and sniff haughtily at the very idea of it having any value. Neil Gaiman tells a great story about that value, one which I won’t attempt to – poorly – retell here, but in many ways Mister Miracle brings that story to mind, as Gaiman’s uplifting tale of escape is mired in the horrific details of that from which escape was essential.

But we need those details. We need to have that understanding.

As much as Mister Miracle is an exploration of trauma and its effects, an allegory of escaping from those personal demons, it’s also a super-hero comic book.

It’s pure escapism of the highest sort.

Yes, it’s dark, and often horrifying. It has to be, because what we’re up against is dark and horrifying.

Darkseid is.

Depression is.

Anxiety is.

PTSD is.

Familial dysfunction is.

Sometimes the best approach to facing big problems is to break them down into smaller components. Into, say, nine panels distributed upon a page.

And sometimes the best approach is to make the problems bigger, to turn them into immensely powerful evil gods who mean to rob you of your hope. To make the mundane into the mythic.

Or, as this book so often does, make the mythic into the mundane.

That all of these approaches are taken in various ways – and that it works – is the miracle at the core of this miraculous series, and as we approach the end, I realize that the impact it’s had on me is one that I can’t escape.

Recommended Reading

If you’re not reading stuff by Tom King, and don’t realize by now that I’m always going to recommend that you do so, I don’t know what else to tell you.

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 9.22.18

I didn’t get my hands on

I didn’t grab hold of

…I didn’t buy the comic with the Bat-penis, okay?

But here’s what I did buy this week.

From DC

BATMAN/CATWOMAN: THE WEDDING ALBUM – THE DELUXE EDITION – The historic wedding of Batman and Catwoman is commemorated in this must-have collector’s item, featuring the historic wedding issue and the tales leading up to the big day, plus behind-the-scenes design sketches and variant covers. Collects BATMAN #24, 44 and 50, plus the retailer variant covers from issue #50, wedding dress designs by Joëlle Jones, the script to issue #44 and more.

MISTER MIRACLE #11 – If there’s one thing popular fiction has taught us by now, it’s: never make a deal with the devil! And yet Mister Miracle is still listening when Darkseid approaches him with just such a devilish proposition—if Scott sends his newborn son to Apokolips, there will be peace on New Genesis. Since when has Darkseid been famous for his honesty?! It’ll be a miracle if this doesn’t blow up in Scott’s face.

NEW CHALLENGERS #5 – The team returns to Challengers Mountain, only to find it completely obliterated! And without the mountain to replenish their borrowed time, it looks like they’re out of second chances. But for the Challengers to live to fight another day, they’ll need to use a power with a consequence that spells certain doom!

From Dark Horse

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASON 12: THE RECKONING #4 – Buffy, Fray, the Scoobies, and the Slayers are in an epic battle against Harth, and his army of baddies. His attempt to steal the power of the Slayers has brought Buffy and her crew to the turning point that they have been trying desperately to avoid. With all other options spent, it is only Buffy and her sacrifice that can save the world . . .

KOSHCHEI THE DEATHLESS TPB – Sent to kill Hellboy by the Baba Yaga in Darkness Calls, Koshchei the Deathless hinted at a long and tragic life before being enslaved to the Russian witch. Now Koshchei relives every horrible act on his road to immortality and beyond, with none other than Hellboy himself–in Hell.

From Marvel

THOR #5 – GET READY FOR KING THOR AND THE PHOENIX, BUB! In the far future, All-Father Thor reignited the Earth and sparked new life in the universe. But now, something is wiping out other worlds — and Midgard won’t be far behind. Luckily, Thor isn’t the only god left. But is the Phoenix-possessed Wolverine a friend or foe?

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 9.16.18

Repeat to yourself, “It’s just a comic; I should really just relax,” because there are spoilers ahead for…

Mystery Science Theater 3000 #1
Writer: Joel Hodgson, Harold Buchholz, Matt McGinnis, Mary Robinson, Seth Robinson, Sharyl Volpe
Artist: Todd Nauck, Mike Manley
Cover: Todd Nauck
Dark Horse

TURN DOWN YOUR LIGHTS (Where applicable)

If you’ve ever read one of my Spotlight Sunday posts, you know that there’s bound to be some rambling anecdote about my youth that is connected – often loosely – to the subject of the post before I ever get around to writing about the subject, and you won’t be surprised to learn that this post is no exception, particularly given that it’s an instance of something that’s been a part of my life for nearly thirty years mingling with something that’s been part of my life for more than forty.

Today’s ramblings take us back to the 1989…but not until after we go back a bit further than that to one evening earlier in the 1980s and a broadcast of the CBS Evening News. I would guess that it was at least 1981, as I believe Dan Rather had taken over as anchor by that time. The news on that particular evening – I was most likely half-watching it while waiting to watch whatever was on after that – had an “in lighter news” kind of segment focusing on what was deemed to be one of the worst movies of all time, a real stinker of a science fiction Grade Z movie from 1953 entitled Robot Monster.

The image of the movies titular monster, a man wearing a gorilla costume and an old-fashioned diver’s helmet with rabbit ear antennas on top of it and a clay mask behind the helmet’s glass that was apparently intended to look like a skull (it didn’t), burned its way into my memory, and was still in place however many years later when 1989 rolled around.

Then, as now, I didn’t really watch a lot of TV. We had gotten a satellite dish a couple of years earlier – the big, old-fashioned kind – so there finally more options than just the one channel we could consistently pull in with our old antenna, but we had also just moved back into the house after completing the post-fire renovations, and I had moved into my moody teen years, and for the first time in a long time I had an actual room of my own, one that I didn’t have to share with one or both of my brothers, and that wasn’t a tiny claustrophobic space like my room in the trailer we’d been living in.

My room had my books, my comics, my drawing table, and my music; why did I need TV?

Still, one Saturday afternoon found me with the house to myself, and I decided to turn on the TV to see what was on. I tuned in to the Comedy Channel – this was in the days before comedy was centralized – thinking that maybe one of the Monty Python movies would be on or something, and there, on the screen, was the be-helmeted gorilla I recalled from years earlier.

“Hey,” I said to myself, “it’s that movie!”

But it wasn’t just the movie; there were people talking over it, making jokes and funny comments about what was happening on screen. I immediately twigged to the basic concept, but I was confused about the weird little silhouettes at the bottom of the screen.

I had, of course, stumbled upon Mystery Science Theater 3000, but given that I was catching the tail-end – literally: it was the bit in the movie with the stock footage of lizards fighting each other, or as Crow T. Robot (I later learned) put it, “Gecko-Roman wrestling” – so I hadn’t caught the helpfully-expository opening credits.

Still, I was instantly hooked, and became a regular viewer for years to come. (Although there was the dark period in my life – in college, mostly – during which I didn’t get to see it, because the Comedy Channel/Comedy Central wasn’t part of any cable package where I lived.)

While I may not be the most devoted fan, I’ve seen most of the “experiments,” and have followed it to its various homes on its path from the Comedy Channel to Netflix, and now to…comics?

It’s a strange proposition indeed, but, I would contend, no stranger than my initial, contextless exposure to the show all those years ago.

So how well does it make the transition from screen to page? That’s what we’re here to find out, isn’t it?

(Sirens and flashing lights) WE’VE GOT COMICS SIGN!

First, the set-up, which is helpfully explained, albeit without the catchy tune, as the comic opens. Kinga Forrester has developed a method to allow people – and bots – to experience being inside a comic book, thanks to her “Bubulat-r.”

After performing her test run with her assistant Max – AKA TV’s Son of TV’s Frank – Kinga sends the bubbles up to the Satellite of Love to trap Jonah and the bots in the comic Johnny Jason, Teen Reporter, a comic from the 1960s put out by the long-defunct publisher Dell, that is in the public domain.

While Jonah and the others attempt, in vain, to avoid capture, Tom Servo wants to be in the comic, and dives on in.

Once inside, he takes on the role of the protagonist – the original art is modified so that Tom’s head is on Johnny’s body – and it becomes Tom Servo, Teen Reporter.

Gypsy, M. Waverly, and Growler land in different parts of the comic, but we don’t see where Jonah and Crow end up.

The story of the comic within the comic opens with a failed attempt at kidnapping a young starlet, which many believe was merely a publicity stunt. Tom, as a teen reporter, is tasked with finding the truth, and heads to the young starlet’s ranch to get to the bottom of it.

While visiting the ranch, Tom runs afoul of the ranch foreman, who is obviously jealous of the gumball-machine-headed reporter, but later becomes the life of the swingin’ teen party that breaks out that evening – at least he does after Kinga and Max pop in as part of the “ad trap” to incorporate their Totino’s Pizza Roll sponsorship to replace Tom’s head with a bowl filled with delicious Pizza Rolls – but runs afoul of someone once again.

After coming out on top in that altercation, it’s clear that the starlet is quite fond of Tom, and Tom is pleased that things are finally going his way.

Throughout the comic, a quick shot of a bot gives you a clue as to who’s doing the riffing, though there are still times during which it’s unclear who’s saying what, given that Tom himself is injecting his own commentary.

Still, it’s a fun idea, and a clever conceit for riffing a comic story, which has an obvious appeal for someone like me who is a fan of both comics and smartass commentary, and there is a lot to comment on in any given comic, between the story, the dialogue, the art, and comic book storytelling-conventions.

It would be fun to see this continue beyond the initial mini-series and expand to include crossovers with some of the bigger publishers. Imagine the possibilities of adding some riffing commentary to classic comics.

There’s not too much to say about the art – and the comic itself says some of those things – but the original comic has the perfectly-competent, if bland, style of the comics of its era, Todd Nauck handles the host segment art characteristically well, and Mike Manley inserts the new elements into the existing comic art as seamlessly as possible. I also like that the printing creates the illusion of aging and yellowing, even though the comic is printed on relatively high-quality glossy paper.

The one weakness of the format is that if a joke doesn’t land it just sits there on the page, not as readily-forgotten as it might be with the dynamic flow of movie riffing. Fortunately, there aren’t too many instances of that.

Overall, it was a fun little comic, I look forward to seeing what comes next and finding out where Jonah and Crow ended up, and it’s something to tide fans over until the new season drops.

You can check out the ashcan preview of the comic for yourself by following the link in the issue details above.

What do you think, sirs?

Recommended Reading Watching

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.

You can follow OpenDoor Comics on social media, too, and also be sure to share links to post.

In other words, keep circulating the links.

Showcase Saturday 9.15.18

It’s Batman Day!

Did I buy any Batman-related comics in honor of this special day? Take a look at the Showcase and find out! (Spoiler: I did.)

From DC

ABSOLUTE BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE – One of the most popular graphic novels of all time, this twisted tale of insanity and perseverance is presented as an Absolute Edition for the first time. Looking to prove that any man can be pushed past his breaking point to madness, the Joker attempts to drive Commissioner Gordon insane. Refusing to give up, Gordon struggles to maintain his sanity with the help of Batman in a desperate effort to best the madman.

CATWOMAN #3 – The secret shot-caller who’s been borrowing Catwoman’s M.O. for a series of crimes steps out of the shadows in this issue, and her “secret origin” is unlike anything Selina’s run into before! Meanwhile, the police close in on Catwoman as well, as they believe she killed a cop during one of the crimes she’s been framed for. With nowhere to go and no one to turn to, Catwoman’s running out of her nine lives fast!

PLASTIC MAN #4 – Plastic Man fondly remembers his days as a simple street thug, when people knew his name and respected his talents (even though no one ever respected him). But he’s turning over a new leaf, mentoring the youth, saving old ladies from pick-pockets and younger ladies from kidnappers. Unfortunately, when he meets the kidnappers and realizes this entire episode’s nothing more than a setup? All those leaves flip back over with a vengeance!

SUPERMAN #3 – Guest-starring the Justice League! Locked inside the Phantom Zone, the Earth stands poisoned and its heroes lie dying, with no idea how to escape the deadly Kryptonian trap. But an even deadlier threat invades as Rogol Zaar teams with those who have been imprisoned inside the Phantom Zone to use Earth to escape, not caring if they destroy the planet to do it.

THE IMMORTAL MEN #6 – The Immortal Men are supposed to be a secret world-saving organization. But that cat will be out of the bag if they can’t stop the Infinite Woman and her brood of Bloodless soldiers, commanded by the Kill! And as the fight spills out into the greater DC Universe, which classic DC hero will rise to seek the answer to the unanswerable question: Who are the Immortal Men? (Of course, being dead is a lot worse than going public.)

WONDER WOMAN #54 – Diana’s model U.N. project goes up in flames when she tries to intervene and stop the exiled Bana-Mighdall Amazons from invading the nation of Qurac under false pretenses. She clashes with Artemis, who wants her exiled sisters to go to war, despite the fact that the expat Amazons are being manipulated…by none other than the deadly Rustam, Quraci seditionist and rebel leader! Now it’s up to Wonder Woman to lasso this runaway war train before it can get up to speed—and it’s about to pull out of the station.

From DC Vertigo

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #1 – An all-new corner has been added to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman Universe!

Welcome to the House of Dahomey, the houseboat of Erzulie Fréda, where the souls of Voodoo followers go when they sleep to beseech the flirtatious and tragic goddess to grant them their hearts’ desires and counsel them on their futures and fortunes. When you arrive, you’ll find a party is in full swing, filled with all kinds of fabulous and fierce folk, while fish fry and music blasts.

From her bayou, Erzulie scries upon the mortal realm and sees four human girls open a mysterious and magical journal filled with whispers and rumors that, if they spread, could cause a pandemic unlike any the Earth has seen, with the power to release Sopona, the loa lord of infectious disease and cousin to Erzulie, who is currently banned from the human plane.

But even the fearsome Erzulie cannot be of assistance when her dream river turns tumultuous, tossing her house from her realm and into another…

From Dark Horse

MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 #1 – MST3K as you’ve never seen it before!

The riffing hilarity of Mystery Science Theater 3000 comes to comics when Kinga Forrester pairs her Kingachrome Liquid Medium with her latest invention–the Bubbulat-R! Jonah Heston, Crow T. Robot, and Tom Servo find themselves thrust into the 2-D world of public domain comics, with riffing as their only defense!

From Image

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #39 – END OF STORY ARC A 2018 Eisner Award nominee for Best Continuing Series and Best Lettering by CLAYTON COWLES! “MOTHERING INVENTION,” Conclusion Well, it’s the end of the arc, in just about every way you could define those particular words.

From Marvel

DOMINO #6 – Project Armageddon wanted a Super-Soldier they could control… A weapon they could point… A trigger they could pull… Instead they got PURE CHAOS. Neena Thurman’s past collides with the present and nothing will be the same again. Don’t miss the stunning conclusion of KILLER INSTINCT!

EXILES #8 – The Watchers are back! And their all-seeing eyes are fixed firmly on the Exiles. Sure, the team’s time-traveling antics saved the Multiverse – but nobody messes with the timestream while these Watchers are on duty. Justice will be served – and you might be surprised who ELSE appears to dish it out. Featuring guest art from beloved HOWARD THE DUCK and PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN artist Joe Quinones!

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.

You said it, Caped Crusader!

Spotlight Sunday 9.9.18

My tendency to pick first issues and my fondness for a certain Norse goddess mean that there are spoilers ahead for…

Asgardians of the Galaxy #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Matteo Lolli
Cover: Dale Keown
Rated T+

“It beats Hel.”

In my most recent Spotlight post about Thor, I mentioned that I was interested in seeing what Jason Aaron would do with Valkyrie, as she is a personal favorite of mine. I did so having forgotten – despite the fact that there was an ad for this comic in that comic – that Val would be popping up in a book not written by Jason Aaron.


Then again, it’s not like she can’t appear in Thor…

It’s been a while since I’ve read anything in which Val has appeared – not counting her alternate universe version in Exiles – so I wasn’t up-to-date on her current circumstances, circumstances that are somewhat like the circumstances of her earliest days in the comics.

For quite some time, Brunnhilde the Valkyrie’s spirit was separated from her body and was being controlled by Amora, the Enchantress, who would periodically place Brunnhilde’s spirit into a host body that would transform to take on the Valkyrie’s powers and appearance. For quite some time, Val occupied the transformed body of a mortal woman named Barbara Norris, eventually being restored to her own body after the body of Norris died, and then her body was turned to ash, and her spirit was transported into another host body, and then she and all of the other Asgardians died.

After being restored once again, she eventually ended up in the state in which we find her now…which we’ll get to in a minute.

Not really being up on things that have happened in most Marvel comics over the past decade or so is a common theme for me when it comes to this comic, which ties in to Infinity Wars, which I haven’t been reading, and features characters with whom I’m only vaguely familiar in some cases, and not at all familiar with in others.

It starts out at some unspecified point in the recent past with two of the latter, a woman named Annabelle Riggs, a human archaeologist, and her girlfriend, an Inhuman named Ren Kimura. The two are enjoying a lovely – and, we learn, all-too rare – day together, and Annabelle is clearly about to ask Ren a very important question.

Annabelle is whisked away, and we skip from then to now, finding the rest of the Angela-assembled team on some faraway world engaging in battle with various alien menaces as Annabelle attempts to read the runes on a container to discover what their as-yet unnamed opponent had come to this planet to find.

As a troll moves in for the kill on a distracted Annabelle, we learn – although people who, unlike me, have been reading all of the other stuff already know – that there is more to Annabelle than her archaeological skills. Annabelle, it seems, has something of a timeshare arrangement with the Valkyrie, who takes over and enters the fray, in the process accidentally smashing the container.

In addition to Val/Annabelle, Angela, and the Destroyer (being controlled by an unknown pilot), the rest of the team consists of Skurge the Executioner, whom we last saw in Hel, Thunderstrike, the son of Eric Masterson (who had been Thor for a time), who wields his late father’s enchanted mace, and…

KORG, NO! Oh, never mind, that’s not Korg. No, I’m not racist for thinking that all Kronans look the same! They just do; they’re stone men!

Throg wields a hammer made from a shard of Mjolnir, and is a character who ultimately emerged from the classic storyline during Walter Simonson’s iconic run in which the Odinson had been transformed into a frog by Loki. (That wasn’t just a throwaway gag in the movie.)

We jump back in time again to shortly after Annabelle was “recruited” and find the team aboard a ship, powered by a fragment of the Rainbow Bridge, and learn that there are secrets that Angela is keeping about who’s behind this team she’s put together and what it is they’re supposed to be doing.

The discussion is interrupted by the autopilot disengaging as they reach their destination and are greeted by the site of dead Dwarves from Nidavellir floating in space, their bodies chained together, and all of their fingernails removed.

They beam down to the planet below, and that brings us nearly back to the present, where it’s revealed that their enemy is Nebula, looking much more like the movie version than I ever knew her to look in the comics.

Having gotten what she came for, Nebula, with the help of the axe provided her by the Dwarf which can cleave through dimensions in the same way that Skurge’s axe can, she takes her leave, and we find ourselves back in the now.

With their leader gone and having been routed by the Asgardian and Asgardian-adjacent members of Angela’s team, Nebula’s forces decide that cheesing it is the better part of valor.

Val takes her leave as well, transforming back into Annabelle so that the mortal woman may resume looking at the runes on the ruins of the reliquary that contained the strange horn that Nebula absconded with.

Before doing so, she asks Skurge not to tell Annabelle that she was the one who broke the reliquary.

“I tried to stop Valkyrie from destroying the stone. Alas, she was lost to a berserker fury.”

Annabelle discovers that the horn relates to the Nagflar, the Ship of the Dead, built from the fingernails of the dead.

And not just one ship, an entire armada.

It gets worse from there.

Ragnarok is a cycle of death and rebirth for the gods, but when they’re reborn, they get new bodies. Their old bodies remain as lifeless husks, waiting aboard their Nagflars for someone to take command and lead them in battle to inflict the pain and torment they’ve known in death onto mortals through the power of the horn that Nebula just absconded with.

Even worse, Asgardians don’t have a monopoly on Ragnarok. There are countless gods throughout the cosmos who have gone through their own cycles of death and rebirth countless times.

As Annabelle tells the others aboard the ship what she’s learned, and speculates about how many other similarly-shameful secrets the gods have kept throughout the ages, we see Angela discussing their next move with the mysterious pilot of the Destroyer, who is also her mysterious benefactor:

My name is Kiiiiiiiiiidddd…KID LOKI!
(Hey, at least I didn’t go with “Kid Ragnarok.”)

Given that there are so many Marvel books that I haven’t read, reading this one will likely require a lot of diving into Wikis, but I am at least passingly-familiar with everyone involved, so that makes it a bit less of a daunting task for a book that draws heavily from a deep bench of obscure, minor characters with convoluted backstories.

I’m probably least familiar with Angela, at least in this incarnation, who has an especially convoluted backstory both in fiction and in real life. Co-created by Neil Gaiman, Angela first appeared in Todd McFarlane’s Spawn. The rights to the character ended up with Marvel as part of a tangled legal case that involved not only the rights to Angela but also the rights to Miracleman (or Marvelman, as he’s known outside the US), which also ended up in Marvel’s possession.

Once brought in to the Marvel Universe, she was revealed to be the daughter of Odin and Freyja, and her introduction brought with it the revelation of a heretofore-unknown tenth realm, a place called Heven.

It’s all…well, you can’t spell complicated without comic (books).

Still, Bunn does a good job of letting you know what you immediately need to know, and the fractured, non-linear approach to the story keeps what might otherwise be an exposition-heavy infodump interesting and entertaining.

I’m generally not a fan of the body sharing trope – and honestly, what would be so bad about letting Val just have her own body? – but there is a bit of a twist on this implementation, in that prior to sharing a body Val and Annabelle had been an item, so I imagine that Annabelle has moved on and found new love will lead to some kind of tension.

(Unless, of course, that’s already been dealt with in some of those comics I haven’t read.)

I’m not familiar with Lolli, but while I like the art overall – it’s reminiscent of Marc Silvestri or Whilce Portacio – there are places in which the inking seems a bit too loose, and others where it’s a bit too clumpy.

The coloring by Federico Blee seems oddly retro, in a way, harkening back to the earliest days of digital production, and in combination with those loose/clumped inks, the whole thing looks a bit rushed.

(I say this from my own experience with inking and coloring in a hurry.)

If it were up to me, given the tone of the book and the cast of characters, Art Adams would be handling the art chores. It’s a good fit for his style, and I have a fondness for the way he draws Asgardians in general and Valkyrie in particular.

The trend of attempting to create some alignment with the movies continues here, with Nebula’s movie look – though here they retain the original granddaughter of Thanos identification – and with the scene with the slaughtered Dwarves.

It’s an auspicious – if uneven – start, and it’s enough to prompt me to pick up the next issue, though we’ll give it a couple of more issues to see whether I ultimately add it to my pull list as floppies or trade-wait.

Recommended Reading

The Simonson run on Thor, which includes the original “Frog of Thunder” storyline.

(I will never not recommend the Simonson run.)

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 9.8.18

It’s Saturday, and you know what that means. If you don’t know what that means, you’re about to find out, because it’s time for the Showcase.

From DC:

ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #2 – Kids today, amiright? What with their vaping, texting, emoji-ing and whatnot—never mind what happens when teen villains the Gang get their hands on Gold Kryptonite! That’s exactly what the young bad guys plan to do to impress the Earth’s biggest villains! Super Sons Robin and Superboy stand face to face with Rex Luthor, Joker Jr. and other psychos pulled right from your nightmares. The Gang has already robbed Superboy of his powers, and now they’re ready to reveal their grand plan!

From DC Vertigo:

THE DREAMING #1 – From the upheaval of THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1 rises THE DREAMING—a kingdom in chaos.

There is a place where stories are born. Today its walls lie slashed and bleeding. Dream has abandoned his realm, and until he is found, its residents must protect its broken borders alone. But the most senior storysmiths are tormented by invasive secrets, the warden Lucien is doubting his own mind—and beyond the gates something horrific waits with tooth and talon.

Only Dora, the monstress, finds opportunity in madness, stealing dreams for the highest bidder. But she has no idea how deep the danger lies.

Meanwhile, in Dream’s gallery, something new is growing…

From Marvel:

ASGARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #1 – Spinning out of the events of INFINITY WARS comes an epic space opera from DEADPOOL veterans Cullen Bunn and Matteo Lolli! Angela, the not-so-beloved half-sister of Thor. The hotheaded Valkyrie – and the human who shares her form, Annabelle Riggs. Skurge the Executioner, freshly returned from Hel. Throg, the mightiest frog of thunder. Kevin Masterson, the boy who took his father’s mace to become the hero Thunderstrike. And the Destroyer, the Asgardian armor built to take down Celestials – its wielder unknown. The events of INFINITY WARS set NEBULA off on a quest to rule the galaxy – wielding an Asgardian weapon even Thor would fear – and it’s up to this team of gods, assassins, frogs and heroes to stop her.

MOON KNIGHT BY LEMIRE & SMALLWOOD (HARDCOVER) – Marc Spector (A.K.A. Moon Knight/Jake Lockley/Steven Grant) has been fighting criminals and keeping New York City safe for years – or has he? When he wakes up in an insane asylum with no powers and a lifetime’s worth of medical records, it calls his whole identity — identities —into question. Something is wrong, but is that something Marc himself? Delve deep beneath the mask of Moon Knight to meet the many men inside his head! While Steven Grant prepares for a box-office smash, Jake Lockley is arrested for murder! And as the muddled mind of Moon Knight reaches its limit, the secrets of his past are revealed in a story of birth, death and rebirth unlike any other. Trapped outside of reality, Moon Knight’s survival depends on answers — but Marc Spector is plagued by nothing but questions! Collecting MOON KNIGHT (2016) #1-14.

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.

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