Welcome to the first “Report Card,” a new feature we plan to run every weekend. If “Cheat Sheet” is your guide to the week ahead, “Report Card” is a look back at the week in review. It will include an overview of top news stories you might have missed, as well as a look at the Robot 6 team’s favorite comics that we read this week.
So read on to find out what we thought of Batwoman #21, X-Files: Season 10 #1, Becky Cloonan’s Demeter and much more.
Fantagraphics co-publisher Kim Thompson, 56, passed away Wednesday after a battle with lung cancer. During the nearly four decades of working for the company he co-owned, Thompson was a key force in expanding both the artistic potential and the cultural footprint of comics in America.
“It’s kind of impossible to overstate the influence Kim Thompson had on American comics,” wrote Chris Mautner. “As co-publishers of Fantagraphics, he and Gary Groth transformed the way people thought about the medium, both in the pages of The Comics Journal and in the kinds of comics they published. If any one publisher can be regarded as the singular entity (and let me be clear, I’m really wary about staking that sort of claim) that made not just fans but the general public take notice and say, ‘Oh, hey, comics really are an art form and capable of greatness,’ it was these guys.”
Remembrances of Thompson and his work were posted on the internet by Jason, Heidi MacDonald, Anders Nilsen, Roger Langridge, First Second’s Mark Siegel, Chris Oliveros at Drawn and Quarterly, Craig Thompson, Sean T. Collins and Tom Spurgeon.
DC Comics hit the road this week to talk to retailers about their future plans and answer questions, which meant the publisher released several announcements. The tour kicked off Monday, which is why we heard about the new Earth 2 writer, the Superman/Wonder Woman series, “Lights Out” and Justice League 3000, from Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire. Later in the week, they revealed plans to release a 1,184-page Villains Month Omnibus, similar to the one that collected the first issues of the New 52.
Retailer Roderick Ruth wrote a summary of the New York City event for ReadComicBooks, detailing comments made by Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee and Senior Vice President-Publicity Courtney Simmons about “Trinity War,” “Villains Month,” Forever Evil, the lenticular covers and more.
The polybagged final issue of Marvel’s big event series, Age of Ultron, landed in comic shops on Wednesday, serving as an end for the 10-issue series as well as a marketing opportunity for several new Marvel projects coming up this year, including Avengers A.I. and Hunger. Although it seemed to leave us with more questions than answers, one thing it did do was bring Angela, the character created by Todd McFarlane and Neil Gaiman in the pages of Spawn many years ago, into the Marvel Universe.
“…the character has now been thrust into our world without warning or any say in the matter from somewhere else beyond the confines of what we understand to be our universe. Exactly what that means, what she knows, where she’s from, what her background is, how connected and connective she is to all of the publishing history that exists for the character in Todd McFarlane’s Spawn material, and how that all factors in is something you’ll learn as she begins to interact with the rest of the Marvel Universe,” Marvel’s Tom Brevoort told Comic Book Resources.
Mark Millar, writer of Kick Ass, Wanted, The Ultimates, Secret Service, Jupiter’s Legacy and many other comics, has been recognized by Queen Elizabeth II as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for services to film and literature. An order of chivalry established in 1917 by King George V, the Order of the British Empire consists of five ranks: Knight Grand Cross or Dame Grand Cross, Knight Commander or Dame Commander, Commander, Officer and Member. The writer joked on his message board, “Soon the Sith will rise again and I will take my throne in Parliament!!!”
ROBOT 6 contributors name their favorites from among the comic books they read this week. Please share your favorite in the comments section below!
Written by J.H. Williams, III and W. Haden Blackman
Art by Francesco Francavilla
Published by DC Comics
“Villains Month” might not be until September, but Batwoman #21’s spotlight on Killer Croc is a good example of what it should aspire to be. Written by the regular team of J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, and guest-drawn by Francesco Francavilla, it’s an epilogue of sorts to the big monster-battle which guest-starred Wonder Woman. It also ties Croc into the shapeshifting cult which has been part of this feature since its early days. More importantly, though, it lets the reader into Croc’s head, showing us not just what it was like to grow up looking reptilian, but how it felt to experience the kinds of radical physical changes necessary to turn even a crocodile-man into a quasi-mythical beast. Accordingly, the story plays up the tragic aspects of Croc’s past, but it also reminds the reader in no uncertain terms that Croc is on a mission to kill Batwoman. So, you know, tragedy has its limits, and the trick will be rewarding the reader’s emotional investment in Croc while finding a way for the star of the book to survive. In a sense, Francavilla’s work is a bridge between the were-beasts’ first appearances (drawn by Shawn Martinbrough in Detective Comics) and the “stylized realism” Williams has established for Batwoman. Francavilla plays with layouts like Williams, but more in homage than imitation, and he doesn’t compromise his own distinctive style, instead blending Batwoman’s look into it. All in all, this was an excellent standalone issue, and it shows how versatile Batwoman has become. —Tom Bondurant
X-Files: Season 10 #1
Written by Joe Harris
Art by Michael Walsh
Published by IDW Publishing
I was a huge X-Files fan. I’m not only one of the few who actually liked the John Doggett/Monica Reyes season, but I even enjoyed the movie, X-Files: I Want to Believe. That said, I wasn’t sure how much I’d dig a comic that continued the characters’ adventures. I didn’t care for the few issues of the Topps series that I read, because they were produced while the show was still on and were trying so hard not to contradict anything that might happen there. That’s obviously not a problem with Season 10, so I hoped that I’d enjoy it; I just wasn’t convinced that comics are the right format for me to enjoy these characters in. I often feel that way about comics based on TV shows.
The first issue is very encouraging though. Writer Joe Harris (with input from Chris Carter) begins a cool story about some creepy people – led by an even creepier little girl – who are chasing Scully for unrevealed reasons. Harris quickly catches readers up on what’s been going on with Scully, Mulder, and even Skinner, but spends most of the issue building dread and making me really concerned for Scully’s safety.
This is all helped enormously by the art of Michael Walsh and the colors of Jordie Bellaire. Bellaire does wonderful things for the mood, taking readers from a fun, summer scene of Mulder interacting with some neighborhood kids to the oppressive gloom of night when the monsters come out. For his part, Walsh does the important work of getting actors’ likenesses right without resorting to photorealism. That’s extremely valuable to me, because it means that the book has a loose, expressive look that justifies its existence as a comic, rather than just making me wish I were watching the story on TV. —Michael May
X-Men: Legacy #12
Written by Simon Spurrier
Art by Paul Davidson, Jay Leisten, Cris Peter
Published by Marvel
X-Men Legacy #12 is amazing. We get a solid X-Men style story, full of mutants and focusing on mutant issues of hate and fear, and we also get a story that knows how ridiculous those stories can get. There’s a blessed self-awareness to Si Spurrier’s writing that makes it all worthwhile; as Legion foils the plans of the Red Skull (why yes, David Haller did get to see what happened to his father’s brain over in Uncanny Avengers! Continuity!), he notes how easy it is to direct people to hate others, but how hard it is when those people have to think for themselves as to why they hate in the first place. It’s a funny little sociological side-glance and it fits just perfectly among the power-slinging battles we have come to know and love. The artwork from Paul Davidson and Jay Leisten is thick and expressive, providing beat by beat action and expressive faces to show the emotion embedded in the heart-to-heart at the end of the issue. There is romance, destiny, family and (get this) humor with our children of the atom and the more time I spend with David Haller, the more I enjoy his company. —Carla Hoffman
A User’s Guide to Neglectful Parenting
Written and drawn by Guy Delisle
Published by Drawn and Quarterly
This is a small book of wry little tales about parent-child encounters tosses a bucket of cold water on the obsessive parenting practices of today. The father in these little vignettes tells his children tall tales and horror stories, skips out of watching his daughter’s swim class, and forgets to put the Tooth Fairy (in this case a Tooth Mouse) money under the pillow—twice. He’s not a bad parent—his affection for his children comes through in every comic—but he has more imagination than patience. As someone who forgot the Tooth Fairy money more than once myself, I can relate.
The comics are drawn in a spare, economical style, just the minimum of lines and tones needed to convey the story. When the father is talking to his son, for instance, we only see the top of the son’s head; his eyes convey all we need to know. The pacing is deliberate, and Delisle makes frequent use of repeated panels and the silent third panel. If you look closely, you can see that he reuses exactly the same art in many cases, making changes only to the toning and the facial expressions. But why spoil the fun? I will say that at $12.99 for a 190-page paperback with a lot of white space, this book is a tad overpriced. You can read it in an hour, albeit a very enjoyable hour, and it has a slight feeling to it (perhaps because of the minimal lines and large amount of white space). Still, it would be a nice Father’s Day gift or a present to a parent who has a good sense of humor and isn’t easily shocked. —Brigid Alverson
Solid State Tank Girl #2
Written by Alan Martin
Art by Warwick Johnson-Cadwell
Published by Titan Comics
I read Solid State Tank Girl #2, which came out on Comixology on Wednesday, with the physical edition out next Wednesday from Titan. Some quality comedy, as well as some genuinely unsettling metaphysical freakiness, from Alan Martin. Warwick Johnson-Cadwell continues to stun as Martin’s latest artistic collaborator. This is the most idiosyncratic-looking book on the market right now. —Mark Kardwell
Burning Building Comix
Written and drawn by Jeff Zwirek
Published by Top Shelf
Occasionally a comic comes along that makes you say, “Yeah, that could have only been done in comics.” And by that I’m not talking about a crazy plot twist or a story development, but about format. The story told in Burning Building Comix, I’m pretty sure, wouldn’t have worked in any other medium. The book’s title says it all –“Burning Building.” Open the book and you see the outside of a building with flames in each of the windows, which each subsequent page showing what’s happening in various apartments on 10 different floors. They’re 10 different stories, for the most part, with the quickly spreading fire that started on the first floor eventually finding its way into each story. What’s great is that you can read it from left to right, one floor at a time, to get the story of the people living on that floor, or you can read up and down to see how the fire spreads … which is kind of an 11th story of its own. It would be easy for each apartment’s story to get lost or seem inconsequential in the bigger tale of the fire, but each wordless story by Zwirek holds together on its own. It’s a pretty amazing book. —JK Parkin
Written, drawn and self-published by Becky Cloonan
The digital release of this stand-alone story is a welcome experience. There is a timeless quality to the story, like Cloonan has adapted some ages old tale. But as far as I know, it’s an original, and it is just that in many ways. Each page, each panel is imbued with creepy, haunted intrigue. The relationship of a fisherman and his wife is revealed in layers, and the visual depiction is what add so much. The clever treatment on word balloons faded to the other side of a window pane as we look over the shoulder of a spying figure is just one device used to add so much atmosphere. There’s also a strong use of sound effects to enhance the building tension. It’s hard to use audio (or more accurately the representation of audio) in comics, but Cloonan does so masterfully. All of this is inhabited by two main characters with a tragic yet Romantic quality, depicted with wonderful expression and body language. This is the third installment of a trilogy of short stories by Cloonan. They’re all self-contained so if this is the first or only one you read, you’ll be fine. But you’ll want to read more. —Corey Blake